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2023 Pre-Budget Submission

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Dear Minister Bethlenfalvy,

The London Chamber of Commerce welcomes the opportunity to participate in Ontario’s Pre-budget Consultation process. The 2023 budget comes at an important time as the province is tackling broad and complex issues such as housing shortages, labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and the persistent issues caused by inflation. 
London is uniquely positioned as a rapidly growing city attracting a diverse workforce that will be an important keystone for solving the issues that the province faces. London is a city of industry with major producers like Labatt and General Dynamics that help employ thousands of people in the area. We are also honoured to be Canada’s first UNESCO City of Music, a designation which will play a major role in building a robust tourism and entertainment industry in the region.

As a Chamber, we are proud to represent nearly 1000 small, medium, and large businesses in the London area whose voices need to be heard throughout this consultation process. The following submission contains recommendations for the upcoming budget prepared in consultation with our business community and our local chamber network. Our recommendations fall under the following pillars: Sustainable Growth, Complete Communities, and Modernization.

We look forward to continuing to work with businesses of all sizes and the Government of Ontario to bolster economic well-being, growth, and recovery across the province.

Kristen Duever
VP, Public Affairs
London Chamber of Commerce

Summary of Recommendations 

a) Help small businesses access the resources they need to compete and grow.
b) Support succession planning for Ontario’s aging business owners. 
c) Develop an integrated energy plan that balances reliability, affordability, and sustainability. 
d) Support businesses and communities with the transition to a net-zero economy.
e) Support mining, forestry, and other trade exposed industries. 
f) Strengthen Ontario’s food supply. 
g) Drive the recovery of Ontario’s tourism and hospitality industry. 
h) Address Ontario’s labour market challenges. 
i) Foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. 
j) Take meaningful action on economic reconciliation. 


a) Continue to prioritize and accelerate the rollout of broadband across Ontario.
b) Build affordable housing. 
c) Invest in resilient and growth-enabling infrastructure. 
d) Protect Ontarians’ health and strengthen health care system capacity and resilience. 
e) Ensure municipalities have the support they need to provide adequate wrap-around services for homelessness, addiction, and mental health. 


a) Innovate government services and regulatory frameworks. 
b) Foster a business environment that promotes growth, confidence, and predictability.
c) Design an effective and efficient portable benefits program. 
d) Continue to develop an integrated health data system. 
e) Advance Ontario’s data strategy and privacy legislation. 
f) Modernize Ontario’s supply chains and public sector procurement. 
g) Bolster interprovincial and international trade. 
h) Modernize and champion the cannabis sector. 
i) Protect municipalities’ fiscal capacity and develop a plan for fiscal balance.

1.Sustainable Growth 

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are looking for ways to secure sustainable growth and resilience over the immediate and long-term. High inflation, persistent labour shortages, and a slowdown in economic activity signal the need for supply-side policies and investments that lead to greater market capacity, efficiencies, and productivity. 

a) Help small businesses access the resources they need to compete and grow. 
Small businesses are grappling with inflation and rising interest rates, debt, supply chain challenges, labour shortages, and a looming recession. It is incumbent on governments to support their survival as a key driver of jobs and economic development.
In a 2022 survey, our members reported that housing affordability and economic development were among their top issues to be addressed by the government. These are key issues that prevent small businesses from flourishing in the ways that they are able to with proper investment and infrastructure.
• Develop and scale digitization funding and training programs for small businesses and make it easier for businesses to access them. 
• Improve access to private capital and credit for small businesses through a combination of tax policies, capital market reforms, and loan guarantees. 
• Consider developing a non-refundable tax credit for 25 percent of the cost of additional mental health supports for three years. 
• Procure from non-profits, non-profit social enterprises and co-operatives to meet the provincial government’s target of $3 billion in contracts awarded to small businesses by 2026. 

b) Support succession planning for Ontario’s aging business owners. 

As nearly three-quarters of business owners are poised to retire within the next decade, there is a growing need for succession planning and support for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Having an appropriate continuity plan in place will help better preserve the value of the business and safeguard employment during the transition phase. 

• Begin work on an employee ownership policy framework with the objectives of reducing barriers, promoting awareness, and creating targeted incentives to complement the federal government’s approach. 
• Support greater business adoption of co-operative conversion as a method for succession planning through education and financial incentives.

