The business community is in a time of rapid change. We’re now getting a better picture of just what has changed.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), and Palette Inc. partnered with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) to analyse business trends throughout the course of the pandemic using Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, which includes feedback from 15,400 businesses.
The finance and insurance industry is leading the way in online sales with 20% of businesses in this industry reporting that 60% or more of their sales are online. As a whole, 9% of Canadian business report making 60% or more of their sales online in 2020, up from 6% in 2019. On the other end of the
online sales spectrum, the number of businesses in
Canada making less than 1% of their sales online
decreased from 83% to 78%.
Only 7% of retailers report making 60% or more of their sales online, up from 5% in 2019. Despite this, online sales as a whole increased from 3.5% to 5.9% of total retail sales in 2020. Just the month of December, a key time for
retail, saw an increase of 69.3% in online sales.
There is a lot to unpack from all of this. The shift to online takes more than a willingness to adapt. While businesses with 1 – 4 employees make up a significant number of online retailers, the study finds a direct correlation between those currently adapting and the size of the business. Bigger businesses have more ability to plan and adapt than a smaller
operation where owners and staff have a much wider range of roles and
expectations. Businesses that have been more able to adapt to remote work, like finance and insurance, have adapted faster to
selling online. Other
industries, like arts and entertainment, have been leaders in online sales, but have struggled through the pandemic due to restrictions on their ability to provide their product.
It’s no surprise that
businesses that have been able to shift to working at home are better positioned to weather the pandemic and the resulting health
employment fell by 213,000 in January 2021 while the number of people working from home increased by nearly 700,000. Most of the job losses were focused on sectors with less ability to work remotely.
Again, larger businesses had an easier time adapting to the shift to remote work as they tend to have more resources to create flexible work
arrangements. More than 70% of firms in professional, scientific, and technical
services, finance and
insurance, and information and cultural industries
reported that remote work was a possibility.
This has implications on physical business locations as 8% of businesses report that it’s likely they will reduce their physical space after the pandemic. Businesses also report an increase in plans to hire employees outside their region.
The impact of COVID-19 on the labour market is still evolving. Millions of workers have suffered job loss and unemployment numbers
continue to fluctuate. Yet one fifth of Canadian businesses expect to face labour shortage
issues in the next three months. This rises to nearly a third for businesses with more than 20 employees.
In the first quarter of 2021, 9% of businesses across Canada stated that over the next year they plan to hire staff with skills or knowledge that their current employees lack. A larger proportion of businesses have plans to train existing employees for new skills compared to those planning to hire new employees with different skill sets, suggesting a stronger inclination towards upskilling the existing workforce rather than looking elsewhere for new talent.
Again, larger businesses are more likely to see an increase in the number of employees over the next 3 months.
Where is this taking us?
The shift is here to stay. 17% of businesses report it is likely they will continue to provide remote work options.
Businesses working on plans to shift more sales online aren’t planning to slow that momentum when this pandemic is over. The skills businesses are looking for are skills they need to continue this shift.
It’s also evident that smaller businesses have to work harder than their larger counterparts to keep up, especially in our hardest hit sectors. As we move forward, we need to make sure the supports are there for small and medium-sized enterprises to thrive and succeed in this shift. We’ll eventually get through this pandemic, but online sales, remote work, and changing demands for skills aren’t going away.
Chambers of commerce across the province put local businesses front-and-centre to the Government of Ontario last week.
Advocacy Day morphed into Advocacy Week this year with the event going online. This annual event, organized by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, gets leaders from chambers and boards of trade a chance to put their questions and issues directly to party leaders, ministers, and opposition critics. Having discussions face-to-face over video chat between business and political leaders is an effective way to drive home the challenges facing many small and medium-sized enterprises across Ontario.
It’s evident the priority for all elected officials right now is vaccine rollout and the general health of the people of Ontario as we try to move out of this pandemic. We’ve been fighting COVID-19 for a year now and the end is in sight, but Members of Provincial Parliament from all parties recognize the need to keep our guard up until we’re in the clear.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has been working with the Brampton Board of Trade, Barrie Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Milton Chamber of Commerce, 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of
Commerce, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Ottawa Board of Trade to push the Province to adopt the proposed Responsible Business Protocol.
