We’re stronger together. A common phrase, good naturally passed around to comfort and inspire. Something aimed to motivate the community to join together in times of trouble. But it’s more than an expression. It’s how the community got through the flood in 2006. It’s how we recovered from the May two-four windstorm. It’s how we will get through the pandemic. That way of thinking can get through another crisis, our environmental crisis.
A key to creating a more sustainable environment may be the connections we have to the other businesses in the community. Or at least a place to start.
If you’d like to discover more businesses within Peterborough and the Kawarthas, check out lovelocalmarketplace.ca.
* Todd Haiman Landscape Design – Blog January 25, 2017 in URBAN ROOFTOP AND TERRACE, OUTDOOR SPACE DESIGN
Investing in innovation is key to a thriving economy.
The Chamber of Commerce of Brantford-Brant has a proposed policy resolution that will urge the federal government to expand and improve its investments in innovation. The resolution is a partnership with the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce and will be debated at the annual Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) conference in October. If approved by the CCC membership, it becomes part of its advocacy efforts for the next three years.
The federal government created an “Intellectual Property Strategy” to support and protect innovation across Canada. Improvements to the strategy must include an additional focus on federal investment and tax incentives, that will encourage business investment in intellectual property (IP) and innovation to improve productivity, economic growth, and incomes for Canadians.
The “Intellectual Property Strategy” was an investment of $85.3 million over five years to help Canadian businesses, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators understand, protect and access intellectual property (IP) through a comprehensive IP Strategy. This strategy was announced in the 2017 budget with details released in the 2018 budget, and underwent a program review in the spring of 2023, with the results pending to be published.
In the Roadmap to Recovery document, the Canadian Chamber makes the following recommendation as an important step in nurturing recovery: “Adopting an “innovation box” regime that would reduce the corporate tax rate for income derived from patented inventions and other intellectual property connected to new or improved products, services and related innovative processes developed in Canada.”
The Intellectual Property Strategy has goals and recommendations in three areas: IP Awareness, Education and Advice; Strategic IP Tools for Growth; and IP Legislation. Recommendations within these areas lack information about the cost of potential investments.
In 2019-2020, $30M was slated to establish a pilot program called the “Patent Collective”. The collective will work with Canadian entrepreneurs to pool patents, so that small and medium sized firms will have better access to critical IP they need to grow in early stages without fear of infringing on a patent. The budget refers to this program as providing these businesses with the "freedom to operate". Program entry was limited to the first year, and applications closed after one year.
This strategy is still in its infancy and Canada remains 16th in innovation overall in the Global IP Rankings in 2023. The Index consists of five key sets of indicators to map the national intellectual property environment for the 28 surveyed countries by the US Chamber of Commerce.
Canada's support to business in this space lags behind the offerings of other countries that are ranked above Canada on this list. One of those differences is a “patent box” tax approach. A number of countries (the U.K., Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Hungary, Ireland, Switzerland and China) have adopted this approach which sharply reduces the normal corporate tax rate on income derived from the exploitation of patents. The Netherlands widened the policy to an “innovation box” to encompass a broader class of intellectual property.
The various “patent box” programs have been implemented provincially in Canada, but not yet adapted at the federal level. British Columbia has had a tax policy in place since 2006, Quebec included patent box policy in its 2016 budget, and has recently updated it to maintain a 2% reduction in the corporate income rate for R&D activities carried out in whole or in part in the province, and Saskatchewan announced patent box tax policy in its 2017 budget, and recently updated it to include a 10-15-year eligibility window.
The reference to “box” comes from having to tick a box on the tax form that indicates this type of revenue is being claimed. The types of profits that qualify for the lower tax rate, and how acquired intellectual property is treated, differ significantly among countries and provinces.
Additionally, the “patent box” rate varies considerably among nations and provinces. Finally, some countries put caps on the total tax relief companies can receive from patent boxes. In the case of Saskatchewan, the provincial government has installed time limits on the number of years of tax relief that can be attached to a patent.
