We leave 2021 in a different
but similar space to the previous year. The needs of the business community continue to change along with the
challenges put before it.
For the last Voice of Business of the year, we’re taking a look at a few of the issues that
business are facing.
Bruce Springsteen recently sold his recorded music catalog for a reported $500 million. A musical legend, there’s obvious value in holding the rights to much of his life’s work, but how much value?
Many modern businesses are built and thriving on what is termed intangible assets. These are items that aren’t physical,
but hold value. This can include algorithms, intellectual property, copyrights, research and
development, and brand value.
The Chartered Professional
Accountants of Ontario recently release a white paper titled You Can’t Touch This: The Intangible Assets Debate. It’s a must read for businesses
investing in technology and innovation, highlighting the need for accounting to modernize to develop a buffer against the risks of a market with jaw-dropping valuations for start-up and tech stocks and the monetization of assets like cryptocurrency and carbon offsets.
According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, seven of the 10 largest companies in the world were built on a
data-first model and it’s
estimated that 70% of the value of companies listed on the TSX consists of intangible assets.
The white paper is available through both the OCC and CPA Ontario websites.
Business Needs for Future Public Health Emergencies
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling on governments of all levels to update their plans for future public health emergencies so unnecessary and damaging economic disruptions can be avoided. This includes:
• Travel protocols
To avoid broad-based shutdowns, there is a need to develop a range of testing protocols to enable safe travel. The Canadian chamber would like to see things like
recognizing vaccinations status, health credentials, and foreign digital health credentials sorted out ahead of the next health crisis.
• Increased harmonization of policies and regulations across provincial boundaries
The confusion with
contradictory messaging and protocols from various levels of government has been costly. A coordinated approach will help avoid the patchwork we’ve seen unfold.
• Future workplace health and safety guidance
Businesses want to implement the appropriate public health measures to protect
employees and customers, but the ever-changing nature of the guidance they have received has made it
overwhelming to follow. A clear, coordinated approach will help businesses navigate not only health rules, but
accessing PPE, handling
vaccinations and the
implications of it, and
protecting digital information from cyber attacks.
• Initiate an independent review of lessons learned
COVID-19 has killed millions of people and devastated economies around the world. A thorough review will help us prepare for the next crisis. It’s key that the review not assign blame, but sort through what did and didn’t work to help us plan for the future.
Fall Economic Statement
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued its response to the federal Fall Economic Statement, voicing its concerns that it would have been an ideal time to lay out more of an economic recovery plan rather than waiting for the 2022
budget. The Chamber notes that despite progress,
businesses are facing some
including more than a million job vacancies, one-third of businesses reporting labour shortages, over 40% reporting rising input costs as a
challenge, and the looming threat of a new COVID variant.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomed
funding for rapid test kits, the introduction of a tax credit for small businesses to support ventilation improvements, and the extension of the home office expense deduction. However, concerns remain about the plan to get back to balanced finances, no thorough plan to address supply chain challenges, a lack of initiatives to address cyber security
challenges, and we’re long overdue for a review of our tax system.
Though we’re facing a lot of challenges and they don’t feel significantly different from last year — we have positive
momentum. Vaccinations are freeing up critical intensive care beds and our health
agencies and pharmaceutical
companies are responding to changes and challenges at a record pace. We’re currently dealing with some setbacks, but we are slowly moving forward.
Supply chain issues have become one of the dominant business news stories, holding back our economic recovery while driving up inflation.
On the simplistic end, it’s a perfect storm of demand greatly outpacing supply. Of course, it’s much more complicated that that.
Like many issues, it’s one that has been building for some time before COVID-19 became the catalyst that drove it to a breaking point. We’ve come more and more to rely on the timely delivery of goods from just-in-time buying for manufacturing and agriculture to home delivery of consumer goods. We’ve not only increased demand, but also the timeliness and personalization of the service.
Globalization has also led to a world-wide diversification of the supply chain. Raw
materials from various countries are sent to manufacturing facilities, who in turn send their products to the assembly plants, before eventually getting products to market. A delay at one part of the chain has impacts all the way down to the consumer.
Though personal spending dropped as people remained cautious, it shifted away from services to buying more goods — which requires more of our supply chain.
We’ve been increasing our dependency on speedy delivery of goods, so when COVID-19 hit, various delays around the world were compounded into an issue that has crippled some sectors and industries.
This perfect storm brought the human factor to the forefront as facilities had to restrict output or shut down all together to manage the impact of the virus, putting more and more pressure on the people still running our supply chain. This has led to burnout, sickness and labour action. This is impacting port workers, truck drivers, and warehouse staff.
