While some businesses are leading our economic recovery and will be well positioned for a potential economic slowdown, others continue to face significant challenges.
The Government of Ontario recently released the 2022 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review titled Ontario’s Plan to Build: A Progress Update.
As a Chamber of Commerce, we support the government’s emphasis on fiscally prudent investments targeted towards businesses and individuals in most need of relief. Directing assistance toward the specific businesses and sectors that most need it will help the government to focus on some key issues Ontario’s economy needs urgent action on, like healthcare.
For budget 2023, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is urging the Province to introduce measures around:
Health: Develop a robust strategy to tackle the health human resources crisis (e.g., by leveraging technology and innovative scope of practice and patient care approaches). Implement Ontario’s life sciences strategy. Address the surgical backlog and deferred cancer treatments, diagnostics, procedures, and routine immunizations. Address the mental health action gap (including the opioid overdose crisis). Continue to expand virtual care and digital health. Support the aging population (e.g., through innovative models of care).
Housing affordability: Preserve and build affordable housing options along the housing continuum. Safeguard sustainable growth. Plan infrastructure around complete communities. Address regional challenges in housing supply. Attract and retain skilled workers. Streamline the development and permitting process.
Transportation and supply chains: Invest in land, air, rail, and marine infrastructure to support the efficient movement of goods and services, reduce gridlock, and protect against extreme weather events and other disruptions. Provide financial support to help small and medium-sized businesses adopt supply chain risk management and diversification strategies.
Transit: Support municipalities in filling transit gaps and adjusting transit services based on long-term changes resulting from the pandemic. Address gaps that have resulted from the withdrawal of regional bus service by expanding GO transit, partnering with the private sector, and re-establishing Ontario Northland transit service.
Broadband: Work with municipalities, the telecommunications industry, and local distribution companies to urgently address barriers to private sector broadband deployment (e.g., by exploring “dig once” strategies, future-proofing infrastructure, and identifying opportunities for better data sharing).
Procurement: Modernize broader public sector procurement to focus on long-term value creation over short-term costs. Introduce more flexibility in contracting arrangements to attract more investments. Help small businesses access procurement opportunities.
Energy planning: Adopt a more proactive approach to building transmission and distribution infrastructure. Optimize existing clean energy assets in the procurement and siting of new generation. Integrate low-carbon fuels and electricity solutions within the energy system.
Climate adaptation: Implement a climate adaptation strategy and commit to providing communities with adequate and sustained funding for climate resilience. Support the federal Task Force on Flood Insurance and Relocation.
Decarbonization: Support cleantech research and innovation at post-secondary institutions. Adopt a bold strategy for low-carbon exports. Support municipalities and businesses with electrification of their fleets. Fast-track investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Energy efficiency: Expand conservation and demand-side management programs that help reduce energy costs and consumption for households and businesses, with a focus on small businesses.
Small businesses: Help small business owners with succession planning as they age out of the workforce. Expand and scale small business digitization programs.
Municipal fiscal capacity: Commission an independent review of municipal responsibilities to assess which order of government is best placed to manage them. Undertake a comprehensive review of the province’s property tax system. Commit to funding all municipal services in which the Province controls some aspect of the operation (i.e. the pay-for-say principle).
Economic reconciliation: Support Indigenous partnerships, procurement, education, employment, and entrepreneurship by building on the innovative Three Fires Nations‐Ontario Southwestern Ontario Infrastructure and Economic Opportunities Table.
Cannabis: Provide a comprehensive update on the implementation of the recommendations in the Auditor General’s 2021 value-for-money report on the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation. Allow licence holders and retailers to enter into direct commercial relationships with each other to negotiate their own product mixes, prices and delivery terms.
Mining: Work with industry and Indigenous communities to develop critical mineral supply chains in Ontario. Further, streamline mining regulations. Increase the Ontario Flow-Through Tax Credit.
We’ve been through a lot of unprecedented situations and there’s no playbook for the path ahead. We’re on the road to recovery from a world-wide pandemic while heading into a possible global recession. What we need from Ontario’s government is a clear and predictable path towards long-term growth, productivity, resilience, and competitiveness.
Heading into another period of economic uncertainty, the Government of Ontario recently released the 2022 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review titled Ontario’s Plan to Build: A Progress Update.
As per the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), Ontario’s economic outlook remains uncertain against a backdrop of higher interest rates, inflation, labour shortages, and supply chain disruptions.