In the 2021 Federal Budget, the government committed to study a national patent box program; however, this study has not yet started. The Parliamentary Budget Officer found that a Patent Box program to reduce the corporate tax rate by half to 7.5% for large corporations and 4.5% for small business, applied to profits generated from R&D developed and patented in Canada, would cost $242 Million over five years. This investment in a national incentive will improve international competitiveness, support business investment in research and help bridge the commercialization gap between concept, patent, and delivery to market, by supporting new economic activity and tax revenue to offset the immediate expenditures of the proposal. The government could also apply the savings that will be realized from streamlining the SR&ED tax incentive program to offset all the immediate revenue cost of this proposal, and complement the existing SR&ED Investment Tax Credit program— firms would have an incentive to base their R&D activities in Canada and to commercialize them in Canada.
The federal “Innovation Strategy” also has a goal to double the number of high-growth firms in Canada from 14,000 to 28,000 by 2025. High-growth firms are the most likely to innovate, sell globally and invest in people creating more and better paying jobs. A secondary goal is to achieve growth in intellectual property applications and have these companies base their R&D and commercialize their innovation in Canada.
A federal “My First Patent Program” could help achieve this. Quebec funds such a program with the following parameters: Quebec SMEs with 250 or fewer employees that are able to demonstrate research and development efforts completed or in part can apply for a non- repayable contribution of up to 50% of eligible expenses, to a maximum of $25,000 for patent application projects, industrial design registration or integrated circuit topography.
This policy resolution was renewed at the 2017 and 2020 national conventions, and it continues to propose key solutions to help Canadian businesses develop and protect IP.
That the Government of Canada:
1. Complete the study on a national “patent box” strategy to encourage business investment in innovation in Canada by 2025, to be implemented for 2026.
2. Consult with senior business leaders and technologists to define what intellectual property would qualify, e.g., patents, copyright, industrial design, and for what duration.
3. Ensure that any such regime adopted in Canada delivers the clarity and simplicity that encourages participation in innovation from both SMEs and large companies.
4. Develop a federal program modelled after the “My First Patent Program” using the Quebec model as a template to encourage more investment by SMEs across the country.
5. Review the Patent Collective Program and update funding to meet the needs of new potential innovators.
The cost and maintenance of cybersecurity measures is prohibitive to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) across all sectors of the Canadian economy.
There are a few very simple things that can be done to minimize the risk and enhance recovery procedures. Many SMEs lack the detailed knowledge to make informed decisions and the financial support to contract professionals to handle it for them.
We at the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce have put together a policy resolution on this topic with input from our fellow chambers and industry experts. This policy resolution will go to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and be discussed at our annual policy debate in October. If approved by the membership, it will become part of the CCC’s advocacy program for the next three years.
The issue of cybersecurity is even more relevant today as bad actors begin to use Artificial Intelligence to produce even more invasive ways to trap their victims.
The internet is the road on which the majority of business is conducted in the 21st century and
while business is responsible for its own portion of that road, help is needed to make sure it is
maintained. Many businesses still feel cybersecurity is an optional extra, yet it is just as important as locks on our doors. Protecting digital assets requires at least a basic cybersecurity strategy and should be part of the business strategy for all SMEs.
The Canadian economy is comprised primarily of SMEs. By incentivizing the adoption of cybersecurity solutions, the federal government can ensure that small and medium-sized businesses are not only protected, but can recover quickly and effectively if attacked.
As of December 2021, there were 1.21 million employer businesses in Canada. Of these, 1.19 million (97.9%) were small businesses and 22,700 (1.9%) were medium-sized businesses. Small businesses employed 8.2 million individuals in Canada, or 67.7% of the total private labour force, with medium businesses employing another 2.5 million people. Together, SMEs represent about 51% of Canada’s GDP.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada:
• 40% of small business owners are spending at least $100,000 to resolve a cyberattack
• 1 in 5 small businesses have been affected by a cyberattack or data breach
Cyber risk insurance is also a contributor to a business’ ability to survive a cyber incident. However, many SMEs lack the minimum requirements to qualify for cyber risk insurance and are not able to implement needed protocols due to the financial burden.
According to an annual report from IBM, the average data breach cost about $5.5 million globally in 2022, up from $3.92 million in 2019. Canada is ranked the third highest for cost per data breach with an average of $7 million, up from $4.44 million in 2019. In a 2023 study conducted by MasterCard, cybercrime has increased by 600% since the pandemic.
