Delegates at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) AGM held in St. Catharine’s in early May heard that, at the provincial level, the Ontario business community has some basic and common sense concerns with respect to retaining skilled immigrants in Ontario. Allan Odette, President of the OCC noted in his keynote address to the delegates that Immigrant underemployment costs Ontario $3.4 – $5 billion a year and there is a need to improve newcomers’ employment prospects and embrace diversity.
Throughout the AGM delegates heard from the Provincial Opposition party leaders Andrea Horvath and Tim Hudak and Minister of Economic Development and Innovation Brad Duguid. Each addressed the need to improve newcomers’ employment prospects and embrace foreign trained skilled works in their speeches to the delegates.
The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce (GOCC) noted that in discussions with business leaders in Durham Region that without a long-term commitment to fund Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs), the progress already made in developing strategies to attract and retain skilled immigrants in Ontario municipalities and community neighbourhoods will be lost.
During the policy session on the Saturday the GOCC resolution retaining skilled immigrants was supported unanimously by the delegates and the OCC is recommending that the Government of Ontario:
- • Review the business case with the federal government for long term funding of the Local Immigration Partnerships and if a sufficient business case exists put in place guaranteed long-term funding preferably for another five years.
- • Publicize the works of LIPs and the immigration portals to stakeholders within the province.
- • Consult with the federal government to revise the Federal Skilled Worker Eligibility list with a view to returning desired occupations like finance, information technology, civil & electronic engineering, construction technology etc. to the list.
- • Work with municipalities to find innovative ways of making small cities and community neighbourhoods more attractive to new comers. Such innovative ways may include the relocation of transportation hubs, universities, theatres and gyms to central business districts.
On other issues pertinent to the business community the delegates supported resolutions to:
Replacing the Retail Business Holiday Act to Drive Economic Competitiveness – the Retail Business Holidays Act, (the “Act”), originally passed in 1990, requiring retail businesses operating in Ontario to close on nine specified days each year and with provincially established exceptions as well as exceptions deemed by municipal and/or regional governments is now outdated.
Raising the Employer Health Tax (EHT) Exemption Floor to $500,000 – the exemption floor forcing eligible businesses in Ontario to pay the Employer Health Tax has not changed in over 12 years. As a result, each year more and more of the businesses intended to be exempt from payment are subjected to the burden.
Increasing Heads and Beds Payment to Municipalities – unchanged since 1987, the rate currently stands at $75. The OCC is recommending increasing the payment in lieu of taxes made by the Province of Ontario on behalf of post secondary education institutions and hospitals to $140.00 for each student or hospital bed.
The failure of the Government of Ontario to actively support the future of Canadian Nuclear Research and Development to date has the OCC calling on the government to create a national nuclear energy strategy that will support and enhance the Canadian nuclear manufacturing sector regarding domestic and export sales and new nuclear procurement opportunities ensuring that Ontario and Canada employ a ‘made-in-Ontario’ nuclear energy strategy that will continue to provide jobs, encourage investment and foster economic strength for the Ontario and Canadian economies in the coming decades.
Delegates also past a resolution supporting the Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan. It was felt in order to successfully implement and finance the Metrolinx regional transportation plan (“The Big Move”) for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), the province must find a way of bridging the gap between existing funding commitments and the overall cost of fully implementing the “Big Move”.