Infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and benefits the entire province. Ontario’s transportation network is a major part of the province’s infrastructure and a significant economic enabler of trade and economic investment.
Sixty-two percent of Oakville’s residents who are employed leave the community each day to commute to work. This number is 50% above the provincial average. Transportation improvements can make a significant difference to Oakville commuters’ quality of life, allowing them to spend more time with their families. We can’t wait; we recognize that additional funding is necessary. We also know that the status quo is simply not an option. We cannot let the problem worsen for future generations.
Businesses understand the cost of congestion. The ability to get people moving helps the bottom line – opens up new markets, allows goods to move freely, and grows the pool of potential employees from which they can draw. Current traffic congestion costs the economy an estimated $6 billion per year. For every $100 million invested in infrastructure, 1,670 jobs are created.
What is the Metrolinx Investment Strategy?
The OCC and Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) chambers’ recently released report entitled The $2 Billion Question: GTHA Business Opinion on Funding the Big Move informed the Metrolinx Investment Strategy.
The Metrolinx Investment Strategy proposes a fuel tax as a revenue source, which is in line with what GTHA businesses identified as a high potential (potentially viable) tool. Additional revenue tool recommendations coming out of the Metrolinx Investment Strategy include a sales tax, commercial parking levy and development charges. None of the OCC’s non-starter (not viable) tools (employer payroll tax, property tax or Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) fee) were put forward by Metrolinx as recommendations.
According to the Investment Strategy, 41% of funds will be raised in the 416 area code and 42% of investment will take place within it. Fifty-nine percent of funds will be generated in the 905 area code and 58% of funds will be invested in this same area.
For more information about the recommendations, visit
This was the common message from a new report released on May 14 by the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area chambers of commerce and boards of trade that shared the findings of GTHA-wide business consultations on how to fund new transportation infrastructure.
The Big Move is a 25-year, $50 billion plan designed to coordinate, integrate and build transportation and transit infrastructure across the GTHA.
The question is not if we need new transportation infrastructure but how are we going to fund it. A significant lack of investment in infrastructure over the last several decades by successive governments has resulted in what the Ontario Chamber of Commerce calls “a wicked problem.” At the Oakville Chamber’s recent roundtable which represented a broad mix of our members, there was strong support that the provincial government must look for efficiencies within its existing budget to help finance the Big Move. But we can’t wait; we recognize that additional funding is necessary.
The results of these consultations are consolidated in a new report, The $2 Billion Question: GTHA Business Opinion on Funding the Big Move. The report is intended to inform Metrolinx’s recommendations to the provincial government, due at the end of May.
The short list of 11 revenue tools proposed by Metrolinx formed the basis of these discussions. The discussions tabled the tools into three categories: non-starters, those with medium potential and those with high potential. The following is the report’s collective ranking of the tools proposed by Metrolinx:
• Non-starters (not viable)
o Property Tax
o Employer Payroll Tax
o Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT)
• Medium potential (mixed reviews)
o Commercial Parking Levy
o High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes
o Land Value Capture
o Development Charges
o Regional Sales Tax
o Transit Fare Increase
• High potential (potentially viable)
o Highway tolls
o Fuel tax
Variances between the regions were clear but the chambers agreed that we all must get beyond our parochial perspectives and recognize what is critical for the GTHA region as a whole. This discussion is not about preserving 905 versus 416 interests. It is not about partisanship or politics but about clear, guiding principles. Some principles around the decision-making process emerged in the GTHA discussions including:
• All new revenues must be dedicated;
• The collection of revenue and distribution of funding must be transparent;
• The cost must be distributed and the funding allocated fairly;
• Revenue tools should not impact economic competitiveness.
The chamber’s roundtable built on discussions that the Chamber GTHA Caucus – comprising 22 chambers – started with Metrolinx a few years ago. This caucus meets regularly to inform municipal, provincial and federal discussions about regional GTHA issues and to ensure that the unique issues and needs of each community have a voice.
There is power and strength in the chamber network.
Oakville Chamber of Commerce
Making the Business Case for Tackling Poverty in Halton
Three years ago I thought that poverty was not an issue in Halton. However, I spent a day with 15 members of our community as they shared their challenges of living with low income in Halton. I learned that poverty means more than being hungry or struggling to find a place to live; it means being unable to participate in our community – and that no one chooses to live in poverty.
