Currently, the County of Peterborough, the provincial and the federal governments are in full budget mode. The federal budget could come down at anytime. Let us know if you see Finance Minister Bill Morneau buying a new pair of shoes or shining up his budget shoes from 2016. The provincial budget is anticipated near the end of March or beginning of April and at the County, the budget will be finalized in the next month.
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), has released budget submissions to our provincial and federal governments.
Federally, the four areas of focus are: Federal Budget Submission
- Strengthening the Canada-US trade relationship
- Helping Canadian start ups scale
- Addressing the fiscal gap in areas such as health care and labour market programs
- Boosting productivity and growth through infrastructure spending
Provincially, the four areas of focus are: Provincial Budget Submission
- Demonstrating fiscal prudence and sound budget management
- Addressing the infrastructure deficit
- Fostering conditions for increased business competitiveness
- Improving conditions to allow municipalities to thrive
In the provincial submission a total of 13 specific recommendations were put forward for Queen’s Park to adopt in order to restore fiscal balance and spur economic growth.
Specifically, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and Kingston Chamber of Commerce are champions of the recommendation to increase the “Heads and Beds Levy”. The levy is a payment in lieu of taxes for public institutions such as provincial correctional institutions, hospitals and post-secondary institutions and has not been adjusted in 30 years. This issue was originally raised and passed as a policy resolution at the OCC’s Annual General Meeting in 2012 and passed a second time in 2015. The result of the levy not changing is undo pressure on all tax classes in municipalities with these institutions, particularly the commercial and industrial classes.
“Municipalities are struggling with a multitude of financial pressures and the current levy of $75 per head and bed no longer accurately reflects the cost of delivering services,” said Jim Hill, Chair of the Board of Directors, Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “For Peterborough, adjusting the levy to $100 per head and bed would see $1.1 million in additional funds each year in the municipal budget.”
Other specific recommendations include considering broadband as a piece of essential infrastructure that will allow small businesses in all corners of the province to compete in the technology-driven knowledge economy, and that the government truly needs to recognize and understand the cumulative impact of current public policy decisions and rising input costs.
Federally, the advocacy activities of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce are reflected in all areas of focus, but particularly in the infrastructure spending area as the VIA Rail passenger proposal is one that has the potential to create significant economic spinoff for our community and those along the line.
The scale up challenge, which was an Ontario signature resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Annual General Meeting in September 2016, is also an issue of great interest to the Peterborough business community. That said, the issue of funding for sectors such as health care also ring prominently for this region and there is concern with the current proposal of ongoing base funding growth of 3.5% for the Canada Health Transfer. Under this model, Ontario’s share of provincial and territorial health spending would fall from the current 23% to 20%.
Overarching to all federal issues is Canada’s ability to trade with the United States and demonstrate the mutual benefits of the relationship. It is noteworthy to consider Ontario exports about $194 CAD billion to the U.S. and imports about $182 CAD billion.
At the County level, councillors will be spending the day poring over the draft budget submission and going through each department’s finances including broadband, infrastructure and economic development needs. Also on the table for discussion are long term capital forecasts for public works. Councillors also have five outside funding requests to consider.
Shine your shoes and sharpen your pencils, budget time is always give and take, but what needs to remain top of mind is the importance of a climate that encourages economic and business growth.