Whether it’s physical health, mental health, having a safe workplace, or just getting along with each other, it’s increasingly important for employers to be proactive when it comes to the health of their employees. This week the focus is on mental health with Bell Let’s Talk Day having taken place yesterday.
Mental health in the workplace for employees and employers has been an issue the Chamber Network has been working on for some time at the provincial and federal levels.
At both levels, the business community is asking for help from the government in the form of developing a national strategy, help with training for employers, as well as creating an improved policy framework to allow employers to offer the Employee Assistance Program to their employees.
The emphasis of Bell Let’s Talk is to encourage conversation and action around mental health, and with good reason. The Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety have provided the following research evidence to demonstrate the significant impact of mental health problems in the workplace:
The provincial policy resolution approved by the Chamber Network at the 2018 Ontario Chamber of
Commerce Annual General Meeting asks government to:
At the national level, a policy resolution was passed by Chamber delegates at the 2018 National Annual General Meeting calling for more data to be provided on program outcomes and for business owners and entrepreneurs to be considered when developing programs.
The resolution speaks to the greater focus on entrepreneurship, highlighting a 2017 study by Bluteau DeVenney which showed that 72 per cent of entrepreneurs live with some form of mental illness, 40.5 per cent report their mental health had worsened since becoming entrepreneurs and 47.3 per cent report a decline in their overall health. Starting and building a business caused negative impacts in the personal relationships and social lives of 74.5 per cent of respondents. Entrepreneurs are 3.5 times as likely to experience mental illness and five times as likely to contemplate suicide as the general public.
A report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce reveals that 81% of businesses believe that it is
important to support their employees’ mental wellness in the workplace; however, only 35% of small business, 65% of medium sized business and 76% of large business have mental health strategies.
In response to the gap, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has developed a toolkit based on three principles:
Setting Expectations – Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a journey and employers do not need to have all the answers. A good way to start is assessing their businesses by looking for barriers,
support and opportunities for change, as well as identifying potential stress points in their workplace.
Creating a Supportive Environment – Leadership, from not only management but
employees themselves, is needed to create a supportive environment where everyone can feel
comfortable with and empowered by the focus on mental wellness.
Maintaining the Conversation – Businesses are encouraged to regularly assess if they are sticking with their mission on mental wellness. Feedback and using data to measure progress are several ways to do this.
Start a conversation today.
In the next couple of months, the Ford Government will be delivering its first budget. From an advocacy perspective budgets paint a picture of the government’s roadmap or work plan for the year.
At a recent meeting of the Economic Club of Canada Premier Ford reiterated the focus of the government for this first budget.
"Ontario inherited a $15 billion deficit. If we allow this deficit to continue to fester and grow, it will end up imperilling our hospitals, schools and other public services. We cannot allow this to happen," said Premier Ford. "I'm proud to say we have made good progress in restoring fiscal discipline to Ontario, but there's still a lot of hard work ahead of us."
As a result, the government has announced three priorities in the year ahead:
“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and the heart of communities,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “Yet,
cumulative red tape, U.S. tax reforms, economic uncertainty, and a system that discourages growth have led to a staggering scale-up challenge for businesses of all sizes across Ontario. We are encouraging the government to address these challenges, focusing on fiscal balance and smarter spending in the upcoming budget to help Ontarians today and into the future.”
The pre-budget submission from the OCC includes 13 tangible recommendations for the upcoming provincial budget to build a stronger Ontario and create a business climate which encourages growth.
The recommendations include leveraging the private sector to expand broadband access, leveraging technology to increase public sector cost efficiency, preserving provincial tax exemptions on employer health and dental plans, creating a variable small business deduction, and delaying taxation on corporate income growth to overcome Ontario’s scale up challenge.
Also among the recommendations is a suggestion from the Peterborough and Kingston Chambers of Commerce asking for an increase in the heads and beds levy. This levy applies to public institutions (jails, hospitals, post-secondary) and is a payment in lieu of taxes. The levy has not been adjusted since 1987. This is a concern because cost of municipal services which is what the levy is designed to support has gone up significantly since that time. A recommendation of $100/head or bed is being made at this time.
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is also talking to the provincial government about apprenticeship ratios. The Board of Directors recently approved a position that asks for a pilot project to expand the apprenticeship ratios in small urban and rural communities. The goal is to encourage more apprentices to stay in their home communities for on-the-job training while helping to increase the number of people entering the skilled trades. A second position also being presented to government will encourage keeping parts of the Ontario College of Trades that were beneficial to business, such as the public registry and clear pathways for internationally trained tradespeople.
