Minister for Small Business holds soft launch of province-wide consultation in Niagara

Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria

Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria views one of the wooden topographic maps produced by Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Cutting Brothers.

In early March, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria, formally announced the launch of a province-wide consultation to determine how the government can best help small businesses thrive and compete, both now and into the future.

As part of the consultation, government members will be holding a series of roundtables with small business owners from across a variety of industries.

Discussions will focus on five key pillars: lowering costs, increasing exports, new technologies, talent development, and succession planning and supporting entrepreneurship.

In a press release, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli — who oversees the project alongside Minister Sarkaria — said: “These consultations will provide business owners with the opportunity to directly tell the government about what matters most to them, and what additional steps the government can take to help their businesses succeed.”

In preparation for the consultation’s formal launch, Minister Sarkaria was in Niagara where he meet with around 30 small business owners and toured a few small, local manufacturing facilities.

Participants were drawn from a number of Niagara’s business sectors, including: tourism, hospitality, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.

Sarkaria was very enthused by the Niagara event, “the Niagara roundtable was an excellent opportunity to listen to the concerns of regional businesses. Niagara job creators came ready to discuss not only challenges facing their operations, but also the opportunities they see to get ahead.”

“I also took the opportunity to share with community businesses some of the ways our government is working to help them succeed: tackling red tape and regulatory modernization, and saving Ontario businesses like theirs over $338 million in costs, cutting the small business tax rate by nearly 9%, working with municipalities like Niagara to attract large scale manufacturing investments through programs like Ontario’s Job Site Challenge.”

Asked about what he head that was unique to Niagara, Sarkaria said, “there are many unique things about the Niagara region and the types of businesses this place fosters.  Niagara is home to some of Ontario’s most breathtaking natural beauty and landscapes that support a burgeoning travel and tourism industry. You’ve become renown for quality specialty products like Niagara Wine.”

“Despite that, many of the concerns, challenges, and goals of Niagara businesses are the same we’ve been hearing from businesses across the province. They want regulatory relief, a competitive environment within which to grow their businesses, and a government that’s listening to them and what they need to get ahead.”

The world’s current pandemic has obviously necessitated a pause in the consultation process.  Sarkaria is now on a daily basis, talking to businesses dealing with COVID-19 fallout and then trying to solve for these issues in daily cabinet meetings.

“We had extensive travel plans lined up for our Small Business Consultations. Our goal in launching this was to listen to and have a conversation with businesses from every sector; in big communities and small—rural towns, urban centres, and everywhere in between.

“To make sure that everyone that wanted to participate had the chance to make their voices heard, we even launched online consultations,” Sarkaria explained.

“As you know, the spread of COVID-19 has made adhering to social distancing a priority. But even in the wake of this serious healthcare challenge, we’ve still been holding virtual roundtables to talk to businesses about working through this challenge together.”

The consultation’s findings will serve as the foundation for the province’s Small Business Success Strategy, derivative and in-line with the government’s larger Plan to Build Ontario  Together and “Open for Business” program.

Along with attending technical talks and in-person consultations, the government is also encouraging people to participate online by filling out a digital survey.

To participate, go to: https://www.ontario.ca/form/survey-helping-ontario-small-businesses-grow-and-succeed

Feedback can be provided up until September 1, 2020.

Sarkaria vowed he’d be back to Niagara, “I always look forward to engaging with job creators from Niagara. I’m looking forward to planning a tour of regional businesses as soon as public health measures allow me to.”

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