First things first - we have a webinar scheduled with the Health Unit tomorrow (Thursday, February 18) at 10:00 am - click to Register below - we know this is short notice, and we'll record the meeting in case you're not able to join us. If you do have any questions, don't hesitate to send them to me today... email Jill
Most of last week was spent on working with other Chambers across Eastern Ontario to develop a few key policy resolution submissions - based on procurement processes and public sector competition - that have raised a number of issues buried within those concerns and then last Thursday, MP Neil Ellis invited us to join in the pre-budget consultations with Minister Mona Fortier. I did take the opportunity to complete the questionnaire in advance to get a sense of where the federal government is leaning in terms of budget priorities.
Maybe it's how we've been discussing the challenges to the health & child care sector that prompted my reaction but I was struck by the options presented that seem misaligned with the pre-pandemic labour shortage (still an underlying issue) and that frontline health and child care workers are essential. Of course, internet remains top of mind for anyone in eastern Ontario and simply noted we’re on side with supporting continued investment there.
There are many sectors facing labour shortages so the focus on "creating" jobs is tone deaf to the challenges for companies unable to serve customers/clients or meet contract/production obligations (even during a pandemic) because people aren't choosing these jobs.
Rather than investing to create new jobs, the money should go to supporting entry level and essential workers by raising the value of this work. A campaign to engage our youth into the labour market is what our manufacturers and skilled trades need. I also noted another opportunity to support businesses facing the exodus of retiring workers would be support for transitional training. Companies have the employees who are best able to train their successors but grants are only available to support external trainers. Effectively, an employer is required to pay double for that position while the training is underway ultimately paying double for that time frame.
The survey also asked about supporting gender equality in STEM and AI. Of course, women should be welcomed to any field but after seeing how essential health & child care sector employees are - it might be time to revisit the concept of what gender equality really should look like. Why should women need to move into traditional male roles in order to be paid well? Instead, let's value the work many women find themselves doing and start paying them what they're worth rather than asking them to fit into what men have been paid well for in the past. This doesn't mean we shouldn't encourage women to move into these roles but the barriers to entry are far less significant than the necessity to exit traditional roles because they are grossly undervalued. And, if we paid health and child care workers better, we might see gender equality in those fields emerge with more men in those roles - we certainly need people to do these jobs.
Housing has become one of the greatest challenges as our real estate market has exploded. We've moved from becoming an investment community (which started driving prices) to a desirable community in which to live - people aren't just investing now, they are leaving the cities and finding homes in smaller cities - driving housing up 41% in the past year... Municipally, we're looking for a balance between development charges and the cost of growth. If the Federal Government would support the development of supply - through land development (water/sewer/roads) - that assists both the new homeowner and the existing taxpayer. Instead, communities are being forced to infill and intensify density in order to meet demand (this isn't always a bad thing) but the only way to manage the housing crises in certain regions is to assist with the increased supply. One of the reasons eastern Ontario has re-entered green is in part to our ability to maintain distance in our communities. If we force the infilling and density the housing crisis is creating, we are just setting ourselves up for greater challenges in the next pandemic.
While each of these thoughts doesn't address the complexity of each issue, I do hope we might consider them provoking enough to change the conversation to the greater good. I'd certainly welcome your perspectives on any of these issues and you are also able to submit your own thoughts - either by completing the questionnaire - or in writing by this Friday. Pre-budget consultation link
And - the Canada United Fund opened again yesterday - these funds go quickly. See the link below for more information.
Have a great week!