4.5 Minute Read
The Winnipeg Chamber’s Director of Policy, Colin Fast, highlights five things Winnipeg businesses should be aware of this week.
Ahead of the 2022 provincial budget (expected to be released in April), The Winnipeg Chamber has made several recommendations to the provincial government.
Based on input from members, feedback during our budget consultation event with the finance minister in January, and existing Chamber policy, these recommendations help set the stage for our province’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
We will support these recommendations with a series of meetings with provincial officials over the weeks ahead.
1. Conduct the tax competitiveness review
In the 2021 budget, the Province committed to conducting a tax competitiveness review, which has been a long-time recommendation of The Winnipeg Chamber. In anticipation of that review, we have partnered with The Business Council of Manitoba and KPMG to develop a comprehensive set of options for a revenue-neutral redesign of the tax system with the goal of sparking more economic development.
We will deliver our report to the government early in 2022, and we look forward to working with provincial staff on refining and finalizing our recommendations. We hope this advice – which was developed with input from hundreds of local businesses and non-profit organizations of all sizes, along with tax and accounting experts – will be seriously considered as part of the tax competitiveness review.
According to the results of The Chamber’s Fall 2020 Business Survey of members (conducted from late October to early November), 40% of respondents identified tax reform as the second most important initiative (leading option was commercial rent assistance at 42%) the provincial government should undertake to support business and the economy.
2. Be flexible to address future pandemic waves
While we hope continued vaccination efforts and scientific advances can minimize the impact of the pandemic over the next year, the government must remain open, as it has in past waves, to provide increased support for businesses that may be forced to close or restrict operations in the interest of public health. If required, increased support using the Sector Support Program or the Manitoba Bridge Grant platform would be one consideration.
3. Develop an access to capital strategy
We were encouraged that Premier Stefanson’s recent State of the Province address included a commitment to proceed with a venture capital framework, which is something the provincial government has spoken about previously.
For the past several years the Winnipeg Chamber has advised the government to work with industry to develop a comprehensive Access to Capital Strategy that identifies all stages of capital financing, current capital availability, local gaps along the entire capital continuum and provincial initiatives to address gaps. Potential funding sources could include allocating a portion of the revenue the Province collects from the payroll tax, and incentivizing Manitoba-based public pension funds to contribute.
We also think the government could remove regulatory barriers that prevent the development of more sophisticated local investment networks and platforms that would allow small businesses to solicit capital directly from individual investors within Manitoba.
4. Rethink the provincial-municipal funding relationship
Recovering from the impact of COVID-19 is going to require cooperation from all levels of government. However, under current fiscal arrangements there is little motivation for municipalities to prioritize economic development because they cannot access revenue streams that are directly connected to growth.
We suggest the Province should fix this longstanding flaw in intergovernmental relationships and give municipalities an opportunity to generate revenue not just from property taxes generated by new developments, but also from the construction itself and any business activity that takes place inside those developments. One option could be to replace all provincial grant funding to municipalities (roughly $312 million per Budget 2021) with a fixed share of the PST.
This would ensure municipalities have a bigger stake in economic development projects, and would complement provincial efforts to attract investment and promote international trade for Manitoba.
5. Build capacity at CentrePort
CentrePort Canada, as North America’s largest inland port, represents perhaps the single greatest economic asset in Manitoba today. Significant progress has been made in developing CentrePort lands in the RM of Rosser but that momentum must expand to lands in the City of Winnipeg as well.
In its most recent budget, the City of Winnipeg committed $20 million for the servicing of the Airport Area West, contingent on securing matching funds from the provincial and federal governments. We urge the Province to match that funding and request the same from the federal government, as this project is critical to expanding employment lands within the city.
6. Make a long-term commitment to the World Trade Centre
The World Trade Centre Winnipeg has been a tremendous asset for our community – having played a leading role, through their ‘French connections’, in the investments by Roquette, Spa Nordic, Alt Hotel by Germaine among others. And their work with the Trade Accelerator Program has been pivotal in seeing Manitoba companies move into global markets with confidence and success.
As a 50% owner of our city’s World Trade Centre license, The Winnipeg Chamber has stepped up its support by committing to an enhanced partnership and co-location with World Trade Centre Winnipeg. We believe the Province should also commit to a long-term, stable funding arrangement with the organization to ensure it is positioned to succeed in increasing trade opportunities for Manitoba industry, in particular the export potential for recovery needs in other nations to be met by Manitoba companies.
Recent/upcoming provincial government meetings:
Premier Heather Stefanson
Don Leitch – Clerk of Executive Council
Cliff Cullen – Minister of Economic Development, Investment & Trade
Reg Helwer – Minister of Labour, Consumer Protection and Government Services
Sarah Guillemard – Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness
Kathryn Gerrard – Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Investment & Trade