The announcement in June 2010 that the first end of link for the extension would be at Simcoe Street in Oshawa came as a surprise. Then in March of 2011, the province announced that Highway 407 would be extended to Harmony Road by 2015 and to Highway 35/115 by 2020. Since 2004, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce call for completion of Hwy 407 to Hwy 35/115 stressing that the negative economic, safety and capital investment impact to Ontario of not proceeding to complete the Eastward Extension—Highway 407 eastward from Brock Rd. in Pickering to Hwy 35/115, is real. This position was re-affirmed unanimously in May 2011 at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM.
The resolution calls on the provincial government to work with all stakeholders and put in place an acceptable alternative that gets Hwy 407 to Oshawa and through Durham Region to Hwy 35/115 as expeditiously as possible. It also calls for the province to set out firm timelines and commitments for the extension past Oshawa to 35/115 and prior to opening the Simcoe Street interchange commence work on the completion of Hwy 407 to 35/115.
“It was important to update the recommendation and have the OCC keep the pressure on the province to complete the extension,” stated Cris Douglas, President of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce.
In his early spring “RAMP It Up! Campaign” to have the 407 extension proceed past Oshawa, Mayor John Henry used the 2010 Ontario Chamber Highway 407 resolution to garner support from municipalities across the province.
Delegates at the AGM heard that, at the provincial level, the Ontario business community has some basic and common sense concerns, as to what is the economic and public safety impact to Ontario of not proceeding with the completion of this project. The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce noted that in discussions with business leaders—all agree it is imperative that Hwy 407 comes to Oshawa and recommended to the provincial government to put in place an acceptable alternative that gets Hwy 407 to Oshawa and through Durham Region to the 35/115 in a timely manner. This is vital for the movement of goods and service and tourism across the GTA.
Inadequate east-west capacity and no alternative freeway on the east side of the GTA (east of Brock Road to Highway 35/115) cause delays to autos and commercial vehicles. Existing freeway congestion constrains trade, tourism, recreation and economic growth opportunities. Transportation problems (including safety, operations and level of service) in the area currently relate primarily to recreational and tourist traffic (Kawartha, Haliburton, Bay of Quinte), however, congestion due to commuter traffic is spreading easterly as the GTA continues to grow. Congestion in the eastern part of the GTA will be further exacerbated by continuing growth in areas to the east of Durham (Port Hope, Cobourg, Trenton, Belleville, Peterborough, etc.) and associated traffic demands.
“While arguments with government makes headlines, quiet advocacy—our preferred method—is just as it sounds…quiet. But I will tell you one thing, it gets results,” stated Len Crispino, President of OCC during his keynote address to the delegates.
On other issues pertinent to the business community the Ontario Chamber over the past year has advocated for:
An independent commission on minimum wage. The Ministry of Labour announced the development of this committee in February.
The implementation of HST. This was implemented in July and positive results for the Ontario economy—and Ontario families—are already beginning to show, according to a University of Toronto study released in March.
A consultation process on all new proposed government regulations. Prior to OCC advocacy efforts, there was no mandatory consultation process at all. Now there is a minimum 45 day window for reviewing new regulations.
Labour Mobility between provinces. Legislation was enacted this year, with few exceptions, that recognizes—across provinces—the credentials of anyone in any province trained in a skilled trade or profession. This allows these professionals to move between provinces for employment and provides easier access to skilled labour for our businesses.
Outcomes-based regulation, which the Ministry of Labour recently adopted, citing the OCC as a key stakeholder. This is a big win for the business community because it means the government simply sets targets (or outcomes), instead of the government dictating how industries conduct their business.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is businesses’ advocate and together, this network is the single most influential and respected voice of business in this province. There is no other organization that has the relevance and the influence of this network. The OCC can speak on behalf of 60,000 Ontario businesses and has a membership that employs over two million people and represents about 17 percent of this province’s GDP.