Budget 2024

April 16 budget must prioritize growth 

In an open letter to the Honourable Mona Fortier, P.C., M.P., President of the Treasury Board, 32 business associations urge the federal government to implement a return-to-office strategy.

Dear Minister:

With COVID-19 now decidedly in the endemic phase, most Canadians are resuming pre-pandemic activities. We are seeing this trend in everyday life as people return to schools, workplaces, movie theatres, large sporting events, and restaurants. Given the robust volume of scientific knowledge about COVID-19 accumulated over the last two and a half years, the federal government has also recognized the new phase we are in by rightly dropping pandemic-related border measures, in addition to already having suspended the vaccination mandate for federal public servants.

Many businesses have now implemented their return to the workplace plans. However, some governments are significantly lagging in the development and implementation of their plans to bring public sector employees back to their places of work. We call upon all governments that have not implemented plans to bring their employees back to do so as rapidly as possible.

The federal government is not only a major employer in cities and communities across Canada, but in many places it is the anchor employer. As businesses in these communities assess their long-term viability given the pandemic’s damaging effects on downtown centres, restoring normal economic activity requires the federal government to act now. In fact, recent data shows that the Ottawa/Gatineau region, with its particularly high concentration of federal government employees, has the lowest return to office rate of any government capital in Canada.

Additionally, our members are concerned about the deteriorating ability of the government to engage effectively with stakeholders. Good public policy relies on regular engagement with stakeholders, both within the business community and in the broader public. While virtual connectivity has opened up new communication channels, it is not a substitute for the ability to meet, consult and collaborate in person. Implementing a federal government return to office strategy will facilitate much more efficient and productive engagement both within the government itself and with the general public. It will also help to address the many deficiencies in public services that are seriously affecting both the business community and individual Canadians.

We strongly urge the federal government to lead the way to a return to normal that will both foster economic growth and ensure that all Canadians receive the quality of public services that they have a right to expect. Along with our member businesses, we will be pleased to work with you in making this process a success.

Sincerely,

Anita Huberman, President & Chief Executive Officer, Surrey Board of Trade
AnnMarie Boudreau, Chief Executive Officer, St. John’s Board of Trade
Anthony Norejko, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Business Aviation Association
Barbara Barrett, Executive Director, Frontier Duty Free Association
Bob Masterson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada
Bruce Rodgers, Executive Director, Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association
Carol West, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Society of Customs Brokers
Catherine Wieckowska, President, Responsible Distribution Canada
Charles Milliard, Président-directeur general, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec
Christian Buhagiar, President and Chief Executive Officer, Restaurants Canada
Chuck Davidson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce
Dan Kelly, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Daniel-Robert Gooch, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of Canadian Port Authorities
Dennis Darby, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
Diane J. Brisebois, President and Chief Executive Officer, Retail Council of Canada
Goldy Hyder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Business Council of Canada
Honourable Perrin Beatty, P.C., O.C., President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Jan De Silva, President and CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade
Jim Facette, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, CAZA
Krista Ross, Chief Executive Officer, Fredericton Chamber of Commerce
Liz Kovach, President, Western Retail Lumber Association
Loren Remillard, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce
Marc Chénier, Directeur general, Regroupement de gens d’affaires de la Capitale nationale
Meghan O’Reilly, Public Affairs Manager, The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada
Michel Leblanc, Chair, Canadian Global Cities Council (CGCC)
Prabha Ramaswamy, Chief Executive Officer, Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce
Sandra Marsden, President, Canadian Sugar Institute
Shannon Coombs, President, CCSPA
Shelly Nichol, Executive Director, St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce
Sheri Somerville, Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Chamber of Commerce
Sueling Ching, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ottawa Board of Trade
Tim Reuss, President and CEO, Canadian Automobile Dealers Association