A new report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) calls on all federal parties to put Ontario’s economy in the spotlight during these final days of the 2015 election campaign. Through their report, Spotlight Ontario: How the Federal Parties Stack Up, the OCC commends all parties for their commitments to lower the tax burden on Ontario’s small employers. However, the report also expresses disappointment in the lack of attention given to key issues for Ontario businesses, including improved funding for the province’s regional economic development funds. The report also raises a number of red flags and calls on all parties to consider how their commitments will impact Ontario’s business climate.
“We’ve looked objectively at the policy commitments of the three major parties and have provided a balanced assessment of their commitments from Ontario’s business perspective,” said Monica Dale, President of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC).
Dale notes that the Sault Chamber hosted a televised Candidates Panel in September and while solutions and commitments to various local and Northern Ontario economic concerns varied depending on the party, the participating candidates all showed a good understanding of the issues and a genuine interest in supporting local business. She ads however, that “whichever candidate represents us following the vote, they can expect continued calls from the local Chamber to assist on issues of local economic importance such as northern rail service, the Port of Algoma, and added funding for FedNor.”
The OCC report assesses the Conservative, NDP, and Liberal party campaign commitments as they relate to nine key policy areas that matter to Ontario businesses, including infrastructure, Employment Insurance, and economic development.
“Ontario’s economy is in a period of transition” said Allan O’Dette, President & CEO of the OCC. “External global factors continue to challenge Canada’s business community, and in particular Ontario. We need leadership from the next federal government to provide solutions to our economic challenges.”
The OCC and the SSMCOC are calling on all parties to clearly articulate their economic strategy for Ontario over the course of the final weeks of the 2015 federal election campaign. Below is an overview of the chamber’s final assessment of the parties’ commitments to date.
The Conservative Party
The OCC approves of the Conservative Party’s pledges to:
– Maintain employers’ CPP contribution rates.
– Lower the small business tax rate by 2 percentage points.
– Lower EI premiums from $1.88 to $1.49 per $100 of salary.
The OCC is concerned with the Conservative Party’s refusal to reverse their decision to scrap the mandatory, long-form census. From a business perspective, the elimination of a mandatory census makes it significantly more difficult to obtain reliable labour market information.
The Liberal Party
The OCC approves of the Liberal Party’s pledges to:
– Invest $125 billion in infrastructure.
– Reduce EI premiums from $1.88 to $1.65 per $100 of salary.
– Cut the small business tax rate by two percentage points.
The OCC is concerned with the lack of clarity surrounding the Liberal Party’s commitment to reducing the small business tax rate. The Party has exaggerated the extent to which some small businesses are created by wealthy individuals seeking better tax treatment. Recent comments by the party have created uncertainty as to how the Liberal tax cut would be designed.
The New Democratic Party
The OCC approves of the NDP’s pledges to:
– Reform Canada’s EI program by creating a universal threshold for access to benefits.
– Develop an auto strategy within the first 100 days of their mandate.
– Reinstate the mandatory, long-form census.
The OCC is concerned by the NDP’s commitment to raise the corporate income tax rate by two percentage points to 17 percent, a move that would certainly hurt Ontario’s investment climate.