Ontario Provincial Election 2018: Vote Prosperity Platform

On June 7th, 2018, the Province of Ontario will go to the Polls to elect the next Provincial Government. In partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, it’s 135 local Chambers representing over 60,000 businesses, we have launched the “Vote Prosperity” platform to highlight key priorities for businesses. Our efforts began in October 2017, when representatives of the Ontario Chamber Network has been meeting with Party Leadership, elected officials at Queen’s Park and senior public policy leaders, to advocate for the recommendations for a strong Ontario outlined in our Vote Prosperity Platform. The platform is a culmination of years of grassroots policy development from our organization and colleagues across Ontario.

CLICK HERE to view our full platform. See the content below for a summarized breakdown, analysis of party platform and details on voting.

Vote Prosperity: Our Four Platform Pillars

  1. Strengthen business competitiveness: Rising input costs, especially those costs deriving from government regulation and policy, are the most common and acute concern of the business community in Ontario.
  2. Foster Job Creation: A robust labour market consisting of good jobs is essential to prosperity for all Ontarians.
  3. Build Healthy Communities: Building strong communities through adequate and affordable housing, sustainable health care, and good infrastructure also supports business prosperity and growth, which supports those communities.
  4. Improve Government Accountability: Poor implementation of government initiatives can result in resource waste, political frustration and disruption for ordinary citizens.

Vote Prosperity: Detailed Policy Recommendations

1. Strengthen business competitiveness: Rising input costs, especially those costs deriving from government regulation and policy, are the most common and acute concern of the business community in Ontario.
  • Allow Ontario businesses to purchase surplus electricity at rates equal to or better than the exported price to other jurisdictions.
  • Conduct and publish the results of a comprehensive review of the electricity sector, including an objective economic impact analysis assessing the full range of inputs that make up the Global Adjustment (GA), and then pursue cost-reducing measures based on the results.
  • Regardless of public policy approach chosen, pursue efforts to reduce Ontario’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a manner that effectively mitigates risk to business competitiveness.
  • Work with federal and local levels of government to establish a publicly available analysis of the cost of doing business (CODB) in Ontario.
  • Reinstate scheduled reductions in the Corporate Income Tax, standardize the Business Education Tax and reduce the Employer Health Tax.
2. Foster Job Creation: A robust labour market consisting of good jobs is essential to prosperity for all Ontarians.
  • Μοdernize the apprenticeship system through the journeyperson to apprentice ratio to help alleviate some of the challenges employers face to recruit journeypersons to hire additional apprentices.
  • Redesign Employment Ontario services for both job-seekers and employers and evaluate the potential of an outcomes-based funding model.
  • Work with industry and post-secondary institutions to ensure that program offerings remain responsive to the changing labour market dynamics and the regional and sectoral needs of Ontario’s business community.
  • Allocate resources to focus support on high growth firms and those with high growth potential, by delaying taxation on corporate income growth to overcome Ontario’s scale-up challenge.
3. Build Healthy Communities: Building strong communities through adequate and affordable housing, sustainable health care, and good infrastructure also supports business prosperity and growth, which supports those communities.
  • Focus on strategic growth policies by ensuring that land use planning and development regulations are aligned, to increase density and create more housing stock.
  • Build adaptable and resilient infrastructure stock that can address future pressures including climate change and demographic shifts.
  • Develop a single transportation authority in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA).
  • Strike a Health Cabinet to improve information-sharing and break down budget silos between Ministries.
  • Reform the procurement and supply chain processes within the Ontario health care system.
4. Improve Government Accountability: Poor implementation of government initiatives can result in resource waste, political frustration and disruption for ordinary citizens.
  • Create a meaningful plan to tackle the debt and move towards balanced or surplus budgets.
  • Ensure all proposed policy, regulation and legislation has been evaluated against sound, quantitative evidence.
  • Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of strategic goals and publicly publish these targets to ensure transparency.
  • Provide appropriate timelines to stakeholders when revising or implementing initiatives that will impact their operations.

Political Party Platform Analysis

 

On April 16, 2018, Ontario New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath announced the NDP’s 2018 Election Platform Change for the Better. Below is a high-level synopsis of the major policy initiatives within the platform.

Five Key Promises

  1. Provide drug and dental coverage for all Ontarians.
  2. End hallway medicine and fix seniors care.
  3. A 30 percent cut to hydro bills by bringing Hydro One back into public hands.
  4. Take on student debt by converting loans to grants, and creating thousands of student co-op jobs.
  5. Protect middle-class families by having the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.

Health Care

The NDP plan to establish universal dental and pharmacare programs:

  • Every employer will be mandated to provide dental benefits that meet a minimum standard of care. The estimated cost for this program is $575 million; and
  • Introduce a pharmacare program that covers 125 “essential” medicines and then expand to universal pharmacare by 2020. The estimated cost is $475 million.

The NDP’s platform focuses on supporting hospitals as a means of improving the health care system. Their plan includes:

  • Increasing hospital funding by 5.3 percent, with an additional $916 million investment;
  • Ensuring annual funding for hospitals will be at or above inflation, and reflect population growth and aging
  • Investing $19 billion over 10 years into hospital capital expansion;
  • Creating 2,000 new hospital beds; and
  • Ending arbitrary caps on surgeries to shorten wait times.

They also have a plan for addressing long-term care needs:

  • Create 40,000 more long-term care beds, including 15,000 new beds over the next five years;
  • Set standards to ensure each long-term care resident is offered a minimum of four hours of dedicated care per day;
  • Hold a public inquiry into long-term care; and
  • Update the Long-Term Care Residents’ Bill of Rights to give couples the right to stay together.

Their mental health and addiction strategy includes:

  • Establish a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions;
  • Hire 2,600 new mental health care workers;
  • Build 30,000 new supportive housing units;
  • Invest $590 million to cut children’s mental health waits to a 30-day maximum; and
  • Invest $100 million in Ontario’s Dementia Strategy.