Co-operative Conversions When a business or organization chooses a co-operative model as its method of succession. 

Four main types: 
1) Worker Co-operatives 
Workers become the owners of the business so they both operate and own it. 
2) Consumer Co-operatives 
Customers of a business purchase shares and then become member owners of a co-operative. This is often done to ensure that services or products continue to be available in their community. 
3) Producer Co-operatives 
Producers join forces to process, market, and distribute the products they produce to bring down costs. 
4) Multi-Stakeholder Co-operatives 
More than one stakeholder group interested in forming the co-operative, e.g. the customers and the vendors at a local farmer’s market form a co-operative together to purchase a building to operate the market in.

c) Develop an integrated energy plan that balances reliability, affordability, and sustainability. 

Demand for electricity is rising rapidly in Ontario, driven both by economic growth and electrification. On the supply side, resource availability will be constrained by the retirement of the Pickering Nuclear Station, nuclear refurbishments, and contract expirations for other resources. As Ontario confronts major energy supply gaps over the next decade, significant investments in generation, storage, and conservation will be needed to ensure access to energy remains reliable, affordable, and sustainable for businesses and households. 

• Continue to work with industry and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to procure clean, reliable electricity. Procurement should optimize existing clean energy assets (including nuclear, biomass, and hydroelectricity generation); provide long-term certainty to attract new competitive investments in clean energy; and be technology-agnostic with respect to all forms of supply, including new nuclear. 
• Develop a long-term energy plan that integrates low-carbon fuels with electricity planning, using insights from the Electrification and Energy Transition Panel and the IESO’s Pathways to Decarbonization Study. 
• Take a more proactive approach to investing in transmission and distribution infrastructure across rural and remote regions. 
• Incorporate conservation and demand management into long-term energy planning forecasts and frameworks.

d) Support businesses and communities with the transition to a net-zero economy. 

The low-carbon economy is filled with opportunities for innovation, job creation, and regional economic development. While there is no silver bullet solution to climate change, Ontario has competitive advantages that it can leverage globally, including its clean energy, world-renowned post-secondary institutions, talented workforce, sustainable natural resources, and cleantech sector. 

• Implement a climate adaptation and mitigation strategy, support the federal Task Force on Flood Insurance and Relocation, strengthen protections of wetland and natural infrastructure, and commit to providing communities with adequate and sustained funding for climate resilience. 
• Support policies that enable further growth and innovation in the hydrogen economy.
• Expand energy efficiency and climate retrofit programs for businesses, homeowners, and institutions including the Business Energy Audit program, and explore policies that incentivize builders and municipalities to lower the carbon footprint and improve the climate resilience of new buildings.
• Support the adoption of electric and zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by private and public sector entities, including municipalities as they replace their existing fleets, and continue to expand electric vehicle charging stations and other ZEV infrastructure. 
• Continue working with industry to develop a competitive framework for carbon capture, utilization, and storage in Ontario. 
• Support cleantech research and innovation at post-secondary institutions, with an emphasis on initiatives that connect research with industry needs. 
• Provide additional guidance and support for waste producers to facilitate the transition to extended producer responsibility and reduce inconsistencies across jurisdictions. 
• Reconsider the proposal to ban organic material from landfills or exempt landfills that convert waste emissions to renewable natural gas. 

e) Support mining, forestry, and other trade-exposed industries. 

Ontario has existing competitive advantages in several key industries critical to Canada’s export capacity and regional economic development, including energy, forestry, mining, and critical minerals. Policies that support the growth of these industries will serve to drive innovation, job creation, decarbonization, and community revitalization across the province, particularly within northern, rural, and Indigenous communities. 

• Increase the relative government-to-industry funding ratio for mining innovation and ensure support for projects throughout their entire lifecycles. 
• Provide funding for projects that support research and educational institutions to develop talent and advance mining technology implementation and commercialization. 
• Streamline environmental approvals, permitting, and land leasing around key development projects that will support Ontario’s leadership in the green economy while also ensuring Indigenous communities are active participants and proponents of these long-term projects. 
• Implement recommendations from the Forest Sector Strategy’s Advisory Committee to help reduce costs, increase the use of forest biomass, and remove trade and market barriers. 
• Establish an Ontario Commercial Loan Guarantee Program that encourages continued investments in Ontario’s forestry industry.

f) Strengthen Ontario’s food supply. 

