The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has unveiled our Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness for 2014.
The national Chamber network undertook this initiative two years ago to draw attention to the barriers that are holding back Canada’s progress and to urge all levels of government to act more swiftly to improve our country’s ability to compete globally.
Since launching this initiative in 2012, we have made great progress in furthering our competitiveness agenda, particularly in addressing the barrier our Members identified as being the greatest impediment to the success of Canadian business: the growing skills gap. The federal government and several provincial and territorial governments have also named this issue as the country’s biggest challenge.
Addressing the Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness will go a long way towards restoring Canada’s competitiveness. The Canadian Chamber is calling on its own membership, on governments, on educators, on labour organizations, and others to tackle and overcome these barriers. Tolerating them is simply not an option. Effectively addressing these 10 barriers will sharpen Canada’s competitive edge and allow us to prosper in the global economy.
We have a choice. Either we act urgently to improve our competitiveness or we will pay a high price in lost jobs and prosperity. Working together, we’ve started to address these problems over the past two years. The challenge for 2014 is to build on this progress and start closing the gap between Canadian businesses and our international competitors.
|Our latest report reveals that Ontario’s Ring of Fire, the mineral resource-rich region in the James Bay Lowlands, will generate up to $9.4 billion in new economic activity over the first 10 years of operation and sustain 5,500 jobs annually in Ontario.The report, Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire, makes it clear that the short-and long-term economic impacts of the Ring of Fire will be shared across the province.
According to our study, the mining development could generate more than $25 billion across numerous sectors in Ontario by 2047, including $2.7 billion in revenues for the financial services sector and $1.2 billion for the wholesale and retail trade sectors.
Based on extensive analysis and consultation, our report also outlines the key challenges that stand in the way of the development of the Ring of Fire and a 13-step action plan to overcome them.
The new federal budget presents the continuity of a plan for economic growth that builds on Canada’s economic and fiscal advantages. The measures announced by the government will help Canadian businesses prosper and compete.
“We have urged the government to focus on where Canada needs to be in five or 10 years, even if it means making tough decisions now. The government has acted on some of the key elements of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Top 10 initiative for restoring Canada’s competitiveness. The result will be a stronger economy and more jobs,” said Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty.
The Canadian Chamber particularly welcomes the money for major infrastructure projects: “Nobody cuts a ribbon when a new sewer pipe is installed. It’s just not a dramatic moment,” said Perrin Beatty. “But thousands of Canadians idling in their cars because of traffic congestion or bridge delays can tell us what investments in infrastructure can mean to our quality of life and productivity.”
There is a strong link between the investment in core public infrastructure, such as roads, transit and utilities, and the productivity performance of all sectors of the Canadian economy. Equally clear are the consequences of underinvestment. “The success and competitiveness of Canadian business depends on modern and efficient infrastructure,” said Beatty.
Measures to better match young workers with the skills needs of business are also a step in the right direction. The Canadian Chamber has made skills its top priority for the last three years and will continue to work closely with the government and the entire business community. In this regard, the Canadian Chamber also welcomes the government’s initiative on First Nations education, announced prior to the budget.
The Canadian Chamber has been advocating the important role remote communities can play in our economy. The money allocated to bringing internet access to more Canadians is a positive step forward for northern businesses.
Finally, the Canadian Chamber encourages the government to maintain its policy of allowing market forces to set services and prices for Canadian consumers. Unnecessary government intervention, however well intended, has a long record of damage and unintended consequences in Canada.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the vital connection between business and the federal government. It helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing some 200,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions. News and information are available at Chamber.ca or follow us on Twitter @CdnChamberofCom.
New Chamber Survey Results
- Mixed Picture on St. Thomas & District Business Confidence
Businesses in the St. Thomas area are unsure about the Ontario economy, according to a new survey from the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Leger Marketing. The annual Ontario Business Confidence Index shows that 44 percent of surveyed businesses are confident in Ontario’s economy. That figure is approximately 9 percentage above last year’s level, but still 4.5 percentage points below the current provincial average.
The index also shows that 66 percent of businesses in our region are confident in their own organization’s outlook, an increase of just 1.5 percentage points over the previous year. When it comes to growing their business, 51 say they plan to expand within the next five years, down slightly from this time last year.
“The net sense we get on a local level suggests some battle fatigue” says Bob Hammersley, President & CEO of the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce. The downward movement in how local business is approaching the future is a concern, but it’s also critical to note that our measurements were taken prior to the recent announcement on a new manufacturer coming to St. Thomas. Local businesses in every sector have been wrestling with the economy for an extended period, so it’s easy to understand why optimism isn’t as visible here as it might be other sections of the province or the country.”