Other health care-related promises include:

  • Eliminate the home care wait list;
  • Invest $30 million in community care and open 35 new Community Health Centres by 2025;
  • End front-line healthcare staff layoffs;
  • Provide complete coverage for take-home cancer drugs;
  • Guarantee no cuts or closures of women’s health centres and add 360 midwives; and
  • Eliminate wait times for palliative and end-of-life care.

OCC Analysis

The OCC recognizes that healthcare is moving away from a hospital-centric model, and that technology is increasingly playing a critical role in the delivery of care. While greater investment is needed in the system, that investment should be dedicated to increasing value for dollars spent and improving patient outcomes.

Education and Training

The NDP pledge to create 27,000 new work-integrated learning opportunities for Ontario students and double the Career Kick-Start Program. Additionally, they intend to spend $57 million from the Jobs and Prosperity Fund to create opportunities in the trades including bringing more women and minority groups into the skilled trades. They will also place a moratorium on school closures.

OCC Analysis

In Vote Prosperity, we ask that the government prioritize modernizing the apprenticeship system through revising the journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio, reforming the Ontario College of Trades, and digitizing the application process. While an expansion of the Career Kick-Start Program is welcome, the province needs more than 27,000 work-integrated learning opportunities. The Ontario Chamber Network passed a resolution in 2017 asking for a moratorium on school closures in rural and Northern areas of the province.

Energy and Electricity

The NDP platform proposes several changes to Ontario’s electricity sector, including a pledge to reduce electricity bills by 30 percent and put Hydro One back into public hands. In addition to these promises they will also:

  • Remove mandatory time-of-use charges, capping private profit margins;
  • Ensure rural users pay the same delivery costs and exempt First Nations communities from delivery charges;
  • Seek to end the over-supply and cancelling/renegotiating bad private contracts; and
  • Make expanding natural gas access to rural communities a priority.

OCC Analysis

From the position of the OCC, reductions in electricity costs must not adversely affect the reliability or sustainability of the energy system. There should also be clear accounting as to the impact price reductions and actions such as buying back Hydro One would have on taxpayers.

In our 2018 Pre-Budget submission, we highlighted the need to continue natural gas expansion to create significant economic development opportunities.

Housing

The NDP will increase access to affordable housing by building 65,000 new affordable homes over the next decade. They will also make rentals more affordable by introducing new legislation to include:

  • Effective, reasonable, predictable rent controls;
  • A rental registry, so tenants can know previous costs charged by a landlord;
  • Protection for renters who pay their rent and abide by their agreements;
  • Updated rules to recognize changing rental markets; and
  • Guarantees that rent will remain affordable in the long term, while continuing to spur investments in new, purpose-built rentals.

The NDP pledges to overhaul inclusionary zoning regulations to require a certain number of affordable homes within new housing developments. They will also invest in the creation minimum density in developments along new transit lines, letting municipalities opt out of some minimum parking requirements.

OCC Analysis

In Vote Prosperity, the OCC encourages the government to focus on “strategic growth policies by ensuring that land use planning and development regulations are aligned, to increase density and create more housing stock.” The OCC is pleased to see the NDP commit to addressing the cost of living for Ontarians by aligning development regulations and land use planning and would welcome further alignments in the future.

Jobs and the Economy

The NDP will make further changes to labour and employment law in Ontario, including:

  • Require employers to offer at least three weeks paid vacation;
  • Increase the minimum wage to $15/hour for everyone, including students and restaurant workers; and
  • Put in place card-based union certification and first-contract arbitration.

They also plan to create a stream within the Jobs and Prosperity Fund to promote manufacturing research and development.

They pledge to spend $1 billion to take immediate action on the Ring of Fire, including collaborating with Northern communities and First Nations to begin building infrastructure. They support bringing smelting and ferrochrome processing to Northern Ontario.

OCC Analysis

As outlined in our Bill 148 advocacy, the OCC supports sector exemptions for changes to labour and employment law, including application of the minimum wage. We also support the secret ballot for union certification.

Immediate action on the Ring of Fire, including infrastructure investment for Northern and First Nations communities, is a priority of the OCC.

Environment

The NDP will continue with the cap and trade market, and dedicate 25 percent of its revenues to support Northern, rural and low-income Ontarians.

They also plan  to dedicate $50 million in cap and trade revenues to seed the creation of a new no-interest/on-bill home-efficiency retrofit program, to help residents install energy conserving technologies and improve the energy efficiency of their home.

OCC Analysis

The OCC has consistently advocated that there should be a prioritization of the allocation of cap and trade revenue for businesses, in addition to other efforts to offset the cost of cap and trade. It is not clear from this platform how the remaining 75 percent of cap and trade revenues will be used, whether those funds will flow into general revenue or only be used for greenhouse gas reduction policies and programs.

Infrastructure

The NDP pledge to invest $180 billion in infrastructure over the next decade, with a focus on public-only projects instead of “wasteful” public-private partnerships.

The NDP will invest $100 million in natural gas expansion to rural Ontario and create a 10-year $1 billion fund for bringing broadband service to rural and Northern communities, while also lobbying the federal government to match it.

The NDP plan to expand Community Benefits Agreements, making them integral to all infrastructure projects. These agreements prioritize experience for Ontario apprentices and set standards for efficiency and climate-resilient construction.

OCC Analysis

The OCC has a longstanding history of advocating for public procurement reform, based on the principle that procurement should be value-driven and evaluated by evidence-based outcomes. In Building Better: Setting up the Next Ontario Long-Term Infrastructure Plan for Successthe OCC recommended that the Government of Ontario should work to develop comprehensive principles and elements from successfully procured projects that were delivered using alternative financing and procurement methods which can then be applied as best practices to smaller scale projects. AFP includes strategic use of public-private partnerships.

The OCC has also consistently advocated for trade-enabling infrastructure, including both traditional infrastructure and digital infrastructure such as high-speed broadband internet and is pleased to see the NDP focusing on broadband in its election platform.