I understand the moral imperative to help those in poverty. But as a business man and taxpayer I am beginning to understand the economic argument for tackling poverty. In 1971 Senator David Croll said “We are pouring billions of dollars into a social welfare system that merely treats the symptoms of poverty, but leaves the disease untouched.”
Current research shows us that an inadequate response to reducing poverty costs us in many areas.
A 2010 study by McMaster University found a 21-year difference in life expectancy between the poorest neighbourhood and the wealthiest neighbourhood in Hamilton. Living in the lowest quintile of income earners means using the healthcare system 50% more as a result of higher stress, poor nutrition, substandard housing, and an unstable social environment. This costs Ontario’s healthcare system an estimated $3 billion dollars per year.
20% of the children living in poverty will live in poverty as adults. With skill training and higher education, the income gain for Ontario is estimated at $3.2 billion per year. The total economic cost of child poverty in Ontario is $4.6 to $5.9 billion annually.
If we could increase the income and participation of the lowest quintile of income earners to the second quintile level, the benefit to the Ontario economy would be over $16 billion per year, with the government receiving an additional $4 billion in tax revenues.
In total, poverty costs Ontario $32 billion to $38 billion a year – over 5% of the provincial GDP.
Imagine for a minute that you have an infection and go to see the doctor. The doctor tells you that you need 10 ml of an antibiotic for 15 days to clear up the infection completely. He then prescribes you 5 ml for 10 days. Sure, you might feel a bit better, but there is no doubt that you will need to be back for ongoing refills of the antibiotic. Quite possibly for the rest of your life. We would never run our healthcare system this way and I struggle to understand why we are using this approach to tackle poverty.
Recent polls show that Canadians agree that the government should reduce the gap between rich and poor, and that taxes are a good thing because they contribute to a positive quality of life. As Canadian bank leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama have been pointing out: “Income inequality is a defining issue of our time.”
If our goal is to allow people living in poverty to survive, barely, then maybe we have reached that goal. If we want to end poverty and eliminate the costly repercussions, we need to try something else.
Hamel Wealth Management Group
Co-Chair, Halton Poverty Roundtable
The reality is that we all live with traffic congestion, unfortunately. Indeed, we think about it all the time. From commuting to our offices to carpooling for our kids’ soccer practice, transportation is a top-of-mind issue for business owners, employees, residents and policy makers in Oakville.
The fact is, a significant lack of investment in transportation infrastructure over the last several years by several governments has resulted in what the Ontario Chamber of Commerce calls “a wicked problem”.
What can – and should – we do about congestion over the coming five to ten years?
Will our kids face the same sort of traffic issues when they grow up?
And how do you finance “a wicked problem”?
The provincial government is trying to answer these questions through the “Big Move”, a 25-year, $50 billion plan designed to coordinate, integrate and build transportation and transit infrastructure across the GTHA.
Metrolinx has been holding a series of stakeholder meetings over the last few years on the Big Move. These meetings are meant to inform their investment strategy – to be released later this month – that will point to project priorities and funding models for the near and longer-term horizons. [You can learn more at http://www.bigmove.ca.
At the Oakville Chamber, we tried to answer these and other questions in a roundtable last month to which a range of our members were invited to meet with senior officials from the Ontario Chamber and Metrolinx. We gathered over breakfast to provide local input to the Big Move and to help the Ontario Chamber form its own policy position on the matter.
Following an initial presentation on the Big Move’s purpose, cost and overall scope, we moved into a discussion on the 11 funding tools that Metrolinx has put forward as the best options from which to choose in deciding how to pay the huge bill. These tools include, but are not limited to, highway tolls, commercial parking levies, regional sales tax, fuel tax, and transit fare increases.
It was an animated discussion in which our members shared their views on how to finance transportation infrastructure around the GTHA.
Among other things, there was universal agreement among members in the room that at least one proposed tool – property taxes – was “off the table” when it came to paying for the Big Move. This view is widely shared by businesses in other communities. There was strong support around the table that the provincial government must look for efficiencies within its existing budget to help finance the Big Move.