The government is also seeking feedback from the general public. They are looking for feedback on cutting red tape for business and people who access government services, improving the way they deliver government programs or services, and saving taxpayers’ money. You can submit your thoughts on the budget online until February 8th.
On Tuesday, January 15th, the Chamber celebrated the inaugural meeting of the 2019 Board of Directors, under the direction of Ben vanVeen of Team vanRahan Century 21 as Chair of the Board.
As Chair, his focus is on how a strong member-driven organization benefits our business community and the community at large. “While the Chamber is an integral part of the business community, its strength is derived directly from the Membership,” says vanVeen.
“Therefore, it is my hope that each Chamber member becomes a Chamber Champion by encouraging other local business owners to become members, thus supporting the Chamber in its mission of Strengthening Business.”
This year will be the year for implementation of a federal carbon tax program. Ontario will be subject to the plan unless the proposed Made-in-Ontario solution is deemed comparable by the government or the province is successful in its bid against a carbon tax at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
While it's an issue that has not been settled, we do know that the Federal Carbon Tax Plan will come into effect April 1, 2019.
Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick are also fighting the federal plan.
The Made-in-Ontario Plan is in the consultation phase until January 28th and will then continue through the process toward becoming legislation.
The chart is an opportunity to see some of key points side-by-side. While both hope to achieve similar goals they use and/or propose very different methods to reach those goals.
For Peterborough, there are a few key pieces in both. In the provincial plan there is dedicated opportunity to invent, invest and promote clean technologies - think Cleantech Commons. The federal government has several options for innovation and there is potential to see more.
We have new Municipal Councils, a new MPP and a Federal election. We have a possible VIA Rail
announcement, an official plan to complete, and numerous local decisions to be made. We’ve had the closure of GE and will likely face continued pressures on businesses, both large and small.
Our local Councils, be they Township, County or City, are in tough. If it’s one thing we face together, it’s the accumulated debt of all levels of government. Our rural governments find keeping up with basic infrastructure needs a challenge, let alone providing for waste management, social services, recreation or EMS. They all find a way, but it’s not getting any easier.
Our new City Council, the youngest and most diverse Council in our history, will face many big decisions in 2019. The budget, the official plan, arenas, affordable housing, and significant projects such as the Louis Street Park and the Bethune Street development will all require Councils attention. This of course barely scratches the surface, and it remains to be seen whether Council has the appetite to go back and undue some of the work of the previous Council. Let’s hope not…
The Federal election will most certainly trigger significant discussion. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is active on a number of federal policy files, including trade/exports, taxation, regulation, agriculture, and resource development. Opportunity abounds if we can work well with the new USMCA and CPTPP trade
agreements, not only developing new markets, but attracting investment. Simply improving trade between our own Provinces can be a challenge!
Who knows whether we will see Federal support for VIA Rails' High Frequency Rail proposal, but the fact is that the project checks a lot of boxes. The vast majority of VIA’s business comes from the Quebec City – Windsor corridor. VIA has faced decades of challenge trying to provide timely, let alone high frequency service along the Lakeshore line. Their HFR proposal completely changes to game, allowing VIA to provide consistent, predictable, high frequency service to the most densely population region of Canada. The Federal Government did its own study of the VIA Rail proposal in 2018 and the decision is on the Ministers desk. We wait with fingers crossed. And just to make the point, anyone who politicizes this project is doing it a tremendous disservice.
The role of the Chamber in all of this is not always clear to everyone. For nearly 130 years the
Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has served the business community by making suggestions to all three levels of Government. Our lobbying efforts focus on policy, not politics, and we work closely with whoever is elected. Our core function is to make sure the Government understands the role of the business community and the challenges it faces. Sometimes that can be seen as pitting the business community against other sectors, and as “politics” becomes increasingly polarized, there is a danger that the business
community will too.
We will always try to provide a balanced argument on behalf of our members.
For the past year, Heather has been introducing Peterborough and beyond to the extraordinary women in our community. Her passion is Inspire: The Women's Portait Project a compilation of photos and stories from local women.
At a recent ChamberAM event, Heather spoke about how each story is a gift. Reminding us that "being inspirational is not how we deem ourselves worthy, it is how others deem us worthy."
A good thought to kick off 2019.