Our transportation networks are struggling to keep up, with widely reported backlogs at ports and shortages of trucks and drivers around the world.
Further adding to this have been extreme weather events, including the flooding in British Columbia knocking out rail and highway access to the Port of Vancouver.
Factory shutdowns and an increase or shift in demand have driven up demand for raw materials. Earlier this year it was widely reported that the increase in homebuying as well as reconstruction from catastrophic weather events had contributed to a wide-reaching shortage of foam used in furniture.
While the hindsight view of how we got into this mess is pretty clear, getting out isn’t going to be easy or quick. Current estimates don’t put a return to normal access to goods and materials for another year or two.
Part of the solution involves investment in infrastructure, both by the private and public sector on assets including ports, warehouses, roads, and rail. Another part involves wages, labour conditions, and training programs.
All of this comes at a price — but so do the delays.
Like many things impacted by COVID-19, a return to normal is a moving target. Businesses have turned local wherever possible to supply the goods and materials they need. Lower labour, material and production costs in foreign markets are offset by high transportation costs and lagging delivery times.
Localization is a way to compress the supply chain, managing risks and costs. The term “nearshoring” is coming up as businesses focus more on the resilience of their supply chain, focusing on access to goods and materials closer to their facilities.
This movement should help alleviate some of the strain on the global networks and reduce greenhouse gas
emissions on top of the benefits to local communities receiving increased investment.
The cost of doing business was identified by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce as the single biggest issue facing businesses at the moment, with supply costs being a significant driver of that. Prices aren’t likely to drop soon, but the more we invest locally in sourcing what we buy, the stronger we’ll be positioned as a community, a region, and a province to handle what comes our way.
This week’s Voice of Business looks at a wide range of business issues, including the employment skills gap, rising inflation, climate change, and adding social value to purchasing evaluation criteria.
The gap between vacancies and unemployment
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is raising concerns over recent job numbers, which highlight a massive employment gap with 1 million job vacancies and 1.2 million unemployed
Canadians. Frustratingly, the two are difficult to connect due to a growing skills gap. It’s estimated that 33% to 55% of businesses are planning to hire in the next few months and expect challenges in filling the positions.
The Canadian Chamber is expecting labour issues to get worse through into early 2022.
According to the Workforce Development Board’s Eye on the Labour Market monthly report, the top 10 job
postings in Peterborough include:
1. Retail salespersons
2. Other customer & information services representatives
3. Home support workers, housekeepers & related occupations
4. Retail sales supervisors
5. Social and community service workers
6. Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers & related support occupations
7. Material handlers
9. Security guards & related security service occupations
10. Sales and account representatives - wholesale trade (non-technical) Inflation
Inflation is at an 18-year high at 4.4%. It is being driven by fuel prices, sky-high housing costs, rising food prices, supply chain challenges and wage growth.
Financial leaders are anticipating the inflation hike will be short term, which is likely to keep interest rates low well into the new year.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce recently made a statement based on the Canadian Survey on
Business Conditions, which highlights costs remain the biggest obstacle for
businesses right now, with 43% saying its their biggest hurdle to recovery. While costs are going up with
inflation, 89% of private-sector businesses don’t expect their profitability to improve over the next three months and one-third expect it to decline.
Simply put, inflation is driving up both the cost of living and the cost of doing business at an alarming rate and at a critical time in our economic recovery.
Solar Panel Map
The City of Peterborough, in partnership with Fleming College, has launched an interactive solar panel map of all the buildings in Peterborough. The map covers both residential and commercial buildings in the city and provides information including an estimate of the usable roof area for solar panels, potential cost savings, and greenhouse gas emissions avoided by introducing solar panels.
The goal is help property owners who are considering installing solar panels and lowering electricity costs
during peak times.
Installing solar panels to generate electricity or solar thermal to heat water are excellent solutions to help lower your carbon footprint and actively tackle climate change. It’s also an opportunity to save money.
A list of local solar panel installation companies is available at peteboroughchamber.ca.
The City of Peterborough is moving ahead with its plan to include social
procurement in its purchasing for the next three years. The City is partnering with Buy Social Canada to implement the purchasing initiative.
Social procurement will leverage current spending to include social value as part of its evaluation criteria. This will hopefully lead to more value to the community.
Typically, government spending is done in relative isolation. A department needs to buy equipment, materials or services, finds the most cost-effective way to do so, and purchases it. Other
departments and ministries are addressing social,
community and environmental issues with their own budgets. By adding social value into that equation, we can maximize value to address social and environmental issues.
