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Provincial budget doesn’t pass muster with chambers

Northern chambers applaud NOHFC budget increases, investments in broadband but fiscal path, new taxes worries business sector
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20180315 queens park
Queen's Park.

The provincial budget will add to the cost of doing business in Ontario, according to the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, in weighing down entrepreneurs with nearly half a billion dollars in new taxes among other challenges they face.

The chamber said Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s pre-election budget mirrors recent federal corporate tax changes on income splitting, along with passive investment income, which phases out small business deductions for certain earners.

When combined with new budget measures designed to tighten businesses’ eligibility criteria for the Employer Health Tax, approximately $495 million in new taxes on Ontario businesses over three years, said the chamber in a March 29 news release.

“While there are some elements in the budget that we’re happy to see, these new tax measures will only add to the cumulative, growing burden of doing business in Ontario,” said Timmins Chamber president Jamie Clarke in a statement.

"The speed with which recent labour law changes were introduced through Bill 148 left businesses with little time to adjust their operations, creating considerable uncertainty and obstacles that many are still struggling to overcome. Rather than providing relief to businesses reeling from these changes, these tax measures will instead create additional and unnecessary financial challenges.”

Clarke does find some positives by fattening the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund’s wallet by 50 per cent, increasing its budget to $150 million by 2020-2021.

The chamber likes the $500 million to be spent over three years to expand broadband in rural and northern communities, improved labour market information portal with real-time updates, and the $3 million in Connecting Link funding that went toward the reconstruction of Highway 101 through Timmins.

Overall, Clarke is disappointed that the budget marks a $6.7 billion deficit, adding to Ontario’s existing $308-billion debt. He said there seems to be no plan to return to balance until 2025, “an approach that threatens Ontario’s long-term economic stability,”

The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce expressed concern the budget does little to alleviate rising input costs with new taxes or tangibly address low business confidence, especially when businesses are struggling to adapt to the minimum wage hike.

“The Ontario Budget not only fails to provide the offsets our members need, it will leave some businesses, including small businesses, paying more in taxes, said Don Mitchell, acting chamber president.

The Sault chamber welcomed news that the government has established plans to modernize the province’s apprenticeship system and applauded the investment in broadband expansion, an issue they’ve been asking for several years.

Chamber CEO Rory Ring said with an Ontario chamber economic report showing businesses lacking confidence in the province’s economic outlook, the government needs to be doing more to enable private sector growth; the bottom line is that your private sector is what funds the social and health programs that were announced in (the March 29) budget.”