We’ve submitted a resolution for the Ontario Chamber of
Commerce to add to its provincial lobby efforts and we’ve sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford asking for its implementation.
The Responsible Business
Protocol calls on the Province to create a set of health and safety rules for all business sectors. If a business follows the proper safety rules, they can remain open, with the colour-coded restriction zones indicating capacity limits for all
public-facing businesses. The rules need to be applied equitably and fairly to all businesses, not based on a perception of essentiality.
Advocacy Week has been a chance to further push this proposal with provincial leaders of all political stripes — and the message was well received.
Minister of Health Christine Elliott was open to the proposal, noting they have continued to modify restrictions. She stressed the importance of rapid testing to address safety and staffing issues for some business sectors and noted that people who can’t work from home — including the hospitality industry — will be given priority for vaccines.
The issue of workforce training and skills was also brought to the attention of Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano. Many businesses continue to struggle to find workers with the right skills and qualifications. Minister Romano plans to address these issues partly through micro-credentials.
Chambers and boards of trade pushed important issues for businesses, including greater access to high-speed internet, access to capital, and investments in infrastructure.
Advocacy Week is a helpful time to focus on specific issues, but your chamber of commerce will continue to be the voice of business in Peterborough through advocacy to all levels of government, all year long.
Dear Premier Ford,
We appreciate the responsiveness of your government in combatting this pandemic and your
understanding of the damaging toll it is taking on Ontario’s business community.
Forecasts of rising business bankruptcies, supplier, and bank delinquencies due to operating restrictions imposed by the current lockdown framework are alarming. Although we are optimistic about the vaccine rollout, our business communities also know that many months of safety protocols and operating restrictions are before us. Given the long-term forecast, now is the time to revisit and refine the regional operating restrictions framework to ensure it keeps Ontarians safe, builds business confidence and does not unduly harm our economy.
The current framework is often referred to as a blunt tool because of its geographic, rather than business-specific, approach. It also does not address what many public health units recognize as a bigger spread issue – community contact reduction. In January 2021, the Brampton Board of Trade recommended the creation of a “Responsible Business Protocol”. This approach
refines the current colour-code system, calls for better definitions of safe operating protocols by sector, and recommends adding a community contact reduction framework to better address pandemic spread. Most importantly, the recommended Responsible Business Protocol puts the onus on businesses to adhere to a common safe operating framework which allows them to remain open.
Led by the Peterborough and Thunder Bay Chambers of Commerce, several business communities throughout the province have reviewed and recommended this protocol. In essence, it is a solution that simplifies understanding of rules by sector, addresses community contact reduction and most
importantly, minimizes damage to our economy while fighting the spread of COVID-19.
At the heart of the protocol is the understanding that compliance with safety standards is an integral part of running a business. It impacts every size and sector, from retail and restaurants to construction and manufacturing. The primary reason Ontario businesses are leaders in workplace safety is to protect their employees and customers. Compliance with regulations that continue to evolve is taken seriously. Businesses are accustomed to having their ability to operate depend on their compliance with current safety standards.
Businesses in Ontario follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act closely or face penalties that can include jail time and fines. Businesses feel that it is fundamentally unfair that their operations are required to shut down or forced to significantly change their service model not because of their adherence to safety protocols, but because of the products they sell or the services they offer. This shuts down some businesses while allowing others to operate with very few restrictions.
Today, we are requesting that the Ontario government establish a Responsible
Business Protocol that includes the following elements:
1) A Safe Operating Framework (by business sector) – The framework should advise business owners on operating guidelines for their establishment (restaurant/hair salon/gym, etc) in order to protect their staff and clients from COVID-19 exposure.
a. Example/Idea: In a barber shop, for example, our position is that regardless of how many chairs are in the shop, consistent operating safety protocols (ie. spacing of chairs/plexi-dividers) can be established and all businesses would then be treated equitably. The issue of
capacity at which they would be allowed to operate is guided by the Community Contact Reduction
Framework described in
point #2 .
Once a safe operating
framework has been
established by Ontario for each sector, the safety
measures for each business should not vary based on what product you sell,
geographic area or establishment size etc. This framework differs from the current one in that Ontarians can take comfort in knowing that the key issue is not business safety, but community contact.
