Our staff at the Chamber, all working from home, are focussed on two things: providing answers and lobbying all levels of government for meaningful support for both employers and employees.
The biggest announcement this week, so far, was the Ontario Government’s closure of all non-essential businesses. Here is the link to the list of what is essential vs non-essential. This is a list of 74 categories of business that could remain open at this time.
One sentence from the government website we know is causing some confusion is: “This does not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on this list either online, by telephone or by mail/delivery.”
Here is what we heard from MPP Dave Smith's office:
"If your business is not listed as an essential business and you have a bricks and mortar location, that location must be closed by 11:59pm on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. If your business is able to operate online, by telephone, or by mail/delivery you may continue to operate."
Our dedicated website is being updated daily and is considered the go-to source for quality, filtered information. If you need information about any announcement from any level of government; links to the proper government agencies; or available support locally, provincially and federally, you’ll find it here:
One of the big areas of confusion is around employment. Also on our website you will find links to:
And here are two existing Employment Insurance programs that may also prove to be useful:
We continue to meet by conference call almost daily with all three levels of government. We are listening to you and learning what works and what doesn’t. For example, the announced 10% wage subsidy compares to as much as 80% in other Countries. The question from business is: Is it better to lay people off and swamp the employment insurance system, or to provide a wage subsidy that allows employers to keep people employed? This is a key policy position of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and we anticipate some movement on this issue.
This lobbying/advocacy work is the core work of the Chamber in good times, let alone now. Thus it is important that our membership remain strong.
Not only do we appreciate the support of our existing members, but to the businesses that have reached out and joined our Chamber in the past week, thank you. As the situation evolves we are confident that we can continue to provide “Influence, Profile, Knowledge” to our members.
Information is key
A consortium of local organizations involved in economic development have already provided our elected leaders with an important temperature check about what is really happening in the business community. A second survey has just been released today, and will also provide important information for all three levels of government as they design a strategy to support the business community.
Indeed, this is an unprecedented situation. The Covid-19 Virus has been more than well documented, and the story is not finished.
But perhaps we should look at a few other unprecedented things that are going on. Acknowledging first the fact that there are indeed precedents. Viral outbreaks in many forms have fundamentally changed society in the past.
Multiple examples of unimaginable sacrifice can also, and should also, be brought to mind. The Greatest Generation is a term used to describe those who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and those whose labour helped win it, as one example.
But most people are experiencing this level of upheaval for the first time. One of the most difficult aspects of this current situation is how it has gotten worse every day, and if you look back to all of the post-SARS inquiries and reports, perhaps not all of the
lessons were truly learned. But here we are.
There are many things that we should acknowledge:
The unprecedented measures announced by the Federal Government will not solve everything, but they will go a long way to mitigating the impacts, the full extent of which are not yet clear.
Lastly, I have seen some deeply disturbing comments about people, businesses, elected
leaders, public officials, and more about how they are handling this outbreak. Public shaming for any and all reasons is all too common. While it might be wise to simply dismiss the people making these comments as common trolls, it’s also important to make it unacceptable. Everyone is doing their best, and not everyone is shutting down, nor should they.
The Premier did a great job of \listing the sectors that would be closing and those that wouldn’t. It’s important for everyone to realize that an economy is based on jobs. Not every country has gotten it right. Not every elected leader has said the right things. But the focus should be on getting through this. Together. Be nice.
This week at the Future Ready: Business Summit 2020, hosted by the Peterborough Chamber and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development, there was a session called “What Happens If…”. While this session focussed on business partnerships, succession planning and managing stress, it could have easily included
the need for business to be prepared for emergencies, such as a COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, there was discussion amongst the event team on a health protocol. The protocol was developed and then communicated to attendees, along with signage at the event. That protocol is now on our website and all event pages as the safety and well-being of our members and community are of the utmost importance.
Some of the suggestions in the protocol include:
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has pulled together a five-page guide for businesses that will help them ask the questions that will ensure they are prepared. The guide is designed to assist business planning and continuity efforts. It includes links to some of the most relevant and credible information, best practice tools and resources.
