The Government of Ontario’s budget is out, addressing some pressing issues for local businesses while falling short on others.
A budget released days before an election writ drops carries a bit more politics than it might in another year, but poll projections hint that there’s a reasonable chance our current government could be re-elected and implement this budget later this year.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce response to the Ontario budget highlights some welcome news:
• Measures to address Ontario’s current labour shortages and future workforce needs
We welcome commitments to reduce barriers to foreign credentials and new investments in the skilled trades strategy.
• Commitments to support business predictability
Ontario’s Plan to Stay Open focuses on improving pandemic preparedness and addressing key challenges such as labour shortages in the healthcare sector.
• Pro-growth policies
The proposed modernization of capital markets and venture capital investments will enable small businesses and entrepreneurs to access growth financing. Additionally, the Building Ontario Business Initiative seeks to level the playing field for Ontario businesses competing for government contracts.
• Initiatives to bolster our health care system.
Expanding medical training and investing in health care infrastructure and capacity are critical. Plans also focus on Ontario’s aging population through the dementia strategy, seniors care at home tax credit, and investments in long-term care.
• Continued action on critical transportation infrastructure
Rail, roads, and public transit will help businesses connect with workers and markets more efficiently.
On the what’s lacking side of things are four key issues we’ve been advocating for: immigration, supply chain, interprovincial trade, and climate change.
Immigration starts at the federal level, but our provinces play a large role in where people settle, what skills we recognize, and how they are supported. The government has made significant strides in addressing labour market issues through immigration, but one missing aspect has been the where. Approximately 35% of all immigrants moving to Canada locate to Toronto. Though Toronto is going through labour force challenges of its own, its concentration of new immigrants can be problematic for other communities facing low or even negative population growth. We would like to see our provincial government provide more supports to encourage immigration to rural and northern communities.
Chambers of commerce from across Ontario are calling on our provincial government to create a task force in partnership with private sector leaders to take a holistic approach to addressing our supply chain challenges and vulnerabilities. It’s a critical component of our economic recovery. Businesses are struggling to get raw materials, retail inventory and ingredients in a timely, consistent manner. The costs have gone up while service has declined. We need investments in physical infrastructure as well as cyber security to protect our supply chain and get our goods moving in timely and efficient manner.
Participating with the Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table is helpful, but we need to do more when it comes to interprovincial trade and making labour more mobile. We want to see our government take on a lead role in unlocking internal markets for local businesses. We would like to see Ontario sign a mutual recognition agreement with other provinces and territories.
Climate change is a business issue. It’s going to cost us money to address it, but the status quo is already costing us significantly and will cost more yet down the road. We’re encouraged to see more investments in electric vehicle supply chains, but the budget lacks a more comprehensive approach to climate change, including a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across sectors, industries, and communities.
Our role as a chamber is to be non-partisan advocates for our business community. Regardless of what political party leads this province moving forward, our economic recovery is going to take investments that enable our private sector to do what they do best and create prosperity.