The Ontario Chamber of Commerce submission focused on a number of challenges Ontario faces including its debt, which is approaching $300 billion and its high remaining deficit noting economic growth is likely to be sluggish for the foreseeable future.In its submission, the OCC noted that addressing the fiscal situation should be the government’s top priority. As it stands, the province spends more on interest charges than it does on colleges and universities. Those interest charges will only increase as Ontario’s debt grows and as interest rates rise in the coming years.
The OCC noted its concern at the prospect of several significant policy changes that would harm Ontario’s business climate. These policy changes include, but are not limited to, an increase in energy prices and potential increases in employer pension contributions and corporate income tax rates. Combined, these moves would substantially raise the cost of doing business in Ontario.
Fostering a healthy business climate should be the top priority and the submission outlined five key budget priorities and 11 specific recommendations that it believed the Ontario Government must adopt in order to return to fiscal balance and spur growth in our economy.
The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce in its submission focused on the issues of importance for Durham Region: Job Creation; Retention; Transportation—Highway 407 & Metrolinx; Energy—Combined Heat & Power; Nuclear; as well as the College of Trades and the Minimum Wage.
In its submission the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce reinforced its position that funding for the Highway 407 Extension past Harmony Road in Oshawa be clearly marked in the 2014 budget, and that the Ontario government commit to firm timelines for the eastern extension of the 407 past Oshawa to 35/115 and, prior to opening the Harmony Road and/or Simcoe Street interchange, have in place contracts and commence work on the completion of Hwy 407 to 35/115.
With respect to Metrolinx the Chamber came across loud and clear. Durham Region needs to see a stronger commitment from Metrolinx on future expansion of GO service to Oshawa and Clarington and that the Chamber expected due diligence and adherence to proper processes with respect to the cost estimate of the bridge over Hwy 401 and solid evidence of an economic analysis for the expansion of service in Durham Region to Bowmanville—noting that Metrolinx needed to present a business case and show the economic analysis of the North track (CP) vs. the south track (CN) to Bowmanville considering but not limited to the economic benefits and the timelines.
In the area of energy, the Chamber supported the CHP project being developed by Northland Power Inc. at GM’s Oshawa Car Assembly Plant asking the provincial government to have the OPA move forward with a new CHP program in Oshawa as quickly as possible. The Chamber further recommended that the CHP criteria be applied in a way that can deliver the optimal CHP facility in terms of efficiency, costs and local benefits (i.e., by industrial application and long term system benefits).
It further recommended that if the government was serious about creating a business climate that attracts investment and growth, it must move forward with the
refurbishment of 10 units in order to optimize the value of these excellent generating assets and ensure “new nuclear” will be part of the provinces long-term energy plan.