The OCC provided a thorough analysis of the economic update. Here are some key highlights for the business community:
The government announced plans to:
Other Business Tax Measures
The government announced plans to:
The government announced plans to:
The government announced plans to:
Cost of Living
The government announced plans to:
Next week we’ll look at what’s missing from the Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review and look at what will help create a clear and predictable path towards long-term growth, productivity, resilience, and competitiveness.
Tourism has been one of the hardest hit sectors in Ontario and continues to struggle to rebuild and recover.
It has been impacted by border closures, capacity restrictions, and lockdowns.
The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) have worked together on the State of the Ontario Tourism Industry Report, which explores a blueprint for growth and recovery of the tourism industry with practical recommendations for immediate and long-term challenges.
Core issues found in the report include labour shortages, regulatory burdens, infrastructure deficits and regional disparities.
While just about every sector is impacted by workforce challenges, few have more issues than tourism. It had to lay off and reduce hours for a significant amount of its workforce. When the borders reopened and capacity limits lifted, that workforce had moved on and taken with it years of experience and expertise. The knowledge gap left behind means that businesses aren’t just looking for whomever is interested in working for them, but they need skilled workers to handle operations and train newer staff.
Adding further challenges is the rural aspect of many tourism operations, especially through the Kawarthas. Access to local labour has dwindled as populations age. Those interested in moving to cottage country are going to struggle to find a home they can afford or even anything to rent. Businesses hoping to attract workers from the city are struggling to find people willing and able to commute since car access is typically the only option.
Lack of adequate high-speed internet is also a significant challenge. It’s more than a convenience for guests — stable and fast internet has become a critical part of business operations. As businesses try to make do with less, they’re turning to technology that can help with overall efficiency including customer relationship management systems, bookkeeping, marketing, scheduling, booking, etc.
Indigenous tourism economies across Ontario have been especially at a disadvantage due to many of these rural challenges.
Even the weather and climate change have impacted tourism in the region with several significant weather events. Some tourism sites are still cleaning up damage from the spring and likely will continue to do so for some time.
The TIAO and OCC report came back with some key recommendations:
• Workforce development initiatives should focus on communicating the business case for careers in the tourism industry, reforming immigration to retain and attract international talent, and optimizing work placement opportunities for post-secondary students.
• Eliminating barriers to growth should involve revisiting taxes for the industry. For example, elimination/deferral of the annual basic beer tax increase, federal excise taxes and revisiting Municipal Accommodation Taxes.
• Emerging markets should be explored, including intercultural exchanges with Indigenous and Francophone tourism sectors, as well as cannabis tourism and agritourism.
• Gaps in public transportation need to be addressed within and between Ontario destinations.
• Access to reliable, high-speed broadband is critical to participating in an increasingly digital economy.
• A provincial strategy should place special emphasis on alleviating regional and sector disparities. Northern Ontario, as well as border cities and the business, events and conference sector, lag significantly behind pre-pandemic levels.
Prior to the pandemic, tourism in Ontario was a $36 billion industry with 200,000 tourism businesses paying more than $5 billion in taxes and directly employing 400,000 people.
It’s going to take a coordinated approach to build back bigger and better. We need all levels of government and their various ministries to communicate and coordinate the recovery of the tourism sector to help our local economy and communities thrive.
Forecasting our economic future is challenging to say the least.
Economists are using phrases like “there’s no playbook for this.” It’s tough to find data on how global economies will react after going through years of global pandemic, a war in Europe, and record inflation that governments are trying to cool through measures that will likely lead to recession.
What we do know is that many of our current challenges aren’t going away in the short term and new struggles will likely arise in months to come.
On that note, the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement was heavy on supports and vision for building toward future goals.
You can read the full Fall Economic Statement here, but some key takeaways for the business community include:
The Government of Canada is making it clear that our future lies in investments in reaching net-zero. This includes training the workforce for sustainable jobs, attracting private sector investment to projects that reduce emissions and drive innovation in technologies that help achieve Canada’s climate targets, investing in clean technology manufacturing, and building our critical mineral strategy to grow our economic with sustainably developed clean technologies and goods.
Additionally, the federal government plans to roll out a tax credit for investment in clean technology. This refundable tax credit of 30% would offset costs for investing environmentally-friendly electricity generation, storage, heating equipment, industrial zero-emission vehicles.
The government is taking action the National Supply Chain Task Force’s recommendations, including addressing regulatory issues to improve efficiency and resiliency of our supply chains, modernizing cargo and clearance inspection practices, improving data reporting and monitoring, and investing in improving access to our international gateways.