2) A Community Contact Reduction Framework (based on regional virus spread). As the cases rise in a particular region, the government should enforce reduction in community contacts. We know it is not the business itself that becomes less safe, it is the contact between community members that is less safe.
As such, we recommend that the new protocol establishes a framework that identifies how individual contacts must be reduced and would outline capacity restrictions, across the board, for public-facing businesses.
a. Example/Idea: In the Green level, for example, all public facing businesses would operate at 100% customer capacity (because they are already implementing safe operating protocols as per point #1) and as the case level rises in that region, capacity is reduced by 20% (for example, yellow = 80%, Orange = 60%, Red = 40%, Grey (current) = 25%). This allows more businesses to stay open and changes the message to the community.
Essentially the message to Ontarians is that these operating restrictions are about the community’s actions to reduce their own contacts rather than the current messaging, which
unfairly closes or restricts trade for small businesses.
The Responsible Business Protocol, together with a safe operating framework by
sector and community contact reduction framework, fairly applied across the board (ie both at national big-box and local retail stores) is a much better way to combat COVID, build consumer and business confidence, and not unduly harm the economy.
We welcome an opportunity to discuss this matter further at your earliest convenience.
Original Signed By:
Todd Letts, CEO, Brampton Board of Trade
Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce
Charla Robinson, President, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce
Scott McCammon, President & CEO, Milton Chamber of Commerce
Paul Markle, Executive
Director, Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce
Sueling Ching, President & CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade
Debbi Nicholson, President & CEO, Greater Sudbury
Chamber of Commerce
The Government of Ontario will release its 2021 budget on March 24. The government is calling it the “Next phase of Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan” with a focus on protecting health and jobs. It’s going to support the province's vaccine distribution plan, provide additional resources for the health care sector, and support initiatives to protect the economic well-being of families, workers and employers.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce will provide an in-depth analysis of the budget and its impact on the local business community when it is released.
Missed the 2021 Power Hour? This year’s event went virtual and is available at peterboroughchamber.ca!
We brought together your local leaders — Warden J. Murray Jones, MP Maryam Monsef, MPP Dave Smith, and Mayor Diane Therrien — to take questions about what they’re working on for local businesses and the community as well as what they expect to see with our recovery from COVID-19 this year.
Tourism Task Force
The Ontario Government is launching a new task force to help the province’s $36
billion tourism industry recover from COVID-19. The Tourism Economic Recovery Ministerial Task Force will provide expert advice and recommendations.
The mandate of the voluntary task force includes providing strategies and advice that will help position Ontario and its local communities as destinations of choice for travel, as well as identifying products and experiences that enhance destination
development. It will also offer a forum for sector partners and leaders to share ideas, collaborate, and provide advice and information to the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.
The tourism sector supports more than 400,000 jobs province-wide. Travellers from out-of-country were down 84% and tourism-related employment in Ontario declined by 13 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019.
The task force is expected to deliver a report in spring.
Tourism this Summer?
The Ontario 2020 Budget, which was released in November 2020, called 2021 the “Year of the Ontario Staycation”, citing: “As a tourist, no matter what you are looking for, you’re likely to find it in Ontario. And that is good news, because regardless of the trajectory of COVID 19, it is likely that tourism travel within Ontario will be an option sooner than travel beyond our province’s border.”
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is consulting with local stakeholders and government representatives to figure out what local tourism-based businesses should be planning for this summer. The rollout of vaccines and general state of public health in Ontario will be a large
factor is in this planning.
Rural Economic Development Program
The Ontario government is investing $47,390 to support Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development (PKED) in helping rural communities diversify their economies, retain skilled workers and create jobs. PKED’s project is one of 16 projects approved through the Rural Economic Development (RED) program providing nearly $800,000 in funding to support economic recovery in rural communities across Ontario.
The new funding will support the creation and modernization of tools to help connect local Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough food service providers and farmers with customers through a digital platform and increase local food production.
It has now been a year since Ontario hunkered down to battle COVID-19. Though it started as an extended March break for the kids and a few weeks of working from home, it quickly became apparent that we would be in for the long haul.