This roundtable builds on discussions that the Chamber GTHA Caucus – comprising 22 chambers including Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, Milton and Halton Hills, as well as the Mississauga Board of Trade – started with Metrolinx a few years ago. This caucus meets regularly to inform municipal, provincial and federal discussions about regional GTHA issues and to ensure that the unique issues and needs of each community have a voice.
It’s also a proxy for the kind of ongoing policy discussions we have with our members on important issues of the day.
Consider all the headlines around skills shortages, an issue the Canadian Chamber of Commerce says is one the top 10 barriers for business in this country.
Not every company has a skills shortage, clearly. But many do. And many business owners are currently looking several years out and wondering how they will fill gaps that will emerge in an aging workforce.
The Canadian Chamber’s new Human Resources Committee will delve into these and related skills issues when it holds its first meeting later this month. I was asked to be on this national committee, and I look forward to representing our members in that new forum.
In thinking about transportation and skills you can see why chambers are both leading and lagging indicators of policy issues. That is, chambers can take leadership roles in initiating important policy discussions on behalf of their members and in working closely with policy makers on relevant legislation and regulations. Chambers can also be informed by discussions that have already started and contribute significantly to them.
In that vein, we recently asked our members to fill in our latest advocacy survey on a range of issues about doing business in Oakville. Member input is very important as we develop and advocate a range of policies for our members.
VP, Policy and Government Relations
Oakville Chamber of Commerce
Malcolm Gladwell said “The visionary starts with a blank sheet of paper and re-imagines the world.” So imagine this: picking fruit and vegetables from a building’s urban vertical farm or bathing in the outdoor pool in Bronte harbour. In Siemens Future Life film at the Crystal – a global urban sustainability centre in London – we are told that individuals are important but communities are king.
How do we sustain the outstanding quality of life we have come to enjoy as a community in Oakville? How do we plan for our growing and changing city that calls itself a town and thinks like a village while preserving our unique character?
Sustainability enthusiasts often encourage individuals to make small changes to their lifestyles, hoping for more significant change as a result of collective actions. And whether it’s retrofitting unsustainable buildings or improving pedestrian infrastructure, there’s no doubt that individuals can positively contribute to the overall sustainability of a city. However, for society to successfully complete its journey towards sustainability, larger stakeholders such as governments and businesses also need to be proactive in addressing sustainability challenges.
The Oakville Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Professional Engineers Association of Ontario Oakville chapter, presented a one-day Sustainable Cities Symposium on April 19 to address these questions about how our community collectively can foster innovation for the future. Experts lead discussions in four key areas of: Planning & Infrastructure, Transportation, Sustainable Buildings, Water & Waste Management.
We are so fortunate Oakville is home to some of the world’s most iconic engineering firms: GE, Hatch and Siemens. Sustainability experts from these companies shared their expertise at the symposium. Complimenting these presentations, Metrolinx, Enermodal Engineering, PwC, Ellis Don and the Region of Halton also shared their experiences, knowledge and visions related to sustainability. Our keynote speaker, Senator Art Eggleton, speaks widely on the issue of sustainable cities.
Oakville Chamber of Commerce
(We thought we would share President John Sawyer’s experience in China that appeared originally in the Oakville Beaver.) I am just back from a 10-day tour of China and still recovering from the 12-hour time difference and the gruelling 14 hour return flight. We made all of the mandatory tourist stops at tombs, temples and palaces including a pilgrimage to the Great Wall and of course spent way too much money on kitschy souvenirs and gifts.
Like most westerners, I mistakenly viewed China as a homogenous, monolithic society but the reality was quite different. There were some unexpected parallels between China and Canada. Both are vast countries, made up of diverse dialects, regions and cultures; cultures heavily influenced by history, geography, climate and neighbouring states. Of course there are the obvious differences: the size of the cities and the population density, the 2,500 year history, the form of government and its role in people’s lives, and the incredible pace of development. While the climate in the north of China is similar to what we would experience in the Niagara Region, the more southerly parts of China enjoy a very moderate, almost tropical climate with palm trees.
China is very much a work in progress and a country of contrasts. As visitors to other parts of the world can attest, we were not acclimatized to the local water so we could not drink from the tap in our opulent five-star hotels. What is most striking is that my hotel rooms were nearly the same size as a home or apartment that would be occupied by a typical family of three. There was an enormous gap between the affluent and the average citizen. Modern high-rise development is abutting traditional single story housing that dates back more than 150 years. Open air local markets are being replaced with western style supermarkets.