Ideally, social procurement also opens up new opportunities for local businesses to add value to bids on government contracts and enhance their competitiveness.
The flooding in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada is another reminder that climate change is a
There are many reasons why tackling climate change is a business issue. After all, the very survival of our species requires clean air and ample food. Unfortunately, that bigger picture isn’t always that relatable in the moment in our day-to-day lives. It takes the tangible to create the necessary urgency.
It’s not just a series of localized issues. It’s incredibly sad seeing the devastation to communities — people have been displaced as whole neighbourhoods and commercial districts have been washed away or covered in mud and debris. Multi-generational farms have been knocked out of production. Communities will never be the same.
On a national level, damage to highways, bridges and rail lines have crippled already struggling supply networks. The Port of Vancouver, our nation’s busiest port and a key link in the supply chain for both our imports and exports, is backlogged and isolated.
While we won’t know the full extent of the damage for a while yet, estimates on the cost of rebuilding are in the billions. Peterborough has its own history of flooding. Anyone who has tried to traverse the Bethune Street corridor recently knows first-hand that the City is busy trying to mitigate flood risk through a massive infrastructure project.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce currently has a number of resolutions on the books to advocate that the federal government address climate change issues,
flood management in a resolution titled: Funding For Climate Change Adaptation – Severe Weather Disaster Mitigation through Flood Protection.
Northern communities are adapting to their new normal of increased wildfires. A study from the University of Alberta found that eight of the world’s worst fire seasons happened in the last decade. In BC, it’s worst five were the last five years.
In short, these catastrophic natural events are a pressing economic issue. They have left us with less production capacity for food and other goods and made it incredibly difficult to both get needed supplies and get our goods to market.
While floods, wildfires and other natural disasters have always been part of the human experience, the frequency, severity, and unpredictability of them is undeniably impacted by our rising greenhouse gas
The national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates catastrophic weather events in the US have cost an average of $128 billion a year for the last 5 years, up from an average of $50 billion annually over the last 40 years. Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest insurance providers, estimates that climate change will reduce global economic output by 11 to 14 percent by 2050, adding up to a cost of
approximately 23 trillion dollars.
Climate change is costing us massive amounts of money. We’re spending billions on risk mitigation infrastructure projects and property loss. Many businesses know first-hand that insurance can be difficult, if not impossible, to attain in some parts of our community.
Options for addressing climate change are complex. The recent COP26 summit highlighted some key solutions, though political follow-through has always been problematic when it comes to meeting climate goals.
We can debate the costs, methods, and programs that will get us to where we need to be in our fight against greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s evident that all
options carry a significant price tag — including the
It’s hard to miss the messaging this holiday season when it comes to where to spend your
Among the various campaigns to support local businesses, the four local chambers of commerce
recently launched our Hometown Holiday campaign.
Thanks to local advertising agency Outpost379, you will be hit with promotion for shopping local when you listen to the radio, watch television, read the newspaper, or go online. It’s on billboards and at local events.
We’ve been asking a lot of this community when it comes to supporting local businesses and we have been blown away by the response. Local support is critical.
But supporting local businesses is not just a temporary measure to do our part locally in a global health crisis.
Our Hometown Holiday campaign is just the beginning as we build momentum with our new regional partnership between ourselves, Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Havelock Chamber of
Commerce, and Millbrook & District Chamber of Commerce. We also have the support of local
agencies and organizations that work to enhance the local business community.
We’re kicking things off with a holiday shopping campaign, but supporting local means much more. Our community is full of amazing opportunities to be entertained with a vibrant arts and culture scene, relax with a staycation, and enjoy some of the finest culinary offerings out there. We have some amazing locally manufactured goods, locally grown and raised food, and creative makers. We have local trades and
homebuilders, local real estate agents and automotive dealers, and local accountants and lawyers. This list goes on, but supporting local covers everything from picking up presents to taking courses to building a house.
Small and medium-sized business:
• Employ almost 90% of Canada’s private sector workforce
• Account for 30% of Canada’s GDP
• Are twice as likely to be lead or co-lead by a woman (1 in 3)
Thanks to the rapid adaption and reinvestment of businesses, supporting local has grown to have a
significant online presence.
In a time of supply chain disruptions, shipping delays and travel restrictions, the opportunity to spend
locally offers a less-hassle approach to getting what you want when you want it.
More than anything, supporting local business is an investment. It’s estimated that $68 of every $100 spent at a locally owned business stays in the community. That’s money that goes into taxes to pay for our services and infrastructure. It goes into wages that circulate back into spending on local goods and services. It goes into business supports from legal and accounting work to repairs and renovations. It is reinvested in cultural events, sports teams and social programs in our community.