The survey of businesses is featured in Emerging Stronger 2014, a business-driven economic agenda released by the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce and authored by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Mowat Centre and Leger Marketing. The report identifies the immediate steps that government and the private sector must take to enhance Ontario’s economic competitiveness and spur job creation in the province.
“There are actions that government and business can do to boost our economy and business confidence,” says Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “But right now there is uncertainty in Ontario’s business climate, possibly as a result of potential changes to the pension system and rising energy costs.”
The Chamber’s new report is the third in an annual series launched in 2012. The St. Thomas & District Chamber solicited comments and data from over 600 Member-businesses late last fall, as did hundreds of Chambers of Commerce in communities all over Ontario. Our report is a major 61-page release that explores how business and industry felt as 2013 ended, and plans and budgets were set for 2014. The report is presented in a format filled with progressive analysis on the progression of issues of concern to the business/employer community, and contains several “Case Study” examples demonstrating progress and innovation.
Among the survey’s findings for St. Thomas & District are:
Read or download a copy of Emerging Stronger 2014 now… just click here.
The economic outlook for the London / St. Thomas region is cautiously optimistic, as it continues to experience slow growth and adjusts to considerable challenges in its manufacturing base, according to a new economic forecast released by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce and the Credit Unions of Ontario.
Economic growth will remain slightly below the provincial average through 2014 and into 2015, held down by weak gains in consumer spending, personal income and residential investment as well as declining government investment and spending.
Total employment in the region is well above its 2009 recession low, and is expected to grow modestly over the next two years, from 327,500 in 2013 to 333,100 in 2015. Most jobs will be created in health-social services, retail-wholesale trade and various other service industries. Manufacturing employment is expected to hold at current levels.
The unemployment rate is forecasted to decline to 7.6 percent in 2015, from 8.1 percent in 2013.
Housing prices in London continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013. St. Thomas will continue to offer exceptionally good value in housing compared to other municipalities in the region, thanks to very competitive and aggressive pricing on land, taxes and construction. Private sector investment in non-residential building construction, mostly stores and offices, is also expected to increase.
“The economic picture for our region isn’t perfect, but it is definitely showing improvement and promise over the long-term”, says Bob Hammersley, President & CEO of the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.
The London economic region covers Oxford, Elgin and Middlesex counties and is home to over 660,000 residents. The region’s economic base is relatively more concentrated in manufacturing and agriculture, its primary export industries, and has a fairly broad service industry base. Its principal centre is the London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) which contains most of the region’s manufacturing base .
Key Facts and Highlights in our review:
● Housing prices across the entire London & tri-county area will continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013.
● Net migration to the London region is expected to rebound modestly after a dip in 2013. Over 5,000 people are expected to move to the region by 2015.
● The unemployment rate in the region will fall gradually to 7.6 percent by 2015, still above the projected provincial average of 6.8 percent.
● Those industries contributing most to economic growth through 2015 will be manufacturing, professional services, financial services, and retail-wholesale trade.
● Public sector investment continues to shrink in the short term, reversing the post-recession fiscal stimulus. No major investment projects are confirmed across the region in the near term, yet several potentials remain under active consideration and negotiation. The value and employment considerations of the acquisition announced in St. Thomas January 13 by Sle-Co Plastics Inc. is unknown to date. General Motors Canada has announced that it will invest $250 million at its Ingersoll plant.
The Canadian Chamber’s Economic Outlook for 2014-15 is here. This report, a review of the entire economic environment at a national level, contains information that is particularly of value when used in tandem with data to be presented in our Regional Economic Overview (see above) and with additional local data to be tabled when the St. Thomas & District Chamber hosts our annual Outlook Economic Forecast Luncheon on March 25.
This year, we find that, although Canada continues to recover from the recession better than other countries, the pace of growth has been slower than hoped. Consumer spending and housing activity are proving more resilient than expected, while the slow pace of global growth and ongoing competitiveness challenges have reduced deman for our exports and weighed on manufacturing production. Businesses also remain cautious when it comes to hiring and investing.
Against this backdrop, Canada’s economy is on-track with expansion expected to be confirmed at 1.7 percent for 2013, matching the sluggish pace of 2012. The economy is projected to grow by 2.3 in 2014, and to strengthen moderately to 2.5 percent in 2015.
To reap the full benefits of an improving global outlook, the Chamber agrees we need to strengthen our competitiveness, tap new markets and secure and grow our involvement in global supply chains.
Access the report – and all others – in our continuing Economic Policy Series – by clicking here.
