10 speakers in 3 ½ hours – the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Association of Realtors Land Planning session was once again a plethora of information.
With the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce representing 900-member businesses in the City and County of Peterborough, I find the information helpful on many fronts and often dovetailing with the principles set out in the Peterborough Chamber’s municipal business platform “Building a Community Outside the Ordinary.”
The full room at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club learned about how agricultural land is rated and how that land is designated and used from a planning perspective. For example, if you are considering identifying your property as a hobby farm, what does that mean versus developing a farm-based business? The Ontario Federation of Agriculture representative Peter Jeffrey said that as a sector it is considered very high tech and more and more technical innovation is expected to enhance how farms work for us.
Martin Ward from the City of Peterborough spoke about the transit system. Did you know that City transit has about 5 million rides per year? He went on to say that the City fleet is 100% accessible and that partnerships with Trent University and Fleming College are working well and benefitting the entire community. When it comes to cost recovery, Peterborough Transit has one of the highest cost recovery rates of like municipalities.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll stop looking for ways to improve. Currently, a transit review is underway and the City is looking for feedback on routes, a long-term growth plan and a downtown transit hub review. Ward told the crowd that bus stop upgrades in 2018 resulted in 143 new pads and 50 new solar powered shelters.
Challenges in transit include long routes and travel times through the hub, new growth areas, and increasing ridership numbers. When it comes to opportunities, the department is looking to the future for a new bus yard and potential hub as well as an intelligent bus system app that can help riders follow their bus.
Building a Community Outside the Ordinary Platform Principle"
Chief Building Inspector, Dean Findlay brought home the reality of the building code and an openness
to work together to address challenges. He outlined how the original intent of the code to address structural soundness, weather resistance, and overall safety has expanded to include energy efficiency, accessibility, climate change, and use of innovative building materials.
Building a Community Outside the Ordinary Platform Principle"
The room heard from planning officials Bryan Weir from the County of Peterborough and Ken Hetherington from the City.
The County’s official plan review has four stages with the process currently between stages 1 and 2. Weir defined an official plan as the base land use document for guiding development. Before it comes into effect the plan must be approved by the province. Currently, the County and four of the townships fall under the County plan for development. There is the possibility that the review exercise could result in all eight townships being covered. One of the biggest challenges with the County plan is scale and how settlement areas are more likely to face land use compatibility issues.
On the city side, the official plan has been in various stages of review since 2011 after last being fully reviewed in 1981. Under new provincial guidelines, Peterborough must achieve a density of 50 residents and jobs per hectare with the downtown at 150 residents and jobs per hectare. They are also working on a labelling system for Peterborough’s Natural Heritage System. Hetherington says the hope is to have a draft plan to council this fall.
In her address to the crowd, Mayor Diane Therrien identified three areas of focus including the development of a housing market assessment, identifying new parking needs in all areas of the city and creating a housing commission to be proactive in combatting homelessness.
Building a Community Outside the Ordinary Platform Principle"
MPP Dave Smith used his time to talk about his government’s goal of reducing the debt and deficit in Ontario - two areas he says are holding the province back from spending taxpayer dollars where it is needed most. During the Q&A of his presentation, MPP Smith was also asked about the status of the VIA Rail High Frequency Rail project, to which he replied that the project is still very much at the forefront of the federal
The event and commentary once again proves that in this region we are connected in many ways and need to work together to achieve prosperity.
The Ontario Economic Report (OER) is authored by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and offers a unique perspective on the experience of businesses of all sizes across the province.
The OER is comprised of three documents:
1. The Business Confidence Survey
2. The Business Prosperity Index
3. The Economic Outlook
Overall, the report presents a candid look at private sector sentiment and opportunities for economic growth for the year ahead.
As the survey of businesses across the province shows, businesses are gaining confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook as well as gaining confidence in themselves. Yet, they are still facing challenges such as access to talent, embracing technological innovations, and the cost of doing business which includes regulation, taxation, and input prices.
The report also recognizes that Ontario’s overall prosperity depends on the strength of its regional economies. And yet the challenges expressed by all are expected to be most acutely felt in rural regions of the province. In fact, a recent survey of the Peterborough Chamber membership identified that lack of access to talent was their number one barrier.
Mayor Diane Therrien attended the Ontario Economic Report launch and was one of the panelists speaking about the impact of the findings. She spoke to the need for broadband to be accessible for all businesses, the importance of re-skilling as the economy changes and adapts as well as the need for transportation systems in rural areas.
According to the Bank of Montreal Economic Outlook prepared for the report, in the Muskoka-Kawarthas CMA of which Peterborough City and Country are a part, there is limited change anticipated in
population, employment and job growth between 2018 and 2019.