Recent global events, supply chain constraints, and extreme weather events have once again underscored the importance of ensuring a resilient and secure food supply chain in Ontario that meets current and future demand. While many farmers’ markets, food producers, retailers, and garden centres have already expanded their online presence to bolster Ontario’s supply of food, many providers at the local level have yet to transition to e-commerce. The changing economic landscape, ongoing uncertainty, and higher input costs have also put a strain on farmers across the province. Supports for this industry must therefore evolve to ensure producers are equipped with the right tools, talent, and resources. 

• Work with the federal government and other provinces and territories to increase the payment cap available through the AgriStability program to eligible participants while also developing systems to quickly assess claims and process payments. 
• Work with the federal government and consult with the agricultural industry to streamline the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program application process and reduce administrative burdens to improve program uptake. 
• Increase funding available through programs such as the Agri-Food Open for E-business to help local agri-food businesses invest in online infrastructure to expand their online presence and e commerce sales. 
• Curb food fraud by identifying key areas in need of particular attention (i.e., certain supply chains and/or food products) through the Food Integrity Initiative and develop an action plan accordingly. • Address rising food costs and seek to invest in the resiliency and preservation of agricultural and farm lands to ensure a secure, reliable, adaptive, and sustainable supply of food. 
• Partner with employers, post-secondary institutions, and government stakeholders to support the long-term viability of the food and beverages, farming, and agriculture industries. 
• Educate youth on the high-skilled, tech-driven careers available in the agri-food industry and address barriers that deter youth from pursuing farming careers, including access to land, training, and capital. 

g) Drive the recovery of Ontario’s tourism and hospitality industry. 
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s tourism industry was one of the hardest-hit—and it will be one of the last to fully recover and rebuild. The crisis continues to have a severe and enduring impact on the tourism industry in Ontario. Border closures, capacity restrictions and lockdowns exacerbated structural issues that have left the industry far from recovery. London’s designation as Canada’s only UNESCO City of Music means that we will play a key role in the revitalization of Ontario’s entertainment and tourism industry.

• Invest in workforce development initiatives that communicate the business case for careers in the tourism industry, retain and attract international talent, and optimize work placement opportunities for post-secondary students.
• Revisit tourism industry taxes. This includes elimination /deferral of the annual basic beer tax increase scheduled to take effect in March and revisiting Municipal Accommodation Taxes.
• Explore emerging markets, including intercultural exchanges with Indigenous and Francophone tourism sectors, as well as cannabis tourism and agritourism.
• Address gaps in public transportation within and between Ontario destinations.
• Work with the tourism industry and government partners to ensure seamless travel for all visitors. This includes digitizing and streamlining processes to reduce passport and visa application backlogs and creating strategies for seamless travel in the event of border disruptions.
• Incentivize local travel and tourism through initiatives similar to the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit.
• Leverage London’s UNESCO designation in order to bolster the recovery of the tourism industry in the area.

h) Address Ontario’s labour market challenges. 

Many businesses – particularly in the transportation, construction, child care, tourism, retail, and health care sectors – continue to face significant labour shortages exacerbated by the lack of transportation options, complex immigration processes, and rising living costs. Immigration backlogs are also a factor, with over 2.2 million immigration applications in December 2022 awaiting processing, including future citizens, permanent residents, and international students as well as a significant, three-year backlog in the skilled immigrant category. Resolving labour shortages is critical for ensuring economic growth and will require a comprehensive approach that identifies current and future workforce needs and implements workforce development strategies. 

• Continue taking steps to recognize foreign credentials, enhance online training, fast-track in-school credentials, and develop financial support for underemployed populations to access training opportunities.
• Consider additional pathways to permanent residency for public post-secondary students.
• Work with the federal government to increase Ontario’s allocation of immigrants under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program and make regional immigration pilots permanent in small, rural, and remote communities.
• Revise the current journeyperson-to-apprentice ratio to allow for greater flexibility and continue promoting the skilled trades as a viable career option for young people through applied learning and training.
• Work with post-secondary institutions to expand enrolment and introduce new programs and micro credentials to foster lifelong learning and secure the talent pipeline.
• Explore options to incentivize applied research and greater participation in experiential learning programs from employers, especially small businesses and employers in remote regions.
• Adjust language requirements for immigrants looking to work in Ontario. At a time when labour is most needed, many skilled workers are turned away because they do not meet the requirements for English proficiency.

