Chamber Urges Regional Plan for Recovery
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to all locally elected leaders, including City and County Councils, First Nations, our MPP and MP, and senior staff. The letter was endorsed by Peterborough & The Kawarthas Home Builders Association, Peterborough and the Kawarthas Association of Realtors, Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area, Kawartha Manufacturers Association and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism.
The perspectives and suggestions captured in the letter had been discussed on various levels previous to the pandemic, but especially since.
The letter suggests a Regional Plan for Recovery, and features nine recommendations that these business organizations feel would guide Peterborough through recovery and beyond.
Letter RE: Regional Plan for Recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced change upon us, and a regional strategic plan for recovery is needed.
Many discussions have been held over the last six months, including the Mayor and Warden’s Economic Taskforce, weekly calls with Minister Monsef, and MPP Smith, the Chamber of Commerce Policy Committee, the Housing Action Task Force Working Group, the Homebuilders Association, meetings with other business organizations, and individual meetings with business owners.
Several common themes have emerged. While some may appear to be specific to either the City or County, we have copied all elected leaders, City, County, MPP and MP, First Nations and senior staff.
Pandemic recovery will take many forms, but one of the ways to emerge from an economic slowdown is to build. Growth not only provides our municipalities with development charge revenue and an increased tax base, but development also creates local jobs and economic spinoffs for local business.
Recognizing that there are serious financial constraints facing the City and County of Peterborough we, the undersigned, put forward the following recommendations around building back better from COVID.
Zoning & Planning
- Cancel the hiring freeze for departments, such as planning, building and engineering, that will be integral to COVID-19 economic recovery.
- Further streamline the development, zoning, and planning approvals process to reach a goal of a six month turnaround time (including public engagement). Flag for specific review, any project approval that goes beyond six months. While the City is to be commended for adding staff and creating a
pre-consultation process, further refinement and
investments in staff and
technology will more than pay for themselves with increased development.
- Consider innovative and adaptive zoning practices that allow for the emergence of new business models
being presented by the business community. (e.g., in Peterborough County, new on-farm uses and in City of Peterborough, mixing traditionally commercial and industrial uses).
- Complete the final year of the tax ratio reduction program for the industrial class.
Strategic Land Use
- Develop integrated strategies to build out and maximize economic growth areas such as the Peterborough Airport and Cleantech Commons.
- Map, build a strategy, and identify required investments (e.g. rezoning, environmental, servicing needs) for available commercial and industrial lands.
- Pilot a project that identifies a section of the city e.g. south end of downtown where development approval is given based on broader zoning principles.
- Identify lands for regional collaboration and then create and apply a regional development approach for each (e.g. cost-sharing, zoning and planning agreements) for these lands.
- Commit to quarterly meetings with developers and associated stakeholders (architects, PKED, Business organizations such as Chamber, PKHBA, PDCA) to review the process and any changes as a result of provincial requirements. This meeting could also be used to discuss builds that require partnerships to access federal and provincial dollars.
These principles were appropriate guiding goals before the pandemic and now they are even more relevant as municipalities, businesses and organizations steer Peterborough through COVID-19 recovery.
While we recognize and respect the various limitations and restrictions faced by municipalities, we also know that building these nine recommendations into a proactive approach would create a culture of yes and provide significant opportunities for Peterborough City and County.
If there was ever a time to spend your dollars in Peterborough, it's now. #LoveLocalPtbo has always been our mantra, but now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it means even more.
Our current situation in the city and county of Peterborough is one of tenuous stability. We’ve worked hard, our local businesses have worked hard. But we know in watching other parts of the province and country that it could change on a dime.
Over the past eight months, Statistics Canada has been conducting the Canadian Survey on Business
Conditions. This partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is designed to understand the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as the economy moves through the various stages of recovery.
Most recently, information was released on how businesses are faring entering the fall.
