Advocacy through policy is at the heart of what a chamber of commerce does.
As is tradition, chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across Ontario gathered Saturday for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM and Convention to push forward a new round of policy resolutions for the Government of Ontario.
Though the debate is one day, the whole process takes months. Chambers work with their policy teams, committees, boards, and members to lay out and prioritize local business issues that the provincial government can help address. We reach out to businesses in specific sectors, industry groups, and fellow chambers for input and support. Once drafted, the policy resolutions go through rigorous review by our fellow chambers and the OCC’s Policy and Advocacy Committee. It all culminates in a one-day policy debate where 200 chamber and board of trade delegates present, debate, and vote on the resolutions. All approved resolutions become part of the OCC advocacy efforts at Queen’s Park and beyond for the next three years.
Often, these policy resolutions start with a business talking with their chamber about a particular barrier they are dealing with and offering some solutions that the government should consider. It’s about as grassroots as advocacy gets. This year’s compendium of resolutions covered a wide range of issues, including property tax fairness, rural transit, mining development, alcohol regulation, procurement, local detox centres, workforce needs, and broadband internet expansion.
We submitted four of the 43 resolutions up for debate and all four were approved by the membership:
• Accounting for economic outcomes in regional collaboration projects
Issue: Jobs created during collaborative regional economic development projects are only attributed to the municipality in which they are geographically located.
Develop a mechanism that allows for multiple municipalities who have invested in a regionally significant project to account for jobs created proportional to financial contribution when reporting to government.
• Diversifying healthcare to ease the burden on Emergency Rooms and family doctors
Issue: Our hospitals are in crisis, struggling to fulfill all the healthcare needs we are asking of them. At the same time, many people in Ontario are without access to a family doctor. Lack of access to healthcare is leading to greater lost time and limiting workforce mobility. While our hospital and family physician services are in need of investment, there are other healthcare professionals in our communities that are underutilized and can help fill in the gaps when it comes to primary and non-urgent healthcare needs.
1. Provide more funding for Nurse Practitioner-led clinics, and fund additional Nurse Practitioner seats at Ontario's universities.
2. Expand funding for community paramedicine programs.
3. Support Community Health Centres as a means of addressing healthcare needs for those with barriers and needs that fall outside the scope of traditional healthcare systems.
4. Ensure communities have access to walk-in clinics.
5. Invest in mobile clinics to meet non-urgent healthcare needs in rural communities.
6. Make medical schools more financially accessible to students interested in entering the medical field.
7. Work with the federal government to Improve the mobility of physicians within Canada by broadening the national licensure program.
8. Continue to improve recognition of equivalent qualifications held by international medical graduates to integrate them into the Canadian medical field and meet fast-growing demand.
9. Increase admission capacity for different types of health care professionals.
10. Expand programs to offer incentives for healthcare professionals — including physicians, nurses, specialists, and technicians — to locate in rural and northern regions experiencing higher levels of healthcare workforce shortages.
11. Ensure that communities across Canada possess the digital infrastructure necessary for enhanced and integrated telehealth programs that bring physician teams and patients closer together.
• Invest in Workforce Planning Boards
Issue: Workforce challenges are one of the biggest barriers to economic growth in Ontario. It is essential that businesses, non-profits and charities have access to as many workforce resources and tools as possible. After years of funding cuts and precarious one-year funding agreements, now is the time to re-invest in all 26 Workforce Planning Boards across the province of Ontario with increased funding and three-year contracts.
1. Increase the funding for each Workforce Planning Board to cover the cost of LMI Help Desk Services, the Local Jobs Hub, and website maintenance and updates.
2. Increase the length of funding agreements with Workforce Planning Boards to three years.
• Tax Rebates for Home Care
Issue: Receiving healthcare at home is the preferred route for most people where feasible, saving both them and the government money, compared to staying in institutions. However, upfront capital costs are a major barrier to home care. Lack of access to a hospital bed and patient lift limits peoples’ access to home care.
1. Create a one-time refundable $10,000 tax credit toward special medical equipment and renovations, including hospital beds and patient lifts, for people of all ages requiring home care services.
2. Expand funding for virtual home monitoring programs through Ontario Health Teams and other health care providers, to help seniors live safely in their homes and reduce the burden on the hospital system.
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