​i) Foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion in the labour market are preconditions to our economic prosperity. We encourage the government to develop direct supports for women, visible minorities, and other equity-deserving groups to help meet these objectives. An equitable socioeconomic recovery will only be achievable if all stakeholders rally behind measurable goals. With London’s post secondary institutions bringing in more international students than ever, we need to create opportunities for these students to stay in the country and help expand the workforce.

• Provide financing, legal advice, mentorship, and skills training programs for equity-deserving groups.
• Adopt supplier diversity programs to ensure government procurement creates opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs and businesses that demonstrably support diversity and inclusion.
• Scale interventions proven to increase women’s representation in skilled trades, STEM, and other traditionally male-dominant occupations and sectors.
• Expand free training opportunities and awareness campaigns in partnership with the business community to ensure all employers and staff have the requisite resources and training to meet accessibility requirements.
• Reinstate the Basic Income Pilot program to evaluate whether the program can strengthen Ontario’s workforce and economic outcomes.
• Create a pipeline for international students to continue working in the province after they have completed their schooling.

j) Take meaningful action on economic reconciliation. 

Ontario’s prosperity depends on the socioeconomic well being and success of Indigenous Peoples in the province. As the youngest and fastest growing demographic, Indigenous Peoples will be a critical part of the solution to Ontario’s labour market challenges and overall economic growth. However, to ensure equitable opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, meaningful action must be taken on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice. 
In partnership with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the OCC is undertaking an initiative to help build capacity around economic reconciliation, internally and across Ontario’s business community, reflective of Call to Action 92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

• Build on opportunities, such as the Three Fires Nations‐Ontario Southwestern Ontario Infrastructure and Economic Opportunities Table, to support mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous communities and businesses, including equitable opportunities for Indigenous procurement, employment, and economic development. 
• Support Indigenous entrepreneurs by providing direct support as well as financing, legal advice, mentorship, training, and supplier diversity programs for Indigenous-owned small businesses. • Improve Indigenous education, learning, and training opportunities to increase labour market participation and drive entrepreneurship, including by ensuring the long-term sustainability of Indigenous Institutes in Ontario and improving access to culturally based experiential learning and other training opportunities. 

2.Complete Communities 

Communities are the foundation of our economy, and their well-being requires adequate infrastructure and resources to withstand both current and future risks. Continued investments are needed to accelerate broadband connectivity, expand low-carbon transit and transportation systems, support asset management and state-of-good-repair, improve housing affordability, and strengthen the health care system. 

a) Continue to prioritize and accelerate the rollout of broadband across Ontario. 

While access to reliable broadband internet has been a longstanding issue in Ontario, particularly in northern, rural, and remote areas, it has been magnified by COVID-19. Without it, many businesses and workers are unable to access digital resources, services, talent, and markets. Continued investments are needed to accelerate rollout and expand broadband infrastructure in underserved areas to support competitiveness and spur regional economic growth.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce 2023 Provincial Budget Submission | 11 

• Work with municipalities, internet service providers, telecommunication stakeholders, and local distribution companies to address inefficiencies and barriers to private sector broadband rollout. This includes resolving the locates backlog and identifying opportunities to streamline standards and processes related to pole attachments and make-ready work. 
• Explore “dig once” strategies, future-proofing of digital infrastructure, and opportunities for better data sharing around broadband gaps. 

b) Build affordable housing. 
Housing affordability has reached a crisis point in Ontario. For businesses, the lack of affordable housing options has become a top competitiveness concern, impacting their ability to attract and retain a diverse, talented workforce. While previously considered an urban problem, access to affordable housing is now a  socioeconomic issue in communities of all sizes across the province, with workers increasingly priced out of their communities. 

Over the coming months, the OCC will be hosting a series of targeted regional consultations to identify key challenges and formulate policy recommendations to improve housing affordability in Ontario. Through this work, they aim to highlight innovative solutions that will bolster Ontario’s economy and support inclusive growth. 

