SSM Chamber of Commerce Chalks Up a Win with Ontario Budget

Business Office

Allowing municipalities to target tax relief to small businesses and lowering high business property tax rates were recommendations in the Sault Chamber’s most recent provincial policy resolution

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON – The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce is applauding steps in today’s provincial budget which are aimed at reducing taxes for job creators struggling to ensure that Ontarians keep their paycheques during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were pleased to see that many of the action items provided in today’s budget are precisely in line with what we recommended in our recent Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) Policy resolution, Achieving Property Tax Fairness Across Ontario,” states Rory Ring, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.

That resolution, which was jointly authored by the Sault Ste. Marie and Burlington Chambers of Commerce, was submitted to the provincial Chamber network earlier this fall at the OCC Annual General Meeting, where it received overwhelming support from chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across Ontario and became part of the advocacy framework of the Chamber network at the provincial level.

“At that time, we noted that Ontario’s property tax system had not just become antiquated and unresponsive to significant changes across Ontario’s economic landscape, it was ineffective in responding to evolving challenges such as climate change, rapidly evolving technology, the growing infrastructure deficit, and most urgently, COVID-19,” continues Ring.

Before being forwarded to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network for consideration, the resolution was brought before Sault Ste. Marie City Council, where it received a significant endorsement when Council and Mayor Christian Provenzano added their voices of support to the Chamber’s efforts, passing a motion at their July 13th meeting affirming the policy resolution’s recommendations.

Today’s budget proposes lowering high provincial business property tax rates to a rate of 0.88 per cent for over 200,000 properties – or 94 per cent of all business properties in the province. This would create $450 million in annual savings in 2021, representing a 30 per cent reduction for many employers.

Ontario is also proposing to provide municipalities with the ability to cut property tax for small businesses and a provincial commitment to consider matching these reductions. This would provide small businesses as much as $385 million in total municipal and provincial property tax relief by 2022-23, depending on municipal adoption.

“This Budget addresses many of the actions we, on behalf of Ontario’s business community, have been asking for. We are particularly pleased to hear the government talk about addressing ‘profit insensitive’ costs to business; those expenses that remain the same regardless of if a company is bringing in revenue,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Outlays such as property taxes and electricity rates have imposed considerable stress on business, especially small business, throughout the pandemic.”

Some key measures in Budget 2020 supported by the Ontario business community include:

  • Reducing commercial and industrial electricity rates will make Ontario businesses more competitive and enable them to invest in recovery and growth. For years, Ontario businesses have paid more for electricity than most other jurisdictions in North America, and the pandemic has only increased electricity system costs.
  • Business Education Tax rates vary throughout Ontario; as a result, businesses in London, Waterloo, Hamilton, Toronto, Windsor/Middlesex, and Kingston are paying higher taxes than those in other regions. The government has announced it will both reduce the BET rate and address regional variance within that rate, both of which the OCC has advocated for in the past.
  • The decision to make the higher Employer Health Tax threshold permanent is a welcome one that will free thousands of businesses from having to pay this tax.
  • The move to allow municipalities to target property tax relief specifically to small business is a creative and important tool to grant communities, given that small business has been hardest hit by the pandemic. • Broadband is a basic infrastructure requirement in today’s economy, but the ongoing pandemic has made it even more essential to public health and economic resilience. We are very pleased to see the government take this seriously with an additional investment of $680 million (for a total of nearly $1 billion) over six years.

“The issue of property tax fairness has been a point of discussion for the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce for several years, and it is an issue that we will continue to advocate for on behalf our local Chamber member businesses,” states Ring. “A number of individuals have been invaluable in helping us research the issue and craft our policies. We owe a great deal of thanks to our research expert, Barry Nanne and to Chamber past presidents, Mark Barsanti and Jason Naccarato who helped us bring the issue to the forefront.”