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Ontario Can’t Keep Sliding on Debt

December 11, 2014

The province of Ontario is currently treading the path of an unsustainable financial situation.

The chamber network is very concerned over the provincial debt and believes the government must quickly take bold action to improve it.

Over the previous fiscal year, the Government of Ontario spent $10.5 billion more than it collected in revenue. This is predicted to increase to about $12.5 billion in 2014-15. Net debt reached $267.2 billion in 2013-2014. The cost of servicing this debt is $10.6 billion in interest per year, or $29 million per day.

This isn’t just a recent issue however; provincial governments since 1990 have only been able to achieve a balanced budget or surplus seven times. For 18 of the past 25 years, governments in Ontario have run a budget deficit.

It isn’t just the ‘now’ we are concerned with, but the ‘soon-to-be’ as well as the future. Currently, the province is heading towards a point where debt and deficit will be much more difficult to deal with. The aging population will increase the need for government spending while reducing its tax base; borrowing will become more expensive as interest rates rise and investor confidence wanes; and Ontario’s economy can be expected to grow more slowly as a result of a shrinking workforce, stagnant labour productivity and a higher tax burden on remaining workers.

The OCC (Ontario Chamber of Commerce) in conjunction with our chamber released a report at the end of October entitled, How Bad Is It? What Do We Do About It? which provides a straightforward account of Ontario’s current fiscal situation. It finds that while Ontario’s fiscal situation is better than that of many other countries facing fiscal problems, the province is likely to reach a state of crisis unless it cuts spending and changes the ways it does business.

The government has a responsibility to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its own operations before considering broad tax increases to boost its revenues. According to a recent OCC survey, 93% of businesses in Ontario believe eliminating the deficit is an important priority.

The report outlines six approaches the government can take to cut spending and move along a more fiscally sustainable path. These recommendations include embracing Alternative Service Delivery (ASD), asset recycling to funnel the value of outdated government assets into new priorities and taking advantage of expertise, innovation and capital outside government. These approaches have been successful in reducing government spending while achieving key outcomes both abroad and in Ontario.

Read the full OCC report here: http://www.occ.ca/Publications/howbadisit_online.pdf

Until the next time, all the best.

Debbi

Employers Perpective on Skills Training in Ontario

September 19, 2014

Ontario’s labour force is among the most highly educated in the world. Yet, there is a gap between the knowledge and skills demanded by employers and those that education and training systems provide currently. The difficulty of filling vacancies compounded by Ontario’s aging population and slow labour force growth, makes it even more pressing that training systems work for the needs of employers and workers.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) survey data presented in the report, Moving Forward Together, outlines that 28% of Ontario businesses have had difficulty filling job vacancies over the past 12-18 months due to a lack of skilled applicants. Meanwhile, provincial unemployment is at 7.5%, above the national average of 7.1%, and youth unemployment in Ontario remains high at 15.4%.

Debates have been spreading about who should pay, who the training providers should be and what types of training should take place. The challenge has always been to strike a balance between industry and government contributions and responsibility.

With new programs in play such as the Canada-Ontario Job Grant, it is increasingly important that the voice of employers be heard in the design and implementation of training initiatives. The Canada-Ontario Job Grant will cover two thirds of the cost of training a current or prospective worker, with the government providing up to $10,000.

Moving Forward Together—co-released by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce (GSCC)—outlines several recommendations on how the government can begin to move forward with the business community to provide streamlined and effective skills training programs for employer use with the goal of economic growth in mind. These recommendations include making programs, such as the Canada-Ontario Job Grant, more easily accessible and allowing for flexibility in employer contributions, as well as encouraging a sector-based approach to training that would allow similar employers to pool their resources.

This past April, the GSCC worked with the OCC and Essential Skills Ontario, to host a roundtable discussion on the issues businesses face in relation to skills training programs. We heard many reasons from our members about why employers shy away from investing in training, such as a lack of HR capacity, lack of financial resources for training, fear of poaching, and concern about turnover and the financial risk associated with investing in training. Other participants of our roundtable voiced that they had no choice but to train themselves due to the inability of finding the specific skills they need in the local labour market.

Canadian employers tend to underinvest in employee training relative to their counterparts in other countries.   With increased collaboration between industry, government, service providers and educational institutions, and a better recognition of the needs of employers, we may see a move towards enhanced national investment in training.

To check out the report, click here.