It feels like we’re finally on the home stretch. A fourth, single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is now approved for use in Canada and our governments are promising to have vaccines available to all in the coming months.
But we’re not there yet. Our region’s regression into red zone restrictions highlights the need for all of us to be careful and vigilant.
Local businesses have faced a year of frustration, stress, and for many — severe financial loss. The rainy-day reserves have long since been used up and debt levels are making it difficult to be able to continue borrowing.
Wage and Rent Subsidy Extension
The Government of Canada announced recently that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) programs will
continue at the current support rates until June, providing some much-needed certainty and financial support for businesses.
Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) Repayment
The Canada Emergency Business Account has been an important lifeline for many small businesses across the country by providing vital access to capital. Businesses in our hardest hit sectors will likely take several years to have their cashflow return to pre-2020 levels as they
service their debts, rebuild their customer base and continue to modernize. These sectors include accommodation, food service, arts, entertainment,
recreation, and retail.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is asking the Government of Canada to:
• Extend by two years the repayment deadline for eligibility for loan forgiveness for the Canada Emergency Business Account to
December 31, 2024
• Implement an income-based payment plan — similar to the CEWS eligibility criteria — for businesses that require longer to recover from the challenges of COVID-19
These modifications will help businesses through recovery and ease the current stress and anxiety many small business owners are dealing with.
Limit non-essential regulations
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is joining chambers of
commerce and boards of trade across the country in calling on our government leaders to resist the urge to develop new non-essential regulations that will require extensive engagement from the private sector and take away from its ability to focus on the health and safety of employees, contractors and the communities in which they do business.
Keeping up-to-date and
adapting to the latest public health measures is already a challenge for many businesses.
Freeze the alcohol tax
In 2017, the government brought in automatic tax increases for alcohol. The next increase is slated for April 1. We are calling on the Government of Canada to freeze the alcohol tax rate.
The food-service industry — restaurants, pubs, bars, and all their suppliers, including breweries, farmers, and their logistics companies — are among the hardest-hit right now. Successful restaurants had profit margins of four to six per cent when times were good; there’s just no way to make the math work with indoor dining closed or significantly reduced.
Businesses need local support
The most important resource for local businesses is the support of their customers and the community as a whole. We all need to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and work our way back to few local cases and few social and business restrictions. We also need to continue patronizing our favourite local businesses.
Businesses in Ontario face many uncertainties heading into 2021. With the Ontario Government preparing its 2021 budget, the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have provided the government with 17 recommendations as part of their budget submission.
With Ontario’s economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as
vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact. In the upcoming budget, we would like to see a focus on
reskilling, broadband, and access to capital, which will be necessary for the revival of small business and entrepreneurship as well as an inclusive economic recovery. Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal
governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians.
Between February and September, 25,614 businesses closed in Ontario, and many businesses
continue to struggle with the economic hardships brought on by COVID-19.
Accordingly, businesses across the province continue to express concern about the future of the province and their own organizations. Our own surveys show that nearly half (46 percent) of Ontario businesses lack confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook.
The 2021 budget
recommendations focus on recovery, growth, and
• Minimize the impact of business closures
• Target funding towards the hardest-hit sectors
• Strengthen municipalities’ fiscal sustainability
• Enhance access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs
• Develop demand-driven skills programming
• Strengthen labour market information
• Accelerate broadband expansion
• Encourage and support regional collaboration
• Decarbonize Ontario’s transportation systems
• Give energy customers more payment flexibility
• Support farmers and local producers with the transition to online sales
• Be bold on interprovincial trade
• Use regulatory modernization to support economic recovery
• Realize the full potential of virtual care in Ontario
• Make Ontario a leader in ‘smart government’
• Improve procurement outcomes
• Take a measured approach to centralized procurement
In 2021, Ontario will continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The situation has created new problems and exacerbated pre-existing ones. The impact on people and business has been catastrophic overall, but disproportionate for small businesses as well as certain sectors and demographics. The recommendations
outlined above were
developed together with businesses, chambers of
commerce, and boards of trade across the province, with the shared interest of channeling limited resources to where they will have the greatest impact.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, Ontario Chamber of Commerce and chambers of commerce and boards of trade in every corner of the province will continue to provide critical services and resources to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will work closely together with government on the path to economic recovery.
