Letter to Ontario Premier from business regarding hydro rates

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Dear Premier Wynne:

We would like to bring to your attention that the Ottawa Council of Business Improvement Areas (OCOBIA) will meet on Thursday December 12, 2013 to discuss several matters of business as they relate to our specific districts.  It should be stated that OCOBIA is a volunteer organization representing 18 Business Improvement Areas across urban, suburban and rural Ottawa that account for nearly $4.5 billion commercial, office, shopping centres and industrial property assessment.  The businesses  which our BIAs represent are not exclusively retailers but also includes professional and personal services such as health clinics and Legions.

Small businesses in Ontario are important drivers of job creation and economic growth.  In fact, representing almost 97% of all businesses in Ontario, small and mid-sized enterprises (under 500 employees) are the backbone of our great Province.  That being said, we are worried that your Government’s hydro increases of 42% over 5 years, coupled with excessive Global Adjustment and Debt Retirement Charges, will work against the very progress that organizations like Ottawa BIAs have worked so diligently towards.

I’m sure you would agree that its unfair to those 97% of tax-paying operators that they should ever need to make the decision whether to close their doors permanently, lay off employees or pay their Ontario hydro bill.  We are asking you, please do not work against Ontario small businesses.

The bricks and mortar retail businesses in Ontario are under attack from several factors, such as online retailers and an increased assault by our own Government on small businesses through increases in taxes, increases in fees and increases in wages.  Our government should be supporting our businesses not aiding in their demise.  We worry that given all of these factors there is no climate at present for business or job creation in Ontario.

Time of day billing has had a huge financial impact on our small to mid-sized business owners.  Since most businesses operate within the peak hydro periods, these SMEs have already undergone a substantial increase in their hydro costs.  Small to mid-size businesses must be agile to compete, and many of our member businesses have already taken steps to reduce their hydro usage, but they must keep the lights on and the cash registers running.  There is only so far they can go to mitigate these time of day hydro cost increases.

It is also not a secret that given our close proximity to Quebec, our retailers are at a distinct disadvantage that inevitably gives our Gatineau counterparts a “leg up” on their competition here in Ottawa.  In Ontario the new reality seems to be businesses that have closed up shop and have moved across provincial borders.  In 2010 Xstrata tore down their metallurgical mill and are now shipping ore that has been mined in Ontario to Quebec, by rail, for refining and processing undoubtedly due to the significantly lower hydro rates afforded to them in Quebec.  As a united voice, OCOBIA would like to ask that you please reconsider, reevaluate and recognize that we cannot continue down this road.  We will not continue to be the 97% if your Government forces the closure of small to mid-sized businesses across Ontario and across Ottawa.

Is your Government therefore willing to place a moratorium on proposed and future hydro increases until such time that a proper provincial wide analysis of the impact on SME’s can be conducted?  We urge you to please work on the side of Ottawa retailers, on the side of job creators and on the side of Ottawa employees and reconsider your Government’s crippling hydro increases.

Yours in Business,

Ottawa Council of Business Improvement Area Members

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