Transit and Transportation

The NDP intend to fund 50 percent of net transit operating costs across Ontario, including investing more than $330 million in Toronto and over $800 million across the province.

They are also pledging to bring two-way all-day GO service between Kitchener–Waterloo and Toronto and year-round GO rail service between Niagara and Toronto. The NDP will also electrify GO networks and the UP Express, and make sure GO planning integrates with density plans.

In Toronto, NDP will make it a priority to fund and build the Downtown Toronto Relief Line. They are also pledging to build Hamilton’s LRT. They intend to implement a Northern Rail Strategy, which will include supporting Ontario Northlander’s passenger service and the Huron Central and Algoma Central Rail Lines.

The NDP will direct Metrolinx to begin multilateral discussions with the federal government and local transit authorities focused on coordinating GO train and VIA Rail service with urban transit.

OCC Analysis

In our 2018 Pre-Budget submission, the OCC called for a commitment of the portion of infrastructure spending to support The Big Move’s Next Wave projects, including the Relief Line. The OCC has long advocated for fare integration within the GTHA and is pleased to see a focus by the NDP on this issue.

Fiscal Plan 

The NDP will increase the corporate income tax to 13 percent up from the present 11.5 percent.  The increase will be phased in over two years, increasing by one percentage point in 2019-20 and 0.5 percentage points in 2021-22.

They also intend to increase the income tax rate among the top earners in the province by raising the tax on amounts earned over $220,000 by one percentage point, and on earnings over $300,000 by two percentage points.

The NDP will continue the Education Tax Reduction Plan, adjusted to equalize rates, and will review the way the tax works.

They also promise to crack down on excessive public sector executive compensation.

The NDP will re-examine the Employer Health Tax. Starting in 2019–20, businesses with payrolls over $3 million will no longer qualify for small business exemptions and beginning in 2021–22, small business exemptions will be available only to businesses with payrolls below $1.5 million.

The NDP plan continues to utilize deficit spending to finance their platform over the next five-year term.

OCC Analysis

In Vote Prosperity, the OCC called on all parties to reinstate scheduled reductions in the Corporate Income Tax, standardize the Business Education Tax, and reduce the Employer Health Tax. While standardization is a positive measure, the NDP’s proposed increases to the BET, EHT, and Ontario’s corporate income tax weakens business competitiveness relative to our neighbouring jurisdictions.

Additionally, in our 2018 Pre-Budget submission and Vote Prosperity, the OCC called on all parties to create a meaningful plan to tackle the debt and move towards balanced or surplus budgets. While we recognize that the NDP platform presents a more aggressive balanced budget schedule than that of the current government, we remain concerned about the viability of continued deficits in the long-term.

On May 14, 2018, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner announced his Party’s 2018 Election Platform, People Powered Change. The platform focuses on nine key commitments across three pillars: jobs, people, and planet. Below is a high-level synopsis of the major policy initiatives within the platform.

Key Commitments at a Glance

  1. Create jobs in the clean, innovation economy.
  2. Make homes and businesses more energy efficient.
  3. Lower payroll taxes on small, local businesses and nonprofits.
  4. Require new housing developments to have a minimum of 20 percent affordable homes.
  5. Include mental health services in OHIP+.
  6. Implement a basic income guarantee for all Ontarians.
  7. Protect air, water, and farmland.
  8. Develop a long-term energy plan for Ontario to be powered with 100 percent renewable energy.
  9. Invest in transit infrastructure and services.

1. Create jobs in the clean, innovation economy

The Green Party will redirect the $3.1 billion per year in existing business support programs to target cleantech innovation, advanced manufacturing, and bio-products.

OCC Analysis

A key pillar of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Vote Prosperity platform is job creation. From the perspective of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), these programs must support the whole of the Ontario economy and not just one sector. Therefore, the OCC supports an approach that allocates resources with a focus on high-growth firms and those with high-growth potential, by delaying taxation on corporate income growth to overcome Ontario’s scale-up challenge. Solutions should be oriented towards supporting innovative businesses to scale-up and succeed in Ontario, regardless of sector.

2. Make homes and businesses more energy efficient

The Green Party will push for a $4.18 billion, four-year Green Building and Business Program which will provide grants and interest-free loans to help homeowners, renters, and businesses invest in energy efficiency and conservation.

The Green Party will fund this in part by closing the Pickering Nuclear Station in 2018 as well as purchasing power from Quebec. The Green Party also plans to invest $1.1 billion into a Green Building and Business Program.

OCC Analysis

In a recent report, Pickering Continued Operations: An Impact Analysis on Ontario’s Economy, the OCC detailed the economic impact of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station continued operations to 2024. This analysis expects the life extension of the Pickering Station to contribute over $12.3 billion to Ontario’s GDP as well as support 7,590 full-time equivalent jobs per year. This will arise from direct employment at Pickering Station, indirect employment at suppliers, and induced spending from wages earned by individuals across all industries. This will generate $290 million in annual government revenues; coming from $155 million in federal taxes and $135 million in provincial taxes.

Based on the results of this study, continued operations to 2024 would be a benefit to Ontario’s economy, its climate change goals, and the stability of its energy system. Therefore, the OCC does not support closing the Pickering Station in 2018.

3. Lower payroll taxes on small, local businesses and nonprofits

The Green Party platform promises to lower payroll taxes on small businesses and nonprofits by increasing the exemption level for the Employer Health Tax (EHT) from $450,000 to $1 million in payroll for businesses and organizations with payrolls under $5 million.

In order to pay for this change, the Green Party promises to increase the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) by 1 percent.

OCC Analysis

In Vote Prosperity, the OCC called on all parties to reinstate scheduled reductions in the CIT, standardize the Business Education Tax, and reduce the EHT. An increase to the CIT weakens Ontario’s competitiveness to neighbouring jurisdictions, particularly amid changes to the US tax system.

While we are pleased to see the Green Party address the EHT, this increase in the exemption level may lead to an increase in costs for certain businesses, dependant on size. It also fails to address the concerns highlighted in the OCC’s 2018 Pre-Budget Submission which highlighted that increases in the minimum wage as a result of Ontario’s recent labour reforms will lead to more businesses in Ontario contributing higher premiums through EHT.