It is clear the need for SMEs to protect themselves is important to the Canadian economy. In November 2018, the CRA implemented the Accelerated Investment Incentive proposals which, under Chart 3 Purchase of Equipment, allow a business to deduct up to $4,400 in the first two years after the purchase. While this was welcomed, under the current economic situation it is not enough.
Ideally, SMEs need support from professional cybersecurity businesses. This should come through an initial assessment, typically around $100 per system user. Additionally, grants, tax rebates, and tax deductions will support investments in training, support from third-party experts, and getting up-to-date software.
Furthermore, as businesses recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Business Resilience Network (www.cbrn.ca) Roadmap to Recovery document suggests government introduce programs, funding and incentives for technology adoption in businesses of all sizes and across all sectors to improve Canadian productivity.
Our recommendations are that the Government of Canada:
1. Broaden the scope of the existing Canadian Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) or create a similar grant program focused on cybersecurity which will allow SMEs to access comprehensive cybersecurity products and services;
2. Provide specific annual tax credits for the ongoing support and maintenance required from Third Party vendors for SMEs that have satisfied the grant program to assess their technology;
3. Allow SMEs to write off 100% of their business investments in preventative cybersecurity-related software, equipment and other costs (support services and outsourcing costs) in the year those investments are made;
4. Provide a subsidy for training of staff on cybersecurity awareness programs; and
5. Create a SME Cyber Defence Fund that provides SMEs with the necessary support to improve their cyber resilience and close the cybersecurity investment gap.
We talk a lot about regulatory burden here at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce because it is consistently one of the biggest barriers to economic growth that we see across sectors.
So, what *IS* it exactly?
In a Nutshell
“Regulations” are the government rules that legally dictate what businesses are allowed to do when it comes to producing, manufacturing and selling their goods and services.
The OECD lists three general types:
• Economic regulation is meant to improve the efficiency of delivering goods and services to markets and customers. It can include government-imposed restrictions on things like prices, quantity, service and imports and exports.
• Social regulation is meant to protect the well-being and rights of society. It can include protection of the environment, health and safety in the workplace, workers’ rights, and consumer protections against things like fraud.
• Administrative regulation relates to general government management of the operation of the public and private sectors. It can include regulations relating to taxes, business operations, distribution systems, health care administration and intellectual property rights.
THE POLICY PROBLEM
Well-designed and well-implemented regulations can be one of the government’s tools to grow the economy and help keep Canadian citizens and our environment safe.
Unfortunately, Canada has a complex network of overlapping regulations from all levels of government that make a lot of things more expensive and difficult than they need to be for businesses.
Complying with all these layers of regulations is also time-consuming, and combined with inefficient and unpredictable regulatory processes, Canadian businesses are not set up for success. Every hour and every dollar spent dealing with redundant paperwork and confusing compliance issues is an hour or dollar not spent on running and growing a business. This is especially true for small businesses, which often lack the specialized staff and financial resources of larger companies to deal with regulation and compliance.
Let’s look at a few examples of how regulatory burdens can impact the economy:
The approval process for trade-enabling transportation infrastructure projects can take upwards of 10 years due to inefficient regulatory processes. By stalling on the approvals that would put shovels in the ground on projects like twinning railways, increasing bridge capacity and modernizing shipping ports, Canada and Canadian businesses lose out on billions in annual revenue. We need to be able to get things like food, fuel, fertilizer and critical minerals to domestic manufacturers, ports and international markets. If we can’t move Canadian goods, we can’t sell them, and that’s bad news for everyone.
Nearly 25% of businesses who trade interprovincially cite red tape as a major obstacle to doing business within Canada. Over decades of regulation making, provinces and territories have introduced differing rules and standards that impact nearly every sector. They affect areas like trucking and transportation standards, food packaging and labelling standards, professional certifications and securities regulation. As a result, businesses have to deal with different sets of rules and processes in each province, and for many, this causes serious barriers to business or opting out of interprovincial trade all together – this reduces Canada’s GDP by billions of dollars every year.