Until next time,

Debbi

Charting our Advocacy Priorities: 2014-2015

September 2, 2014

That time of year is fast approaching; the time when the chamber will be prioritising its advocacy initiatives for our new fiscal year.

At the chamber, advocacy is paramount and we take careful time and consideration when it comes to making the decisions on where to pool our resources. We analyse and consider issues our members face on a daily basis and we break those down carefully into goals and outcomes where we can have an impact. From our yearly public policy survey we can properly research the information we need to effectively advocate on behalf of our members. More so, we look at the issues our members face alongside the trends in the local economy to make the most of our efforts to influence change.

Through our advocacy initiatives, our chamber aims to create an open-for-business environment in the city, reduce red tape, improve the economic well-being of the city and business community and ensure the voice of business is heard at all political levels.

The chamber has been active on a number of issues this past year including the deregulation of store hours, city council structure, development charges, casino, municipal bylaws and road infrastructure.

Last week we hosted our annual Board Retreat to review the results of our public policy survey, to identify the priorities we will be addressing, and establish task forces to tackle each. The new task forces will be Maley Drive, Community Projects, Ring of Fire, and Downtown Growth. You will be able to read the proposed mandates of each of these task forces in the September issue of IMPACT.

In the meantime, you can read the chamber’s new Municipal Policy Document. This report outlines past and present municipal policy priorities and how we addressed each of those issues.

You can access the Municipal Policy Document here: http://sudburychamber.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Municipal-Policy-Document-web.pdf.

Thoughts on the chamber’s advocacy initiatives? If you have a business issue or ideas on what the chamber should be working on contact our policy team at policy@sudburychamber.ca.

Until next time, all the best. Debbi

The CCC is searching for champions to speak up

July 16, 2014

Most Canadians aren’t fully aware of the untapped potential of Canada’s natural resources.  Natural resources continue to drive our economic prosperity.  Industries involved in the production, processing and shipping of Canadian natural resources contribute $336 billion a year, or 21% of Canada’s GDP.  Despite the importance of these sectors, many widespread misperceptions remain.
Over the last year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has been hard-pressed to highlight the prominent role natural resources play in the Canadian economy and in international trade.  The CCC continues to advance public policy solutions to address the competitiveness issues facing these sectors.
Specifically, the CCC is working on a pan-sectoral partnership: the Partnership for Resource Trade to remind people who live far from mines, oil fields, farms and forests, that they too are directly affected by the industries using those resources; as well as the opportunities available to Canada should they be seized.

Canada’s natural resource sectors are vast. The CCC has already published three reports on the electricity, mining and oil and gas sectors.
It is important to ensure Canadians engage in this discussion to make the federal government fully aware of the importance the natural resource sectors have on communities across Canada. The CCC will be asking for business leaders from every region and industry to champion this cause and speak out in their communities on the economic role natural resources have on exports.

The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce is committed to facilitating this partnership and will be looking for leaders in our community to come forth and speak for their sectors.

Progress will continue and the discussion around Canada’s natural resources needs to be explored. With large topics like the Ring of Fire being on many people’s minds as an opportunity we don’t want to pass us by, we need to make it clear to the government that we as Canadians are educating ourselves on the importance of our natural resources and the part they will play in our future to come.

For more information, please visit PowerofCanada.ca.

Debbi

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Examining the merits of a minimum wage increase

August 21, 2013

You may have heard that the Province of Ontario has appointed a Minimum Wage Advisory Panel, chaired by Anil Verma, Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, to help ensure a process that is fair for workers, predictable for business, and creates opportunities for all Ontarians.

Through consultations with business and labour groups, workers, anti-poverty advocates and academics, the panel will examine the province’s current minimum wage policy and provide advice on how Ontario should determine the minimum wage in the future. The panel will also recommend a process to set the minimum wage that is both fair to workers and predictable for businesses.

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The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has brought together businesses and sector organizations from across the province to participate in its own task force to examine options for determining the minimum wage. I serve on this working group. The feedback received from the task force combined, with research from the OCC, will provide the foundation for the OCC’s submission to the government’s advisory panel. The submission, to be released this fall, will identify business’ preferred manner for determining the minimum wage.

The current Ontario general minimum wage is $10.25 per hour. Poverty groups throughout the province have been lobbying to see this rate increased immediately to $14 per hour.

The Ontario minimum wage has increased by 50 percent since 2003, from $6.85 to $10.25 per hour, giving Ontario one of the highest minimum wages in Canada. Only Nunavut ($11/hr), Yukon ($10.54/hr), and Nova Scotia ($10.30/hr) have higher minimum wages than Ontario.