4. Require new housing developments to have a minimum of 20 percent affordable homes

The Green Party also plans to invest an additional $200 million over projected increases in the 2018 Budget in funding for shelters, social, co-op, and supportive housing. The Green Party will also push for innovative solutions such as “tiny homes”, laneway housing, co-housing, and secondary suites.

OCC Analysis

In Vote Prosperity, the OCC encourages the government to focus on “strategic growth policies by ensuring that land use planning and development regulations are aligned, to increase density and create more housing stock.” While the OCC acknowledges the additional $200 million dollars in funding as a necessary step, we would encourage the Green Party to work with developers on the most appropriate response to Ontario’s affordable housing challenges which includes innovative solutions such as laneway housing but does not prescribe to solutions that may deter investment.

5. Include mental health services in OHIP+

The Green Party will invest $4.1 billion over four years into mental health services as the first step to making mental health services part of OHIP+. This is an additional $2 billion above the projected increases in the 2018 Budget. The Green Party will also create a new umbrella organization called Mental Health and Addictions Ontario, to prioritize mental health and addictions programs and services consistently across the province.

OCC Analysis

The OCC recognizes that healthcare is moving away from a hospital-centric model, and that mental health is a key concern for both businesses and residents alike. Greater investment in mental health services is therefore welcome. However, it is unclear how mental health would be effectively incorporated into the OHIP+ pharmaceutical coverage plan.

6. Implement a basic income guarantee for all Ontarians

The Green Party will invest an additional $3.4 billion in 2018-2019 to increase social assistance rates to the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) pilot. By 2021-2022, the Green Party will invest an additional $6.4 billion per year to phase in a basic income guarantee at the low-income cut-off measure.

The full program phase-in will be paid for by raising taxes on the largest corporations by 0.5 percent, increasing the income tax rate of the top one percent of income earners by one percent, and implementing a housing speculation tax.

OCC Analysis

While Ontario’s current basic income pilot is one that requires additional examination, increasing taxes to fully phase in the project without properly seeking to learn from the current pilot does not reflect the OCC’s call for evidence-based policy.

Furthermore, increasing taxes to pay for these initiatives is concerning. This is given that the OCC has continuously called on government to design tax policies in line with keeping Ontario competitive, including reinstating scheduled reductions in the CIT.

7. Protect air, water, and farmland

The Green Party will expand the Greenbelt through the investment of $200 million over four years to pay farmers to protect water and store carbon. The Green Party will also introduce legislation to permanently protect prime farmland and source water regions. The Green Party also plans to raise water-taking fees on a revenue-neutral basis to a level that recovers costs for sustainable water management programs, services, and science.

OCC Analysis

In the OCC’s report, Fertile Ground: Growing the Competitiveness of Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector, the OCC recommended that the Government of Ontario publicly release economic impact assessments of policy initiatives that could affect the agri-food sector to ensure decision-making is evidence-based, participatory, unbiased, and transparent. With the expansion of the Greenbelt, the OCC would ask the Green Party to conduct an economic impact assessment to ensure that any change to the plan is able to absorb the Greater Toronto Area’s population growth, manage intensification, and keep housing affordable.

8. Develop a long-term energy plan for Ontario to be powered with 100 percent renewable energy

The Green Party will develop a long-term energy plan for Ontario which includes plans to power Ontario with 100 percent renewable energy. This will be completed through an independent public review of the costs and availability of all energy sources to best meet Ontario’s needs, while also meeting Ontario’s greenhouse gas pollution targets.

The Green Party will cancel the Fair Hydro Plan, which they estimate will save the province $21 to $69 billion. The Green Party also promises to replace nuclear rebuilds with water power, which they estimate will save another billion dollars per year.

OCC Analysis

The OCC has long advocated for Ontario to maintain a diverse supply mix in its energy system to support a reliable and affordable system. The OCC also supports the many economic benefits that will arise from the nuclear refurbishment at Darlington and the life-extension project of Bruce Power. It is important that any reductions in electricity costs not adversely affect the reliability or sustainability of the energy system. The OCC is also concerned that the Green Party has promised to cancel Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, without additional information as to how they will further reduce electricity prices for businesses.

Furthermore, in Vote Prosperity, the OCC recommends that regardless of the public policy approach chosen, the government must pursue efforts to reduce Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that effectively mitigates the risk to business competitiveness.

9. Invest in transit infrastructure and services

The Green Party will increase funding for public transit infrastructure by $1 to $1.5 billion per year by implementing expert recommendations for dedicated revenue tools such as congestion charges, parking levies, and land value taxes to raise over $3.9 billion per year. The party will dedicate five percent of the transportation budget for walking and cycling infrastructure.

OCC Analysis

The OCC’s reportBuilding Better: Setting up the Next Ontario Long-Term Infrastructure Plan for Success, states that any infrastructure funding should be based on an outcomes-based approach with project prioritization based on clear, transparent criteria such as resulting economic growth, sustainability, resiliency, and community benefits.

On May 26, 2018, the Ontario Liberal Party released their platform for the 2018 election.

This platform largely re-iterates Budget 2018 (see our RPU here) and legislation introduced in the past year, including the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act, the Fair Hydro Plan, and the Fair Housing Plan. It is a collection of new promises that build on initiatives which were announced but not implemented during the Liberals’ last term of government. 

Below are those highlights of the Liberal platform most relevant to Ontario business.