Coming out of a difficult year and into an uncertain one means the upcoming 2021 federal budget is going to be a mix of pandemic relief and potential recovery stimulus. How the Government of Canada balances these two priorities will provide insight into how our country’s leaders anticipate we will handle the global pandemic.
The budget will prioritize getting Canadians through the pandemic, including providing people with the supports they need. Prime Minister Trudeau has already announced an extension to the number of weeks that people can claim benefits under several income support programs, including the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has submitted our priorities for the 2021 federal budget, including:
VIA High Frequency Rail
The VIA High Frequency Rail (HFR) plan is ready and waiting for approval. It is part of the mandate letter provided to the new Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra.
VIA’s proposal for dedicated tracks for high frequency trains between Toronto – Peterborough – Ottawa – Montréal – Québec City will assure the corporation can maximize ridership and revenue and improve their on-time performance to over 95%. Dedicated tracks for passenger service will reduce trip times while also increasing VIA’s profitability, effectively eliminating the need for a Government subsidy within a few years.
A dedicated passenger corridor will create significant economic development along the route, including an estimated 336,000 person years of employment. The hybrid electric-diesel trains running on this route will dramatically reduce carbon emissions by 12.5 million tons of CO2, the equivalent of a car-pool reduction of 2.8 million vehicles.
In addition to the benefits of more efficient inter-city travel, VIA’s proposal will increase access to affordable housing in the new rail corridor and provide new residents with a transit option for commuting.
Dedicated tracks solve VIA’s congestion problems, increase its efficiency and profitability, create economic development while remaining environmentally friendly, and will give commuters better access to communities not traditionally served by transit. It is important to note that track improvements for passenger service will offer significant benefits to current and future freight users.
Expansion of Broadband Internet Access
The need for rapid expansion of access to high-speed internet has never been greater. Broadband access is a necessity for business, both as a location for offices and facilities as well as access and integration of their workforce.
While we’ve made progress over the last decade, 2020 highlighted some major gaps in access to high-speed internet. Though largely a rural issue, it’s likely not as rural as many would believe with large service gaps just on the edge of the city. For 2021, we need to make sure that all Ontarians have the ability to work and learn from home.
Targeted Investment and Relief COVID-19 has required business in some sectors to close or drastically change their service model while others have continued with few changes. Those hardest hit include accommodation, food service, arts, entertainment, recreation, and retail.
We’ve had a year to study the impacts of the pandemic. We know how who and how businesses are being impacted. We need our government to target relief efforts to the specific areas that need it most.
Greater Access to Capital for Small Businesses
Small businesses are investing not only in what they need to thrive through this crisis, but also in the future sustainability of their business well beyond 2021. Businesses that are investing in themselves are businesses that will continue employing people in our community and hopefully expand and hire more.
Additionally, many businesses have used government and other loan programs to assist them through the pandemic. As they borrow more and deal with reduced income, it makes it even more difficult to borrow further funds without assistance.
The 2021 federal budget will be one of the most challenging in recent times. It should provide some key insights into what our government expects this year to bring.
Home Tax Credit
Aging at home extends and improves the quality of life for seniors by providing
independence and helps them avoid accidents and illness. It also lessens the strain on our healthcare system.
Taking care of loved ones who are aging at home can be expensive for family. Families in Ontario provide 20 million hours of care every year.
Family-funded home care is now more important than ever. Home Care Ontario and Family-Funded Home Care Services are asking the Government of Ontario to implement a special Home Care Tax Credit to help families support their loved ones at home.
Please follow the link and take a couple minutes to send a letter to your MPP to get this tax credit included in the provincial budget:
Lockdowns — something unheard of only a year ago — have become something we are getting all too familiar with.
With many businesses opening up this week, it seems that many are already bracing for a dreaded third wave. Whether it’s this public health crisis, or the next one, it’s important that we learn from our experience. Locking down the province is no doubt a decision that is not taken lightly, but it’s proving to be a very blunt instrument.
Small businesses in Ontario have taken the utmost care to abide by the regularly-evolving rules, regulations and guidelines. Business owners genuinely want to keep their staff, customers and themselves safe and healthy. In fact, keeping staff and customers safe has always been the top priority when operating a business. Compliance with safety standards impacts every size and sector, from retail and restaurants to construction and manufacturing.
