chamber 560On February 16, 2017, the Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce (SSCC), in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), formally released its 2017 pre-budget submission containing recommendations to the Ontario legislature as it looks to begin its spring 2017 legislative session. The submission outlines four key budget priorities and 13 specific recommendations for Queen’s Park to adopt in order to restore fiscal balance and spur economic growth. Specifically, the SSCC is looking for immediate support for increased broadband infrastructure and for government to demonstrate fiscal prudence and sound budget management.

With more government services going digital, it is critical that citizens from all areas of the province have access to ultra high-speed Internet. For years, a lack of access to broadband has been compromising Ontarians’ abilities to connect with essential government services and has been crippling businesses’ capacity to compete in the technology-driven economy. As cited in the submission, Government must “bridge the broadband gap” by considering this type of technology as a fundamental piece of infrastructure and address the inadequacy of ultra high-speed Internet in Ontario communities.

“The OCC, in partnership with our diverse Chamber network, will continue to work with the provincial government to ensure that Ontario prioritizes reducing obstacles to business competitiveness,” said Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the OCC. “By taking more authoritative action on this issue, we can ensure that Ontario remains an attractive environment for capital investment.”

“The Government of Ontario must ensure that it addresses these recommendations in their provincial budget in order to support economic growth for Ontario businesses,” said Pier Donnini, SSCC President. “Government must focus on reducing the costs of doing business in Ontario, supporting strategic infrastructure development and strengthening its efforts to bolster business competitiveness that allows Saugeen Shores to thrive.”

General Manager, Joanne Robbins said, the following recommendations are “of particular interest for our business community”:

- Broadband shortcomings thorughout the province that are weighing on the ability of small rural businesses to compete in the technology-driven knowledge economy
- Allowing small business owners’ children access to student loans
- Improving conditions to allow municipalities to thrive – the recommendation to provide a one-time, $30-million enhancement of the Connecting Links fund as a transitional measure to assist affected communities in addressing the two-year gap in which the program was discontinued along with a suggestion to develop a strategy to annually revise the Connecting Links funding envelope and criteria would certainly be welcomed changes for our municipality
- Amend the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 to allow real estate sales people to incorporate - this is long overdue as real estate salespeople are currently prohibited from incorporating due to restrictions under the REBBA Act. They are one of the few regulated professions in Ontario who are subject to such restrictions.

Addressing the current fiscal context and achieving a balanced budget is an underlying theme throughout the pre-budget submission. Ontario’s Chamber Network is committed to working with the Ontario Government to ensure the future economic success of the province. The submission is largely comprised of policy recommendations that are supported by resolutions passed by Ontario’s Chamber Network at the OCC’s most recent Annual General Meeting.

Those interested can visit the OCC website and review the full submission[].