Transportation and Infrastructure

The Liberal platform includes plans for new and expanded infrastructure investments, such as:

  • Expand GO service through GO Regional Express Rail projects; add services such as banking, grocery stores, and dry cleaning to GO stations.
  • Invest in the Toronto Relief Line Subway, Yonge North Subway Extension, Toronto Waterfront LRT, Toronto-York Spadina Extension, Scarborough Subway extension, Hamilton LRT, Ottawa LRT, Durham, and London Bus Rapid Transit, and rapid transit in municipalities such as Brampton, Mississauga and Waterloo.
  • Spend $11 billion to build a high-speed rail line between Toronto and Windsor.
  • Reduce fares for GTHA transit users.
  • $140 million to improve cycling infrastructure.
  • Build and upgrade highways across the province.
  • Increase annual funding to the Connecting Links Program to $30 million.
  • Put $490 million over the next 10 years to towards rail infrastructure in Northern Ontario, through the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC); completed the expansion of the ONTC’s motor coach services into Northwestern Ontario so that travel from Ottawa to Winnipeg can be completed with a single reservation.
  • Build a year-round access road to the Ring of Fire; road construction is promised to begin in 2019.
  • Invest an additional $206 million over 10 years in infrastructure in northern and rural Ontario, as part of a bilateral agreement with the federal government.
  • Commit to permanent annual funding to four-lane the TransCanada highway from the Manitoba border to the Quebec border until the project is fully completed; call on the federal government to match Ontario’s investment.
  • Increase Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund funding to $300 million by 2018-19.
  • Continue to expand access to natural gas to Northern communities that are not currently served.
  • Finalize and implement the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy and Action Plan.
  • Invest an additional $500 million over three years to expand broadband connectivity in rural and northern communities; seek proposals from the northern and rural communities on where this money will have the greatest impact; improve cellular coverage gaps in eastern Ontario.

OCC Analysis

The OCC has consistently advocated for investments in public infrastructure, such as roads and transportation systems. Investments in public infrastructure are welcome as they will result in lowered business costs and increased labour productivity. We note, however, that there must be strong performance measures in place to evaluate the performance of the transportation infrastructure investments being made as well as comprehensive tracking of the transportation infrastructure projects being built and being earmarked to be built. Additionally, there should be accountability methods in place, such as producing annual public documents highlighting the progress made against previous fiscal year funding commitments, to ensure that spending commitments have been met.

The OCC welcomes further investment to enable more communities to access natural gas. Doing so will attract new industry, make commercial transportation and agriculture more affordable, and provide a cleaner source of energy for Ontario.

The OCC has consistently advocated for trade-enabling infrastructure, including both traditional infrastructure and digital infrastructure such as high-speed broadband internet. Further investment in broadband is critical, as the province’s competitiveness relies on infrastructure that can connect communities and open access to global markets.

Skills and Workforce Development

Liberal plans for apprenticeship, training and experiential learning include:

  • Expanding the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, which allows grade 11 and 12 students to work toward becoming certified journeypersons while completing their high school diploma.
  • A $170 million investment over three years in the new Ontario Apprenticeship Strategy.
  • A Graduated Apprenticeship Grant for employers to hire new apprentices, with additional incentives to hire underrepresented groups.
  • $63 million for an Ontario Training Bank, to create short-term training options for workers who want to upgrade their skills with those in-demand from employers.
  • Increased investments in the Ontario Bridge Training Program.
  • $132 million over the next three years in post-secondary programming with employers, including experiential learning opportunities.
  • Develop a plan to increase the number of graduates in STEM fields by 25 percent.

OCC Analysis

The OCC has consistently emphasized skills and workforce development as a priority for Ontario’s business community, with 77 percent of OCC members stating that the ability to recruit and retain talent is critical to their organizational competitiveness. While these proposed investments are welcome, we would welcome further program redesign and stakeholder engagement. For our recommendations with respect to skills and workforce development see the OCC’s report, Talent in Transition: Addressing the Skills Mismatch in Ontario.

Jobs and Economic Growth

Introduced in Budget 2018, the Good Jobs and Growth Plan is intended to increase funding of the Jobs and Prosperity Fund by $900 million over the next decade. Other promises include:

  • Invest in regional economic development across the province, including increasing Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation funding to $150 million in 2020–21 and add $100 million to the Eastern Ontario Development Fund and the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund over the next 10 years.
  • Partner with businesses in select sectors to increase their productivity and competitiveness, including advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, life sciences, cleantech, forestry, and food and beverages. This includes a $50 million Transformative Technology Partnerships Fund to support AI, 5G wireless communications, advanced computing and autonomous vehicles.
  • Add $85 million over 10 years to the Venture Technologies Fund and increase investment in the New Economy Fund by $500 million over 10 years.
  • Increase Ontario’s two R&D tax credits to encourage investment and commercialization.
  • Develop a strategy to help Ontario firms protect and leverage their intellectual property.
  • Continue to “stand up” for Ontario on trade, as well as expand and diversity trade opportunities. The Liberals also intend to bring in a regulation in response to New York State’s Buy American legislation.
  • Review, “in consultation with the business community”, the Arthur Wishart Act franchise legislation.
  • Devote up to $26 million in a Main Street Revitalization Initiative to help rural communities attract tourism.

OCC Analysis

Broadly, the OCC supports an economic growth strategy that recognizes and is responsive to the province’s many regional and sectoral differences. Improving business competitiveness and productivity depends on the government creating the right environment with pro-growth policies and less red tape, not just investing in innovation.

Government action on venture and innovation funding, as well as increasing R&D tax credits, is necessary to help Ontario overcome our challenges with scaling and commercialization. The OCC believes that more can be done with respect to increasing tax competitiveness  and investment incentives, as illustrated in Breaking Barriers: Ontario’s Scale-Up Challenge and Adopting Our Advantage: Supporting a Thriving Health Science Sector in Ontario.

The OCC believes that the best course of trade action is the formation of positive bilateral cooperation with the United States, especially in key trading states. We will always promote diplomacy and a spirit of cooperation instead of measures that would diminish positive economic growth.

Ontario’s current tax environment does not instill confidence in its business community and the Liberal platform does not address that concern. As revealed by a recent survey, 61 percent of Ontario businesses attribute their lack of confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook to high business tax rates. Given the recent amendments to the US tax legislation, which includes lowering both the Corporate Income Tax and Personal Income Tax rates, Ontario may soon face significant challenges attracting investment and economically competing against U.S. states.