• Preserve and build affordable housing options along the housing continuum to ensure access to housing for all households, including by leveraging innovative solutions from all levels of government and the private and non-profit sectors (e.g., public-private partnerships, mixed income/use buildings, community land trusts, etc.). 
• Optimize existing settlement areas and minimize disruption to natural assets and agricultural lands to help safeguard sustainable growth over the short- and long-term, including by planning infrastructure around complete communities, encouraging densification, and overhauling brownfield legislation in small town Ontario. 
• Create a distinct strategy to address regional challenges in housing supply and affordability in rural, remote, northern, and Indigenous communities. 
• Continue to support targeted workforce development in the skilled trades and increased economic immigration to attract and retain workers to build the needed housing supply. 
• Continue working closely with municipalities to streamline the development and permitting process to accelerate new supply. 
• Remove barriers for non-profits to build critical infrastructure including affordable housing, childcare centres, long-term care homes, and other community amenities.
• Support housing developments in municipalities that focus on infrastructure built in conjunction with transportation corridors in order to build more sustainable housing. This will also allow developers to build more dense neighbourhoods as less land is needed for parking.
To ensure that the removal of development charges does not discourage the building of affordable housing, the provincial government must publicly clarify their intent with regard to the loss of municipal revenue, and set a fiscal policy so that the loss of this revenue will not result in any slowdown of construction. 

c) Invest in resilient and growth-enabling infrastructure. 

Infrastructure plays a key role in Ontario’s economy and is a key factor in determining where people choose to live, and where businesses choose to invest. Transportation to key areas of the city for people without vehicles is one of our members' largest concerns for the city in our 2022 member survey. Ontario faces a municipal infrastructure backlog of $52 billion, and according to a recent report by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, the cost of maintaining public buildings will increase by $6 billion between 2022 and 2030 due to climate hazards.ii

Ontario Chamber of Commerce 2023 Provincial Budget Submission | 12 
The infrastructure deficit limits access to jobs, healthcare, and investment opportunities, particularly in Northern Ontario where they are disproportionate. Governments must continue investing in infrastructure throughout Ontario to connect communities and spur economic activity. 

• Work with the private sector and federal and municipal governments to expand low-carbon public transit systems, including GO transit, and improve regional fare integration. 
• Ensure greater integration with existing transportation infrastructure, including last-mile connections between the Ontario Line and Billy Bishop Airport and between the Eglinton West LRT Extension to Toronto Pearson as well as connections with smaller international airports such as London International Airport.  
• Work with the federal government to address municipal infrastructure backlogs and state-of-good repair projects by supporting municipalities with investments in the maintenance, repair, and resiliency of infrastructure assets. 
• Review current infrastructure approvals, environmental assessments, and community consultation processes to ascertain opportunities for reducing friction and delays without compromising public accessibility to project consultations, and the integrity of the environment, protected areas, and agricultural lands. 
• Work with Ontario One Call to address the locate requests backlog and consider how partnerships with independent contractors that can provide locate services can assist in moving projects ahead.
• Invest in road development and all-season roads in remote, northern Ontario, including continued investments to complete the four-laning of Highway 69. 
• Re-instate the Ontario Northlander service to ensure passenger rail service in northeastern Ontario.
• Work with industry partners to explore opportunities to enhance Ontario’s Forest Access Roads Funding Program and build modernized, multi-use, forest road infrastructure. 
• Build the requisite infrastructure to provide travelers with an efficient and convenient experience, including improvements to regional and last-mile public transit connections and the construction of a pre-clearance facility at Billy Bishop Airport. 

d) Protect Ontarians’ health and strengthen health care system capacity and resilience. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the vulnerabilities in our health care system, leading to unprecedented emergency room wait times, delayed treatments, diagnostics, surgeries, and routine medical procedures, crisis-level staff burnout and shortages, and increasing mental health and addiction challenges. 

To safeguard health system capacity and ensure a resilient system for the future, the Province must continue to build on its Plan to Stay Open through short- and long-term strategies that support positive patient outcomes, improve patient and provider experiences, and create a more streamlined, integrated system. Overall, it will be critical to shift from a reactive system to a preventative health care model to ensure both health system stability and economic growth. 

