The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the provincial body representing all chamber members across the province, has written to the Premier about challenges it sees in the arbitration system that covers wages and benefits for emergency services such as police and fire throughout the province.

The letter points out that the cost of services have increased at over three times the rate of inflation annually since 2002, making those increases unsustainable.

The Ontario Chamber calls for the Premier to take immediate action. “Our principal concern is that the current system does not adequately consider the capacity of municipalities to pay,” said the letter, signed by Allan O’Dette, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce CEO Shirley de Silva said the issue of arbitration affects municipalities’ ability to pay for other essentials, like roads and bridges and to invest in economic development initiatives that will drive economic growth.

“We know from ongoing discussions with our members that the ability of a municipality to fund these essential services needs to be factored into any kind of fair and equitable system that is in place to deal with arbitration issues,” she said. “On that basis, we are encouraging the province to address this issue as soon as possible.”