Many Canadians will return to in-person work in the coming months. However, the nature of work has changed significantly in the last 18 months.
The focus right now is on getting out of this health crisis, but it’s important to plan ahead for important issues, including the return to the workplace. For many people, going back to the office represents a return to normal.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has released a 21-point plan to provide guidance for businesses and policy recommendations for governments on four key areas for the re-opening of the economy: health/safety, teleworking, skills/training and the future of customer engagement.
Here are the key points from the Canadian Chamber:
Health and Safety
There are numerous considerations for employers to think through now to be able to react quickly,
particularly the need to manage a workforce that may not be entirely vaccinated. Although vaccination and herd immunity will be the long-term solutions to the pandemic, a suite of complementary measures will need to be used by businesses to rebuild trust that the workplace is safe to return to. These include rapid screening, ventilation upgrades and monitoring, as well as masking and
In order to do so successfully, the government must provide clarity on what employers can ask of their employees’ vaccination status, harmonize vaccine credential systems, provide clear guidance on workplace infection prevention and consistent criteria for safe re-opening of businesses.
The world of work has changed. Social distancing
and health and safety protocols imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic forced firms to introduce telework on a large scale. Once the pandemic is over, many of these changes are anticipated to remain in the form of a hybrid work cycle for most businesses. There are several actions businesses can take to build a “new normal” workplace that aims to
incorporate the positive aspects of teleworking and limits the risks, including
synchronizing the physical and remote workplace,
reframing the office as a hub for engagement and
To facilitate this shift, governments must improve Canada’s digital
infrastructure, provide fiscal incentives to support remote work and establish national
Developing enduring workforce skills and talent pipelines is critical to building the resilience of companies and workers in order to grow in the post-pandemic economy. Although this has always been important for businesses, it takes on an added importance given the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption, automation and other technologies. There are key actions companies should implement to improve workforce upskilling and reskilling, build a culture of lifelong learning and better utilize their existing
Employers also need a closer alignment of business needs, the labour market and
education programming to inform both education policy and appropriate fiscal
Consumer spending habits changed drastically during the pandemic, resulting in a considerable increase in e-commerce and curbside pickup. Although many
consumers will want to revert to in-person experiences, more activity is likely to structurally shift to remain online. The pandemic has also not
abated the increasing consumer desire to purchase products that have been
Businesses should keep a close eye on emerging
environment, social and
governance (ESG) initiatives.
Governments can help
businesses make these
transitions to the new
digitized environment by
updating Canada’s privacy rules to protect customer data.
For more information on the Canadian Chamber’s 21-point plan, visit chamber.ca
Advocacy is an important part of how the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce supports local businesses. We have an opportunity to submit two resolutions to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to go before its membership in the fall for a vote on whether to include these items as part of the Canadian Chamber’s national advocacy efforts.
Our two resolutions are:
The CEBA program has been a vital lifeline for businesses with nearly 900,000
approved for loans. The generous terms of this loan have been exactly what many businesses needed.
Circumstances have changed since this program launched in early April of 2020. The government has shown
flexibility in expanding
eligibility criteria and
increasing access to funds, but the repayment terms have not been updated to reflect the length of time businesses have been
expected to reduce their
access to the public.
Unfortunately, the economic impact of COVID-19 has hit some businesses harder than others. Many businesses in sectors including food service, hospitality, tourism, arts and entertainment, retail, and personal service have spent a significant portion of the last year and a half heavily
restricted — if not
completely closed — to the public. It’s not uncommon for businesses to carry a debt in good times, but one can only imagine the level of debt some business owners have incurred just to survive. They carry debt to their lending institutions, landlords,
suppliers and in some cases, have leveraged personal assets and borrowed from friends and family.
Under the current terms, the loan is interest free until December 31, 2022, at which point it increases to 5%. Those who pay back 67% of the balance of their loan by that date will have the remainder of their loan
forgiven. Full repayment is due by December 31, 2025.
The result is the most
vulnerable businesses will also get the least benefit from this program, resulting in significant interest incurred and the requirement to pay back 100% of the
principal — dragging out their recovery even longer. Additionally, the
government will be forced into the unpopular position of collecting on their debts from the most vulnerable
businesses who often employ our most vulnerable people.
We’re asking the
Government of Canada to allow businesses to re-apply for the CEBA loan annually with a schedule that shows that businesses who have struggled to recover will not incur interest and will get a larger portion of their debt forgiven. For those who have not yet recovered by the end of 2025, we’re asking that the entire loan be forgiven.