Further, as Ontario’s population ages, chronic diseases and conditions are projected to increase. For example, the number of Ontarians living with dementia is expected to double to over half a million within two decades. This will place increased demand on families and communities, the health care system, and health care providers. We urge your government to support Ontario’s aging population by continuing to champion innovative, local models of care to reduce pressure on Ontario’s primary and long-term care systems and support seniors, their families, and caregivers.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce 2023 Provincial Budget Submission | 13 

• Develop a robust strategy to tackle the health human resources (HHR) crisis by leveraging technology and health innovations, collecting HHR data to improve health services and planning, supporting the next generation of health care professionals, and continuing to address immediate workforce shortages, including through innovative scope of practice and patient care approaches. 
• Address the backlog of surgeries and routine immunizations, as well as deferred cancer treatments, diagnostics, and procedures to reduce reliance on over-burdened hospitals and emergency departments. 
• Guard against the mental health “echo pandemic” by supporting Ontario workers, businesses, and the health care system to address increasing mental health and addiction challenges, including the opioid overdose epidemic. 
• Develop strategies to ensure a reliable supply and inventory of healthcare supplies in the event of health crises and shortages. 
• Implement Ontario’s life sciences strategy by committing to strategy milestones, such as immediately establishing the life sciences council and committing to the 2030 anchor goal, while recognizing the critical value of the sector overall. 
• Define Alzheimer’s and dementia as a post-pandemic public health priority, with a focus on early detection and support for those living with dementia and their caregivers. 
• Continue to enable and intensify investments towards innovative models of home and community care to reduce the reliance on costly, institutional-based care settings. 
• Prioritize long-term care services across rural and northern Ontario, develop a strategy to recruit and retain skilled labour in the sector, and increase direct care funding in these areas to ensure adequate, predictable, and stable multi-year funding. 
• Develop a national licensure strategy for physicians and other healthcare professionals (e.g., nurses and paramedics) to reduce inter-provincial barriers to labour mobility. 

e) Ensure municipalities have the support they need to provide wrap around services for homelessness, addiction, and mental health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the crisis of homelessness, addiction and mental health issues throughout our province. As wrap-around support services were forced to shut their doors or alter the ways that they provided service, we saw the crisis intensify. This has not only impacted the health and well-being of the many Ontarians experiencing homelessness and addiction, but it has also affected the safety and vibrancy of so many downtown cores in our communities. 

In order to address some of these safety concerns while also reducing the the strain that the growing crisis is putting our on local police force in the London a Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST) team has been formed. This is a partnership between St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s), Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Elgin-Middlesex, Middlesex-London Paramedic Service (MLPS), and London Police Service (LPS).

The COAST team connects with individuals in London who are at risk of crisis or frequently experience crisis, due to a struggle with mental health, mental illness and/or addiction. For these individuals, the program provides proactive intervention, de-escalation and safe transition to the appropriate healthcare setting. The program is led by community healthcare providers and supported by police services. Programs such as this one, if expanded and made permanent, could go a long way in supporting municipalities across the province with their own homelessness, addictions, and mental health crisis.

Further, the City of London has created its first ever Health and Homelessness Community Summit - an unprecedented community partnership to address homelessness and addiction in order to take an aggressive “housing first” approach to the issue. Recommendations from the Summit will be released in March, but we expect that supportive housing units which employ health care staff for those struggling with mental health and addiction issues will be a primary focus.  

As a larger city in Ontario, London is able to offer a variety of wrap around services. This however can be a catch-22 because it means our city can attract these vulnerable populations from other smaller surrounding communities that do not have sufficient resources to provide these supports.

Ensure that smaller municipalities have the support they need to provide wrap around services for homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.
Expand and make permanent programs such as COAST that partner mental health professionals with police services. 
Provide investment for supportive housing for those struggling with mental health and addiction issues. 


Red tape reduction and the modernization of government programs, services, and regulatory frameworks remain critical for enabling business growth and productivity. Beyond this, modernization leads to improved outcomes and better value for taxpayer dollars, making Ontario a more attractive place to invest, work, and live. 

a) Innovate government services and regulatory frameworks. 
By expanding digital offerings, investing in customer service, and streamlining regulations and compliance systems, Ontario can improve its competitiveness and help businesses prosper. We encourage the government to continue to modernize regulatory frameworks, programs, and services, and break down silos across government. 