The government plans to launch a Canadian Innovation and Investment agency to work to help new and
established Canadian firms innovate, commercialize research, and create new economic opportunities for workers and businesses in Canada. The government is also planning to modernize the National Research Council’s scientific infrastructure and help continue to propel Canadian innovation.
Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program is providing $33.5 billion for public infrastructure across Canada. Under this program, provinces and territories prioritize and submit projects to Infrastructure Canada for review.
The federal government is looking to boost immigration to 500,000 immigrants in 2025 with a focus on skilled labour sectors that are struggling with workforce shortages, including healthcare, manufacturing, and the building trades.
The government is looking to create a Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax incentive program, introduce a corporate-level 2% tax that would apply on the net value of all types of share buybacks by public corporations in Canada, and reaffirmed its commitment to the global minimum tax on large corporations.
The quarterly economic statements are a tool to highlight the previous budget allocations in more detail while hinting at what is to come in the next year’s budget.
For the upcoming 2023 federal budget, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has set out some priorities for the federal government:
• Increase Ontario’s allocation of economic immigrants under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, address the backlog of immigrants, and streamline recognition of foreign credentialing for sectors with pressing labour shortages.
• Invest in supply chain infrastructure to address bottlenecks along the supply chain, especially at ports.
• Protect Canada’s clean energy advantage by optimizing existing assets – such as nuclear and hydroelectricity – as well as incentivizing long-term investments in emerging technologies such as carbon capture and zero-emission vehicles.
• Modernize regulatory frameworks to enable growth in industries like mining and cannabis.
• Prioritize working with provinces and territories to remove barriers to interprovincial labour mobility and trade.
• Increase Canada Health Transfer Payments to meet the current and future pressures facing Canada’s universal health care system.
• Reform the federal tax system to attract foreign direct investment, drive domestic business growth and innovation.
It’s hard to predict what exactly will unfold in coming months. Whether we’re in recession, recovery, or growth — investing in the private sector is crucial to our success in moving toward goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and generating economic prosperity across Canada.
When it comes to investing in our businesses, some areas are easier to convert to dollars and cents return on investment.
In a time when many businesses are struggling to attract talent, it’s critical that we invest in the workforce we have. According to JobSage, 28% of surveyed workers left their jobs due to poor mental health.
According to a report from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), it’s estimated that 12 billion worked days are lost every year to depression and anxiety, costing about $1 trillion US in lost productivity.
According to Occupational Health and Safety Canada Magazine, mental health services cost Canada $50 billion annually, with $20 billion stemming directly from workplace trauma. Deloitte found poor mental health accounts for 30 – 40% of short-term disability claims and 30% of long-term disability claims.
Poor work environments, including discrimination, inequality, excessive workloads, low job control and job insecurity all pose risks to mental health. This all comes on top of stresses from home and more than two years of dealing with a global pandemic.
While mental health struggles happen outside of the work environment, the nature of our place of work being where many of us spend more waking hours than anywhere else means that whether or not the workplace is contributing to the situation, it certainly plays a role in how someone is able to deal with it.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada:
Workplaces can play an essential part in maintaining positive mental health. They can give people the opportunity to feel productive and be a strong contributor to employee wellbeing. Yet it can also be a stressful environment that contributes to the rise of mental health problems and illnesses. No workplace is immune from these risks and we cannot afford to limit our definition of occupational health and safety to only the physical.
The CMHA offers a number of workplace mental health solutions for employers across Canada:
Not Myself Today: Through this employee wellness platform, employees can access helpful tips, learning modules and other resources to improve their mental health at work. The platform helps to build an open and supportive workplace by cultivating meaningful conversations and deeper understanding about mental health and wellness in the workplace.
Customized Training: CMHA offers in-person or virtual workshops based on the needs and interests of your employees. From building resilience and managing stress, to returning to work and coping with change, their facilitators can work with you to deliver the right workplace mental health training for your team.
Psychological Health & Safety Courses: Psychological Health & Safety training is designed for individuals who are working to improve psychological health and safety in their workplaces and/or to implement the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.
It’s often easier to see the direct results of investing in skills, training and the physical health of our workforce. But mental health is too big of a deal not to invest in. These investments can lower turnover, increase productivity, and reduce absenteeism. A mentally healthy workplace is not just going to show up, but be there ready to engage, innovate, and help a business thrive.