2018 Pre-Budget Deputation to the Ontario Governmentpresented Monday, January 15, 2018
Businesses are increasingly being asked to absorb new and higher input costs that were unforeseen just a few years ago. 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 are making it extremely difficult for Thunder Bay businesses to create jobs, pay taxes and donate to community charities. Small businesses need help through this transition. We support the recommendations made by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce that the government reinstate the scheduled corporate income tax rate reduction from 11.5 per cent to 10 per cent, reduce the Business Education Tax, and make targeted reductions to the Employer Health tax.
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 this Government to implement an exemption for some communities and we urge the government to immediately implement the long promised exemption for the entire Northwest region.
Skills & Training
The Province needs to address the skills gap. The hiring challenge is already being felt across many sectors from low skilled positions in hospitality and retail to highly skilled positions in professional services and trades.
We believe that the Ontario apprenticeship system is in need of improvements. The current journeyman-to-apprentice ratios are too high in many trades, especially for small communities. Furthermore, tax credits are not enough to encourage employers with limited funds to make the significant financial and time investment involved in training an apprentice. Funding and flexibility are vitally important to address our training and skills needs. In addition, it is imperative for the Province to engage Aboriginal communities in skills training programs and opportunities to ensure they can take full advantage of economic growth.
Despite the recent challenges in the mining sector, we are confident that our region presents an exceptional opportunity for significant fiscal growth for the entire province. Northwestern Ontario is home to hundreds of active mining projects representing Billions in mineral value and will have a significant impact on the economy of the Northwest and the Province as a whole.
Strategic investments must be made in the transportation, energy and technology infrastructure that will be needed to make these projects happen. We know that the development of this infrastructure will require big investments by both the Province and the Government of Canada at the front end; however, the return on investment in tax revenues and economic growth will more than offset these costs in the decades to come.
We again encourage the Province to continue to move forward in the planning and development of the Ring of Fire, which has been valued at nearly $85 Billion. This development is vital to the Ontario economy and we must ensure that the anticipated jobs, taxes and other economic benefits are not lost.
Ontario’s forest products sector is a significant contributor to the economy providing over 172,000 direct and indirect jobs in over 260 communities across the province, generating an economic impact of $15.5 million dollars. We are increasingly concerned that unbalanced public policy will curtail the future growth of our forest sector and the jobs and families that it supports. We need a Provincial Forestry Strategy that aims to increase the sustainable use and harvest of our Crown forests and provides consistent, long-term, reliable access to affordable renewable wood.
Ontario currently receives approximately 100,000 immigrants annually, representing 40% of all immigrants to Canada each year. The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is one area where Ontario’s policies put us at a disadvantage in attracting migrants to meet our labour market needs. The list of eligible professions is narrow and does not include many of the trade
professions that are experiencing shortages such as plumbers, chefs and truck drivers. To add further challenges, the Ontario PNP requires employers to obtain a labour market impact assessment prior to offering a job to a recent migrant. This labour market impact assessment (LMIA) uses provincial information in determining whether a job can be offered to an immigrant. Employers in rural communities who are unable to attract Canadian citizens from major urban centres are often denied the opportunity to hire an immigrant because the LMIA data shows that sufficient Canadian citizens are available to fill the role but does not consider the willingness or not of Canadian citizens to relocate to that area.
The elimination of the need for an LMIA and the development of a local nominee program would provide an opportunity for local needs to be identified and addressed through the Ontario PNP and we encourage the government to undertake these changes as soon as possible.
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?