A predictable, consistent regulatory framework is crucial for Canada to hit its net-zero targets. Key words – “predictable” and “consistent.” The transition to net-zero can’t happen overnight and businesses need time to prepare, make the necessary investments and gradually adjust their operations. Unfortunately, Canada’s convoluted, shifting goal posts and regulations make long-term business planning extremely challenging. This uncertainty also impacts our ability to attract the kinds of global investments we need for our natural resources sector to help develop clean fuels like natural gas, hydrogen and sustainable biofuels. We need to convince investors that Canada is a safe bet – the uncertainty around net-zero regulations is doing anything but.
Talent & the Workforce
In a global economy, regulatory burdens are especially problematic. The more red tape a business runs into in any given country, the less likely they are to stay– they can take their business and job opportunities elsewhere. And where the opportunities go, so too does the talent. Canada is at risk of losing not just businesses, but the next generation of talented and innovative workers to other countries.
Canada and the United States
The United States is our primary ally and trading partner – a huge amount of goods come and go across the border every day – which makes regulatory differences between the two countries especially problematic. Different rules or processes create unnecessary supply-chain slow-downs and add costs for exporting companies. We also compete with the United States for investment. We want companies to open headquarters here, create jobs for Canadians and contribute to our economy – but when they can do that at a cheaper price tag and with less of a headache south of the border due to more business-friendly regulations, all Canadians lose.
Considering Canada’s alarmingly low level of economic growth – our GDP is projected to grow by only 1.4% this year and 1.3% in 2024 – we literally can’t afford the regulatory burdens facing Canadian businesses. The solution?
Regulatory reform (aka regulatory modernization).
A modern, streamlined regulatory process is a thing of beauty, removing barriers and allowing businesses to stay competitive and maximize their growth while protecting the welfare of Canadian citizens. This looks like improved environmental, social and economic protections, while simultaneously increasing investment growth and the number of jobs for Canadians – win-win!
We can’t just talk the talk when it comes to regulatory reform – we need to see real action that will move the needle.
Concerned about regulatory burdens and want to know how your business can act? Here are a few ways to get involved:
• Write or request a meeting with your federal MP(s) or provincial/territorial government representative to voice your concerns if your business is being impacted by regulatory burdens.
• Consider joining your local chamber of commerce or board of trade. By joining, you can add your voice to the development of policy and advocacy positions that drive business success.
Read the full column from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce here.
What do Low Housing Starts Mean? Guest column from Peterborough and the Kawarthas Home Builders Association (PKHBA)
Housing starts are an indicator of growth and prosperity in a community. A housing start is a foundation poured at the beginning of the construction period. Starts are measured per dwelling unit, so a 3-floor apartment building with 12 units would be recorded as 12 starts and a single-family home is 1 start. A house or apartment building could take 6 to 18 months to build. Once it is move-in ready, it is recorded as a New Home Completion.
Starts were low in 2022, with only 198 starts in the City of Peterborough and 155 starts in the County of Peterborough. However, from January to June 2023, the City and County of Peterborough had 70 starts. This number is alarmingly low for our population of over 130,000. Furthermore, the Ontario Provincial government has set a target of 9,300 new homes to be built from 2021-2031 in the City & County of Peterborough. So far, there have been 423 of those homes built.
While these numbers are cyclical and the causal factors behind what makes starts in any one year, or series of years, higher or lower is complex and multi-faceted, PKHBA sees two key factors responsible for the unusually low starts.
The first is economic circumstances. These include the current high interest rates and subsequently low affordability, as well as a poor economic outlook, which are influencing buyers’ behaviours and developers' decisions about future projects.
The second, is extremely prolonged delays within the development approval process portion of a housing project’s life span.
In regards to the macro-economic environment, Canada has just undergone an unprecedented interest rate hiking cycle which saw the cost of borrowing money go from nearly 1%, all the way up to around 6%. This has had a massive effect on not only new home buyers’ purchasing power, but also the sentiment for the economic forecast.
Such an environment bakes a mentality of uncertainty into the market, where buyers are scared to purchase a home not only because they are uncertain what their monthly cost of ownership will be on a go-forward basis, but also for fear that prices may see a further decline.
Subsequently, developers lose confidence in starting new projects. Whether such projects are as small as a single speculative residential home, or a 30+ unit condo development, not only are their costs of completing and holding this project uncertain, but also the timeline they may have to hold it for, and the price they may ultimately receive for the product are uncertain as the pricing trend over the last 12 months has been negative.