Generally the people we met were happy and friendly, sophisticated and well-educated. However, when we were out and about we would sometimes meet people on the street who had never met a Caucasian in person. Some, from the rural areas, were almost childlike in their delight in meeting a foreigner.
The most enlightening parts of our visit were the many conversations with our hosts and tour guides. They were open and frank and no topic was off-limits. They were diplomatic and whenever a controversial issue came up they would pause, reflect, begin by saying “it is complicated” and then go on to share their views. As one would expect in North America those views were shaped by the individuals’ age, gender, education and life experience.
From my casual observation China is doing some things right. They clearly understand the need to invest in infrastructure and transportation. In the south they are intensifying land use and making effective use of open space. I was pleasantly surprised at their awareness of the need to balance economic development with their impact on the environment. They have a long way to go, but they are aware of the issue, and we discussed some positive steps they have made in this regard.
I was disappointed to learn that Canada was not high on the list of places to visit. European countries such as France and Italy followed by the U.S. were the destinations of choice.
It can be a challenge to set aside our western sensibilities but I believe we in North America need to better understand China. This trip was a great opportunity for me to see and experience firsthand a country in the midst of a historic transformation.
Oakville Chamber of Commerce
Oakville is an affluent community at the western end of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Sixty-two percent of the town’s population who are employed leave the community every day to work. This statistic is 50% higher than the provincial average.
Over the past three decades the non-residential share of the town’s tax base has declined from more than 30% to less than 14%. This decline has resulted in a greater burden of costs being placed not only on residential properties, but higher levels of taxation for business as well. Business property taxes range from two to three times the residential rate yet businesses typically use less than half of the services used by an average household.
The continued decline in industrial/commercial assessment as a percentage of total assessment is a very real concern and its continued erosion could put Oakville in a precarious position with residents and existing businesses shouldering more of the tax burden.
Oakville’s Award-winning Economic Development Plan (2009-2019), developed in consultation with the Oakville Chamber, targets areas to ensure increased economic development activity for Oakville.
The Plan identifies four key areas:
• Advanced Manufacturing
• Professional & Financial Services
• Digital Media & Animation
• Life Sciences
In the past two years, Siemens Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Canadian Tire Financial Services have all located in Oakville.
Rockstar Toronto, located in Oakville, added 50 positions to its location in the last year. Rockstar is considered one of the top game developers in the world, creating titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series, L.A. Noire, Bully and more.
DevBBQ and Jasper Interactive Studios, both cutting-edge software and web companies, set up shop in Oakville recently.
Sheridan College is exploring opportunities to partner with Chengdu University in China to open a satellite campus.
The town is in active discussions with various stakeholders regarding options for the life sciences park. Oakville’s location will complement the corridor of life science activity between research centres in Toronto and Hamilton. This important component of the strategy will create jobs that are suitable for the education level and income expectations of current and future residents.
As Chamber Chair Julia Hanna pointed out in her message in this edition of the magazine, bringing jobs to Oakville reduces traffic congestion, reduces the carbon footprint and means employees spending more time with family and friends instead of commuting.
The chamber would like to see Oakville become the engineering hub of North America with so many engineering companies located here. To that end, in partnership with the Professional Engineers of Ontario Oakville chapter, the chamber is hosting a Sustainable Cities Symposium on April 19.
The Economic Development Department acts as an internal advocate for business with the town, but also as an advocate for the town to business and, working with the chamber, can act as a bridge between the town and business. Last year, the town’s Economic Development Department coordinated an “Oakville Leaders Forum” with the chamber so that the town could hear directly from the business community on relevant issues.
Following the forum, the chamber hosted our annual Leader’s Reception where executives from Oakville’s largest companies meet to network informally and exchange ideas. Publicly, the chamber works to attract senior government officials and business leaders to speak to our members. Whenever possible, the chamber uses these opportunities for private in-person discussions held in roundtable format between chamber members and these key decision makers on relevant issues.
For further questions about economic development opportunities in Oakville, please contact the Oakville Chamber of Commerce or the Economic Development department at the Town of Oakville.