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Whitby Chamber has Front Row Seat for Release of 2016 Ontario Budget

Posted Date: 2016-02-25 16:32:48

Jobs for Today and Tomorrow
Whitby Chamber of Commerce Reports on the 2016 Ontario Budget

Whitby, ONTARIO. Finance Minister Charles Sousa released the 2016 Ontario Budget: Jobs for Today and Tomorrow earlier today. The Whitby Chamber of Commerce had an opportunity to review the documents before the Minister's budget speech. The budget outlines the government's plan to create jobs and economic growth by investing in infrastructure and a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The province appears to be on track to balance
the budget in 2017 as indicated in the 2015 budget.

There are several elements of the budget that are encouraging. The following sections of the budget (a complete copy can be found on our website) are directly aligned to initiatives the Whitby Chamber has advocated for on behalf of the membership and broader business community.

Fostering a More Dynamic and Innovative Business Environment

In a policy written by and submitted in 2015, the Whitby Chamber urged the government to move forward with red tape reduction to alleviate the administrative burden on all businesses. Since then, the Chamber has aligned with the Mayor and senior staff to develop an open for business strategy specific to Whitby. The provincial budget includes:
- Red Tape Challenge, an online consultation tool designed to identify and eliminate duplications, lessen compliance burdens, shorten response time and make it easier for businesses to interact with government. It will engage with the public, businesses and stakeholders in addressing regulatory challenges and identifying opportunities to reshape Ontario's economy.
- Strategic Investments Office to serve as a one-window point of entry to provide improved investment attraction services for major investment projects, licensing and permit coordination, facilitation of workforce training and site-selection support. The Province will also launch an online portal to help firms easily find and navigate the programs and initiatives it provides across government.

Further, the budget identifies funding specific to transforming manufacturing, encouraging global exports and innovation:

- Helping traditional manufacturers transform into more innovative, dynamic and productive companies through a five year, $35 million investment in the Advanced Manufacturing Consortium.
- Establishing a three-year, $20 million fund that connects colleges and private-sector employers on applied innovation projects that result in breakthrough products and services for sale at home and abroad.
- Ontario's Going Global Export Strategy will invest an initial $30 million over three years to help firms expand their exports.

The budget does move forward with ambitious targets for GHG reduction targets for 2020 and 2030. To meet these targets to achieve a low-carbon economy, Ontario would:
- implement a cap-and-trade program to invest in green projects while fostering competitiveness and innovation.
- Electricity costs are expected to remain unchanged for commercial and industrial and reduce by $2/month for residential

Building Tomorrow's Infrastructure Now

While public infrastructure investment is now marked as the largest in Ontario's history and is projected to create more than 110,000 jobs in the province, there are no plans specific to Durham Region in the 2016 budget. We concur that there has been good movement in the past with significantly more infrastructure required in Durham Region as the area continues to expand, develop and grow. Highlights include:
- New highway projects and expands the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund to $300 million per year by 2018/19 to support projects in small, rural and northern communities.
- The Province will continue to working with regions, communities, other levels of government, and private partners to design and select the next generation of infrastructure investments that will improve the competitiveness of Ontario's communities, enhance productivity, promote innovation and develop new economic opportunities, such as:
o Subject to agreement with freight rail partners, two-way, all-day rail services on the Kitchener and Milton GO corridors, and extension of GO rail service to Niagara and Bowmanville.

Investing in People's Talents and Skills
Perhaps one of the most exciting news in the 2016 budget, the government recognizes the importance of a well educated workforce. Preparing the next generation will be key to the province's future.

To help Ontarians reach their full potential and succeed in an evolving economy, the government is proposing to transform student aid for postsecondary education:
- Average college and university tuition will be free for students with financial need from families with incomes of $50,000 or less, and tuition will be more affordable for middle income families as well.
- More than 50% of students from families with incomes of $83,000 or less will receive non-repayable grants in excess of average tuition.
- Financial support for mature and married students will also be expanded.

Strengthening Retirement Security
The Ontario Retirement Pension Plan is still noted in the budget. The Whitby Chamber along with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has lead advocacy efforts encouraging both the provincial and federal governments to enhance the Canada Pension Plan. It was announced last week that the province will work collaboratively with the federal government, provinces and territories to make progress on a CPP enhancement that addresses the need of future retirees.

The Whitby Chamber previously submitted a pre-budget consultation and will continue to advocate for positive change for members and the broader business community.

To see the highlights of the 2016 Ontario Budget, please click here

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