Dr. Trevin Stratton, Chief Economist and Vice-President of Policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce states, “Today we learned 30% of businesses still operating in October no longer know how they can continue to operate under the existing conditions, and a further 11% indicate they can only operate for three more months.
The news is quite grim for 40% of Canada’s businesses looking forward, particularly for those businesses operating in sectors at the bottom of a K-shaped recovery.
We know that our economy will not recover until at least 2022, the most optimistic scenario assuming widespread vaccine deployment by then. The reality is we are in this for the long haul, and we need to start thinking long-term.
With finite public resources available, we need to look carefully at the return on investment of government spending. Some programs are more beneficial than others. Some policies will contribute more to economic growth. Let’s make sure federal spending is focused on quality over quantity.
Policy makers must be laser-focused on the nature of fiscal spending, and those programs must focus on addressing issues in specific sectors. The one-size-fits-all approach to support programs is not sustainable through 2022, and it may not be particularly useful at this stage of the pandemic.
Consider the following data points:
• Close to three-fifths (57.0%) of businesses in the accommodation and food services sector reported that they were unable to take on more debt
• Approximately one-third of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation (29.4%) and accommodation and food services (29.2%) sectors reported that they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures for less than six months before considering further staffing
actions, closure or bankruptcy
• Over half of the businesses in the accommodation and food services (55.6%) and arts, entertainment and recreation (54.9%) sectors did not expect their revenues to be higher over the next three months than over the previous three months
• Over one-quarter of businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector (28.9%) and almost one-quarter of businesses in the accommodation and food services sector (22.5%) expected to reduce their number of employees over the next three months, the highest proportions among all sectors With the second wave of the virus now in full force, keeping our fiscal powder dry for the longer run and tailoring supports for the most severely affected individuals and businesses should characterize the second wave of support programs.”
From what we are hearing from our Peterborough Chamber members we know that programs need to provide the stability that doesn’t exist right now. We know that costs such as increased insurance and the potential for increased taxes are weighing heavily along with the concern of having to take on more debt.
More results from the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions indicate the majority of employers are expecting to retain the same number of employees over the next three months. However, that statement doesn’t apply to industries hardest hit by the pandemic such as arts, entertainment and recreation.
So where there is a bit of light, there is also great concern. The amazing part is that you can help. You can help by supporting our local businesses, by safely visiting the wonderful gems in our city and county, and by following the safety protocols in place.
Together, let’s #LoveLocalPtbo
Business community welcomes support in ON budget
On November 5, 2020, the Government of Ontario released its 2020 Budget, “Ontario’s Action Plan:
Protect, Support, Recover.”
Budget 2020 contains both measures to protect against the immediate impacts of COVID-19 (including new funds for testing and reducing the surgical backlog) and measures intended to lay the groundwork for economic recovery (such as electricity and tax reforms).
“Ontario’s business community welcomes the budget. It is an impactful response to the current crisis, and demonstrates the beginning of a long-term plan for economic growth,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “This budget addresses many of the actions we, on behalf of Ontario’s business community, have been asking for. We believe that when business prospers,
Key highlights include:
Reducing Costs of Doing Business
Laying the groundwork for long-term economic growth by advancing critical broadband infrastructure, smart taxes to enhance business competitiveness, efficient regulation, workforce training, and opportunities for public-private partnerships.
Reducing commercial and industrial electricity rates will make Ontario businesses more competitive and enable them to invest in recovery and growth. For years, Ontario businesses have paid more for electricity than most other jurisdictions in North America, and the pandemic has only increased electricity system costs.
Starting January 1, 2021, a portion estimated at approximately 85 per cent of high-cost wind, solar and bioenergy contracts will be funded by the Province, not ratepayers. This is expected to create an average reduction of 16% for Class A customers and 14% for Class B customers.
