FERGUS – The province wants businesses in Ontario to be successful and believes one way to help is to cut the red tape and costs associated with some cumbersome policies.
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott brought his colleague Parm Gill, MPP for Milton and Minister of Red Tape Reduction, to meet with local business leaders at an event hosted by the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce on June 16.
Gill said the Ministry of Red Tape Reduction used to operate as an arm of economic development, but now it’s a stand-alone ministry.
He said the ministry has passed two pieces of legislation every year for the past five years, “and that has saved $800 million in annual costs” for business.
“We continue to look at ways to make sure the province is competitive.”
Gill said the biggest concern he’s heard is the difficulty in finding qualified staff. That has prompted the province to look at immigration policies, and training programs at colleges and universities, so graduating students and newcomers to the province have the skills and training businesses are looking for. He was eager to hear more suggestions from local businesses.
The chamber of commerce had launched a survey to gain an understanding of the challenges local businesses are facing.
Chamber CEO Sally Litchfield went through the survey results and asked chamber members in attendance to share examples and stories to illustrate their responses.
According to the survey:
- 46% of local businesses are short-staffed;
- 54% have adjusted hours of operation to accommodate availability of staff; and
- 54% say the staff shortage is impacting the morale of staff, as they are working more hours to cover and burning out.
Lack of housing for employees and lack of public transportation are also issues for local businesses.
Litchfield said some businesses have purchased homes to house their staff and others have leased vehicles so employees can carpool to work.
“That’s their way of locking in employees,” she said.
Apart from finding staff, other issues impacting local businesses include supply chain issues (still ongoing), the threat of Amazon to small businesses that can’t compete with bulk buying pricing, and inflation, which impacts the ability to spend.
Janet Harrop, president of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture and a dairy farmer, said supply chain issues continue to disrupt the dairy industry.
She said farmers need salt for their animals – it’s important to their diet and health. But Goderich, a big supplier of salt, is earmarking its salt for roads.
And while salt is available from a company in Saskatoon, transporting it here “has increased the price by 50%,” she said.
“We have basic nutritional requirements, and we can’t provide for them,” she told Gill.
A home builder in the audience said some of the measures the government has taken have actually thrown down roadblocks instead of removing them.
“We don’t need a Ministry of Red Tape Reduction, we need a Ministry of Getting Something Done,” he quipped.
He said the Ministry of Housing and Ministry of the Environment often have opposing views on things like stormwater management.
His company is an energy-efficient builder working towards building net-zero homes, “but the ministries are at odds with each other,” he said.
Gill offered no solutions. He’s on a fact-finding mission and what he hears will inform any new initiatives, he told the audience.
“If you’re having problems, come to us,” he said. “We will help find a solution to the problem.”