Labour and Employment Law

The Liberal platform intends to continue with the path outlined in Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act. This includes:

  • Increase the minimum wage to $15 on January 1, 2019, with future annual increases at the rate of inflation.
  • Mandate equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual or seasonal workers doing the same job as full-time employees; mandate equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as employees at the agencies’ clients.
  • Expand personal emergency leave to 10 days per calendar year, two of which are paid.
  • Increase minimum vacation time to three weeks after five years with the same employer.
  • Allows an employee to take up to 17 weeks of leave, including five paid days, when the worker or their child has experienced or is threatened with domestic or sexual violence.
  • Ban employers from requiring a physician’s sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave.
  • Require employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time.
  • Establish card-based union certification for industries with “vulnerable” workforces.
  • Create an Occupational Disease Response Plan
  • Review exclusions in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board coverage; guarantee injured workers’ benefits keep pace with the cost of living; introduce new working-at-heights regulations and a construction safety health and action plan.
  • Implement the Pay Transparency Act.
  • Strike a task force to review the federal government’s second parent leave policy and identify ways to build on it.

OCC Analysis

The OCC has been vocal that the approach taken with the Fair Workplaces Better Jobs Act has been “too much, too soon” and, through an independent economic analysis, predicts that 185,000 jobs will be at risk over the next two years. Additionally, the needs and experiences of employers must be better addressed through improved consultation and stakeholder engagement practices. To plan effectively and protect jobs, employers need predictability and time to adjust the cost of other inputs. In order to demonstrate true fairness and compassion for workers, we must ensure Ontario has a strong private sector to help create jobs and increase economic growth. For more information, see our Bill 148: Independent Economic Impact Analysis.

With respect to the gender pay gap and related pay equity practices, the OCC would rather the next government consider revisiting the Pay Equity Act with an eye to improving the ability of employers to comply instead of implementing new and duplicative regulation via the Pay Transparency Act. For more information, see our Bill 3 submission.

Agriculture

The Liberal platform places an emphasis on supporting the agri-food sector, including explicit support for the supply management system and agricultural exports under a new NAFTA. They also promise to lobby the federal government to provide assistance to businesses and workers impacted by new trade agreements. They intend to renew a 10-year agreement with the University of Guelph that invests $700 million in agri-food education and research and will spend $120 million over the next three years on the food and beverage industry. The Liberals will also develop a new strategy to grow the beverage alcohol sector.

OCC Analysis

The OCC welcomes support for the agri-food sector and believes that positive trade relationships are based on a spirit of cooperation and diplomacy, which facilitates strong economic growth.

A greater focus on Ontario’s agri-food sector is welcome, particularly with respect to growing a highly-skilled workforce. However, for Ontario’s farms to succeed, high input costs and a growing regulatory burden must be addressed first. See the OCC report, Fertile Ground: Growing the Competitiveness of Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector.

Housing

Beyond the continued implementation of the Fair Housing Plan, the Liberals promise to:

  • Tighten rules in favour of tenants, including those related to “renovictions” and above-guideline rent increases due to capital repairs; Prohibit above-guideline rent increases in buildings with outstanding work orders related to pest control.
  • Work with stakeholders to enable small-scale residential intensification that would allow homeowners to build multi-unit projects on their land.
  • Urge the federal government to address the differing tax treatment of rental construction compared to condo development.

OCC Analysis

The OCC recognizes that much of Ontario’s housing affordability challenges come from a lack of supply. We welcome initiatives that enable the government to work with stakeholders such as developers and municipalities to create innovative regulatory solutions which will incentivize the right development for communities. However, continued efforts to restrict landlords’ flexibility and limit rent increases are not productive means of increasing the supply of rental units.

Health Care

Major health system initiatives include:

  • Increase hospital funding by $822 million in 2018-19.
  • Remove the deductible or co-payment for seniors’ prescriptions.
  • Introduce an Ontario Drug and Dental Program in 2019 to reimburse individuals for 80 percent of prescription drug and dental costs (up to set limits).
  • Add $2.1 billion to the current mental health and addiction care spend over the next four years.
  • Invest $650 million in home care over the next three years
  • Create 30,000 new long-term care beds over the next 10 years.
  • Continue to invest in telemedicine and virtual care.
  • Maintain current nursing staffing levels but hire more nurses.

OCC Analysis

While hospital funding has been limited in recent years, this influx of spending does not address the fundamental challenges within the health care system nor is it directed towards the solutions identified by the OCC in our report, Health Transformation: An Action Plan for Ontario. Similarly, the expansion of OHIP+ is not aligned with the principles of an effective Pharmacare program outlined in our recent Pharmacare Report.

Climate Change

The Liberals will continue to implement their Climate Change Action Plan, which includes the cap and trade system. Proposed new initiatives include approximately $20 million over three years to launch a Climate Change Resiliency Organization to help businesses and municipalities make “climate-informed” decisions. Additionally, the Liberals propose investing $2.3 billion in green infrastructure projects such as wastewater infrastructure upgrades.

They also promise to undertake a province-wide risk assessment to inform a comprehensive climate adaptation strategy, and work with financial regulators to create a “climate-resilient” financial system.

OCC Analysis

The allocation of any revenue collected as part of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction programs should be revenue neutral, transparent, and support business competitiveness. This can include returning revenue to businesses and consumers through tax cuts or rebates. The Liberal platform does not indicate specific financial means by which they would offset the cost of cap and trade for businesses not in that market.

In our report, Building Better: Setting up the Next Long-Term Infrastructure Plan for Successthe OCC advocated that government should develop adaptable and resilient infrastructure standards that can address various future pressures including climate change and demographic changes. We are encouraged by plans within the Liberal platform for greater emphasis on building climate change resiliency for municipal infrastructure, specifically storm water and sewage systems.

Debt and Deficit

The Liberal platform charts a “Fiscal Recovery Plan” that calls for deficits until 2024-25, when the Budget will be balanced. They expect to see a surplus in 2025-26.