The guide begins with the following overview:
"In addition to the work of the health care industry when a pandemic hits, businesses play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of employees, and limiting the negative impact on the economy and communities. They also need to have business continuity plans that will minimize the impact on the business itself and facilitate a speedy resumption of activities if the business has been forced to scale back or close during the pandemic. Preparedness, not panic, is the best way to mitigate the risks posed by a COVID-19 pandemic to the Canadian economy and our citizens.
Should COVID-19 escalate in Canada, some of the things businesses need to plan for include:
The guide breaks planning down into five sections:
Each of the first three sections has a series of questions that a business or organization should be asking themselves, such as:
The final two sections offer links to resources such as:
Locally, Peterborough Public Health also has extensive information and frequently asked questions on their website: peterboroughpublichealth.ca
A link to the Canadian Chamber guide for business can be found on our website:
The saying goes that if you don’t have a destination, any road will take you there. For Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development (PKED), their new strategic plan, launched this week, provides the road map to their newly minted destination; “To be the most sustainable and innovative community and economy in Ontario”.
Called Future Ready, the plan captures four objectives:
Much will depend on our ability to adapt to these many forces, but we have proven that we can adapt to change. No longer do we have 6,000 lunch pail workers at GE, or 1,500 driving down Highway 115 to GM. And yet, manufacturing is still one of our strongest pillars of the local economy, along with agriculture and tourism. Increasingly important are the cleantech, aerospace, the water and wastewater sector, the trades and technology centre at Fleming, a burgeoning entrepreneurial community and more. We call it TeamPtbo, and collaboration between all of these elements will be critical in helping PKED deliver on its strategy.
The Future Ready plan also has the United Nations report “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” in mind, particularly:
If you want to dig deeper into the plan, you’ll find 18 specific “Actions” to support the four main objectives. These include everything from creating a crisp, clear value proposition for the region; delivering a multi-year, multi-media marketing strategy and an earned media strategy; to developing customized strategies for growth in each targeted sector; championing investments in regional infrastructure; building on business attraction and retention programs; increasing connection between business leaders and college and
university students, to make staying in Peterborough an attractive option; to supporting our strong entrepreneurial culture, including working with under-represented groups such as First Nations, new Canadians, women and youth.
From the Chamber perspective, we have enjoyed a close working relationship with PKED, including the Future Ready Business Summit that we are partnering on next week (March 11). We look forward to continuing that partnership to help strengthen the business community in Peterborough.
The 2020 Ontario Economic Report (OER) was released recently. The report provides three areas of measurement: business confidence, the small business friendliness index (SBFI), and economic outlook for the various regions.
“The OER is a useful tool to inform government on where to reduce barriers and increase investment to support business competitiveness across the province,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve found that the confidence survey helps government understand its impact on business and we are looking forward to seeing how the measurables under the SBFI will help improve offerings for start-ups and growing businesses.”
Business confidence is measured by the confidence gap. The gap is the difference between business’ confidence in themselves and in Ontario’s economic outlook. In 2020, the gap widened to 37 points which is up from 31 points in 2018 and 2019. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) says the main areas of broad concern around confidence include the cost of doing business, the high cost of living and the province’s debt. The survey from which the confidence conclusions are drawn also identified that those with low confidence were also concerned with the national and/or global economic outlook.
When asked how the government could strengthen the province’s competitiveness responding
businesses identified the top four areas:
While the group at the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) is moving forward with their cell gap analysis and federal and provincial money for system upgrades has been made available, ensuring connectivity for residents and businesses at commonly accepted upload and download rates will continue to be a challenge.
Meanwhile, on built infrastructure the city is facing a deficit of $1.194 billion and the county around $135 million over ten years.
When businesses were asked about the factors critical to their own competitiveness, a business’ ability to recruit talent, navigate regulation and red tape and their ability to innovate were the top three.
The OCC says the confidence survey also reveals a shifting attitude toward technology as a driver of confidence.
The Small Business Friendliness Indicator (SBFI)
In the OER, the SBFI measures Ontario’s competitiveness from the perspective of small business.
For 2020, the SBFI score is -9, (on a scale of 100 to -100). This indicates that the business
environment poses some challenges for firms with fewer than 99 employees. Seven different metrics are used to determine the SBFI score including:
The scores for three metrics were positive: the helpfulness of the province in starting a business, the ease of licensing, and the delivery of useful training and networking programs from a variety of sources. The SBFI also revealed an eagerness on the part of small business to embrace more online services from government, especially with respect to regulatory compliance.
