The Vaughan Chamber of Commerce (VCC), in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Ontario Chamber Network is proud to be a part of the ambitious campaign, Small Business: Too Big To Ignore.

This campaign highlights the important contributions of small businesses to our economy and communities, and actively engaged small businesses across the province to investigate the top barriers to small business growth – and identify solutions to overcome those challenges. To kick off this campaign the OCC has released the report, Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success.

A strong and vibrant small business sector is important for all business. Small businesses are the wealth creators, job creators and risk takers. Small businesses have important relationships with big businesses as part of the economic ecosystem. Big businesses are often highly dependent on small businesses as suppliers, distributors, customers, innovators, and for developing a skilled and experienced workforce to draw from. Small businesses also make up the majority of our local membership, our volunteers, and are often the people actively involved in community service.

The VCC lead a discussion in our community about the underlying challenges that are weighing on small businesses and stifling job creation. This session took place, September 7th, 2016. Our recommendations were sent to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to include in their final report – to be released during Small Business Week.

Small Business Too Big To Ignore Session Summary

Lack of Access to the Workers We Need

  1. As part of the mandatory career course offered at high school, the government must do a better job of predicting future job trends and enabling students to match their skills to future job demand areas.
  2. Universities aren’t doing an adequate job of preparing students for the job search process – setting realistic expectations, working with them to explore what jobs would be suitable for their interests and skillset, and developing the skills needed to search for the right job opportunities. This lack of preparedness is resulting in a disillusioned graduate pool who are projecting negatively on the education system.
  3. Changes proposed in the Changing Workplace Review with regards to contractual employment, will be severely detrimental to small business, and could prevent them from entering the marketplace and/or limit their chances of survival in a competitive marketplace. The ‘Just Cause’ dismissal provision would create an onerus environment whereby businesses would be involved in lengthy activities to justify their staffing decisions, redirecting their energy and focus to non-business development activities.
  4. It is essential that applications for unionization continue to be based on democratic and confidential votes. Card signing unionization does not respect the employees’ right to choose to unionize and/or to remain non-unionized. Democratic votes are essential to preserve employees’ right to make a confidential choice.

Key Infrastructure Gaps

  1. High focus infrastructure projects require a level of pre-planning that would allow last minute budget releases to be spent in a targeted and effective manner. Municipalities must have existing relationships with vendors that would allow for quick RFP and contract allocations, thereby supporting the urgent spending of funds that are released late in the year for purchases by fiscal year end.  In fact, to take this point one step further, there should be an acknowledgement and accommodation for funds that are earmarked for infrastructure spending, noting that meaningful infrastructure projects can rarely be completed within a few months and the funds should be held in trust for completion of projects that require a 1+ year completion time.  The current budget process encourages wasteful spending based on the – ‘spend the allocated budget this year at all costs or risk losing the budget allocation next year’ – mentality.
  2. Unfocussed infrastructure budget allocation causes significant downtime for small businesses where they are paying employees who are unable to perform their duties, for example, broadband issues can cause a small business to have several employees sitting for hours, unable to perform their duties, resulting in lost revenue and increased staffing costs for businesses who are already struggling to stay alive.

Rising Cost of Doing Business

  1. Proposed changes in the Changing Workplace Review will force small businesses to hire full-time/part-time workers as opposed to contract workers, even though their needs/requirements may change month over month. As a small growing start-up business needs are rarely known at the beginning and will evolve over time, but having to hire full-time employees can cripple a small business.
  2. Rising costs are preventing businesses from entering the marketplace and are preventing existing businesses from expanding or growing, specifically of note are the rising electricity rates, taxes, and the potential increase of the minimum wage.
  3. Businesses want transparency on the rising cost of electricity; that provides a forthright explanation of why Ontarians are being forced to pay some of the highest electricity rates, even though we are the largest producer of electricity.
    As part of this explanation, we ask – Is there not evidence in other parts of the country that points to provincial consumers reaping the rewards for being in a commodity rich province, i.e. Alberta gas prices vs. Ontario gas prices.
  4. Small businesses are penalized for having to use electricity during peak energy periods while larger businesses are given rate breaks because they are large consumers. Is there a way to view small business as a single business category and to provide incentives to small businesses whom are currently struggling to pay for the rising cost of doing business?

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