Detailed Policy Priorities Report
The Canadian Chamber policy team’s work over the last quarter has been anchored around engaging the new government and Parliament. This non-exhaustive report is written as of November 29.
Engaging with the new Parliament
The policy team’s overarching focus has been engaging with the new Parliament and getting MPs’ and Ministers’ offices familiarized with our priorities. In the middle of October the Canadian Chamber issued our “mandate letters” for the incoming cabinet to place an early marker on our priorities before the cabinet was named. The letters were shared with the Prime Minister’s Office and relevant Deputy Ministers. We have since re-cast those into the specific congratulatory letters for ministers and shadow ministers once they were named.
AGM policy debates
The Canadian Chamber’s AGM occurred over October 27-28, which included a keynote appearance by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. Delegates passed a total of 56 resolutions spanning all the Canadian Chamber’s major policy verticals. Staff will be shortly communicating the outcome of these resolutions to relevant government ministries.
The COVID-19 Recovery Leadership Council and Business-led Recovery campaign continued its work over the last quarter with a major focus on reopening borders. The Council held a roundtable with several Deputy Ministers in early November. We were pleased to see the most recent announcement by the federal government on dropping the pre-departure PCR test for Canadians travelling outside the country for less than 72 hours and will continue advocacy for greater coherence across different modes of transportation for all fully vaccinated travellers. We also welcomed news of the national vaccination certification standard being announced using a QR code-based approach.
Sponsored policy initiatives continue to be a vehicle for the Canadian Chamber to advance focused objectives over a time specific period leveraging additional resources. Updates are provided under the various thematic headings but this list provides a brief snapshot.
- The Think Growth campaign is pressing for a more competitive, simpler and equitable tax system to support Canada’s economic recovery and future. Current efforts are focused on tax rate competitiveness and reducing tax compliance burden. The campaign will formally conclude this year and work will continue under the Economics and Taxation Committee.
- The Business-Led Recovery campaign is focused on the sharing business best practice and providing tangible recommendations to government on the COVID recovery. The COVID-19 Recovery Leadership Council will conclude at the end of December and the broader campaign early next year.
- The Net-Zero Council is dedicated to advancing business leadership on climate change and aims to inform government policy through numerous channels, including the federal government’s Net-Zero Advisory Body.
- The Canada’s FoodLink campaign is focused on the resilience, innovation and potential for growth in Canada’s agriculture sector.
- The Cyber.Right.Now. campaign is focussed on securing Canada’s infrastructure, businesses, and communities from increasing cyber-attacks. It also seeks to position our economy for future growth by investing in cybersecurity at levels on par with our G7 peers, promoting cybersecurity innovation in Canada, and boosting investment in cyber talent development and diversification.
- The Our Trading Future campaign is focused on key bilateral priorities for our members in the Canada-US relationship.
- The Inclusive Growth campaign continues important work supporting women through the pandemic, as well as on diversity and inclusion through webinars, social media, events and advocacy.
- The What It Takes To Grow platform served as the Chamber’s all-encompassing election platform document with the list of priorities we encouraged political parties to prioritize during the federal election. This platform has subsequently been refreshed and is now being used to encourage growth-supporting policy priorities for the new government.
Chamber campaigns have resumed normal activities following the conclusion of the federal election. Several campaigns are now in the midst of public advertising pushes with decision makers returning to Ottawa for the fall session of Parliament. This includes Canada’s FoodLink, Cyber. Right. Now., Our Trading Future, and What It Takes To Grow. Public ads consist of a mixture of newsprint, posters in the vicinity of Parliament Hill, airport banners at YOW, and digital banners geo-targeting Ottawa. The now-concluded Fresh Fuel Standard/Net-Zero Leadership campaign additionally ran ads immediately prior to the election, and this campaign has now transitioned into the Net-Zero Council. Encouraging Parliamentarians in the new government to take up the issues being addressed by these campaigns is the current priority.