In concert, there is a situation where buyers are hesitant to buy, and builders can become hesitant to build.
And yet, most other mid-sized cities in the province are subjected to the same economic circumstances, and are outperforming Peterborough in terms of new housing starts by a great margin.
Comparing the City & County of Peterborough (CMA) to neighbouring communities of similar size, the housing starts are low. The City of Kawartha Lakes outperformed Peterborough in 2022 with 563 starts compared to Peterborough CMA’s 353 starts. In 2023 Kawartha Lakes continues this strong trend with 312 starts in the first half of the year compared to Peterborough CMA’s 70.
More examples would be from Belleville which has a population of just over 110,000 and had 192 starts so far in 2023, Kingston has a population of 172,500 and had 318 starts, and Guelph has a population of 165,500 and had 774 starts so far in 2023.
Why are these other cities building while the Peterborough area is not?
We believe the answer lies in the compounding effect of many years of development application review and approval delays. Builders have little incentive to lower their prices in our current environment to sell off product on their remaining available lots; not only because there is little competition forcing them to do so, but also because they will have nowhere to go next, no next development to put their construction machine to work on.
Additionally, the unnecessarily lengthy and complicated process of getting approvals for large development projects has reduced competitiveness in our area, as developers and builders opt to focus their efforts elsewhere. The City of Kawartha Lakes has seen many new developers begin large projects over the past few years, resulting in increased housing starts in 2022 & 2023. Kawartha Lakes council made economic development a priority in 2016 as part of its new Strategic Plan.
These low housing start numbers in Peterborough all lead to lower numbers of housing units available, feeding the housing crisis and housing affordability crisis.
However, PKHBA feels a strong resolve in working towards solving these issues because as the statistics make clear, the need for change is urgent.
Every province and territory in Canada is struggling to find enough healthcare professionals, adding strain on already overburdened systems.
This is impacting access to effective and efficient healthcare, limiting labour mobility and increasing lost time and productivity across all sectors. As we struggle to train enough workers domestically, barriers to labour mobility in the healthcare sector are keeping skilled workers away. The fragmented and archaic foreign credential recognition processes across the country are leaving qualified newcomers working in areas outside of their expertise. We need a national strategy regarding accreditation barriers in the healthcare sector that addresses interprovincial and international qualifications.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce and Fredericton Chamber of Commerce have teamed up on a policy resolution submitted to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) at the October convention, urging the federal government to take action on this issue. Policy resolutions are one way for Chambers to work together to create change. If approved by the CCC members, this resolution would become part of the CCC’s advocacy efforts for the next three years.
Systemic healthcare deficiencies across Canada are holding back our workforce and our economy.
The OurCare national survey showed an estimated 6.5 million Canadians are without a family doctor. In Ontario alone, the Ontario College of Family Physicians estimates 15 per cent of the population is without a family doctor and expects that to increase.
Workers who do not have access to primary healthcare through a family doctor are left to piece together solutions for their healthcare needs. The demands on hospitals and a lack of available workers have led to lengthy ER wait times, contributing to worse health outcomes, more time spent trying to access healthcare, and more lost time in the workforce.
A shortage of accredited workers is also holding back private sector healthcare providers from meeting the needs of Canadians and supplementing the public system.
In 2020, a Statistics Canada report noted skilled newcomers are under-used in the healthcare sector with 47 per cent of them either unemployed or underemployed in non-healthcare jobs needing only a high school education.
The Government of Canada already provides funding to governments and organizations through the Foreign Credential Recognition Program (FCRP) to support foreign credential recognition in Canada. These other organizations may include regulatory bodies, national associations and credential assessment agencies. Every year, Canada’s Foreign Credential Recognition Program invests roughly $27.1 million through agreements with provinces and territories, regulatory bodies and other stakeholders to help support the labour market integration of skilled newcomers.
While these measures may help, this piecemeal approach will also further exacerbate provincial and territorial variance as programs and projects are implemented on a case-by-case basis. These investments also demonstrate that the federal government accepts that it has a role to play in credential recognition, despite most credentialling bodies being provincial in nature.