• Implement the One Ontario concept to be used by municipalities, Provincial Ministries, and other approval agencies in Ontario for the development and building permitting processes.
• Improve government service delivery by building greater staffing capacity, advancing digital design and delivery, undertaking internal reviews, and collaborating with industry partners to identify best practices. 
• Modernize real estate legislation and work with industry stakeholders to close long-standing loopholes and deliver an enhanced regulatory framework that will protect Ontarians looking to buy or sell real estate.
• Improve the efficiency of the justice system by providing Ontarians with the option of making court appearances virtually and expand on the ability to file and access documents electronically.

b) Foster a business environment that promotes growth, confidence, and predictability. 

With the recent introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, it has become increasingly important for Ontario to foster a business environment that attracts investments, promotes greater competitiveness, and is more predictable. Uncertainty about future government policies is one of the main barriers that deters the private sector from making major investments. Businesses need a stable policy environment with clear timelines, contracts, consultations, and strategies to help them plan for the future and make long-term investments. 

• Commit to undertaking thorough consultations prior to introducing regulations or legislation that significantly impact the business community and create mechanisms to protect and/or compensate parties from the cancellation or revisions of contracts with provincial government. 
• Modernize regulations and ensure timelines and consultations are transparent and give sufficient time for businesses to plan for the future. Publishing a cost-of-doing-business index would be an effective means to track and improve business competitiveness relative to other jurisdictions.
• Ensure proposed changes are focused on outcomes and supported by cost-benefit analyses. 

c) Design an effective and efficient portable benefits program.

The Chamber supports the government’s intention to develop and implement a portable benefits program in Ontario for workers who fall outside of traditional employer-provided benefit programs. To ensure the program is effective and efficient, we encourage ongoing opportunities for public and private perspectives from both labour and health experts to be involved in program development and implementation. 

• Leverage internal (e.g., Ministry of Health) and external (e.g., private insurance companies) expertise related to the design and delivery of health benefits programs in Ontario, including ongoing engagement with Chamber Network and our members. 
• Define program scope and governance to determine the types of workers that would be covered, the types of benefits that would be available, the roles of stakeholders in administering, funding, and managing the program, and the intended program outputs. 
• Proceed with a time-limited pilot project in a specific industry and/or covering a certain type of worker to gather relevant data on the program’s efficacy and outcomes.
• Prioritize portability, proportionality, flexibility, and affordability in program design, with considerations for unique challenges facing SMEs and low-income workers to ensure SMEs can remain competitive and low-income workers can equitably benefit. 
• Avoid unintended consequences to existing public sector programs and private sector markets by focusing on filling benefit gaps. 

d) Continue to develop an integrated health data system. 

Sharing health data more effectively and efficiently is essential to empowering patients and providers, and ultimately, improving patient outcomes along the continuum of care. As we look toward recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, improved health data interoperability will also be critical to supporting capacity and resilience in our health care system, while setting the stage for a more agile, connected health data ecosystem across provincial boundaries. 
• Increase data interoperability, including alignment with other provinces (where possible) to facilitate standardization and information dissemination in support of the Pan-Canadian Health Data strategy. • Allow industry stakeholders to access health data (with robust privacy protections) to spur new insights, efficiencies, and innovation. 
• Continue to engage all relevant health sector stakeholders (including patient advocates, health information custodians, and industry) to inform all phases of health data system policy development and implementation. 

e) Advance Ontario’s data strategy and privacy legislation. 
Businesses of all sizes use data to operate, innovate, and serve their customers. They need clear and effective legal frameworks within which they can operate, innovate responsibly, and continue advancing our economic and social progress with data and technology. At the same time, digitization of government and improved use 
of data can transform outcomes in the public and private sectors alike. We encourage the government to continue building on efforts to lead government’s digital transition. 

• Advance Ontario’s Digital and Data Strategy through improvements to the province’s open data framework, developing a government-issued digital identity, and refraining from a patchwork of privacy legislation that duplicates federal legislation. 

f) Modernize Ontario’s supply chains and public sector procurement. 
As supply chain backlogs and disruptions continue to constrain business operations in Ontario, immediate relief and longer-term infrastructure investments are critical to ensuring the timely and reliable movement of goods. Additionally, procurement within Ontario’s broader public sector is often narrowly focused on short-term cost considerations at the expense of long-term value creation. 

