2018 Pre-Budget Submission to Charles Sousapresented February 5, 2018
Due to the limited time frame I will specifically address cost and competitiveness concerns.
The job of business is to meet customer needs and to do so profitably – but its becoming more and more difficult for Ontario’s small businesses to be profitable. The addition of carbon pricing last year made it more expensive for every business to transport their products to and from Thunder Bay and to keep the heat on at their operations.
This year, the changes to Employment Standards implemented in Bill 148 including a 22% increase in minimum wage, new rules around stat pay, emergency leave, on call pay, vacation, and equal pay for equal work are adding significantly to overhead costs of many local businesses, charities and institutions. All of this is making it extremely difficult for Thunder Bay businesses to create jobs, pay taxes and donate to community charities.
Hard working entrepreneurs and their employees are disappointed that the concerns of business owners were ignored when Bill 148 was being debated. Their anxieties were dismissed when they said it was “too much too fast” and requested more time for implementation. Their expertise was rejected when they said their operations could not absorb such significant cost increases in a 7 month timeframe and they would be forced to reduce staffing costs or increase prices.
We are now one month in to this new reality. To date, the education provided by the Ministry has been sorely lacking and some employers are not sure what’s required to meet the new requirements. Business owners are reducing hours and increasing prices to stay afloat, the City of Thunder Bay is pointing to a $1.2 million bump in our tax levy to pay its share, citizens are paying higher prices on everything from groceries and dry goods to daycare and homecare for their family members. Seniors are struggling to stretch limited pensions.
To retain jobs, keep our economy moving and reduce the negative impacts to our communities, small businesses need help through this transition and they need it now. We support the full list of recommendations made by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and highlight the need for reductions to the Business Education Tax and targeted reductions to the Employer Health tax – these changes will help employers reduce their costs now.
Here in Northern Ontario, we are particularly concerned with the increase to aviation fuel taxes of one percent per year over four years that started in 2014. The negative impacts of this fee increase on communities with no alternatives to air transportation were acknowledged by the Premier in the 2014 budget debates and a solution was promised. Aviation fuel costs in Thunder Bay are five cents higher than Toronto and up to ten cents higher in Northern remote communities. Increasing costs are adding to the already significant economic, health and social challenges of our far north First Nations communities. This 4% increase in aviation fuel tax adds eight cents per pound for cargo deliveries of food and supplies. A recent TVOntario report highlighted the cost of food in Kashechewan First Nations as follows:
I walk past $30 frozen pizzas and $15 cartons of eggs. At the fruit and veggie section, a bunch of grapes costs $13.42, a three pound bag of apples is $15.29, and a single head of red cabbage is $12.89.
How can any government justify adding to these costs with an aviation fuel tax? Previous public commitments have been made by your Government to implement an exemption for some communities and we urge you to immediately implement the long promised exemption for the entire Northwest region.
A recent TVOntario report highlighted the cost of food in Kashechewan First Nations as follows:
“I walk past $30 frozen pizzas and $15 cartons of eggs. At the fruit and veggie section, a bunch of grapes costs $13.42, a three pound bag of apples is $15.29, and a single head of red cabbage is $12.89.”
How can any government justify adding to these costs with an aviation fuel tax?