This report is the latest installment in our series, assembled by Tina Kremmidas, Chief Economist of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
THINK FAST: ONTARIO EMPLOYER PERSPECTIVES ON IMMIGRATION REFORM AND THE EXPRESSION OF INTEREST SYSTEM
Canada’s immigration system is changing dramatically. In early 2015, the federal government will introduce a new application management system for selecting and processing economic immigrants: the Expression of Interest (EOI) system.
The goal of the EOI system is to make immigration more responsive to the needs of the country’s labour market and to attract the best and brightest from across the globe.
This system represents a huge opportunity for the province and its employers, but only if it is designed properly. In order to be successful, the system must meet two key criteria: it must reflect the needs of employers, large and small, and accommodate Ontario’s complex labour market realities.
Think Fast: Ontario Employer Perspectives on Immigration Reform and the Expression of Interest System makes 13 recommendations to the federal government as it finalizes the design of the EOI system. The recommendations are a product of extensive consultation with employers throughout the province.
Read the report to learn more.
Our colleagues at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services have alerted us that the Ontario Ministry of Labour will be conducting an inspection blitz until the end of March, with inspectors focusing on warehouses and retail establishments.
Between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2012, three workers died and 59 others sustained serious injuries resulting from racking and storage work, according to Ministry of Labour (MOL) data. In November 2011, MOL inspectors conducted 1,167 visits to 977 warehouse workplaces and issued 3,063 orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including 118 stop work orders.
The most commonly issued orders involved an employer’s duty to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices were maintained in good condition.
According to MOL data, over three fiscal years from 2009 until 2012 there were 390 incidents involving forklifts/lift trucks reported to the MOL. Of these incidents,
Additionally, eleven workers died and 80 workers suffered critical injuries in incidents involving activities at locking docks between January 1, 2000 and May 29, 2013. The fatalities included workers:
Inspectors will be mobilized to check that industrial employers are protecting the health and safety of workers from hazards that may arise from working in a warehouse environment. Inspectors will focus on potential hazards including, but not limited to, mezzanine and racking systems (checking that employers have installed these systems appropriately and that they are maintained), pedestrian traffic controls inside and outside the workplace (e.g., loading bays), lifting devices, and hazards related to slips, trips, falls and musculoskeletal disorders.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has completed research on an issue that’s literally the foundation of our economy – public infrastructure. The Foundations of a Competitive Canada: The Need for Strategic Infrastructure Investment is a report that examines the poor state of Canada’s public infrastructure and makes recommendations for a long-term investment strategy to bring Canada’s infrastructure back to the level needed to support prosperity.
Modern and efficient infrastructure is a core component of a competitive economy. Public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, highways, water systems and the electrical grid provide services critical to economic competitiveness, sustainability and quality of life. Without sufficient investment and upkeep of public infrastructure stock, countries rapidly fall behind.
Unfortunately, Canadian public investment in infrastructure has not kept up with our economic needs and our investment needs far outstrip the availability of public funds. To succeed, we not only need to attract new levels of private investment, but we must also ensure our investments are made strategically, effectively and efficiently.
Bringing infrastructure in Canada back to the level needed to support prosperity will not be easy. It will require an ongoing commitment by all levels of government and active engagement with private sector stakeholders. We have to change the dialogue from “catch-up” investments or “economic recovery” to investing in our competitiveness as a country.
Chamber Excited on Policy Win
The Queen’s Park Media Release last Thursday made it official. A new piece of Ontario legislation that will impact over 60,000 small businesses, charities and NPO’s becomes law at January 1. It all began with a concern raised to the St. Thomas & District Chamber by one of our Members. Chartered Accountant Mark Lassam (now one of our senior volunteers as the Chamber Treasurer) observed that increasing numbers of small businesses were getting hit with Employer Health Tax payments and losing exemptions, largely as the result of annual inflation and inattention by the government to legislation enacted more than 10 years ago. Our Public Sector Liaison Committee developed a strategy for action and took it to the convention floor at the Ontario Chamber’s convention in May 2011. The OCC adopted our policy and took it to Queen’s Park. The end result: a policy win that’s a victory for the Chamber, our Members and businesses across the province. Here’s the text of the Queen’s Park media release issued last Thursday:
Supporting Small Businesses Act Passes Final Vote
Ontario is increasing opportunities for 60,000 small businesses, charities and not-for-profit organizations to grow and save money starting Jan. 1, 2014.
Legislation Quick Facts:
St. Thomas, Central Elgin & Southwold including Port Stanley, Belmont, Shedden, Fingal, Talbotville, Sparta and Union
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