Keep Ontario Working Coalition: Ontario Deserves Evidence-Based Reform

Keep Ontario Working Coalition: Ontario Deserves Evidence-Based Reform

Changes Will Hurt Job Creation, Consumer Costs and Economic Growth

TORONTO, May 30, 2017 – The Keep Ontario Working coalition, in partnership with the Stratford & District Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), today expressed concern that the Government of Ontario’s Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan, commits to unproven sweeping reforms without ensuring protection against unintended consequences, including job losses, rising consumer costs, and economic hardship.

The Keep Ontario Working Coalition (KOW) is a broad-spectrum group of business sector representatives concerned with sound public policy to help produce jobs and grow Ontario.

As noted in the Business Prosperity Index of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Ontario Economic Report, despite projections that Ontario will lead Canada in economic growth in the coming years, diminished profitability, lower labour market participation, and sluggish market activity; along with other key factors have resulted in a risk-averse atmosphere that businesses are disinclined to grow production. Businesses are questioning if they should grow in Ontario or expand offshore.

Despite that, Ontario’s private sector is still doing its part to support workers. As the Government pointed out in Budget 2017, 98 per cent of all new jobs since the recession in Ontario have been full time, and 78 per cent in above-average wage industries. This positive economic activity by Ontario’s private sector demonstrates a clear commitment to good jobs throughout our province.

Statement

The following is a statement by the Keep Ontario Working Coalition on the Government’s proposed workplace reforms:

“We share in the Government’s desire for broadly inclusive growth. However, in order to achieve this, we need to ensure that we are not risking job losses, rising consumer costs, and economic hardship as a result of over-regulation.

“Government cannot regulate prosperity. To demonstrate true fairness and compassion for workers, we must ensure Ontario has a strong economy to help create jobs and increase economic growth.

“That is why we are urging the government to take time this summer to have an independent third party conduct a comprehensive economic impact analysis on the proposed reforms to consider the unintended consequences to employers. In addition, as the province’s biggest employer, the government must fully understand what these changes will cost in relation to the provincial treasury as well as social services and other government agencies. 

“Why is evidence-based policy important? Only three years ago, the Premier’s own Minimum Wage Advisory Panel conducted extensive research and concluded: ‘In the Canadian context, researchers have generally found an adverse employment effect of raising minimum wages especially for young workers…typically those studies find that teen employment would drop by 3 to 6 per cent if the minimum wage is raised by 10 per cent.’

“While the Changing Workplaces Review cautioned that any regulatory change shouldn’t impair the competitiveness of businesses in the province, the reforms outlined in Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan thus far do not provide the balance needed to help ensure a competitive environment for Ontario.

 “But we have time. Now we must work cooperatively with government to identify the scale of the economic impact of these changes and help employers transition into any new policy regime. We will continue to be cooperative partners with government to find solutions that will, where possible, inhibit negative impacts on the growth of Ontario’s economy, our people, and our communities.”

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Keep Ontario Working Coalition Members

Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services (ACSESS)

Canadian Franchise Association (CFA)

Food & Consumer Products of Canada

Food and Beverage Ontario (FBO)

National Association of Canada Consulting Businesses (NACCB Canada)

Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA)

Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC)

Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA)

Restaurants Canada

Retail Council of Canada (RCC)

Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO)

 

www.keepontarioworking.ca

 

Media Contact:

Sydney Stonier

Ontario Chamber of Commerce

sydneystonier@occ.ca

647-243-3561

Chamber Report on Meeting with Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Energy, Friday, April 7, 2017

Chamber Report on Meeting with Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Energy    Friday, April 7, 2017

 

On April 7, the Stratford & District Chamber of Commerce hosted a roundtable discussion on Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, which addresses the Ontario government’s new cost reduction measures for residential and small business users.  Following introductions, Brad Beatty, Chamber GM, led off by identifying two critical and linked concerns for businesses of all size in the province – hydro costs and the ability to stay competitive in a volatile North American economy.

The Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy, Bob Delaney, responded with a brief overview of the evolution of hydro in Ontario since 1945, stressing the investment by government in renewing infrastructure and transmission, particularly in the last 13 years when most other North American jurisdictions were “pushing the problems down the road”.  He emphasized that government has spent nearly $50 billion, borrowing when interest rates have been at historic lows. 

The result of this investment is infrastructure in place to last for the next 30-40 years, allowing the government to concentrate on conservation programs, nuclear power generator renewal and developing a new business model for hydro pricing.  Delaney returned to concerns that Ontario hydro pricing was exorbitant, clarifying that Ontario is on a par with other jurisdictions in Eastern and Midwestern NA and much better prepared for the future.

Discussion then revolved around questions of pricing, manufacturing competitiveness, the sale of Hydro One, small business confidence in government policy going forward, transparency of pricing and supply, and allocation of social costs to hydro pricing.

What emerged was a consensus of concern about competiveness, pricing stability and predictability, further debt assumption for Hydro, the cost of increasing amortization on the debt, cost of delivery to rural customers and the effect of the continuing sell-off of Hydro to the private sector, especially foreign investors.  Underlying all this was an expressed concern about the precarious situation in the USA.

Delaney underlined that the pricing procedure for hydro is complex and currently involves cost of hydro purchase, interest rates & inflation, capital expenditures (nuclear refurbishment costs make up about half of global adjustments) and people costs.  Addressing the question of how, when and where to pay for the increased cost of hydro, the province is considering shifting the “social costs” (such as savings programs for seniors) from hydro pricing and allocate them to appropriate departments within the regular provincial budgeting.

Unfortunately, concerns raised by manufacturers in the room were not answered as any relief or structural changes for that sector would be in the upcoming budget which will not be released for two weeks.  Manufacturers continue to underline their very real worries about global competitiveness; concerns driven by high labour and energy costs.  These concerns affect decisions about investment in existing plants and whether companies will shift production to lower cost jurisdictions.

Many of the changes will roll out over the next twelve months and consumers – business and residential – will not be fully impacted until that roll-out is complete.

Delaney again stressed that every North American jurisdiction will need capital upgrades and “you’re either renewing your system or you’re not – Ontario is.”  He shared his views that as other areas begin to lose nuclear, lose coal and have old transmission lines go down, it will become a question or who has power and who doesn’t. Ontario has stepped up to address these issues a decade before anyone else – “we’ve taken steps to ensure we have a future.”

Given the tortured history of energy in Ontario – cancelled gas plant scandals, Hydro One sales, high consumer billing and confusion over government policy – it is not surprising that many at the roundtable were skeptical about the outcome, but those in attendance were grateful for Delaney’s visit and his demonstrated willingness to listen.