It’s an election — there will be mudslinging, gimmicky promises, and sometimes lofty or untested policy concepts without a price tag. So, what do businesses want?
It’s simple: Predictability.
Ontario businesses have faced an unprecedented few years, characterized by a prolonged pandemic, record high inflation, supply chain disruptions, labour shortages, and geopolitical turmoil. Given these conditions, it has never been more important for all parties to look at how they can provide a level of stability that encourages economic recovery, growth and business competitiveness.
As a starting point to succeed, businesses need clear timelines, consultations and forward-looking strategies to help them plan for the future and make the necessary long-term investments.
Why should the average Ontarian care?
First of all, there is a ripple effect when businesses do well. Business growth results in more prosperous communities, improved consumer confidence, high-quality jobs, and a more resilient economy. We have all witnessed and felt the opposite of such growth throughout the pandemic.
Secondly, the pandemic has been particularly harmful to small businesses that are crucial to Ontario’s economy. Many small businesses are still grappling with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, including cash flow constraints and an increased cost of doing business. Ninety- eight per cent of Ontario businesses are small businesses and account for the majority of the jobs.
If small businesses fail, we fail.
Finally, many businesses worry about how Ontario’s high cost of living will impact their ability to attract and retain talent.
Ontarians continue to feel the domino effect of structural issues on their pocketbooks, from housing to the grocery store to the pumps. This could have a real impact on our ability to compete for talent. With an aging population and birth decline, we need immigrants to fill labour gaps. A recent national survey indicated that 30% of new immigrants to Canada are citing high cost of living as a reason they would look to move to another country in the next two years. More Ontarians moved to Quebec than the reverse in 2021 — a first on record.
All parties this election vying to be the next government should keep in mind that it has never been more important for those in power to view business as a partner, not an enemy. Ontario’s business community will, after all, play an important role in the province’s economic rebound. It means those untested and significant policies that impact the business community need to be based on evidence, focused on outcomes, and be supported by a cost-benefit analyses. Parties also need to keep in mind that the “what” is just as important as the “how.”
Policymakers can create a more stable environment by committing to thorough and meaningful consultations, longer implementation timelines for major policy changes, greater harmonization of policies across governments, and presenting a fiscally balanced, long-term strategy for economic growth.
The stakes are high this election. If we want our economy and people to emerge stronger — amid so much uncertainty — Ontario’s next government must focus squarely on creating the right environment to support business predictability. Against this backdrop, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has released Vote Prosperity, its recommendations across four key areas (business confidence and prosperity, economic growth, build resilient communities and support entrepreneurship and inno-vation) that support Ontario’s transition towards a more resilient economy.
Rocco Rossi is president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.