Business Education Tax Rate (BET) Reduction and Regional Equality
BET rates vary throughout Ontario; as a result, businesses in London, Waterloo, Hamilton, Toronto,
Windsor/Middlesex, and Kingston are paying higher taxes than those in other regions. The government has announced it will both reduce the BET rate and address regional variance within that rate, both of which the OCC has advocated for in the past. The City of Peterborough is at the same rate as London while the County of Peterborough rate is slightly less for commercial businesses over industrial tax class businesses.
Employer Health Tax (EHT)
The province has committed to making the threshold of $1 million permanent, meaning some businesses will no longer have to pay this tax. The decision to make the higher EHT threshold permanent is a welcome one that will free thousands of businesses from having to pay this tax.
The EHT exemption will provide an estimated $360 million in relief in 2021-22.
Reskilling is essential to the rapid re-employment of workers that were displaced during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly given the permanent restructuring expected in hard-hit sectors such as retail, hospitality, and tourism. Creating a common understanding and validation of micro-credentials for employers through the
development of a micro-credential framework will be critical to get people reskilled and back to work.
Small Business Tax Relief
The move to allow municipalities to target property tax relief specifically to small business is a creative and important tool to grant communities, given that small business has been hardest hit by the pandemic.
Broadband is a basic infrastructure requirement in today’s economy, but the ongoing pandemic has made it even more essential to public health and economic resilience. We are very pleased to see the government take this seriously with an additional investment of $680 million (for a total of nearly $1 billion) over six years.
“The Peterborough Chamber was happy to hear about a focus on broadband, electricity price improvements for businesses and making the higher tax threshold for the Employer Health Tax permanent,” says Stuart
Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “All of these changes will increase competitiveness for our local businesses.”
The Chamber Network is a shining example of how to express the needs of the business community to government. This includes consistent messaging and solutions-based suggestions. To that end recently, about 300 chambers and boards of trades gathered virtually to debate this year’s slate of resolutions to present to the federal government.
Your Peterborough Chamber of Commerce had two policy resolutions directly related to small business. These resolutions have become even more relevant because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Driving Innovation in Canada received 100% support of voting delegates. This resolution calls for the following to be implemented:
Thank you to our Chamber members for your help informing us of the need for these changes.
The past week has also seen a number of updates to government programs:
Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy
Providing direct and easy-to-access rent and mortgage interest support to tenants and property owners until June 2021 for qualifying organizations affected by COVID-19. The new rent subsidy would support businesses, charities, and non-profits that have suffered a revenue drop by providing support up to a maximum of 65 per cent of eligible expenses until December 19, 2020. The government is proposing to allow claims retroactively for the period that began September 27 and ended October 24, 2020.
which would provide an additional 25 per cent through the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy for qualifying organizations that are subject to a lockdown and must shut their doors or significantly limit their
activities under a public health order issued under the laws of Canada, a province or territory (including orders made by a municipality or regional health authority under one of those laws). Combined, this would mean that hard-hit businesses subject to a lockdown could receive rent support of up to 90 per cent.
Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Extension
Extended until June 2021, to help employers keep employees on the payroll and re-hire their workers. The wage subsidy would remain at the current rate of up to 65 per cent of eligible wages until December 19, 2020.
Selwyn Business Re-Opening Program Phase 2
This program provides grants of up to $2,500 to eligible businesses located within Selwyn Township to go towards #COVID19 urgent / additional expenses, such as PPE, shields, hand sanitizer stations, etc. Applications can be submitted to Community Futures Peterborough until March 31, 2021.
Digital Main Street
Assists main street businesses with their adoption of technology. Offered locally by Peterborough DBIA & Kawartha Chamber of Commerce.
Student Work Placement Program
Through this program employers hiring students can receive up to $7,500 in wage subsidies. Connect with Si at the Peterborough Chamber to learn more 705-748-9771 x206.
RAP – Program
This program is about providing you with a digital blueprint for your business. Receive immersive training, mentoring and support to assist with digital modernization – at no cost to you.