Interestingly enough, navigating regulation was identified as the top barrier to starting a business in Ontario.
The OCC says the data supports a long-time advocacy goal of the Chamber network: that small businesses will benefit from a modernized, client-centric relationship with government, rather than complicated new initiatives, grants, or subsidies that tend to have low uptake and awareness.
Overall, the economy in Ontario is expected to slow with real GDP growth of 1.9% in 2020. The OER suggests that household spending will remain tepid as household debt will restrain expenditures. Commercial capital investments fell in 2019 and the authors of the OER suggest this is the result of concern for the future. On the labour market side, in 2019, job growth reached the highest it has been in 20 years and the unemployment rate approached a near 30 year low. That said, the economic outlook section also notes regional disparity and the majority of growth contained to the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Ottawa.
In the Muskoka-Kawartha Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) projections for 2020 are as
follows: the jobless rate will be 6.2%, up from 6.0% in 2019; employment will move from the negative to 0.6% and the population of the CMA will grow at a slightly slower rate of 1.2%, down from 1.3% in 2019.
Challenges related to accessing financial capital, attracting and retaining talent and burdensome regulations continue to compromise the ability of many of Ontario’s communities to compete effectively with other jurisdictions.
We hear these challenges from our members in the Peterborough business community along with the need for continued infrastructure investment that helps increase the economic capacity of communities such as built infrastructure and broadband.
The work of the Chamber will be to help inform the provincial policy landscape and encourage decision-making that makes our economy stronger for all.
“By the year 2020, the GPA will be sought out by many, and admired worldwide, as a uniquely healthy, diverse, enriched community which balances and promotes vibrant economic and employment opportunities while honouring the natural environment and valuing its cultural heritage. “
– That is the vision statement from GPA 2020 – A Vision for our Future. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it was a community engagement exercise like no other. Leading up to the final report in 1997, the steering committee led five action teams, each with co-chairs. Each action team was assigned 3 or 4 community sectors, each sector with 3 community at large volunteers. These volunteers spread out across the city and county and spoke with more than 2,000 residents and businesses.
It was an impressive effort, and it presented 26 recommendations in 12 areas designed to inform all levels of government – federal, provincial, City and County. The 12 areas included:
2020 is here. How does the reality stack up against the vision?
Stuart Harrison and I had the opportunity to get a 360 degree look at Canada’s economy recently. The 360 Summit was hosted by our national counterpart the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and featured an all-star line-up of speakers in touch with the heartbeat of the economy.
The day started off with five CEOs sitting on the stage talking about competitiveness and regulation, which was enlightening.
“Declining economic competitiveness in Canada should create the same gasp and concern just as if Canada went to an international hockey tournament and didn’t win a medal,” Mark Little, CEO Suncor. It wasn’t a jab at one of Canada’s national sports, but a way to create a connection to the economy for all Canadians. It matters that the country is competitive in business and the economy, not 14th place.
“Canada is fairly well positioned, but we continue to need skilled people to drive competitiveness,” Jad Shimaly of Ernst & Young. “How do we feed that funnel? We need to continue to foster innovation and generate Canadian owned intellectual property.”
Michael Doughty, CEO, Manulife. “We’re not an insurance company competing against other
insurance companies, we are competing against the companies who have a better, more effective, seamless experience for customers. We can’t fall behind in the digital transformation and skilled workforce and we need infrastructure that is world class in the physical and digital”
“There has to be a willingness of government to work with us. That’s what’s made the difference,” Heather Chalmers, President & CEO, GE. “Business must also be thoughtful in their approach of government.”
When it comes to regulatory environment, over the last 10-15 years Canada has dropped from 4th to 22nd on the list of developed countries and ease of doing business. “Canada needs a comprehensive review of the tax system. The last time one was completed none of the current federal party leaders
had been born.” Jad Shimaly, Ernst & Young
“Energy projects take about 10 years to get shovels in the ground. However, the pace of technology means the project submitted originally is modified and the process slows even further,” Mark Little, Suncor. “We’re not looking for cash; we’re looking for a yes.”
