I am pleased to provide you with this brief update on our recent activities and initiatives.
Advocacy at Work
Our Policy group has been working extremely hard this quarter developing our election platform and lobbying for specific items in the federal budget.
On May 26, we released our election platform, A Canada that Wins, on Parliament Hill. Following the release, our Board of Directors met with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Employment and Social Development and other parliamentarians to discuss the measures needed to increase the ability of Canadian businesses to compete in a global market. CPAC (Cable Public Affairs Channel) also taped a series of interviews with Canadian Chamber executives and Members of Parliament from the major political parties to capture their comments on our election platform. View the video.
While there are a great number of issues hindering the success of Canadian businesses, our election platform focuses on four critical elements and outlines the necessary measures the future government must take to allow businesses to compete and win in domestic and global markets. These four main elements are: access to a powerful workforce, access to capital, access to technology and innovation and access to markets.
Over the course of the next several months, we, along with our national network of chambers of commerce, will be asking the federal parties to address these areas of policy in their campaigns.
This week’s announcement by the federal government that it intends to allow Canadians to voluntarily make additional contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) promises good news for Canadians and their employers. We have long supported providing employers and employees with retirement savings options that recognize their varying resources and needs without imposing additional burdens—in the form of higher payroll taxes—on businesses. This is why we have advocated that any enhancements to the CPP be voluntary and paid for by employees only. Increased contributions by employers—as proposed under the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan—can result in businesses curtailing the hiring of new employees and harm the other voluntary retirement savings programs that serve Canadians well. Subject to the outcome of the consultations the government has announced, we are optimistic that the government’s proposal will give Canadians another choice in increasing their savings for retirement.
The federal budget on April 21 delivered very positive commitments in areas where our Policy group has been advocating strongly. It delivered on infrastructure, on Canada’s skilled workforce and on measures to help companies’ access capital—three of our top demands throughout the last year.
While the overall commitments for trade-enabling infrastructure were somewhat disappointing, there were a number of areas where progress was made. The allocation of $750 million over two years (starting in 2017-18) and $1 billion annually thereafter to a new public transit fund aligns with one of our major policy requests for increased focus on transit.
The government confirmed $5.8 billion in funds for new infrastructure, as announced in November 2014, on top of the existing $5.3 billion per year from the Building Canada Plan. The debt caps for the Northwest Territories and Nunavut will be raised to $1.3 billion and $650 million respectively (pending Governor-in-Council approval) increasing the amounts these territorial governments can borrow.
The highlight of the budget was that the small business tax rate will be reduced from 11% to 9% by 2019 (0.5% reduction each year starting Jan 1, 2016), resulting in $2.7 billion in tax savings through 2020.
The government is also targeting manufacturers by extending and enriching the accelerated capital cost allowance to 2025. Also, we worked with the BC Chamber of Commerce in advocating a more favourable ACCA depreciation rate for liquefied natural gas facilities.
On payroll taxes, we were pleased by the government reconfirming the EI premium rate freeze (currently $1.88 per $100 of earnings through 2016) and, more importantly, the reduction to the seven-year break even rate in 2017.
We have a resolution seeking a fix to regulation 102 of the Income Tax Act, the withholding requirement for non-residents. Now CRA will grant waivers to employers so they don’t have to withhold tax on foreign employees who visit Canada, a solution that we had specifically asked for.
People and skills
Skills featured prominently in the budget, and we were pleased to see a new focus on aligning post-secondary curricula with employers’ needs.
For years, we have been advocating improved labour market information, so we were pleased to see $4 million over two years to launch a new one-stop national labour market information portal. We have also been involved in consultations with the Forum of Labour Market Ministers on its plans for a new LMI governance model.
Aboriginal workers have been a key subject for us; programming for Aboriginal peoples’ skills development and training was renewed in the amount of $248.5 million. There was also a $200- million investment over five years in First Nations education through the Strong Schools, Successful Students Initiative.
Innovation and technology in manufacturing
In 2014, we convened a series of roundtables to investigate the state of innovation in Canada’s manufacturing sector. The report generated from this investigation noted that incentives for R&D investment in Canada lagged other jurisdictions, and that a key area of support that could be offered by government is through funding technical demonstrations. The report also noted that access to markets, conflicting regulatory policy and tax barriers dissuade business investment in R&D and technology.
In the budget, the government has promised $100 million over five years for the Automotive Supplier Innovation Program for funding R&D in the automotive sector and $6 million towards the development of a national aerospace supplier development initiative, both anchor industries in Canada.
The government finally announced something we have long been advocating: an extension until 2025 of the accelerated capital cost allowance for investment in machinery and equipment used in manufacturing or processing.
Trade promotion figured strongly in the budget, with a number of new programs and commitments—many of them flowing from recommendations in our 2014 report Turning it Around: How to Restore Canada’s Trade Success. The government announced nearly $100 million over 10 years to provide matching grants to Canadian SMEs looking to enter emerging markets for the first time, and to expand the number of trade commissioners abroad. More significantly, the government will establish a Development Finance Initiative within Export Development Canada that can provide more attractive financing for private sector investment in developing countries.
Following a big push by the Canadian Chamber and other national business groups, the government also announced a new Internal Trade Promotion Office within Industry Canada that will serve as a hub for research and analysis on internal trade barriers. The Office will collaborate with provinces and territories to identify opportunities to address these barriers.
Support for the mining industry
We have long been advocating for the federal government to extend the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit, a crucial support to Canada’s global leadership in the exploration industry. We were pleased to see the tax credit not only extended for another year, but now include costs association with environmental assessment and community outreach, additions that will make the policy more effective.
Federal Government Procurement
Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) is asking suppliers to the federal government for recommendations on:
- How to simplify and standardize contract and solicitation templates to reduce the cost and administrative burden.
- How to improve the effectiveness of standing offers and supply arrangements to reduce the administrative burden and increase opportunities to secure federal contracts through these vehicles.
- How to enhance Buyandsell.gc.ca to make it a more effective tool.
- What features should be included in PWGSC’s new electronic procurement system to ensure it has the tools and services needed by suppliers.
If you have perspectives on any or all of these areas, please send them to Susanna Cluff-Clyburne, Director, Parliamentary Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, June 5. We are meeting with PWGSC on June 9 and will ensure your comments are communicated without attribution.
The changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program extended to Québec last month. It was the opportunity for us to comment on this with an op-ed in French media.
During a recent trip to Calgary, I sat down with the editorial board of the Calgary Herald. It allowed us to talk about what is coming up in Alberta following the elections and what Canada needs right now. It was also the opportunity to release an op-ed on how to leverage our environmental efforts into economic benefits.
Private Business Growth Award | Nominations due July 10
Presented by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Grant Thornton LLP, the Private Business Growth Award seeks to recognize companies whose growth strategy encompasses a broad range of activities across their business, including innovation, market development, people and culture, strategic leadership and improvements in financial measures. This award is open to Canadian-owned, privately-held businesses with annual revenues over $5 million and that have been in operation for at least three years. Nominations may be submitted online at Privatebusinessgrowthaward.com until July 10.
AGM & Convention | Oct. 17 & 18, Ottawa
Our AGM and Convention enables members of the chamber network to plug into the latest developments, trends and issues that are important to the Canadian business community as well as develop solutions to break down the barriers that are holding Canadian businesses back, setting our policy agenda for the upcoming year.
More information on all of these events is available on our website, Chamber.ca.
I would like to thank you for your ongoing support and, as always, I welcome your views and comments.
President and Chief Executive Officer