The government of Canada should engage provinces and territories to create national credential recognition testing standards, as advocated by the Canadian Medical Association. The program could be modelled on the current Red Seal standard for trades, which has been used in Canada for more than 60 years. The Red Seal program sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada. Industry is heavily involved in developing the national standard for each trade. It is a partnership between the federal government and provinces and territories, which are responsible for apprenticeship training and trade certification in their jurisdictions.
A lack of cooperation between provinces and territories regarding healthcare accreditation is hindering workforce mobility as people are hesitant to take out-of-province jobs since they or their spouse may be ineligible to work in their area of expertise. Additionally, many are reluctant to move at all since they may not be able to get a family doctor if they relocate.
One place this workforce mobility issue is particularly challenging is within the Canadian Forces, which regularly transfers its workforce between provinces. While the member of the forces is able to work anywhere in Canada, their spouse might not be.
While healthcare is largely a provincial issue, it is clear we need our federal government to create a strategy to increase the mobility of healthcare workers between provinces and territories to make it easier to provide accreditation to foreign healthcare workers and allow them to use their skills anywhere in Canada.
Continuing with the status quo will increase lost time in the workforce, decrease workforce participation, hinder workforce mobility, and hold back both the public and private sectors from addressing healthcare needs in our country.
We are calling on the Government of Canada to:
1. Create a national strategy to assist provinces and territories to fast-track recognizing out-of-province and international healthcare credentials; and
2. Work with provinces and territories to develop a national proficiency exam that allows national labour mobility for healthcare workers new to Canada, currently working in a province, or newly graduated.
Repaying loans is creating another financial challenge for our local business community.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), The Bank of Canada recently increased interest rates and now the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) repayment deadline is looming. Many small business owners are facing more debt and more barriers to the long road of recovery from the pandemic.
As we previously stated in our March Voice of Business column, it cannot be stressed enough that CEBA loan repayment is still a challenge for many small businesses. Recently, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and 280 industry associations penned a letter to Minister Freeland highlighting the number of businesses who may not survive in the long term due to ever growing debt. According to the letter, 49% of small businesses’ revenues are still below normal, and approximately half of tourism-based businesses may not survive in the next few years.
“…not all businesses have their heads above water yet: they’re facing extreme inflation, unreliable supply chains, and the tightest hiring market in a generation. They’re just asking for more time to pay the government back.”
- Matthew Holmes, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
In another turn of events, the federal government announced a cabinet shuffle on July 26. In this change, there will be a new Minister of Small Business, MP Rechie Valdez. Valdez is a former small business owner herself. We look forward to seeing what she can bring to the table. In the swearing-in ceremony, she stated she would like to make small business its own portfolio.
The need for an extension has already come up in the past. In 2021, the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce authored a Policy Resolution for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce calling on the federal government to:
1. Extend the deadlines for repayment of the Canada Emergency Business Account program by two years.
2. Make the forgivable portion of the loan available to all businesses that continue to have operations impacted by ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions throughout 2021.
3. Allow businesses that continue to have operations impacted by ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions in 2021 to be exempt from incurring interest prior to the balance of their loan being due.
With the deadline to receive partial loan forgiveness approaching in approximately 5 months, it is imperative that those who can repay their loans do so and return those funds back to government coffers. We can ease the decision for the government to extend the loan repayment windows for the businesses that are struggling the most. We have a new Minister of Small Business, which means now is the time to remind the government that not all businesses have recovered and are in a position to pay back their debts.
While most of the restrictions and challenges of the pandemic are over, we are still seeing the lasting impacts for the small business community. Peterborough and the Kawarthas’ economy depends on tourism and hospitality businesses, so let’s continue to work together to climb the ladder out of the pandemic slump still facing us today, hopefully with continued support from the federal government.
Passenger rail service to Peterborough and beyond has cleared another stage toward construction.
Transport Canada announced on July 20 that the Request for Qualifications it issued back in April had concluded and three proponents were selected as eligible to bid on the upcoming Request for Proposals.
