Quarterly Advocacy Update
Fall 2022 Advocacy Update
It has been a busy fall for advocacy work at the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. Our four policy & advocacy committees (Government Affairs, Policy Development, Immigration Advocacy and Indigenous Partnerships) are up and running, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and conference returned to an in-person format and as always, we’re working with all levels of government to try to create the best business conditions possible for our members.
Much of our advocacy work is available online and shared via social media – we post all of our letters, news releases, submissions to government, and more on our website and regularly update our magazine, Insight Online. There is also an advocacy update in our weekly Chamber Connections newsletter.
We recently sent our annual policy and advocacy survey to our members, including draft policy priorities for 2023 and the initial feedback from members has been very positive. These draft policies will be finalized once the survey closes:
- Competitive Business Environment (taxes, regulatory environment, infrastructure, etc);
- Workforce Development;
- Population Growth & Immigration;
- Technology and Innovation; and
- Innovative Solutions to Accessing Primary Health Care.
Below is a closer look at some of our activities this fall.
Cap on International Students’ Working Hours Temporarily Lifted
The federal government announced this fall that they are temporarily lifting the 20-hour-per-week cap on the number of hours that eligible post-secondary students are allowed to work off-campus while class is in session. From November 15, 2022, until December 31, 2023, international students who are in Canada and who have off-campus work authorization on their study permit will not be restricted by the 20-hour-per-week rule.
We have been seeking this change (on a permanent basis) from the federal government. CEO Krista Ross wrote about the issue – read her commentary here.
Employment Insurance Deficit
The Canada Employment Insurance Commission set the 2023 EI rate at $2.21 per $100 of payroll. This increase is in part due to the EI deficit created largely through COVID-19 problems. We have continued our call on the federal government to pay the EI deficit through general funds rather than recouping through increased premiums.
Our previous submission regarding Phase Two of the EI reform process can be found here.
Support Gained from Canadian Chamber of Commerce
In October, members of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce board of directors and staff attended the 2022 Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM and Conference in Ottawa. Our organization submitted two policy resolutions for consideration by delegates. The first, Improving Startup Visa Processes to Decrease Wait Times was approved by 99.3% of delegates; the second, Enhancing Supply Chain Capacity Through Increased Truck Driver Training Support was approved by 100% of delegates (only two of 60 total resolutions received such support).
Business Community Calls for Federal Employees to Return to the Office
In November, we signed an open letter along with 31 other business associations calling on the federal government to bring public sector employees back to their places of work as rapidly as possible. Read the letter here.
Prompt Payment Legislation Consultation
We responded to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure’s call for consultation regarding prompt payment legislation. Our submission supported the position of the New Brunswick Construction Association and the New Brunswick Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Read the submission here.
Other submissions to government regarding prompt payment legislation include:
- Letter to Premier Higgs – April 2022 (Joint letter with other NB chambers of commerce)
- Letter to AG Flemming – February 2022
- Letter to Minister Steeves – April 2021
Average WorkSafeNB Rates Down for 2023 / Propose to Increase Benefits
WorkSafeNB has announced it has reduced the average assessment rate for 2023 to $1.31, down 22% from the 2022 rate of $1.69. At the same time as assessment rates are decreasing, WorkSafeNB’s board of directors is pursuing legislative changes that would improve the benefits provided to injured workers and their families. While the average rate reduction is good news – the increased benefits (beyond any other Atlantic province) is a concern to drive rates in future years. Read our submission opposing these changes here.
Letter to Minister Green: Procurement Act
We wrote to Minister Green regarding the new construction regulation of the NB Procurement Act, identifying two issues:
- The discretion afforded to the Minister’s Office; and
- The definition of a “New Brunswick company”.
Follow-up: Municipal Voting Rights for Permanent Residents
We wrote to follow-up with Minister Allain regarding our advocacy for municipal voting rights for permanent residents. This is an issue championed by our Immigration Advocacy Committee. Our follow-up and previous letters can be found on our website here.
Call for Urban Mental Health Strategy
In November, the chambers of commerce in Fredericton, Greater Moncton and the Saint John Region jointly wrote to Premier Higgs to call for mental health strategies for each of our communities in conjunction with other levels of government. Read the letter here.
Letters to City of Fredericton: Basic Income Resolution
We wrote to Mayor Kate Rogers, expressing concern over the resolution passed by city council that which directs the City of Fredericton to write a letter to the Prime Minister, New Brunswick Members of Parliament and the Premier of New Brunswick that calls “…on these orders of government to work towards implementing a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income to eradicate poverty and homelessness, and ensure that everyone has sufficient income to meet their basic needs.” Our concerns fall into three main categories, while also noting that basic income alone would not eradicate poverty and homelessness:
- Costs and related effects on inflation
- Effects on the workforce
- Targeted programs/supports/tax credits that will be lost
Read the letter here.
City of Fredericton 2023 Budget
City Council passed the 2023 municipal budget in November (The City’s news release can be found here.) Under new local government taxation rules, the City has the ability to apply a multiplier of between 1.4 to 1.7 percent to non-residential properties, excluding rental housing (previously this rate was legislated to be 1.5x). For 2023, the City of Fredericton will apply a 1.7 per cent multiplier to the inside rate of $1.3386 for a total of $2.2756 per $100 of assessment. The Province will decrease their non-residential rate by 22 cents and will continue to collect $1.856 per $100 of assessment on non-residential properties. Chamber board and staff expressed members’ concerns at a meeting with council that the reduction to the overall rate will not offset increased assessments and businesses will face an increased tax burden.
Webinar with River Stone Recovery Centre
In December, the chamber hosted Dr Sara Davidson, Medical Director of River Stone Recovery Centre for a webinar. Dr Davidson spoke about the work of the clinic and addressed some of the concerns of the business community regarding the centre as well as the effects of addiction and homelessness in the city. Watch the webinar here.
MOU with the UNB Student Union
Prior to the school year, the University of New Brunswick Student Union and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce signed a 2-year renewable strategic partnership with the purpose of expanding professional networking opportunities for postsecondary students. In addition to offering postsecondary students in Fredericton access to all chamber networking events, such as the monthly Business Over Breakfast and Business After Hours, the partnership will also allow students to register for chamber events at member rates. Click here to read the news release. We also have an identical MOU in place with the NB Student Alliance.
Each month, CEO Krista Ross writes a commentary that is published in Brunswick News, Huddle and more. Here’s a look her most recent:
September: Supply Chain Challenges
October: Supporting Small Businesses
Business Data Lab
This fall, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce launched the Data Business Lab (DBL).
Working in collaboration with Statistics Canada, the DBL brings together a variety of data sources to track evolving market conditions, providing Canadian businesses with critical information to help them make better decisions and improve their performance. Learn more about the resources in the DBL in this backgrounder. Access the DBL here.