The OCC says, “We should all be concerned that the province’s employment growth has been largely concentrated in the Greater Golden Horseshoe since 2003, while other regions have experienced slow or even negative growth during that same period.”
“This year will be a formative year for the Ontario economy. We call on decision-makers to develop thoughtful policies that foster competitiveness and address the potential vulnerabilities that loom large within our province,” stated Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of
Commerce. “We need to take action and address these challenges to build a stronger Ontario for years to come.”
As Ontario’s economy continues to face the many challenges outlined in the OER, the OCC’s 2019 Ontario Economic Summit will be dedicated to the question of competitiveness with an agenda that will explore how our province can lead in innovation, knowledge-generation, and trade.
2019 has started off with some regulatory changes and updates for business.
After two roundtables with about 35 members regarding the upcoming provincial budget, it’s safe to say that one of the biggest challenges for business is regulatory compliance or the often-used, much maligned moniker, "red tape".
Federally, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified that there are around 380,000 regulations impacting business; add in the provincial and municipal levels and that number pushes closer to 500,000.
Red tape is the stuff of kitchen tables and late nights at the office for employers. This article will touch upon three areas: CPP, WSIB and provincial health & safety inspections.
Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
On January 1st the latest round of CPP enhancements started with the enhancement program expected to be in place until 2025. Under the previous regime, the plan was designed to replace a quarter of a worker’s earnings whereas now that goal is to replace a third of a worker’s earnings.
Employers and employees over 18 contribute to the fund equally on earnings between $3,500 and the annual earnings limit, which for 2019 is $57,400. If you are self-employed you would pay both portions.
To accomplish this the following changes have been made:
Employers will continue to make the deduction off paycheques as part of payroll taxes.
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
Premium update: Now that WSIB is operating without an Unfunded Liability they are once again reducing rates for Schedule 1 businesses. The 2019 rate reduction is 29.8%. All but seven of the 148 rate groups are seeing a rate reduction while the remaining seven will hold steady at 2018 levels.
For years, WSIB has had a Small Business Health & Safety Program to encourage small businesses to build on their health and safety initiatives. The incentive was 5% of customers’ annual premium. Now WSIB has increased the incentive to $750 minimum.
Here is the amount businesses will receive based on their annual WSIB premium:
$1000-$1333 75% of annual premium
$14286-$90000 7% of annual premium
If you need more information please connect with us and we’ll connect you.
Health and Safety Inspections
The Ministry of Labour has scheduled its list of health and safety initiatives for 2019. According to an information release “Ministry staff will visit workplaces such as warehouses, retail and grocery stores, manufacturing plants, hotels, group homes, health care organizations, mines and construction projects.
Occupational health and safety inspectors will look for health and safety violations involving issues such as slips, trips and falls, musculoskeletal disorders and respiratory hazards across all sectors. Sector-specific hazards such as suspended access equipment, personal protective equipment, machine guarding, ground control and violence will also be focused on. The goal is to raise awareness that safety is everyone’s
responsibility, to enhance workplace health and safety, and to proactively prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.”
Several initiatives have already started including an industrial check around machine guarding, a health initiative around group homes and a construction initiative around personal protective equipment.
An all-sector initiative on slips, trips and falls will start in March.
For more on these initiatives check out ontario.ca/page/workplace-inspection-initiatives
The Chamber has an array of members who can help in these areas if you need it.
Our business directory can be found at peterboroughchamber.ca
The City of Peterborough is talking transit and reaching out to the community to hear how we would like our transit system to evolve in the future.
There is a demand from within our community to be operating on all cylinders in order to take advantage of the opportunity of an expected increase in population growth. The backbone of that economic utopia of jobs, business growth, and sustainability, is a coherent transportation network that allows for the effective movement of goods and people. One piece of that strategy is the City’s transit network.
As a part of a review to update the Peterborough 2012 Comprehensive Transportation Strategy, the City is conducting three concurrent studies:
The route review will:
The Peterborough Chamber membership has been very clear that, as employers looking for employees they want their community to have a transit system that is efficient, timely and reliable. This transit system should also connect all economic nodes in a community such as the Peterborough airport, as it currently does the post-secondary, industrial parks, shopping nodes and downtown core.
There is also great value seen in a plan that has the ability to be regionally integrated. This idea was discussed at a committee convened by MP Maryam Monsef. City transit solutions should include hubs that can accept connections from more rural routes and rural options should use outer edge city
connections to move people in and around the city.
We encourage our Chamber members to offer their thoughts on a new transportation strategy.
There are several ways we’d like to see you engage:
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.