The project will link Toronto, Peterborough, Ottawa, Montréal, Trois-Rivières, and Québec City with regular passenger rail service on dedicated passenger lines. It will require hundreds of kilometres of new track, refurbishment of old rail beds, new or improved crossings at every road it crosses, agreements with property owners, new stations, and a lot of planning. Creating a proposal for a project of this scale will require significant resources, which is why each of the three proponents are conglomerates made up of large construction and transportation industry companies.
The following groups have been invited to move to the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage:
• Cadence (CDPQ Infra, SNC-Lavalin, Systra Canada, Keolis Canada)
• Intercity Rail Developers (Intercity Development Partners, EllisDon Capital, Kilmer Transportation, First Rail Holdings, Jacobs, Hatch, CIMA+, First Group, RATP Dev Canada, Renfe Operadora)
• QConnexiON Rail Partners (Fengate, John Laing, Bechtel, WSP Canada, Deutsche Bahn)
Next up will be one of the most exciting phases in the project: Request for Proposals. Expected to launch this September, proponents will be expected to draw up their plan to meet the goals of VIA HFR and Transport Canada with a technically and commercially feasible solution that includes both a business and management plan. The proposals should answer a lot of the big questions about this project, including: cost, where the lines will run, whether there will be high-speed sections, construction timelines, whether any additional towns/cities will get a stop, where the line will connect to Toronto, and whether the lines will twin alongside freight and include much-needed freight line refurbishment.
Additionally, the project will be required to meet reconciliation goals, as per Transport Canada:
“Advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is a priority for the Government of Canada, and this is why early engagement with Indigenous communities is already underway. As part of the RFQ process, respondents were required to demonstrate their capacity to work with the government to create mutually beneficial, socio-economic development opportunities for Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous reconciliation is critical to the success of the HFR project and will be integrated in all phases of the project.”
The government expects to evaluate the proposal submissions in summer of 2024. Following that, a case will be made to our federal government to fund it. Considering the years and hundreds of millions of dollars that will have already been spent at that point, it should be a choice between different business models and levels of service. Ideally, the business plan will show a high return on investment. Afterall, VIA’s big push for this project and its first dedicated passenger tracks is that they will be able to provide a higher level of service, which should equate to much higher return on investment and push the crown corporation toward profitability.
As well, this project promises to move us forward in fighting climate change. The proposals should lay out a case for the amount of emissions they will help us cut while improving intercity connectivity. The rail network should be electric (or at least almost all electric), providing people with sustainable and environmentally-friendly transportation.
We still have a long way to go before passenger trains will stop in Peterborough, but we have come a long way in the last few years. If you want to read up a bit more on the history of how we got here, check out our Voice of Business column from March 1.
Canada’s labour crunch is showing signs that it’s beginning to ease up.
Labour data from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Labour Force Survey June 2023 shows a slight increase in unemployment, gains in job growth in Ontario, and the slowing of wage growth.
Marwa Abdou, Senior Research Director at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, states:
“Canada’s labour market is turning a corner with June’s data. Coming in at the highest level in over a year, Canada’s unemployment rate edged up to 5.4%. We’re also seeing average hourly wages coming off the boil, with their slowest growth in over a year.
However, the headline jobs number was strong, exceeding market expectations with a gain of 60K jobs (vs. 20K consensus), driven by full-time employment.
Overall, the market is showing signs of strength and resilience, although wage growth is moderating while still remaining high.”
Last summer, unemployment hung at a near-record low of 4.9%. The jump to 5.4% represents a 0.2% increase from May and the highest level in over a year.
Meanwhile, the number of people working is increasing with a gain of 60,000 jobs. This job growth comes with an increase in full-time employment. The Labour Force Survey notes that much of the job gains are among men with employment of women largely staying the same through June.
The biggest changes in jobs by sector are:
• Wholesale and retail trade (+33K)
• Manufacturing (+27K)
• Health care and social assistance (+21K)
• Transportation and warehousing (+10K)
• Construction (-14K)
• Education (-14K)
• Agriculture (-6K)
While the jobs gains are welcome news, especially in the wholesale and retail trade sector, the decline in construction, education, and agriculture will be a struggle in those sectors.
Only Ontario (+56K), Nova Scotia (+3.6K), and Newfoundland and Labrador (+2.3K) saw increased employment. Prince Edward Island saw a decline of 2,400 jobs while the remaining provinces stayed relatively the same.
