Business sector looking for firm commitments this provincial election

Measures need to be taken to help businesses compete says Ian McLean

This column will be the first of many related to the upcoming Ontario election. If the current polls are an indication, the next five months could see regular shifts and turns and nothing will be certain until election night.

Our colleagues at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) have, through significant research and consultations, identified several factors that are limiting business growth including lacklustre exports, an elevated cost of living, and decreased labour force participation.

These factors combined with high input costs such as electricity, cap and trade and labour law reform including the minimum wage translate to a higher cost of doing business.

Ontario businesses require tax cuts and other offsets to mitigate the impact of minimum wage increases and other changes from Bill 148. For example, the general corporate income tax was scheduled for reduction to 10 per cent in 2013. Due to the province’s financial predicament at that time, the cut was cancelled with a promise to deliver when the budget became balanced. That time has arrived and with major corporate reductions in the U.S., Ontario business tax relief is required to send a positive message to investors.

Standardization of the Business Education Tax across Ontario, a long-standing recommendation of the provincial business sector, and reductions in the Employer Health Tax are also measures for mitigating the impact of a higher minimum wage.

In a recent OCC survey 62 per cent of respondents attempted to recruit new staff in 2016. Approximately 82 per cent experienced at least one major challenge in the recruitment process, most related to securing workers with the appropriate qualifications. The entire apprenticeship system is also seriously out of date and requires reform.

Of all new jobs created over the next decade, 40 per cent are expected in the skilled trades, however only 26 per cent of students aged 13 to 24 are considering careers in these areas.

Provincial electricity prices have risen by 71 per cent from 2008 to 2016, far outpacing the electricity increases in other Canadian provinces. One solution, according to the OCC, is allowing businesses to purchase surplus electricity at rates equal to or better than the exported price to other jurisdictions.

Our Chamber will be active in the four local campaigns in Kitchener-Waterloo, including candidate forums on dates to be determined once the writ is dropped. As always, it is our role to assist our members with making informed decisions and providing the appropriate information on party policies.

This article was written by Ian McLean for the Waterloo Chronicle. Read the original article here.