OCC Analysis

In Vote Prosperity, the OCC is calling on the newly elected government to create a meaningful plan to tackle the debt and move towards a balanced or surplus Budget. It is imperative for the government to operate in a fiscally responsible fashion to ensure that we can finance the operations of government both now and into the future.

The OCC remains concerned with the precarious fiscal situation of the province and 2025-26 is too long to wait for a return to fiscal responsibility.

Government Accountability and Customer Service

The Liberals are focused on improving customer service in government, particularly through new online platforms. They will introduce an online driver’s licence and modernize services for licence renewal. They also intend to launch MobileOntario vans to bring ServiceOntario to underserved communities.

The Liberals promise to create a government-wide performance dashboard for services. Additionally, they will create a 24/7 Office of Customer Service with a Quick Response Commitment.

OCC Analysis

Improving government accountability is one of the four pillars of our Vote Prosperity platform. The OCC understands that accountability in government is paramount to building an ecosystem where the people and businesses of this province can be successful.

We have long called for improved value-for-money and return on investment assessments of government programs and services, as well as more robust consultation with stakeholders. Increased use of online platforms is critical to improving government customer service, but performance and accountability dashboards should be introduced across Ministries, not exclusively for resident-facing services. In addition, Vote Prosperityrecommends that the government provide timelines when implementing initiatives to ensure that priorities to improve government accountability are appropriately met and followed through.

On May 30, 2018, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader Doug Ford announced his party’s 2018 election platform, Plan for the People. Below is a high-level synopsis of the major policy initiatives most relevant to Ontario business.

*Note: The Ontario Progressive Conservative Platform has not been presented in a fully costed format, a common practice during elections which demonstrates revenue and expenditure accounting and multi-year projections for deficits and surpluses. Therefore the analysis comes with limitations as only projected monetary cost for the policies announced within the platform has been made available.

Key Areas at a Glance

  1. Jobs and Economic Growth: Cut regulations and reduce business tax rates.
  2. Energy and Electricity: Lower electricity prices and scrap the Green Energy Act.
  3. Government Accountability: Audit government spending and plan for a balanced budget.
  4. Health Care: Invest in mental health, dental care for seniors, and beds in both hospitals and long-term care facilities.
  5. Transportation and Infrastructure: Implement substantial spending on transportation infrastructure, including subways, GO service, and highways.
  6. Housing: Preserve rent control for existing tenants and increase the supply of affordable housing in the GTA.
  7. Environment: End the cap and trade system and challenge any attempt by the federal government to impose a carbon tax.

Jobs and Economic Growth

The PC platform promises to support business by cutting regulations that hamper job creation and economic growth. They intend to reduce the Small Business Tax rate by 8.7 percent, lower the Corporate Income Tax to 10.5 percent (from 11.5 percent), and similarly reduce the manufacturing and processing rate. The platform estimates that reducing the small business tax will cost $60 million per year starting in year two, while reducing the other business taxes will cost $1.3 billion starting in year two.

They also pledge to:

  • Cancel the Jobs and Prosperity Fund (estimated savings of $270 million per year).
  • Maintain the current level of Regional Economic Development Funds funding.
  • Improve access to apprenticeships and reform the foreign credential recognition process.
  • Introduce a minimum-wage tax credit so individuals earning the minimum wage pay no tax, at an estimated cost of $558 million per year.
  • Increase the agriculture sector Risk Management Program cap by $50 million annually, starting in year three.

OCC Analysis

The OCC welcomes the PC plan to cut business taxes, which we had asked for as part of our Bill 148 offset advocacy and in our Vote Prosperity platform. Similarly, cutting red tape and modernizing regulation is critically necessary to supporting business and encouraging economic growth.

Improving Ontario’s apprenticeship system is a top priority for many sectors across the province; we outline how the government can best accomplish this in Talent in Transition: Addressing the Skills Mismatch in Ontario. Similarly, making it easier for employers to hire immigrants is necessary in order to solve Ontario’s skills mismatch, which we detail in Passport to Prosperity: Ontario’s Priorities for Immigration Reform.

Energy and Electricity

The PC Party intends to lower electricity prices through a series of measures, including:

  • Scrap the Green Energy Act.
  • Declare a moratorium on new energy contracts.
  • Cut residential, agriculture, and small business electricity rates by 12 percent by:
    • Returning Hydro One dividend payments to taxpayers (estimated cost: $300-400 million per year).
    • Paying for conservation programs out of general government revenue rather than electricity bills (estimated cost: $433 million per year).
    • Cancelling energy contracts that are in the pre-construction phase and re-negotiating other contracts.
  • Stabilize industrial hydro rates through a package of reforms.
  • Remove the board of Hydro One and its CEO as well as lower salaries at Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One.

OCC Analysis

The OCC recognizes that fixing Ontario’s energy system will require a variety of complex and long-term solutions. We welcome attempts to lower electricity prices for industry, small business, and farms, but not at the expense of further debt and deficit spending by government. The OCC also believes in respecting existing contracts, and views Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation as important partners in strengthening our energy system. For more information on the OCC’s approach to electricity, see the Vote Prosperity platform and Leading the Charge, our submission to the 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan.

Government Accountability

The PC platform emphasizes government accountability and fiscal responsibility, with promises that include:

  • Balance the Budget on a “responsible” timeframe.
  • Launch an independent commission of inquiry, at the cost of $1 million, with a mandate to examine the deficit. This will include an independent audit of the Province’s finances, to be released publicly.
  • Reinstate the Auditor General’s authority to approve government advertising.
  • Centralize government purchasing.
  • Conduct a value-for-money audit of every government program.
  • Prevent government agencies, boards, and commissions from purchasing tickets/tables to political events.
  • Institute a single-window access for approvals with a one-year deadline.

OCC Analysis

The OCC welcomes a return to balanced budgets, ideally beginning in 2018/9, as we emphasize in Vote Prosperity. We also support a strong and independent Auditor General’s office, including efforts to rectify the accounting dispute between that office and the current Budget, as we note here.

