TVO: New report says GTA small businesses need to think big

TVO: New report says GTA small businesses need to think big

A new report argues small and medium-sized GTA businesses need to trade more with the world — and especially Europe — to boost economic growth.

According to the report, published Wednesday by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, only 4 per cent of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (those with fewer than 500 employees, also known as SMEs) export. That’s compared to 28 per cent in Germany, 27 per cent in France, and 24 per cent in Japan. Among G7 nations, Canada finishes last.

By comparison, 23 per cent of large Canadian firms trade internationally. The report found that if the same proportion of SMEs did so, they would generate $225 billion more in exports and create 2 million new jobs.

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TVO: Liberals roll out rules for rolling up in Ontario

TVO: Liberals roll out rules for rolling up in Ontario

Ontario’s Liberal government announced today that as of next July, consumers will be able to buy marijuana online and at 40 LCBO-run retail outlets.

The date is in line with the federal government’s plan to legalize pot by July 1, 2018. By the end of 2020, 150 small stand-alone stores should be up and running across the province. The legal age for purchase will be 19, one year higher than the minimum set by the federal government earlier this year.

Edibles and oils will not be on sale in Ontario, only dried cannabis, in line with federal requirements. The province is waiting on federal guidance on labelling and packaging, and had no comment on the potency of the pot that would be on offer.

Consumption will be limited to private residences, at least at the start. So while individuals will be able to spark up in their backyard, they won’t be allowed to use the drug in public spaces, at work, or in their cars. Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s attorney general, said there may be opportunities in the future for licensing private establishments for the consumption of pot.

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TVO: Five things Canada wants in a new, progressive NAFTA — and how they could play out

TVO: Five things Canada wants in a new, progressive NAFTA — and how they could play out

The first round of negotiations toward a new North American Free Trade Agreement starts Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland laid out Canada’s priorities in a speech at the University of Ottawa earlier this week.

Besides promising to modernize the trade deal, cut red tape, ease the movement of professionals across borders, and improve government procurement, Freeland emphasized that Canada would seek to make NAFTA a “more progressive” deal.

To this government, making the deal more progressive means adding chapters on labour safeguards, the environment and climate change, gender rights, and Indigenous issues, and it means reforming investor-state dispute resolution.

“Freeland was really focusing on a new agenda, or pushing out the envelope of what’s possible,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Centre in Washington. “And I think she did that because it’s important to Canadians, and it’s important to the Trudeau government.”

“When I look at Freeland’s agenda, I say, wow, good luck with that. Trade agreements are tough, and it’s really hard to put binding commitments into trade agreements that encourage positive behaviour,” she says. “Trade agreements are much better at the ‘thou shalt not’ stuff … But we don’t really know what’s possible to achieve until you put the stuff on the table.”

So what could these new progressive chapters look like?

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TVO: Five things business wants from the Ontario government

TVO: Five things business wants from the Ontario government

Ontario’s standing committee on finance and economic affairs criss-crossed the province in July, hearing out labour groups, businesses, and other interested parties on Bill 148 — the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The bill includes a $15 minimum wage, more personal leave and vacation time, and measures to prevent employers from changing or cancelling shifts on less than 48 hours’ notice.

But some businesses are wondering how they’ll manage to deal with the changes. “Bill 148 is ill-advised,” says Karl Baldauf, vice-president of policy and government relations at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “The government has not provided for the kind of economic analysis that you would expect from a piece of legislation that’s going to have such profound impact as quick as it will on the Ontario economy.”

Earlier this summer, we asked labour groups what they wanted the government to add to Bill 148. So what do businesses want the government to do?

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TVO: Should we privatize Canada's airports?

TVO: Should we privatize Canada's airports?

Although it wasn’t included in this year’s federal budget, the government could still move on privatizing Canadian airports. Recent reports reveal the Liberals have asked consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise on how the feds could “act as a commercial adviser assisting with additional analytical work with respect to advancing a new governance framework for one or more Canadian airports” — in other words, how changes to the way Canadian-owned and -operated airports might be made.

Canada’s eight largest airports have since 1992 been run by private non-profits on land leased from the federal government. According to a report by the C.D. Howe Institute released earlier this year, Canada is the only country in the world that does things this way.

“The Mulroney government had us going down the path of full [privatization], but the Chrétien government made a promise to halt it in the early 1990s,” says Benjamin Dachis, associate director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute. “What they came up with instead was a classic Canadian comprise of starting along a path but not going all the way, because nobody was sure at the time what fully for-profit airports would look like.”

