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March 22, 2016 - The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) commends the Government of Canada for addressing business concerns with much-needed investments in trade-enabling infrastructure, and is calling on the Government to take the same approach as it considers infrastructure that will better position our country to capitalize on the potential of global trade.

In Budget 2016, the federal government proposes $3.4 billion over five years to maintain and upgrade important trade-enabling assets such as airports and border infrastructure, but delays investments in infrastructure that will spur “global trade” to Phase 2 of their infrastructure plan, which begins two years from now.

“We welcome the federal government’s focus on infrastructure as a top priority in today’s budget,” said Allan O’Dette, President & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “The Government of Canada has committed to investing in infrastructure but, in order for our economy to thrive, these investments must be used strategically for projects that will grow our economy. As the federal government moves forward with their commitment to make strategic investments while going into deficit, the OCC worries that without stimulating economic activity, the Government will be unable to establish a meaningful deficit elimination target in the foreseeable future.”

According to recent polling, half of the OCC membership agrees that their organization is suffering from a lack of public investment in infrastructure. Looking at all Ontarians, 81 percent agree that “Canada needs to invest more in infrastructure in order to grow our economy”. The Ontario Chamber Network therefore called on the federal government to address the province’s infrastructure deficits through targeted, trade-enabling investment in projects that help Ontario firms do business and grow the economy.

Broadband Access

The OCC has vigorously led advocacy for new investments of funds by the federal government to addressing digital economy broadband access for rural and suburban Ontarians. We welcome the historic investment of $500 million over five years for a new program to extend and enhance broadband service in rural and remote communities. We will continue to work with the federal government as details on this program are unveiled in the coming months.

Canada’s infrastructure needs are not just roads and transit. Half of OCC members surveyed say that internet speed or connectivity hinders their ability to do business. This is especially noteworthy, as 82 percent of Ontarians agree that high-speed internet is critical to their work and/or way of life. Broadband access and quality is not just a rural or remote issue – suburban companies report similar issues with connectivity, and 30 percent of all businesses say that telecommunications is a critical infrastructure need in their region.

Small Business Tax Credit

The Government of Canada further clarified that promised reductions to the small business income tax rate will be “deferred”. The OCC hopes that the federal government will move to fulfill a campaign promise to reduce the small-business tax rate from 11 per cent to nine per cent sooner rather than later. It is important that the government acts on the best available evidence as it implements a reduction to the small business tax rate.

Investments for First Nations

The OCC also welcomed the federal government’s historic investments to improving the lives of Canada’s First Nations people. With a $8.4 billion investment over five years toward education, housing, child welfare and water quality, these monies will improve high school completion rates and skills development opportunities for Aboriginal peoples. Addressing these gaps is essential to advancing the nation’s economic and social prosperity.

Innovation Agenda

Finally, the OCC welcome’s the Government’s planned “Innovation Agenda”. Ontario’s Chamber Network has worked in partnership with the province of Ontario to support cluster development, developing new ideas that will put our economy at the forefront of global trends, and placing a focus on investments in our greatest resource, our people. We welcome the Government’s desire to work in partnership with the private sector to redefine how together we can support innovation and growth, specifically with regard to supporting commercialization.

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