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2020 Fall Pre-Budget Submission to Minister Phillips

Posted 2 years ago on · Permalink

On October 16, 2020, the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade was invited to participate in a virtual pre-budget consultation session with the “Durham 4”; Ontario Finance Minister and Ajax MPP Rod Phillips, Pickering-Uxbridge MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy, Whitby MPP Lorne Coe, and Durham MPP Lindsey Park.

Below is a copy of the submission made to the Ministry of Finance:

 

October 16, 2020

VIA EMAIL

The Honourable Rod Phillips
Minister of Finance
c/o Budget Secretariat
Frost Building North, 3rd Floor
95 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Z1

Dear Minister Phillips,

RE: Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade Pre-Budget Submission

The Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this pre-budget consultation.

We were proud to represent our members with a pre-budget submission earlier this year, prior to the global pandemic. We stand by our earlier submission and are grateful for the opportunity to submit further recommendations on where the business community can be better supported.

In support of the health of our economy, we ask that the Government of Ontario:

  1. Ensure easy, clear, and fast direction and testing. In order to allow our local businesses to operate, workers need to clearly understand when they need to self-isolate. With the return of kids to the classroom, many individuals have been left confused by whether a child’s need to stay home (as determined by the student self-assessment) means that their household needs to stay home (as determined by the province’s self-assessment). Unfortunately, these self-assessment questionnaires have gaps and conflicts that create uncertainty. For example, the self-assessments do not properly address what an individual should be doing if they recently had symptoms, but have recovered.

If a worker is directed to be tested for COVID-19, to avoid negatively impacting the employer, the testing must be accessible and the test results must be provided quickly. For many businesses, if one worker tests positive, then other workers will need to be tested. As such, a single worker having symptoms can result in a business having to close for weeks, while the first worker and then other workers get tested. The province must establish and meet a testing benchmark (e.g. testing within 48 hours of booking an appointment and results within 24 hours). In addition, we strongly recommend approving and distributing rapid testing, in particular for workers of essential businesses and for workers without any symptoms.

2. Restrictions based on risks, not examples. Over the last several months, we have come to have a much better understanding of COVID-19. We now understand that public businesses without physical distancing, without masks, with shared frequent contact points, that promote physical exertion, etc., all have higher risks of spreading COVID-19. Instead of defining businesses that must close based on business category, we should be defining businesses that must close based on risk level. For example, listing “gyms” as a category of business that must close, leaves open uncertainty about whether businesses such as rock climbing facilities and axe throwing facilities can remain open. It would be much clearer for businesses and much more equitable if the restrictions were based on risks. For example, instead of saying under the modified stage 3 gyms must close, the regulation could provide that “all businesses open to the public and that promote physical exertion (e.g. gyms) must be closed, except where the business can ensure that: 1) masks will be worn at all times; 2) physical distancing can be maintained; and 3) no more than 1 person per x square foot”. Similarly, instead of saying under the modified stage 3 all restaurants must be closed to indoor eating, the regulation could provide that “all businesses open to the public and that require masks off for all or part of a customer’s visit, must be closed, except: 1) if the business is providing a regulated medical service; OR 2) where the business can ensure that the customer is only within 6’ of members of their household, when they are not wearing a mask”.

3. Give restaurants temporary wholesale pricing through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The province has already taken the excellent approach of permanently including liquor delivery as part of take out. This move can be further complimented by allowing restaurants to access wholesale pricing on beer, wine, and spirits.

4. Provide a centralized support mechanism where businesses could easily access sample HR policies, programs, and training where it is statutorily required. The pandemic has highlighted how little assistance is available to small business owners when trying to navigate the lengthy list of health and safety policies, programs, and training that must be developed and implemented. The province can better support business with the development of an online portal.

5. Accelerate investments in broadband and cellular infrastructure. As businesses seek to innovate and fully participate in the digital economy, many are restricted by insufficient access to high-speed internet. The province has already made significant investments in broadband expansion and should augment and accelerate these investments, and coordinate its programs with telecommunications providers more strategically to ensure public investments are complementing (not competing with) private dollars.

6. Accelerate post-pandemic reskilling. Reskilling is essential to the rapid re-employment of workers that were displaced during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly given the permanent restructuring expected in hard-hit sectors such as retail, hospitality, and tourism.

In addition to the above requests, the Board of Trade asks that future COVID-19 restrictions and policy decisions be fair and equitable across regions and industries. We also ask our provincial leaders to be fast and flexible in their reaction to the changing needs of the business community.

We thank you for the opportunity to represent the voice and needs of our members and stakeholders and look forward to working with all levels of government to support the businesses and organizations of Ajax, Pickering, and beyond.

Sincerely,

Nicole Gibson
Executive Director
Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade

CC:
Tracy Paterson, President, Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade
Rocco Rossi, President, Ontario Chamber of Commerce
The Honourable Peter Bethlenfalvy, MPP, Pickering-Uxbridge