There are different degrees of local and opinions on what defines it. Not every business and product can have a regional supply chain. Opinions aside, we can say definitively that spending your money with a business that employs people locally — whether it’s an independent, franchise or chain — is better for the community than the alternative.
Shop local and make this a hometown holiday.
The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, has brought important
conversations to the forefront.
There’s a lot of speculation about whether the targets set will be met and whether world leaders are serious
about tackling climate change. Looking past the skepticism and rhetoric, progress is being made and part of that is the tone and urgency with which we discuss climate issues.
Let’s take a look at some of the key conversations facing the Canadian business community coming out of COP26.
Fossil Fuel Industry
Canada’s continued investment in and use of fossil fuels is having an impact on climate change. As a country with cold temperatures and vast distances between communities, we use a lot of fossil fuels to stay comfortable and connect socially and economically. We’re also the fourth largest oil producer and exporter in the world.
The Government of Canada recently pledged to:
• Commit to ending public financing of fossil fuel projects
• Implement a cap on oil and gas sector emissions
• Reduce methane emissions
The big conversation here is that our best bet at fighting climate change is to leave our oil in the ground and
significantly scale back resource extraction, but that comes at a huge cost. It’s an initiative that is only effective if people also reduce our use of fossil fuels, otherwise we just offset our production with imports.
To what degree are we willing scale back the sector that has pushed a lot of economic growth and prosperity in country?
The death of gas-powered cars
Jumping on the idea that reducing fossil fuel
production is most effective if people reduce their use of fossil fuels, Canada upped its commitment on phasing out gas-powered vehicles. Our government committed to working toward
making up 30% of new truck and bus sales by 2030 and 100% by 2040. They have also committed to having the sales of all new cars and vans be zero emissions by 2040, or no later than 2035 in leading markets.
Right now, fully electric
passenger vehicles (EVs) account for a little over 3% of total sales in Canada. While the market share of EVs is increasing, it’s still a relatively small niche at the moment.
The provincial government recently affirmed its commitments to building electric cars and battery systems in Ontario, but reiterated that they also have no intention of bringing back rebates for electric car purchases.
There are a lot of points to debate regarding the high purchase price compared to lower cost of ownership of EVs, but it’s going to take focused investments to pull us away from our gas-powered vehicles. There’s an economic win in it if we make the transition right.
Canada was lauded for championing the merits of carbon taxes at COP26, calling for 60 per cent of all global emissions to be covered by a carbon tax by 2030.
The big issue when it comes to solutions like carbon taxes — and really, most of the other environmental
commitments our governments make — is competitiveness. Are we resolute enough to see these initiatives through, even if our trading partners don’t? It’s fair to say our largest trading partner, the United States, doesn’t share the same values as our nation on a number of things, including our plans to fight climate change. The same goes for other trading partners like China.
It’s unlikely that we can meet our climate goals without driving up domestic costs for production, transportation, and innovation. How do we deal with importing goods from countries that don’t
share our values and are able to produce goods at a lower price but a higher
environmental cost? If our producers are paying carbon taxes but their competitors aren’t, how do we remain competitive?
If nothing else, COP26 highlighted the giant game of chicken our world leaders are playing. There is a lot of promising and posturing, but no one wants to be the first to lead in implementing and accomplishing the tasks set out. The goal is to get
everyone making the same goals and moving forward
together, but that’s a stretch at best. So, as Canadians, where does that leave us? What are our priorities and what sacrifices are we okay with? Because everything, whether progress or the
status quo, comes at a cost.
The Government of Ontario recently released its fall economic statement, a document aimed at laying out how the government plans to move our province ahead through recovery and into prosperity.
The report covers investments in infrastructure, healthcare, skills training, and attracting increased investment.
Chambers of Commerce from across Ontario are advocating for more supports for small and medium-sized businesses.
“The Government of Ontario is taking reasonable steps to support healthy communities and economic development across the province as we emerge from the pandemic,” says Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We welcome the government’s focus on investing in healthcare,
infrastructure, and skills. However, ensuring a robust and inclusive economic recovery will not come
immediately, particularly in absence of clarity and predictability for business. Further supports for business are still required because workers and the economy at large are better off if business prospers.
Specifically, we would like to see the Province address businesses and sectors impacted by the unplanned minimum wage increase and Ontario’s labour crisis.”
