On March 5th, we (Peter Garett and Preeti Sangwan) represented the Whitby Chamber of Commerce (WCC) membership and our Advocacy Committee during Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park. Hosted by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), the event allowed Chambers and Boards of Trades from across Ontario to connect, learn and advocate on key policy issues, and engage with members of provincial parliament.
Our day began with a meeting with MPP Lorne Coe, with whom we discussed some of the Advocacy Committee’s policy focus areas, including support for small businesses, employment, healthcare, and housing. In many ways, the conversation set the stage for our day ahead.
At Hart House, we were privileged to hear from two panels of official critics, one consisting of NDP MPPs, and the other of Liberal party MPPs. After the panels, we split up to meet with various MPPs, both from the opposition and government.
Our few key takeaways were:
- As the province continues to fight for Bill 124, critics continue to highlight its impact on hiring and retaining nurses for a strong and competent workforce.
- Ontario legislation lacks sufficient support for mixed housing, the “missing middle” in the housing options available in Ontario. This policy objective focuses on harnessing land opportunities in existing communities, to build infills and meet growing housing demand without having to disturb new ecosystems for development. If enacted, will Bill 98 support building Ontario’s missing middle?
- With repayment dates for, often large, Covid-related business debts fast approaching, there is a serious concern about the impact this will have on small businesses that continue to face supply chain, inflation, and workforce related challenges. Currently, ~58% of businesses hold covid related debt. Would a form of recovery grant, scaled to need, buffer the immediate financial toll?
- As the cost of real estate impacts everyone on a personal level, it also affects business success; high rents mean less money for payroll, R&D, and business growth. Is affordable commercial insurance the answer? Or Commercial rent control?
- Ontario’s sick-days program, launched to support Ontarians through Covid, expired last month. Is there demand for similar permanent policy benefits for Ontarians?
- The government highlighted the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Competitiveness (AMIC) Stream, to provide loans and grants for businesses in advanced manufacturing.
The day reiterated what many are keenly aware of, people across Ontario are facing foundational challenges in housing, healthcare, and business sustainability. After a day full of well informed and forward thinking discussions, we know that there is no lack of initiative and practical ideas to propel Ontario’s growth.
For our part, the WCC will continue to advocate on behalf of our business community for policies that support a sustainable and healthy community. Events like Advocacy Day empower these efforts, and we appreciate the OCC for bringing us together annually for this event. Peter and I left the day inspired and energized!
– Preeti Sangwan, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Whitby Chamber of Commerce
– Peter Garrett, Government Relations Specialist, Durham College