As Ontario’s largest business advocate, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has long
been recognized as a leading voice in advancing economic development across the province.
This year finds our collective voice to be stronger than ever, allowing the OCC to successfully
translate your support into historic policy impact.
Looking back at the past twelve months, we are most proud of the results of our Vote Prosperity
campaign, which provided all parties with a strategy to leverage Ontario’s advantages and
strengthen our global competitiveness. Following the provincial election, we wrote ‘blueprint’
letters to each provincial Cabinet Minister, outlining priorities to execute over the next four
years. These letters have not only led to improved engagement with every Ministry, but also
concrete and meaningful policy wins. While there are multiple factors that shape public policy
in Ontario, we feel the collective voice of the Ontario Chamber Network can take credit for the
subsequent policy actions, including:
Labour reform. The OCC and Chamber Network persistently advocated for the repeal of Bill
148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2018 which introduced imbalanced labour reforms too
quickly, at too high a cost to both employers and workers. Armed with evidence-based policy
recommendations, we laid the groundwork for the Ontario government to introduce a near-full
repeal of Bill 148.
Skills and workforce development. Through our policy and advocacy efforts on Ontario’s skills
mismatch, we repeatedly urged the provincial government to revise Ontario’s journey person-to
apprenticeship ratios and dissolve the Ontario College of Trades. Both recommendations were
adopted in Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018.
Expanding natural gas access. We have consistently called on the Ontario government to
expand natural gas access to make life more affordable in rural Ontario. The Ontario government
announced it will develop a program which will encourage distributors to partner with
communities to deliver projects that will expand access to natural gas.
Open tendering for the public sector. We have repeatedly called on provincial government to
amend the Labour Relations Act, 1995 to allow for a more open and fair tendering procurement
process. In April 2019, the government of Ontario responded by passing a bill which explicitly
deems public bodies, including municipalities and school boards, as “non-construction employers.”
The past year also saw considerable trade uncertainty, including a challenging negotiation of the
Canada-United States-Mexico Free Trade Agreement and the imposition of retaliatory tariffs.
In spite of this difficult climate, the OCC signed nine joint statements with US state chambers
of commerce to bring greater awareness to the importance of North American free trade, while
our Chamber Network worked tirelessly in support of impacted industries such as steel and
aluminum. This period culminated with an unforgettable conversation between US Ambassador
Kelly Craft and Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton at the Ontario Economic Summit.
The OCC and its members were in the spotlight this year, working hard to achieve change we
have long fought for. We continued to have a strong media presence, with coverage in both
print and broadcast media, cementing our place as the leading advocate for business in Ontario.
However, much work remains to be done. As our 2019 Ontario Economic Report notes,
Ontario’s growth is forecasted to slow as the province confronts capacity limits, a likely increase
in interest rates, and a reduction in government spending. Although business confidence in 2019
has rebounded from a historic low in 2018, several major policy issues loom large, including
challenges relating to the cost of doing business, addressing regional economic disparities, and
navigating Ontario’s on-going skills mismatch.
Looking ahead, we will continue to provide thoughtful analysis and strong advocacy to
government and the media, building on the momentum of 2018. As the provincial government
re-examines its approach to debt and deficit spending, regional governance, transportation and
infrastructure, now, more than ever, there is a need for the OCC’s non-partisan, evidenced-based
But these solutions would not be as effective or impactful if it weren’t for the contributions of
the Ontario Chamber Network – your insight, experience, connections, and voice make our
work stronger and give it the widest possible reach. I want to offer you my genuine thanks for
your on-going support of the OCC and commitment to the chamber movement. Together we
can do – and have done – incredible things.
In 2019 and beyond, the entire OCC team looks forward to working with you all as we help
build a stronger Ontario.
Vice President, Policy
Ontario Chamber of Commerce