“Regulation existed before the internet and yet there has not been much change to allow for the environment the internet created.” Phillip Jette, Cogeco. “We have done more investment in the US because of the regulatory burden in Canada.”
“We are not risk averse; we are looking for regulation that supports our growth,” Jette, Cogeco.
The session wrapped up with agreement on the main challenges nationally:
The group then heard from VP and Deputy Chief Economist at RBC Dawn Desjardins who left us with a few key points.
The morning wrapped up with a discussion about Canada in the global economy. The panel encouraged Canadian businesses to export their services and knowledge as much as products and that businesses need access to markets and help with the cost of risk which is where Export Development Canada can help.
The panel also noted the following:
Learn more about the Canada 360 event at chamber.ca
This set of numbers will probably raise a few eyebrows here in Peterborough, but that’s good because it’s a pretty good news story for our community.
Statistics Canada (Stats Can) has just released population estimates of the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and in the age category of residents aged 20 to 24
Peterborough ranks number 1 with 8.04% of our population in that age group.
That’s right, 1st - up from 9th place in 2008. And this statistic does not include students!
So, who are those in the 20-24- year-old category? These are young people at the start of their careers, who are more educated than ever and more tech savvy than any other generation.
A Stats Can report called “A Portrait of Youth” released in February of 2018 identifies the education level of this group.
The report concludes the following about youth: “They are more diverse, educated, and
connected and socially engaged than past youth, and in many ways are well positioned to succeed in today's complex global society. But not all young people are sharing these benefits. Some youth are unemployed or are in temporary jobs. Some are
struggling with mental health challenges, addictions, and homelessness. And not everyone feels included.”
Peterborough Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Stuart Harrison recently did an interview with Jordan Mercier on Extra 90.5FM asking the question: “What is drawing people in this cohort to Peterborough and what is keeping them here?”
We’ll take a crack at answering those questions. Perhaps they are returning home or perhaps they attended Trent University or Fleming College or a private institution or the trades school and have chosen to stay in the community.
Comparatively Peterborough is relatively affordable, there is a vibrant arts scene and a multitude of ways to experience the community indoors and out. And it’s also an attractive place to raise a family.
Knowing we have this cohort in our midst, the question then becomes how do we keep them? What are the tools? One of Peterborough’s strengths is our entrepreneurial culture. Over the past decade a concerted effort by the private and public sector and not-for profit business organizations has turned Peterborough into an incubator for business in all areas of our diverse economy.
Employment is another tool. The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce believes there is many an opportunity to increase the job prospects here. In the Portrait of Youth report, only 5% of 21 year olds enrol in apprenticeship programs. This is an opportunity. Peterborough and other rural communities need our skilled tradespeople to build the
infrastructure that will help us grow. The Chamber is asking the provincial government to have a flexible ratio for apprenticeships in rural and small urban communities. The intended outcome of this request is so that more young people will have the opportunity to build their lives in the community of their choice and not have to move away.
Another way we are trying to open the door for youth is by encouraging more technology development and innovation by asking the federal government to create a nationwide “my first patent program”.
The Chamber is also excited about the beneficial impact of the VIA Rail High Frequency Rail project which is on track for continued development. This direct access to the world from Peterborough plays well with the characteristics of a diverse, connected and socially engaged youth.
And when we talk about the socially engaged and opportunities for employment and action, the Peterborough Chamber recently put forward a national policy resolution asking the federal government to consider forward thinking structures to achieve social financing for community projects, as well as a stream of funding through the Community Futures network to help support early stage social enterprises.
Being at the top of the list for most 20-24 year olds in terms of a percentage of population gives Peterborough the advantage in the war for talent. But that means we still have to fight to make sure the environment is in place so this talent can find gainful employment and a supportive community that wants to see them succeed.
Workforce and the building of workforce is one of the challenges of the current business landscape. Navigating the ecosystem for both employers and prospective employees is not always easy. The Workforce Development Board – Local Planning Council (WDB/LEPC) for Peterborough, Northumberland, Haliburton, and Kawartha Lakes has recently released a couple of products to help provide a narrative for our region. One is an Analysis of the Local Labour Supply and the other is a video that outlines the local ecosystem of employment services.
