The 2017 Ontario budget should look to balance the books while addressing infrastructure for Connecting Link highways and broadband, according to a pre-budget submission issued by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) in partnership with the Timmins Chamber.
These are among the 13 specific recommendations outlined in the submission, which was presented to Queen’s Park today as a roadmap for fiscal prudence and economic growth.
The submission also includes the Timmins Chamber’s long-time request for the province to be much more transparent and financially diligent when looking to divest Crown corporations such as the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), Hydro One, or Ontera -- the latter being the ONTC’s former telecommunications firm, which the province divested in 2014 at a $61-million loss. As such, the OCC is recommending the province only seek to divest any Crown corporation following a comprehensive business case and socio-economic impact study.
The inclusion of these concerns in the OCC submission is the direct result of advocacy efforts by the Timmins Chamber, which has worked diligently to have its members’ voices heard at the provincial level. Local concerns about funding for Connecting Links – municipal roads connecting two ends of a provincial highway, which in Timmins total 21 kilometres’ worth – and Crown corporation divestment were originally raised by the Timmins Chamber and passed as policy resolutions at OCC annual general meetings in recent years. As a result of that work and its subsequent inclusion in this pre-budget submission, those concerns are now being communicated directly to government on their behalf by the largest business advocacy group in Ontario, demonstrating the ability of Timmins Chamber member businesses to be heard at all levels.
“While we applaud the provincial government’s recent efforts to address these issues, it’s clear that more needs to be done,” said Christine Bender, president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.
“Government must focus on reducing the cost of doing business in Ontario, supporting strategic infrastructure development, and strengthening business competitiveness to allow places like Timmins to thrive.”
In the submission, Ontario’s Chamber network is also calling on the government to provide the leeway to confront mounting cost of doing business, including energy rates, by balancing the provincial budget by 2017-2018. Such action would result in a more attractive environment for business investment and growth, according to the report.
With more government services going digital, the submission also indicates that citizens from all corners of the province must have access to ultra-high-speed Internet. For some areas of the province, including the Timmins area, a lack of access to broadband has compromised the ability to connect with essential government services, and has crippled businesses’ capacity to compete in the technology-driven economy. As cited in the OCC’s 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 Government of Ontario must ensure that it utilizes the budget as a tool for economic growth to support Ontario businesses,” 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.”
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.
To download the full 2017 Ontario pre-budget submission, visit https://tinyurl.com/2017-Ontario-Pre-budget
About the Timmins Chamber of Commerce
With 700 members, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest accredited chambers of commerce with distinction in northeastern Ontario. As the “Voice of Business in Timmins” since 1949, our advocacy and policy initiatives focus on ensuring a positive business climate in the City of Timmins.
Manager of Policy, Research and Communications
Timmins Chamber of Commerce