Ontario Moves Forward with Its Social Enterprise Strategy 2016-2021

July 6, 2016 | Susan M. Manwaring

Minister Brad Duguid attended the Unpacking Impact Conference on June 21, 2016 and announced the Ontario Government’s commitment to a five year social enterprise strategy.  Minister Duguid committed Ontario to supporting a thriving marketplace of sustainable and scalable social enterprises that drive economic development while creating social and environmental impact.  In making the announcement, the Government indicated that the strategy incorporates the input of over 400 Ontarians – individuals from the non-profit, for-profit and public sectors, social entrepreneurs, academics and others.

The Ontario government has made significant commitments in three key areas.  These areas are:

  1. Equipping social enterprises with solid business fundamentals;
  2. Connecting social enterprises to markets and capital to grow in scale; and
  3. Demonstrating the value of social enterprise and social finance.

The government has indicated that it will invest more than $6 million in the first year of this renewed strategy.

The objectives of the three key strategies are summarized as follows:

  1. Equipping social enterprises with solid business fundamentals:
    • increase access to mainstream entrepreneurship and business support; and
    • integrate specialized social entrepreneurship support, such as impact measurement, into mainstream entrepreneurship programs.
  2. Connecting social enterprises to markets and capital to grow in scale:
    • expand market opportunities for social enterprises through public sector procurement; and
    • increase social enterprises’ access to private investment capital.
  3. Demonstrating the value of social enterprise and social finance:
    • promote the use of impact measurement tools among social enterprises to attract investor, government and community support; and
    • increase the Ontario government’s capacity to develop social enterprise and social finance initiatives.

Minister Duguid clearly feels that Ontario social enterprises are an important part of the economic development of Ontario.  The strategy will be supported by social enterprises across the province. Serious legislative changes for adoption of new forms of corporations such as community contribution corporations are, however, not mentioned in these initiatives.  While the strategy does mention removing legislative barriers to impact investing, it does not mention the earlier initiative of the Government to consider the introduction of community contribution corporations.

It appears that until the Ontario Non-Profit Corporations Act is enacted (which has been delayed until at least 2018), it is unlikely that we will see the new hybrid legislation move forward.  We expect there are those who will question whether these initiatives will be sufficient to support the social enterprises that Minister Duguid anticipates.

The Government’s social enterprise strategy is available on their website.

Miller Thomson’s Social Impact Group would be pleased to work with organizations regarding their social enterprise and impact investing matters.

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