According to our local Workforce Development Board Eye on the Labour Market – June 2023 report, the top positions being posted by local employers in June were:
1. University professors and lecturers
2. Retail salespersons
3. Other customer & information services representatives
4. Home support workers, housekeepers & related occupations
5. Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations
6. Retail and wholesale trade managers
7. Social and community service workers
9. Administrative assistants
10. Construction Trades helpers and labourers
Unfortunately, labour growth is one of the factors cited by the Bank of Canada in its recent decision to further hike its Overnight Lending Rate by 0.25 basis points to 5%. Sitting at 3.4% in May, Inflation is down from its peak, but not as low as the bank would like.
While last month’s labour data is largely positive for most businesses, the current economy and labour market is impacting different sectors and business models disproportionately. Rising interest rates and inflation are putting added pressure on businesses, but hopefully increased access to labour will help ease that burden.
Home Stretched: Tackling Ontario's Housing Affordability Crisis Through Innovative Solutions and Partnerships
The cost of housing is impacting communities of all sizes across Ontario. It’s limiting the buying power of households, impacting businesses’ ability to attract and retain talent, and exacerbating homelessness rates throughout the province.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) recently released Home Stretched: Tackling Ontario's Housing Affordability Crisis Through Innovative Solutions and Partnerships, outlining opportunities for the private, public, and non-profit sectors to explore innovative partnerships and approaches to address housing affordability and supply, and recommendations to build on successful models. The OCC report is in partnership with Desjardins, Cadillac Fairview, and the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario. It builds on research from a series of regional housing affordability roundtables with a diverse range of housing sector stakeholders.
The Government of Ontario has committed to building 1.5 million new homes by 2031 to help mitigate this crisis. This goal will require strategic action and significant collaboration across sectors and all levels of government. It will require the public, private and non-profit sectors to work together.
The housing crisis in Ontario has reached a critical point, with significant challenges related to both affordability and supply. Peterborough has not been immune to these pressures, as rising housing costs are impacting many of our businesses' ability to attract and retain labour. At the same time, higher housing costs leave less income available to spend on other goods and services, which directly affects our community’s long-term economic growth.
The executive summary from the report sums up a lot about the current situation:
While distinct, housing supply and affordability challenges are mutually reinforcing: as mid-high income earners are priced out of the real estate market, they are increasingly occupying market rental housing for longer, contributing to low vacancy rates and rising rental rates. This puts additional downward pressure on the limited supply of more affordable, non-market housing options, where waitlists can reach up to 12 years across the province, further compounding the homelessness crisis. At the same time, social and economic pressures, such as inflation and supply chain challenges, are contributing to rising costs for housing development (which has not kept pace with demand), while hindering mobility along the housing continuum.
The OCC report highlights some key statistics:
• 211,419 households on social housing waitlists
• Provincial rental vacancy rate of 1.8% (3% is considered healthy)
• The average house price is now 11.5 times annual household income
• Rent has increased by 17.1% over the last year, now sitting at an average of $2,401
• 22,000+ construction job vacancies
• 68% of organizations in Ontario continue to report labour shortages in their respective industries
• 1.85 million additional units would be needed in Ontario beyond what is already being built or in the pipeline to restore housing affordability
The OCC policy brief provides all levels of government and industry with recommendations under the following themes: Labour and Demographics, the Housing Continuum, and Infrastructure and Land Use Planning.
The report has 34 recommendations, including:
• Continue to establish and deliver on inclusive workforce development and immigration strategies to increase the labour pool needed to build more housing.
• Incentivize the development and preservation of affordable housing options along the continuum, including purpose-built rentals, missing middle, student, non-profit, cooperative, and supportive housing.
• Support the development and expansion of innovative technologies, data tools, retrofitting, building conversions, as well as mixed-use and climate-resilient green housing.
Housing is at the root of a lot of issues we’re facing in Ontario. It’s contributing to the rising cost of living, limiting labour mobility, and leaving people without homes altogether. For the sake of our communities, we need to encourage our governments to work with the private and non-profit sectors to enact a wide range of policies to address our current housing crunch. The Home Stretched report is a good place to start.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.