The federal election is less than a week away and decision time is looming – are you ready? Have you been paying attention? Are you informed? What’s important to you?

The Fredericton riding has seen no less than a dozen debates / speaking engagements, candidates are out knocking on doors, social media has increased accessibility measurably and party platforms are (mostly) now available online.

Engaging in the political process and providing an avenue for parties and citizens to exchange ideas is one of the ways our organization tries to bring value to our membership and the community, we’ve hosted four of the local candidates over the past two weeks and have continued our “Questions that Count” initiative from previous elections, which poses a series of written questions on finances, economic development, developing the workforce, climate change, foreign policy and more to each of the candidates. These videos and written responses will be posted and shared on our website.

Decisions by government must be made through a number of lenses. We are asking candidates to view positions (at least in part) through a business lens. Business success and profit generates the revenue required to provide programs that Canadians need and deserve. Government’s ability to deliver services is inextricably linked to economic growth – we can’t take that for granted. It’s one of the reasons our organization’s vision is Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity.

Our chamber vision is equally applicable on the national level, as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce aptly wrote earlier this week:

“… party leaders have all made a number of promises to put a few dollars here and there back in the pockets of Canadians through various federal government programs, interventions and tax changes. However, none of them have presented a serious plan to grow our economy. Go read all of the election platforms and promises released so far and look for words like competitiveness and productivity. Their scarcity is astounding. For business owners, employees and investors, the lack of thoughtful economic policy in this election is disappointing. For all Canadians, it’s insulting that our politicians believe voters are unable to make a connection between business growth and their own quality of life.

Helping businesses grow and hire more Canadians isn’t a partisan issue. A stronger economy puts more money in the pockets of Canadians through higher incomes and lower unemployment. A stronger economy means more government revenues to invest in public services, infrastructure projects and environmental protection. A stronger economy makes more Canadians more prosperous.”

The Canadian chamber has also put forward its own platform, Vote Prosperity, that outlines business-related priorities at a national level. Five that are particularly relevant to New Brunswick are:

  1. Taxation – businesses and chambers from across Canada are calling for a comprehensive tax review through a royal commission, which has not been done since the 1960s. Since then, the world (and business) has changed immeasurably, while the tax code has been tinkered with endlessly, becoming increasingly complex and inefficient, while not responsive to the modern economy.
  2. Regulatory Reform – at the federal level alone, businesses are faced with more than 130,000 different regulations with which to comply. The national chamber has proposed a “2 for 1” rule where for any new regulation created, two should be eliminated that are redundant or obsolete.
  3. Trade – Canada is a trading nation, and agreements signed in recent years have created significant new market opportunities. Canadian businesses are eager to take advantage of these agreements but cannot do it alone. Similarly, our domestic market represents a tremendous growth opportunity. However, internal trade barriers cost Canada’s economy more than $14 billion each year.
  4. Workforce Development – with one-third (120,000 people) of New Brunswick’s aging workforce expected to retire in the next ten years, the issue is particularly acute here. Our population has started to move positively in the past couple of years, but nowhere near the level needed to maintain a sustainable population or workforce.  We must look to immigration and international student retention for a significant part of this needed growth.
  5. Small Business Development – Just 4% of Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses exported goods in 2017. This is a fraction of the 20%+ of exporting SMEs in other G7 countries. A key reason is that Canada’s SMEs lack the resources of larger companies to access foreign markets. However, the time and effort involved in identifying what federal support programs could help is too much, so they give up. Additionally, the Canada Revenue Agency remains the most challenging federal agency SMEs deal with because its processes and procedures often do not align with the realities of running a small business.

The policy priorities and decisions of whichever party forms government after the October election will have a major impact on the business community. So, get informed, get engaged and get out to vote.

Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization with nearly 1,000 members, is an active business organization engaged in policy development and advocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the Canadian business environment. The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity

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