The policy and member relations & services teams are working together to ensure a timely launch of our 2022 sponsored initiatives. This includes a digital trade and e-commerce council, critical minerals council, life sciences council, a responsible business conduct/supply chain transparency council, and the renewal of the cybersecurity campaign.
The policy team refreshed the terms of reference for our standing policy committees. The new terms of reference provides greater clarity to members on the work of committees, chair terms, and the annual cycle of work. A number of policy committee Co-Chairs will be appointed in the coming weeks and months.
Our Ottawa Liaison Committee met for its first in-person since before the pandemic with a focus on the Parliamentary priorities of the three parties, in addition to receiving a briefing from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Work has continued under the auspices of the Think Growth project on two externally commissioned reports being finalized by the team before year’s end. These reports will focus on uncompetitive aspects of Canada’s tax system, including tax rates and administrative burden.
Since the government has signalled its intent to reopen legislation related to the tax treatment of intergenerational business transfers, the has team worked proactively with members to identify potential legislative solutions.
The team is also working with members and the Digital Economy and Taxation Committees to advance the Chamber’s position against seeing a unilateral digital services tax introduced in Canada, despite a multilateral deal reached in October.
The team is also preparing to support a forthcoming test case at the Federal Court of Appeal seeking to simplify and modernize the application process for SR&ED tax credit program.
Efforts continue also on taxes related to consumer products including the alcohol escalator tax, taxation on medicinal cannabis, and excise tax rates for cannabis.
Natural resources, environment and sustainability
Work has continued under the Net Zero Council towards an economic modelling report that will provide recommendations on the most cost effective pathway(s) to a net zero economy. This will include perspectives from companies with current and future energy assets, as well as consumer-facing industries and finance. The Council held an in-person meeting in Montreal with a virtual appearance by Minister Wilkinson to discuss the government’s plans.
The Chamber welcomed the outcomes of COP26, in particular the conclusion of negotiations on the Paris Agreement’s Article 6 regarding carbon offset markets.
Looking ahead there will be a focus particularly on sustainable finance, including working with members on a submission to the Canadian Securities Administration about securities disclosures related to climate risk. The Chamber will also be monitoring impending developments related to Finance Canada’s carbon border adjustment consultation.
Transportation and infrastructure
The Canadian Chamber hosted its Executive Summit focused on infrastructure last month. This included a focus on the Canadian construction sector post-pandemic and the adoption sustainable practices as well as on transportation infrastructure and the post-recovery shifts to adjust to the new realities.
The team has also been focused on work related to supply chain resiliency to consult members on measures to address current challenges. This has been discussed with members of the Agriculture & Agri-Food and Transportation & Infrastructure Committees, as well as through a virtual meeting with associations.
Building on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, Chamber staff have met with the Indigenous Affairs Committee to discuss priorities for engaging with the new government. Members have expressed a desire to engage on infrastructure issues facing Indigenous communities, as well as understanding from government their intentions related to UNDRIP implementation.
Our regulatory work has continued to press for a pause in any extraneous regulations during the pandemic that would place an economic and administrative burden on businesses. We have also been working with a coalition of industry associations on proposed Health Canada regulations related to caffeinated energy drinks and supplemental food regulations.
Chamber staff were members of a coalition focused on dismantling economic interprovincial trade barriers, which culminated in a report published by Deloitte.
Our Canada-US Trade Council held a roundtable with officials from the U.S. Department of Defense, Canada Commercial Corporation and Global Affairs Canada to discuss our recommendations related to defence industrial supply chains and the Conservative Foreign Affairs Critic. A submission was made to the U.S. Department of Defense’s supply chain review commissioned by the White House. A submission was also made to the Embassy of Canada related to US the US National Defence Authorization Act’s Buy American provisions. Additionally, the team has worked with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute to act as a multiplier for disseminating priorities to a wider audience. Staff also met with the US Embassy to discuss the Canada-US supply chain working group.