High Frequency Rail Strategy
VIA Rail, a Crown
operates the only national passenger rail service,
controlling most passenger service outside of urban
commuter networks. In most areas of the country,
passenger service operates on the same network as freight. Passenger service typically must yield to much slower freight service. These network conflicts happen regularly and result in slow and inconsistent service.
High Frequency Rail networks eliminate this conflict by
providing a dedicated
network for passengers.
VIA is currently working to improve service along the busy Windsor — Quebec City corridor. This includes a proposed High Frequency Rail network with dedicated tracks between Toronto –
Ottawa – Montréal – Québec City. This proposal will assure the corporation can maximize ridership and revenue and improve their on-time
performance to over 95%.
The hybrid electric-diesel trains running on this route will dramatically reduce
carbon emissions by 12.5
million tons of CO2e, the equivalent of a car-pool reduction of 2.8 million vehicles.
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.
This will increase economic development, improve
environmental sustainability, and allow for movement of people and goods in unprecedented ways — all of which enhance the lives of Canadians. The busy Windsor – Quebec City rail corridor currently services an area where 19 million Canadians reside.
The VIA HFR project has been under consideration by the federal government since 2016. The 2021 federal budget included nearly $500 million in funding toward due diligence, de-risk and
infrastructure projects that support the proposal. The project is in the mandate
letter for the Minister of Transport. But the federal government has yet to
provide a funding
commitment to build the line nor has a timeline for construction been set.
We’re asking the Government of Canada to prioritize high frequency rail service as a key part of meeting our climate change target as well as
commit funding and set a timeline for the
implementation of the VIA High Frequency Rail Project between Toronto and Quebec City.
Roadmap to Reopen
The Government of Ontario recently announced its Roadmap to Reopen, a new framework for re-opening our economy and relaxing social restrictions. While it is encouraging to see increased transparency in our government’s plans, the plan itself falls short of our recommendations in the
Responsible Business Protocol resolution recently adopted by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
We are asking the Ontario Government to:
1) Establish a Safe Operating Framework with a uniform and equitable set of safety standards, in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for all businesses regardless of products/services or establishment size — not based on a perception of essentiality — enabling businesses to continue serving the public during a health crisis, including the current
2) Establish a Community Contact Reduction
Framework that applies the same capacity limits for all public-facing businesses, based on regional virus spread, identifying a clear framework for reducing individual contacts.
We will continue working with the Ontario
Government to create a
re-opening plan that is fair and equitable for all
Tax Reform Input
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been asked to provide the Canada Revenue Agency with ideas for tax reform. We’re looking for your input on specific suggestions for tax forms to be digitized, consolidated or eliminated through our Tax Form Buster.
Everyone has an opinion on taxes. We would love to hear yours! Visit thinkgrowth.ca/ to get-involved.
June is Seniors Showcase month, the largest
seniors-focused event in the region. This year’s event is entirely online and
features a whole series of free workshops, a panel discussion, and a variety of local exhibitors.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Age Friendly Peterborough, is presenting the 2021 Seniors Showcase virtually, running for the entire month of June on peterboroughchamber.ca and the Chamber’s social media channels.
Check it out at
Chambers of Commerce across Canada are joining the campaign “Faster, Together.” This national vaccine
confidence campaign is about bringing us back together, faster. The sooner all of us who are eligible and able get immunized, the sooner we can gather together with friends and family and the sooner our businesses can reopen and get back to providing us with our favourite products and services.
The Faster, Together.
initiative is made up of more than 100 organizations, including business
associations, labour unions, entertainment groups, influential individuals, and national brands. The initiative is co-chaired by Bruce Anderson (Abacus Data, spark* Advocacy) and Hassan Yusseff (Canadian Labour Congress) and has been built on a volunteer basis with the goal of fast-tracking Canada’s
recovery from COVID-19. Visit fastertogether.ca for more information.
Capital Is Key
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has released a new policy brief titled Capital Is Key: Financing Entrepreneurship in Ontario after COVID-19. As per the OCC:
“Ontario’s small business owners are armed with grit and creativity, which proved instrumental as they
adapted to public health restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, managing cash flows and debt became a challenge as the crisis forced many businesses to suspend, adapt, or
restructure their operations. Meanwhile, as the pandemic accelerated digital
transformations, many of Ontario’s
innovation-oriented firms flourished.
entrepreneurship will be fundamental to Ontario’s economic recovery and it will require access to the right forms of capital. Recognizing that newer and smaller businesses are inherently riskier to finance, Ontario must develop policies to bridge gaps for entrepreneurs who will be in greatest need of support as they rebuild and grow in a post-pandemic world. This means enhancing access to capital for firms that were less well-financed before the crisis, as well as high-growth firms with the potential to drive long-term competitiveness.”