Returning from an Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) Annual General Meeting always brings with it a great sense of accomplishment. The Annual General Meeting is an opportunity for chambers of commerce and boards of trade to discuss and debate the issues impacting business and inform the direction of the advocacy efforts for the OCC. The 105th edition of this gathering was no different, with almost two dozen speakers sprinkled throughout the event, including the the three main political parties and a panel called Improving Cross-Border Trade in the Trump Era: A Role for Business.
In all, 32 policy resolutions were passed by the over 170 delegates representing more than 70 chambers of commerce and boards of trade. The big four business issues of electricity, cap and trade, infrastructure, and workforce skills and development were among the main topics of conversation. However, resolutions were also passed encouraging the provincial government to widen Ontario’s trade base, to maintain provincial tax exemptions on employer health and dental plans, to develop more connectivity between transit systems, to dismantle the College of Trades, and to require an economic analysis before the closure of schools.
Two policy resolutions put forward by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and a number of co-sponsoring chambers were passed by delegates at the Annual General Meeting.
“In the Spirit of Business” asks the provincial government to align the craft distillery industry with that of the craft brewery industry by instituting a graduated tax program and allowing craft distillers to distribute their products directly to bars and restaurants. We would like to thank our members in the distillery industry for their input on this policy resolution.
“Addressing the challenges of Ontario’s largest economic sector: Small business” asks the provincial government to use the Red Tape Challenge to learn more about the regulatory burden facing small business and to use current resources to develop a concierge service to help guide business to regulatory compliance. Thank you to all the member businesses from the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism for participating in the 2016 campaign “Small Business Too Big To Ignore”. This policy resolution was a direct result of those roundtable conversations and survey results.
The fireside chat sessions with the three political leaders were very interesting, particularly as we start to prepare for the provincial election in 2018.
Premier Wynne spoke to the broader forces that are creating uncertainty in the province and re-iterated her government’s commitment to ensuring Ontario businesses can be competitive. She mentioned
meetings with about a dozen US governors designed to reinforce the integrated relationship between Ontario and almost 30 states. The Premier also spoke about the need for flexibility in retraining programs, experiential learning, and cap and trade.
Patrick Brown, Leader of the Opposition, was very animated in his remarks, talking about the skills mismatch and issuing a commitment to dismantle cap and trade. Brown told the crowd that Ontario is simply not competitive in energy and reform needs to focus on fixing the core structural problems of the system. He’s also concerned about the sincerity of the government on infrastructure and their commitment to seeing projects completed.
Leader of the NDP Andrea Horwath also focused on energy speaking against mandatory time-of-use pricing. She also expressed concern about a lack of transparency and the mistake of privatizing Hydro One. Retraining programs in the face of a changing economy were also on the mind of the NDP Leader and she hopes that more attention will be paid to the state governments than the rhetoric in Washington.
Watch for more articles on individual policy resolutions in the coming weeks.