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Economy outlook could be better: Ontario chamber

High cost of energy and cutting red tape top issues facing small businesses
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The Ontario economy isn’t faring badly, but it could be doing better, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC).

The first ever Ontario Chamber of Commerce Ontario Economic Report was presented to Timmins Chamber of Commerce members on March 29 at Cedar Meadows Resort.

Timmins Mayor Steve Black attended and listened intently to the economic forecast for Ontario and Timmins and the challenges that exist for 2017 and beyond.

“The OCC does an excellent job lobbying for changes business need to succeed,” Black said. “The top issues as they were identified today continue to be the high cost of energy and cutting red tape.

“I welcome the relief on hydro prices on the residential side, but we are still waiting to see help on the business and industry side,” Black added.

As for the performance of the Timmins economy, the mayor said he thinks it has been pretty good.

“If you look at what has been happening in the city of Timmins, the last five years there a lot of good signs, such as the growth in the hotel industry, the coming on board of Calabrian, the Goldcorp Project Century and Probe Mine announcements, Gowest Gold and the IAMGOLD project — there some good things going on in Timmins.”

Tracy Hanson, the vice-president of network and member relations for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, was the key presenter at the meeting. The OCC represents 65 chambers in Ontario, and 60,000 businesses.

“I am thrilled to be here in Timmins to launch Ontario’s first ever Ontario Economic Report,” Hanson said.

Business confidence in Ontario stands at 62 per cent overall, but dips to 51 per cent when small business responses alone are considered, explained Hanson.

The Business Confidence Index is based on survey results of members.

Members were somewhat confident about their own organization but less confident about management of the economy,” Hanson said.

“This may change between now and the 2018 provincial election,” she added. “Right now, there is a gap between businesses’ ability and the province to improve the economy.”

Challenges clouding Ontario business confidence are electricity costs, energy and red tape reduction.

The second measure discussed by Hanson was the business prosperity index.

“If business is not making money, economic activity starts to decrease,” said Hanson. “Ontario has emerged and recovered from the recession of 2008, but has not prospered greatly.”

“Our information shows we are moving our investments around and holding on to our cash, but we are not building any new wealth,” she explained.

The third aspect examined by the Ontario Economic Report is the Economic Outlook based on Statistics Canada. The numbers are from the northeastern Ontario regional prospective as provided by Statistics Canada.

The unemployment rate is 6.7 per cent in Ontario’s northeast, and there has been a gain in net migration of 1,100.

“The unemployment rate is going down and our population of northeastern Ontario is growing; we are absorbing the people who are coming in into the labour market,” Hanson said. “But we have another problem: finding people and talent to fill the available jobs.”

Areas of focus for OCC’s policy are health transformation; skills and workplace development; economic and infrastructure; and Ontario’s energy challenge

“Media reports and what we see in our community, such as the empty retail space, influence our perception, but the future looks good,” said Fred Gibbons, chair of the Timmins Economic Development Corporation.

Gibbons pointed to the impending opening of Calabrian’s SO2 plant in Timmins, and a basalt company from China that will be in Timmins in April to discuss its business plans.

Gibbons also indicated a third chemical company is interested in located in Timmins.

Growth in the gold mining sector looks extremely good. 

“Mining is what Timmins is all about, and we should not be ashamed of that,” Gibbons said. "Gowest Gold, Tahoe Lake Shore, Goldcorp’s Dome extension and Probe Mines near Chapleau will start operations soon."

“Commodity prices and the price of gold are currently strong, and that harbours well of the metal mining and gold sector,” Gibbons added.

Timmins is looking to diversify and find ways to attract industry that takes advantage of Timmins’s climate and geographic location, such as cold weather testing, filming, mining knowledge, and supply sector.


Frank Giorno

About the Author: Frank Giorno

Frank Giorno worked as a city hall reporter for the Brandon Sun; freelanced for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He is the past editor of www.mininglifeonline.com and the newsletter of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers.
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