• Offer targeted financial supports to help small and medium-sized businesses adopt supply chain risk management and diversification strategies, and technology to improve visibility, predictive analytics, and real-time management. 
• Direct funding through provincial and municipal infrastructure programs to ensure the necessary capacity exists across all modes and channels of distribution, including aviation and marine.
• Invest in trade-enhancing infrastructure writ large and identify gaps for alternate air, rail, land, and marine route planning in the event of major disruptions, such as protests, border disruptions, and climate disasters. 
• Launch a government education campaign to promote careers in transportation and supply chain operations, along with financial training incentives, and open dedicated immigration pathways for truck drivers and other in-demand careers. 
• Work with the health care sector to identify opportunities to modernize procurement processes to attract investments and improve long-term value creation. 
• Expand access to public sector procurement opportunities for small businesses by addressing financial and informational barriers.
• Support the modernization of supply chains through the use of dynamic risk assessments in order to better predict consumer demands

g) Bolster interprovincial and international trade. 

Interprovincial barriers to trade and labour mobility continue to limit Ontario’s competitiveness and deter further investment. Economic activity is hampered by inconsistent rules around transportation, the environment, securities, professional certification, marketing, and more. According to a study by Deloitte, removing interprovincial trade barriers would increase Ontario’s GDP by $23 billion and annual provincial tax revenues by $5 billion.1 The global market for Canadian goods and services is also ripe with opportunity. We encourage the government to work with its federal counterpart to expand export opportunities for Ontario’s most competitive sectors. 

• Take bold action on interprovincial trade by signing mutual recognition agreements and/or unilaterally recognizing standards in other parts of the country, where appropriate, to promote trade and labour mobility. For example, consider entering a bilateral agreement with the Government of Quebec for meat and meat products, recognizing the equivalency of inspection systems. 
• Work with the federal government to adopt a bold strategy for low-carbon exports that positions Ontario’s energy, cleantech, and natural resource sectors as strategic tools in the transition to net zero. 
• Continue working with the federal government to ensure trade negotiations and/or disputes with the US are not detrimental to Ontario’s forestry industry. 

1 Deloitte Canada. 2021. “The Case for Liberalizing Interprovincial Trade in Canada.” interprovincial-trade-in-canada-aoda.pdf

h) Modernize and champion the cannabis sector. 

In the three years since recreational cannabis has been legalized in Canada, it has quickly emerged as one of Canada’s fastest-growing sectors and has since contributed over $43 billion to our national GDP. Yet major hurdles – including an overly restrictive regulatory regime – are inhibiting economic growth, deterring investment, and squeezing margins for producers and retailers alike. 

• Work with sector stakeholders to reduce OCS markups (currently at 30%) to a level that is more in line with other provinces and that will allow the private sector to compete effectively against illegal actors. 
• Work with the federal government to ensure regulations strike the appropriate balance between safeguarding public health and ensuring cannabis companies can develop a distinct brand and product offerings that can effectively compete with illegal actors. 
• Modernize regulations to allow licensed producers (LPs) and retailers to have a direct relationship.
• Pursue lost tax revenues from underground markets, and establish tougher penalties for noncompliance, coupled with intensified audits. 
• Require the Ontario Cannabis Retail Store (OCS) to provide quarterly updates on their progress around the 16 recommendations contained in the Auditor General’s value-for-money audit report released in December 2021.
• Facilitate cannabis consumption establishments and implement special occasion permits. 

i) Protect municipalities’ fiscal capacity and develop a plan for fiscal balance. 

The continued challenges of COVID-19 have necessitated significant spending from all levels of government to support businesses and individuals. Supporting the fiscal capacity of municipalities is important to ensure they have sufficient resources and infrastructure, particularly as their responsibilities have grown over the past two decades. The Province must also have a transparent, long-term debt management plan and path to fiscal balance in place to protect taxpayers. 

• Work with municipalities to review revenue generation and spending mechanisms, including property taxes, to ensure communities can continue investing in local economic development opportunities.
• Adopt value-based procurement and alternative service delivery, digitize government, reduce administrative burdens, pursue lost revenue from untaxed economic activity, and implement a formal policy on asset recycling. 


The past few years have been characterized by a significant amount of uncertainty. The ongoing pandemic, high inflation, persistent labour shortages, geopolitical risks, and a slowdown in economic activity signal the need for investments and policies that will create the right conditions for competitiveness, productivity, and growth. 


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