Chamber of Commerce hears about impact of provincial pension plan
By Angelica Ingram
June 21, 2016
With a year of changes behind them, the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to the upcoming year and the opportunities that exist for the business organization.
President Jerry Walker reviewed some of the standout moments for the chamber at their annual general meeting on June 14 at Sir Sam’s Inn.
While the winter months continue to be a challenge for local businesses, this year’s spring/summer season has started out strong for retailers and construction still remains a strong sector of the economy, said Walker.
During the 2015/2016 year, the chamber held an insightful manufacturing roundtable, which presented its findings to local municipalities, as well as a successful awards gala this past February, recognizing outstanding achievement in the community.
“From what I understand that gala sold out in 48 hours,” said Walker.
The organization also sold the building that houses the county’s tourism information centre, located in Minden.
“That’s cash in the bank for us,” said Walker.
The past year also saw some staffing changes at the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, as the board of directors announced earlier this year that former manager Rosemarie Jung was no longer with the organization.
Walker thanked Jung for her time.
The manager position has not yet been filled, as the board decides next steps.
The position of member services representative was given to Autumn Smith, after Lauren Hunter left last year.
Four directors stepped down from the board, including Eric Thompson, Pasi Posti, Hilary Elia and Aaron Walker.
Walker thanked them for their time and announced a new slate of directors up for election, including Sarah Adams, Stefan Bjelis, Trevor Chaulk, Luke Schell, Andrea Strano and Richard Wannan.
Directors that were re-elected to the board include Walker, Cheryl McCombe, Bram Lebo, Linda Baumgartner, Glenn Evans, Lauren Forbes and Lisa Gregorini.
Financial statements for the past year showed the organization experienced a dip in revenues, from $122,903 in 2015 to $119,522 in 2016.
There was also a dip in expenses during 2016, which left the chamber in a healthy position.
Walker said the board will be reviewing aspects of the budget in the coming year, including a possible decrease in membership fees.
The constitution was amended to set a minimum number of board of director members to five, with a maximum of 13. There are currently 13 members on the board.
The meeting also included guest speaker Scott Boutilier from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, who spoke on the changes employers can expect to see regarding the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.
A senior policy analyst, Boutilier gave a brief history of the provincial chamber’s advocacy in helping to shape the ORPP and what the phase in period will mean for business owners.
“The Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, as some of you might know, it’s a new public pension plan that is currently being scheduled to be up and running in the province by Jan. 1, 2018,” he said. “The government of Ontario is constructing it as we speak and it’s really the government’s response to what is called the under-savings challenge that is facing some Ontarians in the province.”
Boutilier said originally the ORPP was set to mirror the CPP, however the plan has evolved over the past few years.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has been instrumental in trying to get the government to consider the impact of the ORPP on employers.
“As a network we’ve never been 100 per cent opposed to pension reform in general, our concern has really been with the how,” said Boutilier.
OCC members have been vocal about preferring voluntary, flexible options to boost retirement savings for their employees versus large scale, mandatory public plans.
“Our membership vastly preferred a national solution to a province specific solution,” said Boutilier. “It became very clear to us very early that was a non-starter for government.”
The policy analyst said the OCC really wanted the government to consider the impact the ORPP would have on the economy.
“Our advocacy on this file as a chamber network has been really, really consistent,” he said. “We’re trying to get government into the habit of whenever it’s moving ahead with a significant new policy, a new regulation or a new regulatory change, it should be conducting an economic analysis of that change ... answering questions like what will this change mean for Ontario employers.”
Other aspects the OCC examined were what existing pension plans made employers exempt from the ORPP, which has been broadened from the original definition, said Boutilier.
With an implementation date set for Jan. 1, 2018, there is still much to be done in shaping the ORPP, said Boutilier, as many employers are still not happy.
“We’re not shying away from future advocacy on this file,” he said.