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.