Businesses are accustomed to having their ability to operate depend on their compliance with current safety standards.
Businesses in Ontario follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act closely or face penalties that can include jail time and fines of $100,000 for individuals and $1.5 million for corporations. They work within the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, Human Rights Code, Canada Labour Code, Ontario Fire Code, Liquor Control Act, Ontario Building Code, Health Protection and Promotion Act of Ontario, and more, each with their own set of financial penalties and
potential restrictions to conduct business.
Currently, businesses are being shut down or forced to significantly change their service model not because of their adherence to safety protocols, but because of the products they sell or the services they offer. This shuts down some businesses while allowing others to operate with very few restrictions.
Despite being locked down, people have not stopped shopping — resulting in a system that favours large international department and online retailers over
To both support the economy and keep Ontarians safe, the system defining which businesses are essential requires reform. Restrictions should hinge on compliance, not solely on perception of essentiality, sector, size, product etc. Businesses that can provide evidence of compliance with COVID-19 health and safety protocols should be allowed to operate. Those that are not compliant, should not.
We are confident that businesses and lawmakers can work together to create an equitable framework where businesses can
operate in compliance with new safety protocols that will both help Ontario work toward the eradication of COVID-19 and provide sustainability and consistency to the business community.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce — with the support of our colleagues at the Brampton Board of Trade, Barrie Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Milton Chamber of Commerce, and 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce — are putting forward a resolution to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Our request to the Government of Ontario is:
• In order to continue serving the public during a health crisis, including the current COVID-19 pandemic, enhance lockdown or grey zone regulations based on a uniform and equitable set of safety standards for all businesses, in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, rather than on perception of essentiality.
Advocacy is a big part of what we do at the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. Every year we highlight certain issues to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce for chambers across the province to debate. The approved resolutions remain a key part of the chamber advocacy for three years, at which point they are reviewed and re-submitted if the issue is still pressing.
We’re happy to say one of our 2018 resolutions, Cutting Red Tape for Motor Vehicles, was successful in its advocacy by streamlining the process for vehicle dealerships to process registrations without having to physically attend a Service Ontario location for each sale.
However, two of our issues remain and will continue to be a point of advocacy.
Maximizing Growth in Built Areas Housing is a big issue in Peterborough. Simply put, there isn’t enough. There isn’t enough affordable, mid-range, or high-end housing. There aren’t enough apartments or houses.
Vacancy rates have been chronically low and demand is only increasing. There are a lot of plans in the works, including new subdivisions, apartment buildings, and higher density developments.
But in the middle of all this, quite literally in the middle of our city, sits a large supply of unused housing — the 2nd and 3rd floor residences above many of your favourite local shops and cafes in downtown Peterborough.
Redevelopment of these upper floor units is happening, but the pace is slow. Despite the demand and increasing rising real estate and lease rates, many of these units remain too costly to renovate. It’s no surprise that buildings built more than 100 years ago — long before building or fire codes — would require a lot of work to make them safe and liveable again. But with the right incentives, these underused assets could provide our community with desperately needed housing and become an economic catalyst in the heart of our city.
We are asking the Government of Ontario to:
1. Designate the Downtown Revitalization Program to be used for a pilot project that allows private building owners and municipal officials to study and assess, using an independent
consultant and without punitive action, the needs of a building or series of buildings in a downtown core.
2. Allow for a renovation plan or commitment to be worked out that is agreeable to the property owner and the municipality.
3. Allow for a coordinated approach to intensification and heritage preservation that takes into consideration a community’s current building stock and its ability to function in a contemporary economy.
4. Allow for intensification districts just outside the core, but within the designated built-up area that can be developed in tandem with the Urban Growth Area and not impact the current
5. Study the effect of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act on the viability of the
intensification projects of existing buildings.
Heads and Beds Levy
The provincial government does not pay property tax on its real estate holdings. Instead, it makes payments in lieu of property taxes as a way to compensate municipalities. For places like colleges, universities, hospitals, and correctional facilities, that payment comes through a “heads and beds” levy. This rate increased from $50 set in 1973 to $75 in 1987. The rate has remained unchanged ever since.