On other trade initiatives, the team met with Minister Ng’s office in advance of WTO MC12 to raise issues our priorities around the TRIPS Agreement, e-commerce discussions, and agriculture. The team has also been focused on supply chain transparency given respective legislative proposals coming from government and private members. The team has met with government officials and the sponsoring Senator about the proposals. Efforts have also continued with a coalition of associations to seek a delay to the implementation of the CBSA Assessment and Revenue Management IT platform to ensure importer readiness.
The International Affairs Committee also received a briefing from Global Affairs Canada trade negotiators on various FTA files.
Our agriculture work been carried out through both the FoodLink Campaign and the National Agriculture and Agri-Food Working Group. The FoodLink campaign has focused on promoting Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector as one that is environmentally sustainable while meeting our export-based objectives. In November 2021, the campaign sent a letter to federal, provincial, and territorial agriculture ministers ahead of their scheduled meeting to outline its key concerns, such as business risk management programs, science-based regulations, and commitment to economic objectives as established in the 2018 Economic Strategy Tables.
In response to that letter, the campaign is meeting with Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit to discuss those issues. Throughout the first half of 2022, the FoodLink campaign will begin to focus more on supply chain resiliency and sustainability in the wake of devastating events in British Columbia and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Agriculture committee is particularly focused on regulatory competitiveness and supporting international trade.
The Canadian Chamber hosted its Executive Summit focused on cannabis on November 10. The Summit included panels focused on domestic and international priorities for the sector, as well as participation from Public Safety Canada and MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.
The National Cannabis Working Group met recently to discuss priorities for the coming months in anticipation of the Cannabis Act review, with a particular focus on the economic competitiveness of the sector through tax and regulatory measures. Work is also continuing with the University of Guelph to publish an economic impact assessment related to the industry’s benefits for the Canadian economy.
In November 2021, Chamber staff attended the Lift&Co. Conference in Toronto. This event afforded an opportunity to engage current and potential members ahead of the Cannabis Act review.
The team is preparing for consultations related to the Employment Insurance system and advocating for a transparent tripartite process that involves government, labour, and the business community.
Members in federally regulated industries continue to express concern with government proposals related to paid sick leave. The team is engaging with those members to consider potential approaches given the government’s entrenched position on the issue.
The team is also focused on the labour shortages that are affecting business across the country, in all sectors and regardless of size. We are continuing to respond to monthly labour force numbers, and have developed a series of recommendations for the federal government to help address this pressing need.
The Chamber continues to also seek clarity related to office vaccine mandates given the Liberal Party platform commitment to provide legal cover for businesses that require vaccination for their employees or customers.
The BIPOC Leadership and Inclusion Council has developed its forward plan for the coming months with a focus on providing best practice for companies and recommendations for government. The immediate focus of the group will be encouraging supplier diversity in procurement practices.
The Council for Women’s Advocacy will be regrouping through the fall to look at the ongoing issues related to women in the workforce and issues around increasing female representation in senior business roles. This includes building talent pipelines of female employees through a playbook on Championing Women in Business in Canada: A Playbook to help Employers Recruit, Retain, and Promote more Women and Bring them onto Boards. The team is also working with external assistance to complete a scan of the female entrepreneurial environment to better understanding what the Canadian Chamber can do to support them.
The team is continuing to work with members and other associations to press the importance of passing privacy legislation to set a single national framework. A policy win was achieved in Ontario where the Canadian Chamber worked with other associations, including the Ontario Chamber, to pause the development of provincial privacy legislation.
Given ongoing developments related to 5G deployment, efforts have continued with members on spectrum allocation issues. The Digital Economy committee is also collaborating with the SME committee to develop concrete recommendations that can support the adoption of digital technology.
The Cyber.Right.Now. campaign is focused on work leading into the federal budget and has ramped up its external promotion to draw attention to its recommendations. The campaign is also focused on finding lessons learned from recent high-profile ransomware attacks to support advocacy work.
The Health Innovation Committee is prioritizing its efforts to engage with Health Canada and the Canadian Agency for Drugs Technology in Health to discuss ways to improve patient access and the regulatory regime. The Committee is also seeking progress around national health data.
Early work has also started to enable our life sciences council to hit the ground running in 2022 by scoping out priorities for the group.