Looking ahead: Our 2018 advocacy priorities

Posted by: Kaitlyn Mason on December 18, 2017

In this final blog of 2017, Director of Policy and Government Relations Zoe Addington lays out some of the direction your Calgary Chamber's policy work will take in the new year.

In 2018, the Chamber will continue to work with all levels of government to identify and address the issues that are making it harder for business to be successful.

Here are the policy issues your business should be aware of in the coming year, and some the priorities we will be focusing on.

Municipal

Property tax model

Approximately 6,000 businesses outside the downtown core saw their taxes increases significantly in 2017, some as much as 200%. Fortunately, the City decided to access Calgary’s reserve fund to cap all business property tax increases at 5%. We applaud the City for providing tax relief in 2017, and for planning further relief for 2018.

While tax relief is a good short term solution, we are facing a long term issue that will impact Calgary until the assessed value in the downtown rises. The Chamber has proposed to work with the City on an incentive prize to be awarded to a party that provides the best and most viable solution to our current challenge.

City Charters

The Chamber supports the Alberta Government’s efforts to allow Calgary and Edmonton more local decision making through the creation of City Charters. While many of the changes proposed by the draft legislation will support better governance, administrative inefficiencies for companies that operate throughout Alberta could arise from having a different set of regulations in Calgary.

Cannabis

In line with our submission recommendations, the Alberta Government has decided to establish a private retail model for cannabis sales. Much of the work now falls on the City to establish regulations on licensing requirements, and rules around the location of retail, production and consumption facilities.

Throughout 2018, we will be working closely with the City to ensure business-friendly rules are developed to govern the new industry. Take our survey so we can ensure your business concerns are considered as City bylaws are developed.

Provincial

Climate Leadership Plan

Alberta’s carbon levy will increase by 50% - up to $30/tonne as of January 1, 2018.

Throughout our Layered Cost Assessment consultations, only 21% of businesses impacted by the carbon levy plan on passing the carbon costs on to their customer. Most businesses surveyed expected to have to “eat” the costs.

To help offset these costs, we will be advocating for the Alberta Government to recycle a greater portion of the carbon levy’s costs through a reduction in corporate and personal income taxes.

In 2018, the Alberta Government will transition to an output based allocation approach legislating a $30/tonne carbon price for large emitters while capping oil sands emissions, along with introducing new methane requirements.

Details on the second round of competitive bidding for renewable energy projects is scheduled to be released in early 2018 as Alberta continues to transition toward a capacity electricity market. This is part of the Alberta Government’s efforts to see 30% of the province’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030.

Minimum wage increasing to $15

As of October 1, 2018, Alberta’s minimum wage will increase to $15/hour.

The Chamber supports the Alberta Government’s objective to reduce poverty and increase quality of life. However, due to its negative impact on business and job opportunities, we will be advocating the Alberta government freeze the minimum wage at $13.60/hour, and will be working to identify more targeted approach that the government can use to help those most in need of support.

Path to balance

As the Province develops its 2018 budget, the Chamber will be providing recommendations on how the Province can maintain fiscal discipline and develop a plan to balance the budget.

In the Legislature

Alberta’s has a fixed election (period) law that requires an election to be called between March 1 and May 30 in 2019.

This means we can expect the governing NDP and all parties to begin to prepare for the 2019 election with policy platforms and by nominate candidates. Newly elected MLA and Leader of the United Conservative Party Jason Kenney take his seat when the legislature returns in March.

This new legislative session will start with a Speech from the Throne and shortly afterwards a Budget, that we can expect to set the stage for the NDP’s re-election campaign.

Federal

Federal tax changes

2017 saw Finance Canada announce some of the most sweeping changes to the business tax laws seen in decades. While the government has taken steps back from their original proposals, issues with the updated tax changes remain.

Our priority on this for the new year is to analyze the revised legislation as it is announced, and advocate for a comprehensive and independent review of the Canadian tax system.

Supreme court ruling on internal trade barriers

On December 6 and 7, 2017, the Supreme Court heard a case to determine whether provincial restrictions on the importation of alcohol are legal under s. 121 of the Constitution. Should the Supreme Court rule that s.121 prohibits provinces from limiting out-of-province alcohol imports, many other Canadian court cases will also be called into question.

The decision, which will be announced in 2018, could have implications for hundreds of internal trade barriers that limit market access across Canada.

Market access and energy transmission

As a landlocked province within a relatively small market economy, much of Alberta’s economic success depends on a regulatory environment that makes it possible to build the infrastructure required to get our products to foreign markets. With the cancelation of Energy East, and challenges facing Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, the regulatory process and market access will be a key advocacy priority in 2018.

Bill C-48, Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, could have a significant impact on market access, even if pipelines are built to the West Coast.

Agriculture and Agri-food

In October 2017, the Smart Agri-food Supercluster, led by Agrium with 50 partners, was shortlisted for the Innovation Superclusters Initiative.

If successful, the goal is to make Canada the preferred global supplier of sustainable, high-quality, safe food, and to advance market competitiveness by building information technologies, which includes data analysis and quality verification platforms to add informatics, connectivity and traceability in the crop, livestock and agri-food processing sectors.

We will continue to work with Agrium and their partners on the final stages of this initiative in 2018.

In Parliament

In April 2017 we hosted the Government Representative in the Senate, the Honourable Peter Harder, along with Calgary elected Senator, the Honourable Doug Black, and former Senator from Calgary, the Honourable Dan Hays. The discussion focused on the role of the Senate in the development of legislation and policy - which will continue to be relevant in 2018.

This year has seen the Senate propose amendments to 1 in 5 pieces of legislation and published a study recommend Finance Canada cancel their plans to amend the Tax Code because of the impacts and costs to small business.

When the House and Senate return at the e3nd of January 2018,  we will pay close attention to what the Senate does when asked to review the Budget, legalization of cannabis, and Bill C-48 Oil Tanker Moratorium Act – to name just a few. 

International

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

While some progress is being made in the negotiations, concerning proposals such as a periodic review clause, onerous rules of origin, government procurement limits, along with potential changes to the dispute settlement mechanism could harm business activity in North America.

Tax competitiveness

Tax reform in places like the U.S and France could benefit Canadians by raising incomes, and the demand for our goods and services. That said, it could also reduce Canada’s relative competitiveness, impacting our ability to compete internationally, and attract global investment and talent.

To take advantage of growth created by international tax reforms, it will be important for Canada to implement competitive tax and regulatory policies.

Trade in the Pacific

Canada and 10 other countries have reached an agreement on the “core elements” of a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, leading to optimism that a revived TPP could be announced as soon as early next year.

Before this happens, contentious issues such as auto rules and cultural protections will need to be dealt with.

Despite differences over a number of issues, both Canada and China appear to be committed to the goal of a comprehensive free trade deal, and we have seen some progress for our Tourism industry. Given the uncertainty surrounding NAFTA, Canadian businesses are urging policymakers to expand access to Pacific and Chinese markets.

A final parting note...

We look forward to advocating on your business’ behalf in 2018. As always, our focus will remain unwavering: to make Calgary the best place in the country to live, work, and grow a business.

Zoe Addington is Director of Policy and Government Relations at the Calgary Chamber.