Today, the Government of Canada released its budget for 2017-2018. The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce was glad to be a part of the budgetary process and to provide our input through Niagara’s Liberal Members of Parliament, Vance Badawey and Chris Bittle.
Businesses in Niagara and throughout Canada have identified skills and training as one of their biggest challenges. $225 million will be invested over four years, beginning in 2018, for a new organization to support skills development. We were pleased to see that the new budget includes an innovation and skills plan for high-tech growth in agri-food, which will greatly benefit Niagara, but also in advanced manufacturing, clean tech, digital industries, health/biosciences, and clean resources.
Innovation investment is welcome given that Canada is falling behind in research and development funding and, consequently, is behind many peer countries in innovation output. The Government of Canada must not underestimate the magnitude of this problem, given the level of investment and business attraction efforts taking place in other countries, especially the United States.
The GNCC, through its Women in Niagara Council, is working to help women in business succeed. We were therefore also pleased to note that Canada is reaching out to the United States to learn from their experiences in overcoming barriers to women in business, and that the government will invest in family-friendly measures for workplaces, including creating 40,000 new subsidized daycare spaces.
However, there is room for improvement.
Employment Insurance (EI) premiums are being increased from $1.63 to $1.68, the maximum allowable increase under the Employment Insurance Act, which will place an additional burden on employers. In our advocacy work for the budget, we asked the government to consider the interests of businesses in the Employment Insurance system, and we suggested that they make good on a broken electoral promise to offer a 12-month EI insurance premium for young new hires being offered permanent positions. This would have helped not only employers, but also young people trying to get a foothold in the workplace.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce drew attention to the fact that export growth has virtually flatlined over the last two years, and that business investment has decreased for nine straight quarters. While an investment of $400 million over three years for the Business Development Bank of Canada to channel more venture capital to entrepreneurs is a step in the right direction, the Canadian Chamber and the Greater Niagara Chambers are both calling on the Government of Canada to develop and implement a national strategy aimed at cutting the cost of doing business in Canada.
With Canada’s competitors, especially to our south, looking to be more competitive for business and to reduce costs, we cannot afford the rising costs of doing business that we see in Canada. To attract investment and growth and truly build prosperity, the government must look at easing the burden on employers and making it easier to do business here.
“The 2017 budget contains positive steps for Niagara, such as the investment in agri-food innovation, but the cost of doing business in Niagara and Canada is rising. Government investment in key sectors is welcome, but we ask what can be done for all businesses, rather than just for those who have been identified as key industries. We will continue to work with the Government of Canada to ensure that the voice of business is heard in Ottawa.”
– Mishka Balsom, President and CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce
“While we welcome specific measures in the budget on skills and innovation, our international competitors are racing ahead. The U.S. election was a game-changer, yet the budget is written as if nothing has changed. As our number one trading partner rolls back regulation and cuts taxes, Canadian businesses face more regulation and increased costs imposed by all levels of government for fees, taxes and essential inputs like electricity. Investment crosses borders like light through glass. If we continue to allow a growing gap between what it costs to do business in Canada and the costs our competitors face, businesses will be forced to locate their activities elsewhere.”
– The Hon. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce is the champion for the Niagara business community. With over 1,600 members representing 50,000 employees, it is the largest business organization in Niagara and the third largest Chamber in Ontario. The Chamber Accreditation Council of Canada has recognized the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce with its highest level of distinction.
For further information, contact:
President & CEO
Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce
905-684-2361 ext. 227 or firstname.lastname@example.org