Disagreements over the best path forward have persisted ever since. Even airport authorities disagree: Ontario’s two biggest airports, Toronto’s Pearson and Ottawa’s Macdonald–Cartier, are on opposite sides of the fight.

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TVO: Does it really matter if sex disappears from Ontario birth certificates?

TVO: Does it really matter if sex disappears from Ontario birth certificates?

A number of trans and non-binary Canadians are arguing for the removal of sex as an identifier on government-issued ID.

Ontario-born activist and filmmaker Joshua Ferguson, who identifies as non-binary, wants the designation changed on their (Ferguson’s preferred pronoun) birth certificate.

Dustin Dyck, a father in Saskatchewan, is fighting to have his 14-year-old’s birth certificate scrubbed of a sexual identifier, because he says it’s led to severe bullying. (The teen, named Jordyn, identifies as “agender,” or genderless.)

A British Columbia couple demanded and, in June, received a health card for their baby, Searyl, with a “U” in place of an “M” or “F.” But the province won’t issue a birth certificate without a sex identifier, so now the parents are suing the Vital Statistics Agency.

Ontario decided in March to allow drivers to have an “X” on their licences instead of an “M” or “F” to indicate that they don’t identify as male or female. As of June 2016, sex does not appear on Ontario health cards.

Birth certificates are the next provincial document in line. The government held public consultations on the issue last summer and could take sex off birth certificates as early as next year.

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TVO: Why the U.S. wants to let Canadians buy more stuff duty-free

TVO: Why the U.S. wants to let Canadians buy more stuff duty-free

The U.S. Trade Representative office earlier this week released its list of demands for the upcoming NAFTA negotiations. Among its 100-plus objectives are to abolish the independent tribunals that settle trade disputes, to increase U.S. procurement in Canada and Mexico (while retaining the right to enforce “Buy American” provisions), and to secure better market access for American industries such as agriculture, telecommunications, and financial services.

But one demand stood out as unusual for Toronto trade lawyer Cyndee Todgham Cherniak: that Canadians be allowed to buy more from U.S. companies duty-free.

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TVO: What the Lake Erie Connector project could mean for your hydro bill

TVO: What the Lake Erie Connector project could mean for your hydro bill

Last week, the federal government approved the Lake Erie Connector project, a 1,000-megawatt transmission line to be buried under the lake, sending electricity 117 kilometres back and forth between Nanticoke, Ontario, and Erie County in Pennsylvania.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Jatin Nathwani, executive director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy. “It fits in very well with Ontario’s climate change policies, national climate aspirations, and the ability to trade our low-carbon electricity into the U.S. market.”

The approval came just before the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers announced that the province had wasted 7.6 terawatt-hours of clean energy last year — a 58 per cent increase over the year before. “The power was not needed in Ontario, and could not be exported, so it was dumped,” said Paul Acchione, energy expert and former president of the OSPE.

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TVO: Five things labour still wants from the Ontario government

TVO: Five things labour still wants from the Ontario government

This month, the Ontario government introduced Bill 148 — the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017. It includes a $15 minimum wage to be implemented by 2019, equal pay for part-time and full-time workers doing the same job, and three hours’ pay for workers whose shifts get rescheduled on less than 48 hours’ notice.

Despite all the changes, labour groups across the province argue the government could’ve done more. “It’s a good start,” says Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas, president of OPSEU. “But labour — my union included — will push for it to be more inclusive.”

The bill has passed its first reading and will now go to committee for hearings and public consultation over the summer.

“Bill 148 is missing some key points that they still have time to make changes to, and as they go through committee hearings we’re going to be going back again to speak about those changes that are desperately needed,” says Naureen Rizvi, Ontario regional director for Unifor.

“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the next 20-year trajectory of how people live and work in Ontario,” she says.

Here are five things labour groups want to see from the government.

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TVO: Good things go to waste in Ontario

TVO: Good things go to waste in Ontario

Last year, Josh Domingues read a statistic that changed his life: “If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, after China and the U.S.”

A few months later, Domingues, an entrepreneur and former investment manager, launched an app called Flashfood, which lets shoppers know what supermarket food is about to expire, buy it at a discount through the app, and pick it up from the store that day.

The average grocery store in Canada throws out $2,500 to $4,000 worth of food every day, Domingues says. Much of that winds up in landfills. When it starts to rot, the food releases methane — a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

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