The provincial government introduced a new portfolio last month, announcing that MPP Jeff Leal will take on the role of Minister of Small Business. The OCSA has been advocating for this position for over two years to allow for proper representation of our issues within the government.
“We interpret the appointment of a dedicated Small Business Minister as an acknowledgment of how important this segment is to Ontario’s economy. With over 9000 convenience stores in the province, our channel makes up an important part of Ontario’s small business community. We trust that with this appointment, small business interests will be better reflected in government policies.”
– CEO, Dave Bryans, OCSA
Below is our 2015 letter to Premier Wynne requesting that such a position be considered and created:
On behalf of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) and its 6,000 members, I am pleased to have the opportunity to write to you on an important concern that is being raised in the small business community. The concern has to do with the importance of small business to the province of Ontario, and the perceived lack of attention to this economic segment by government in recent years.
Small business is a vital component of Ontario’s economic landscape. The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (MEDEI) says that small business accounts for approximately one-third of Ontario’s GDP. The convenience store sector alone contributes $18.4 billion to the Ontario economy, and $3.8 billion a year in tax revenues for the provincial government (2014 figures). Our members employ thousands of Ontarians, including many younger people looking to support their academic goals. We are a proud part of Ontario’s economic fabric.
While the OCSA applauds legislation like the Burden Reduction Reporting Act, 2014, which promises to relieve some of the regulatory pressures that our members face, we feel that small business interests are largely absent from the larger policy decisions being weighed by your cabinet on a day-to-day basis. Adding to this concern was the Auditor General’s observations in her December 2, 2015 Annual Report that included 1) that the small business sector is being unfairly treated by provincial energy policy, and 2) that a disproportionate allocation of direct business funding support goes to large businesses. On the last point, the report claims that only 4% of Ontario government incentives being awarded to our segment.
The OCSA feels that appointing an Associate Minister responsible for Small Business could help send a positive message to the larger small business community, as well as to help your administration protect and leverage Ontario’s this dynamic segment in future policy decisions and announcements.
This appointment would not be unprecedented. Ontario has had a Minister of Small Business in previous years. In addition, the recent appointment of Hon. Bardish Chagger to the portfolio of Small Business and Tourism in the cabinet of our new Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, acknowledges that small business deserves its own channel in government. On this last development, I know I speak for many organizations when I say that having a federal minister for Small Business is both a point of relief and excitement.
Many don’t realize how many ministries that a small business must confront as it attempts to grow and add value to the provincial economy. OCSA members regularly deal with the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, the Ministry of Rural Affairs, and sometimes others. Appointing a new Minister responsible for this stakeholder group would not only help the OCSA in dealing with government, but many other small businesses that must interface with these ministries and more.