Ontario, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories are the only Canadian provinces that do not have a formal mechanism for calculating or adjusting minimum wage.

Anil Verma, Chair of the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel recently stated, “I am very hopeful that with a balanced approach we can come up with a system that will ensure both job creation and income security for all Ontarians.”

Only time will tell.

All the best,

Debbi

‘Unpaid’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word

August 6, 2013

As we all know, identifying, accessing and matching skilled individuals with employers is proving to be a significant cost to business.

This has a direct effect on our national productivity and our ability to compete with emerging economies.

While there are many aspects affecting and influencing this situation – the bulk departure of baby boomers from the workforce, and an increasingly specialized workplace – there exists another matter that threatens to worsen the situation; current graduates who are not “work ready educated”.

ImageDespite universities, colleges and private post-secondary institutions across the country becoming increasingly aware of the need to better prepare graduates for the workforce beyond the scope of their fields of study, employers and professional societies maintain that not enough is being done to encourage graduates to seek out the workforce during their school year terms.

There is arguably no better way to overcome the so called ‘experience dilemma’ than with an unpaid placement education: it provides students with the skills, confidence and contacts to enter the job market upon graduation. The alternating combination of periods of academic study and work provides an integrated learning experience that enhances both studies and career development.

Of course, youth have historically migrated toward distraction and spontaneity in place of regulation and uniformity during their school terms. However, while employers do not expect as high a level of professionalism in a 22-year old as they would a 50-year old, they nonetheless look for the fundamentals with which they can help new graduates build on. These include teamwork, leadership, initiative, communication (with colleagues and with the client), analytical skills, making sound judgments and applying their technical knowledge outside the classroom, as well as “soft skills” such as being punctual, positive attitude, and a willingness for continued learning.

While the value of an unpaid placement program is ultimately reflected in the quality of placements and the success of the program and the long-term business relationship that is established, the true value rests in its ability to cultivate engagement and understanding of workforce expectations among students.
Currently, students participating in an unpaid placement program receive the same deductions and tax incentives granted to general students. These include moving and childcare expenses as well as a student’s employment amount, public transit, any interest paid on student loans and the tuition, and education and textbook amounts.

While these are important inducements, it is time the federal government provide unpaid placement students with additional incentives; a good first start would be an income deduction for students who secure employment with their unpaid placement following graduation.

Until next time,

Debbi

Start thinking differently about how you can engage young professionals

June 12, 2013

If you are a Gen Xer (1961-1982) or a Millennial (1983-2001) then I’m encouraging you to read this article. If you are a business owner who employs people of these generations, you would benefit from reading this too.

One of the best ways that I know of to gain new experiences, learn new things, take on new responsibilities, earn promotions and raises, grow your network, and feel you are making a difference, is by getting involved in some volunteer opportunity related to your career.

If you want to be upwardly mobile, to rise up the corporate ladder, then what are you doing to set yourself apart from your peers? How are you adding value to your workplace beyond your job role?

Opportunities abound with business associations, community boards, charities, and other civic committees all of which have openings for young professionals to join their ranks. Many of these groups seek out younger worker volunteers to add their fresh perspective to their group dynamics.

From my own experience at the chamber, we have made deliberate efforts to attract Gen Xers and Millennials to our board, committees and task forces with significant success. Nearly 60 percent of my directors meet these criteria and we have at least one young professional serving on each of our committees and task forces. They are a very welcomed addition and contribute greatly to our deliberations. This is a far cry from what the composition of chambers was several decades ago. We’ve come a long way.

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Employers may be reluctant to free up employees during office hours to allow them the time to participate in outside interests. I can assure you, in the long run, the long-term gain far outweighs the short-term pain. These workers often bring back new skills, a broader network of potential clients, valuable information that can help them/the business, a positive attitude, and feelings of accomplishment that lead to greater motivation and productivity. These qualities can add directly to your bottom line. You are helping to pave the way for these younger workers to become the business, corporate, civic and association leaders of tomorrow.

So young professionals, the ball is in your court. If you are serious about being the best you can be and moving your career forward, why not investigate the available opportunities and approach your employer with a well thought out plan of how your volunteering will benefit you both. If your boss says no, don’t give up, there are plenty of prospects you can consider that take place outside of office hours.

You have a lot to offer: I encourage you to get engaged.

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