In the Labour Supply report, the WDB references a survey by the “Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) that indicated that 40% of employers in Ontario have had difficulty hiring over the previous 12 months. Small and medium-sized enterprises are most affected with aging populations, low participation rates, and seasonal work being potential drivers.
All are concerns in the WDB/LEPC region. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has developed the Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS) to project future workforce trends. According to these projections, a national labour shortage is expected between 2017-2023. In total, there will be approximately 116,700 more job openings than job seekers. The sectors that will be most affected include the skilled trades, business and finance, and healthcare.”
The WDB developed eight recommendations in the following areas:
Attracting/Retaining Experience Workers
There are three recommendations identified here including
Recruiting from Outside your Local Business Area which suggests considering applications from people who have the skills and are interested in your community or already have ties to the community but are not living in the area.
Utilizing the Skills of Economic Immigrants can also be an untapped resource and there could be value in exploring and ensuring the credentials and experience match the needs of the employer.
With an aging population Succession Planning is key and companies are not only assessing their workforce needs but also the “actual supply of talent.”
The report identifies two recommendations in the Recent Graduates including asking how employers engage local students and encouraging more connections through experiential learning. Employers may also consider training supports for younger and current employees.
The report also offers recommendations that employers consider New Canadians and use available resources such as those offered through various groups such as the New Canadians Centre to connect with potential employees. There is also encouragement to consider under-utilized workers such as younger workers, displaced older workers Indigenous people, and people living with disabilities.
The final recommendations focus on the need for data sharing of labour market information between organizations to help employers understand the market better.
The second tool for employers and potential employees is a video that is worth watching if you are an employer looking to access the labour pool but are not sure where to start, or are looking for a better understanding of the resources in this space.
WDB says, “The goal of this video is to increase awareness among employers in our region about the range of programs, services, and training supports available to them, as well as to provide employers with information about our local employment services and training network.”
You can find it on their website wdb.ca
And we’ll leave you with a few Q4 facts on the labour market in Peterborough. Below are the number of online postings in the fourth quarter of 2019. These postings may or may not be filled, but you can see a direct correlation to the predicted workforce trends mentioned earlier in this article. Many of the postings are in health care and skilled trades two of the sectors anticipated to be impacted the most by a labour shortage.
Advocacy on behalf of our Peterborough business community is a major pillar of work for the Peterborough
Chamber of Commerce. In fact, the concept is built directly into our reason for being under the word influence.
Influence: We are committed to helping create the conditions for growth and to improving the
competitiveness of the Peterborough business community through our lobbying efforts at every level of government.
This year, in 2020, your Peterborough Chamber Board of Directors has approved three policy resolutions to be put forward for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Timmins at the end of April.
The three are all very different, but touch upon three very important areas for our community:
improvements to the rules for craft distillers, accessing open data, and regional economic development and collaboration.
The resolution on improvements to the regulations around craft distillers is an area where the Peterborough Chamber weighed in several years ago and is re-submitting an updated version for consideration which includes a continued call for a level playing field in taxation for all categories of alcohol beverages as well as changes to the activities and tasting room allowances for distilleries.
The policy resolution on data was formulated out of a consultation the Peterborough Chamber of
Commerce hosted with the provincial government and local businesses and community
leaders. This resolution is asking for a dashboard that allows businesses and residents to ask a question and receive an answer from government data sets in a readable and easy to share format. During the consultations it was expressed that understanding data in the raw format is challenging and not as accessible as it could be. There are other examples of such dashboards that are working well such as the Workforce Development Board’s Help Desk which provides interested parties with the latest labour market information.
The third resolution being put forward examines how a municipality can account for the results of economic regional collaboration that crosses geographical boundaries. With the development of official plans, the challenges of meeting growth targets under the Places to Grow Act and the ability to be ready to accommodate new business growth, a new formula that recognizes the inputs of multiple municipalities (land or services for example) may help encourage more regional collaboration to the benefit of each individual municipality and the region.
The three resolutions will be submitted to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce in the coming weeks and will be vetted for provincial impact. Delegates to the AGM in Timmins will then have the opportunity to debate and vote on making the recommendations in the resolution part of the advocacy dialogue of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.