Premier Doug Ford Government’s first budget announced the trucking industry will now have access to the Ontario Immigration Nominee Program through the In-Demand Skills Stream. The 2019 Budget states:
“To better reflect employer and labour market needs, the government will seek to expand the occupations eligible for the Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills Stream to include transport truck drivers and personal support workers.”
OINP will now give the Ontario trucking industry the same access to foreign labour sources currently provided to the agriculture and construction sectors. Until now, the Ontario trucking industry has not been able to access the OINP.
“Ontario’s economic competitiveness is highly dependent on the trucking industry as the dominant mode of freight transportation in the province,” said David Carruth, Chair, Ontario Trucking Association. “Having access to this program provides trucking companies an avenue to recruit the talent they need to fill gaps in their workforces.”
Ontario’s economy is extremely multi-faceted, ranging from farming to manufacturing to knowledge-based businesses – all of which depend on the movement of freight in some way, says OTA. Trucking is both Ontario’s and Canada’s dominant mode of freight transportation, responsible for moving over 90 per cent of all consumer goods and foodstuffs as well as nearly two-thirds by value of Ontario-US trade. One of the threatening factors looming over the entire Ontario economy is the growing truck driver shortage crisis, which is only expected to escalate over the coming years, OTA explains.
Both the Conference Board of Canada and transportation research firm CPCS have documented the shortage of truck drivers in Ontario. In the most recent report, the forecast in Ontario suggests a shortage of 14,000 truck drivers by 2024.
“The industry is taking steps to help address its labour shortages – from increasing wages to better marketing the opportunities available in the industry – but these measures alone will not be able to meet the labour needs over the coming years without access to labour through immigration,” said Carruth. “Today’s budget announcement will provide assistance to our sector and by extension the Ontario economy.”
Like other Ontarians, all perspective truck drivers that are screened to participate in the OINP program would have to go through Ontario’s nation-leading, mandatory entry level training program and pass the Ministry of Transportation road test, followed by in-house training by their employer.
“Making sure this province stays open for business has been one of the Ford government’s guiding principles. The decision to allow trucking access to the OINP is a critical step in supporting that vision,” said OTA President Stephen Laskowski. “While the trucking industry does not expect immigration, on its own, could or should solve the industry’s labour shortage, it’s clear immigration and the recruitment of professional foreign truck drivers through programs like this one will need to play a larger role moving forward.”
The budget also offered other positive news related to labour demands in trucking and other sectors by announcing that to spread the benefits of immigration to smaller communities, the Government of Ontario will begin a pilot initiative with select communities to explore innovative approaches to bring highly skilled immigrants to smaller communities. OTA has been informed that the trucking industry will also be able to participate in this program as well.
“OTA applauds Todd Smith, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade for championing the needs of our sector and recognizing the importance of the trucking industry to the entire Ontario economy. His leadership, which materialized in today’s budget announcement, will help all Ontario businesses grow by securing their supply chain,” added Laskowski.
Other highlights of the budget include:
- The government is taking steps to protect air quality through strong environmental standards and local air‐quality standards. While the province’s air quality has improved significantly, regions of the province continue to experience air‐quality challenges that the government will address in partnership with communities. In addition to introducing other measures, such as redesigning the emissions testing program for heavy‐duty trucks, OTA continues to work with Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips on this initiative.
- Manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment and specified clean energy equipment can be immediately written off; and most other capital investments are eligible for an Accelerated Investment Incentive that provides a depreciation rate of up to three times the normal rate in the first year the asset is put into use. OTA will clarify the impact of this announcement on trucking CCA rates announced in Federal Fall Economic Statement.
- The government will maintain the tax exemption for natural gas used as a transportation fuel. Knowing the government intends to maintain the tax exemption under the Gasoline Tax Act will provide certainty to businesses as they consider retrofitting, replacing or expanding their fleets of heavy‐duty vehicles.
- The budget highlighted the federal carbon tax cost impact on such sectors as transportation and heating in a wide range of sectors: Heavy-duty transportation in Ontario: over $310 million per year in 2019–20, rising to as high as $774 million beginning April 2022.
- Allowing electronic documentation for International Registration Plans, making it easier for commercial truck drivers to confirm their credentials and to reduce paperwork.
- In 2019, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premium rates declined from an average of $2.35 on every $100 of insurable payroll to $1.65, effective January 1. This reduction represents a 29.8 per cent cut to the WSIB’s average premium rate and comes after eliminating a long‑standing unfunded liability. It will support Ontario’s competitiveness by delivering cost savings to employers estimated at $1.45 billion in 2019.
For the full 2019 Ontario budget click here.