In 1987, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was negotiating a free trade agreement with the US, Michael Jackson’s “Bad” was on its way to the top of the charts, and I was just learning to walk. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then.
If the “Heads and Beds” levy had kept pace with inflation, the province would currently be paying $148. We realize that’s a tall ask, especially given the current budget constraints. We’re asking the Province to increase the levy to $100 and tie future increases to inflation.
Why is this important? Because right now the tax payers of Peterborough — residents and businesses alike — are subsidizing provincial buildings. The nature of Provincial services is that they serve a broad role for a larger community as part of a high-level strategy for a stronger province. The “Heads and Beds” levy is supposed to keep things fair by having all Ontario residents pay their share for provincial services, but without an update to the levy, it’ll be up to the tax payers in the City of Peterborough to make up the difference.
Businesses in the Muskoka-Kawartha Region are twice as confident in their economic outlook as some areas of the province, according to the fifth annual Ontario Economic Report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. While some other areas rely heavily on international tourism, the Kawarthas has been a popular destination for Ontarians travelling regionally. This confidence translates to less expected job losses than other regions.
However, only 21 per cent of businesses in Ontario are confident in the overall Ontario economic outlook. Last year was unprecedented in many ways and there is a lot of unpredictability in the year that lies ahead. While the Ontario Economic Report digs deep into the woes businesses are facing, it also highlights some key strategies for our leadership.
Priorities for recovery:
1. Help businesses acquire credit or capital
2. Reform and/or lower business taxes
3. Encourage Ontarians to buy local
4. Invest in broadband infrastructure
“No business, region, sector, or demographic should be left behind in the pursuit of economic recovery and growth,” says Daniel Safayeni, co-author of the report and Acting Vice President of Policy at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Support programs and pro-growth policies should be targeted towards those experiencing the most pronounced challenges. A focus on reskilling as well as widespread access to broadband infrastructure and capital will be necessary to the revival of small business and entrepreneurship as well as an inclusive and robust economic recovery.”
Let’s Talk Budget
We want your input on the 2021 federal budget. Canadians, including businesses and organizations, can participate directly by completing an online questionnaire or uploading a submission.
These pre-budget consultations are an opportunity for Canadians from across the country to share their ideas and priorities for how the government can make investments to grow the economy. They want to hear your ideas on how to create new jobs and build a greener, more competitive, more innovative, more inclusive, more resilient Canada.
To participate, visit letstalkbudget2021.ca. Or if you’d prefer to have your voice added to the Chamber’s pre-budget submission, just email your input to email@example.com
Broadband Internet Expansion
Broadband internet access continues to expand throughout rural Ontario. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has been advocating for years to have the Province expand high speed internet access to all areas of Ontario. In just the last month, the Province has successfully launched broadband expansions in Wellington County, Niagara Region, Brant County and Caledon — a huge improvement for nearly 10,000 people. Similarly, the Peterborough Chamber has advocated for the EORN (Eastern Ontario Regional Network) which has been successful in improving cell and internet access and continues to push initiatives such as their 1 Gig Project. https://www.eorn.ca/en/index.aspx
Access to reliable high-speed internet has been essential for people and businesses for more than a decade, but its importance has never been greater. People are shopping, conducting business, connecting with loved ones, and learning online like never before. Expanding high-speed internet to people in other areas of the province not only helps those areas, but expands the potential market for businesses in the Peterborough area as well.
CRA Increases Service Ahead of 2021 Tax Season
In preparation for what is likely to be a more complicated and involved tax season across the country, the Canada Revenue Agency is expanding its capacity to handle your questions through:
• More agents to increase call centre capacity
• New automated callback service so you don’t have to spend time on hold if when wait times reach a certain length
• Extended call centre hours to 9am to 9pm on weekdays and 9am to 5 pm on Saturdays (starting Feb. 27)
• Expanded resources on Canada.ca
The Canadian Chamber has called for a Royal Commission on Tax Reform for many years. This year the Chamber Policy Staff are working on their own recommendations to the tax code, which hasn’t been updated since the Leafs won the cup.
A strong recovery will depend on many factors, from business confidence to a regulatory system that encourages business.