The minimum wage hike, which includes a 20 percent increase for alcohol servers,
will have ramifications through an industry that has been greatly impacted by the pandemic and is still
struggling to recover. The Chamber supports fair wages and appreciates that wages need to increase, but that lack of consultation and the suddenness of the increase are problematic. A sudden hike in fixed costs should be rolled out with enhanced access to capital and relief programs for businesses being most impacted by the unplanned raise. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is also advocating for targeted supports for small business that include energy efficiency and technology adoption programs.
The fall economic statement also includes new tax credits for Ontarians to travel
within the province, a move that will have local benefits for our tourism and
Another area of investment is a new Small Business Digitization Action Plan, which will see more targeted investment in helping our businesses pivot into the digital age.
At the heart of the issues facing a lot of businesses right now is labour. It’s a complicated issue with many factors. No one solution will pull us through, which is why we’re asking the Government of Ontario to develop a strategic plan to address it.
To address the current workforce challenges, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is recommending that in the upcoming 2022 budget, the Government of Ontario:
• Extend regional
immigration pilots to bring more economic immigrants to rural and remote
• Provide new immigrants with more information upon arrival about employment opportunities in smaller
communities, particularly where there are jobs relevant to their skills.
• Work with other provinces and territories to remove
barriers to interprovincial labour mobility and trade.
• Implement the
Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care System as a critical component of
economic recovery and women’s participation in the labour force.
• Support workers by
platforms to contribute to flexible benefit funds and establish a committee of stakeholders to discuss the protections and needs of workers on an ongoing basis.
• Ensure the new service
delivery model for skilled trades is streamlined,
client-facing, and equitable, as outlined in the OCC’s
submission to the Skilled Trades Panel Consultation.
We’re also recommending the 2022 budget include targets, timelines, and investments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while making investments in our
communities to manage the impacts of climate change and boost our local green economy.
We’re making progress in our economic recovery. Just as this pandemic is
unprecedented in recent times, so too will be our recovery. It’s imperative that we keep open dialogue as we shape what our recovery is going to look like and what future we want to build.
Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade from across the country have been busy advocating for the business community.
This past week was the virtual Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting and Convention. A key part of this annual event is policy debate. This is when chambers and boards of trade put together resolutions on local business issues that have national significance and put it to the Canadian Chamber’s membership to debate. The resolutions are vetted through committees before being taken to a vote at the debate. This year members discussed 69 resolutions over 7 hours on the debate floor.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce had both its resolutions endorsed by the membership, which puts them on the books for the Canadian Chamber next three years to advocate directly to the federal
CEBA Loan Forgiveness for the Hardest Hit Businesses
The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan program has been a lifeline for many businesses, offering generous terms with loans up to $60,000. Organizations that pay back two-thirds of their loan by Dec. 31, 2022 will get the remaining third forgiven. Those that don’t are ineligible for debt forgiveness and begin incurring interest at 5%.
The issue is that the pandemic has gone on longer with prolonged public health restrictions, well beyond what was being forecasted when the terms were drawn up. Our hardest hit businesses are going to need more time to rebuild themselves, boost consumer confidence, and begin repaying money back to all the places from which they’ve borrowed.
We are asking the Government of Canada to:
1. Extend the deadlines for repayment of the Canada Emergency Business Account program by two years.
2. Make the forgivable portion of the loan available to all business that continue to have operations
impacted by ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions throughout 2021.
3. Allow businesses that continue to have operations impacted by ongoing COVID-19 public healthrestrictions in 2021 to be exempt from incurring interest prior to the balance of their loan being due.
High Frequency Rail (HFR) Project by VIA Rail Canada
The Chamber has been advocating for the return of passenger rail service to Peterborough for more than a decade. The current proposal from VIA Rail would see a dedicated passenger rail corridor connecting Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City with a stop in Peterborough.
The proposal would help us meet our climate change targets by removing 12.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of a carpool reduction of 2.8 million vehicles annually. It would open up access through eastern Ontario and Quebec, driving economic growth. Having dedicated passenger lines would allow VIA to provide frequent and reliable service, bringing it to profitability within a few years. The VIA HFR project directly impacts an area of the country with 19 million people and frees up bottlenecks for national transportation.
The federal government has begun investing in some of the infrastructure related to the project, but building the line itself has yet to get the green light despite being under consideration since 2016. The project is in the mandate letter on the desk of the Minister of Transport. This is why the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Quebec Chamber of Commerce and Industry to bring this to the Canadian Chamber and its members.
We’re asking the Government of Canada to:
1. Approve the overall funding and urge VIA Rail Canada to proceed with the entire HFR project as
soon as possible.
2. Prioritize the HFR project and other passenger rail service as a key part of meeting our climate
3. Develop a strategy for expanding HFR service beyond the current Toronto – Quebec project