The OCC sees value in an audit of government programs in order to measure the return on taxpayer dollars. As part of achieving value for money in government, we would prefer to see procurement modernized via a commissioning approach rather than simply centralizing an existing inefficient system. For more information, see Spend Smarter, Not More: Leveraging the Power of Public Procurement, and Prescription for Partnership: How New Models of Collaboration in Health Care Can Make Outcomes a Priority.

The OCC has long advocated for a one-window, regulatory ‘concierge’ service to assist businesses in understanding, navigating, and achieving compliance with regulatory requirements from all levels of government. Similarly, long approval timelines hinder business growth and investment, so we welcome an approach from government that enables reasonable approval deadlines. For more information, see Obstacles and Opportunities: The Importance of Small Business in Ontario.

Health Care 

The PC Party promises to invest $3.8 billion in mental health and addictions supports over 10 years (a cost which they assume will be shared with the federal government), as well as introduce dental coverage for low-income seniors at an estimated cost of $98 million. They also pledge to build 15,000 long-term care beds over five years and 30,000 hospital beds over 10 years. They calculate that the cost per bed, per year, will be $62,000 (assuming capital costs are amortized over the duration of the bed’s lifetime).

OCC Analysis

Public health care spending in Ontario is expected to exceed $60 billion next year, comprising approximately 42 percent of the Budget. While continual investment in the system is necessary, the OCC believes that system reform would bring about greater value for money and lead to both savings and improved care. Read Health Transformation: An Action Plan for Ontario to learn how the government can achieve this.

Transportation and Infrastructure

The PC Party platform includes substantial spending on infrastructure, including:

  • Two-way, all-day GO service, as well as supporting expansions and new projects across Southern Ontario; the platform states that they will maintain current funding.
  • Upload responsibility for subway infrastructure, including the building and maintenance of new and existing subway lines, from the City of Toronto to the Province. The cost is to be amortized over the life of subway projects once operational, plus $160 million per year for existing assets.
    • Add $5 billion in new funding to build the Sheppard Loop, the Relief Line, and the Yonge Extension.
    • Leave responsibility for day-to-day operations, including labour relations, with the City of Toronto.
    • Maintain the arrangement in which the City keeps all revenue generated by the subway system.
  • Explore potential for high-speed rail and highway projects, including:
    • Six-laning of Highway 401 to the 416 between Toronto and Ottawa, and complete the environmental assessment for the GTA West Corridor, at a total cost of $20 million.
    • Four-lane Highway 17 in eastern Ontario and Highway 3 in Southwestern Ontario, at a cost of $5 million per year over 50 years.
    • Expand natural gas distribution to rural communities with private sector help
    • Invest the assumed $100 million in savings in cellular and broadband infrastructure expansion.
  • Cut the aviation fuel tax for the North, at a cost of $11 million per year.
  • Reinstate passenger rail service to the North, at a cost of $45 million for refurbishment and operating costs.

OCC Analysis

The OCC would like to see effective governance for public transit and believes that the way to achieve this is through a single transportation authority. A long-term solution would ensure that transit investments are targeted based on sound criteria, including return on investment and evidence that the transportation investment will reduce or eliminate existing barriers to service.

The OCC welcomes the completion of an environmental assessment for the GTA West Corridor as well as any further momentum on this project.

The OCC also welcomes further investment to enable more communities to access natural gas, particularly with the private sector as a partner. We support the use of any savings from this approach being applied to cellular and broadband infrastructure projects, although expanding high-speed internet access across Ontario will require a greater investment than $100 million.

The OCC supports a reduction in the aviation fuel tax to, at the very least, align with other jurisdictions within Canada. The OCC would expect the provincial government to work with the Government of Canada to reduce the aviation fuel tax in Northern Ontario and elsewhere. Reducing this tax would lower barriers to accessing many of Ontario’s attractions, particularly in northern and rural communities, where other forms of travel may be infeasible to visitors.

Housing

The PC Party platform includes a promise to preserve rent control for existing tenants. They also intend to increase the supply of affordable housing in the GTA while protecting the Greenbelt.

OCC Analysis

The OCC recognizes that much of Ontario’s housing affordability challenges come from a lack of supply, and so we welcome an approach from government that will incentivize development. However, removing market signals from rent pricing is not productive a means of increasing the supply of rental units.

Environment

The PC platform includes a promise to end the cap and trade system and challenge any attempt by the federal government to impose a carbon tax, including at the Supreme Court. They estimate that ending cap and trade will cost $1.9 billion per year, which they intend to offset by eliminating the funds collected from previous auctions. As for challenging the federal government, they estimate the cost to be $30 million over the course of their mandate. In order to address climate change, the PC Party pledges to set up a fund to invest in new, emissions-reducing technology in Ontario.

Inclusive of that fund, their platform includes $500 million in spending for environmental initiatives such as:

  • Enforce air quality programs and protect waterways.
  • Hire more conservation officers to improve enforcement of “major polluters”.
  • Commit resources to reduce litter.

They also pledge to move forward with resource revenue sharing for Northern and Indigenous communities, from mining, forestry, and aggregate activity, at an estimated cost of $30 million per year starting in year two.

OCC Analysis

Regardless of public policy approach chosen, the OCC wants the government to pursue efforts to reduce Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that effectively mitigates risk to business competitiveness. Investment in emissions-reducing technology is part of that approach, as is using cap and trade revenues to support industry as it transitions to a low carbon economy. For more information, see the Vote Prosperityplatform.

We welcome momentum on resource revenue sharing agreements for Northern and Indigenous communities, and would like to see greater action on natural resource development projects so that all of Ontario can benefit from the province’s natural wealth. Read Digging Deeper: Strengthening Ontario’s Mining Advantage for details.


For more information please contact: Huzaifa Saeed | Policy & Research Analyst | Hamilton Chamber of Commerce | t: 905-522-1151 ext: 230 | e: h.saeed@hamiltonchamber.ca