The Timmins Chamber of Commerce has secured a major partner in its efforts to address the soaring costs of Ontario’s electricity and funding gaps for Connecting Link infrastructure.
At the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's (OCC) annual general meeting in Oakville on April 27 - May 1, Timmins Chamber President Kurt Bigeau successfully lobbied business representatives from around the province to support Timmins-made resolutions designed to take action on these two issues.
This success means that the Timmins Chamber policies are now official policy positions of the OCC. As such, the OCC will now actively use these positions to push the government for change, supported by the full weight of the 60,000 businesses represented by the organization.
“The OCC’s adoption of these Timmins Chamber policies is an important step for our business community and the North as a whole, as the Ontario Chamber network is an incredibly influential partner for advocacy,” said Bigeau.
“This is crucial, because although we applaud the government’s interim efforts to address these issues with infrastructure funding increases and energy rebate programs, more needs to be done to protect Northern Ontario’s business competitiveness. With the Ontario Chamber network now in full support of Timmins’ priorities, we look forward to working with our partners across the province to push for meaningful change in support of our businesses.”
These efforts are important, says Bigeau, as Timmins Chamber members regularly identify energy rates as one of their largest obstacles to doing business. Since 2004, electricity prices in Ontario have grown from a flat rate of 4.7 cents a kilowatt hour, to the 18 cents a kw/h at peak times -- an increase of 383 percent. A recent OCC report, Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Growth, indicated that one in 20 Ontario businesses expect to close their doors in the next five years due to rising electricity prices. In addition, 38 percent will see their bottom line shrink, with the cost of electricity delaying or canceling investment in the years to come.
The issue of Connecting Links -- portions of provincial highways traveling through municipalities –- is equally problematic for businesses in communities like Timmins, which is responsible for 21 kilometres' worth.
The province has long recognized its responsibility for assisting in that maintenance through the Connecting Link funding program, which provided an annual $15 million to cover up to 90% of project costs until 2013; this total will increase to $30 million by 2019. However, Connecting Links are located in 77 Ontario communities, which all still face considerable struggles to address these additional responsibilities. For example, the City of Timmins faces an estimated $100 million of repairs over 10 years for its share of the Connecting Link.
To help rally support to address these issues to protect Timmins' economy and the ability of its businesses to succeed, the Timmins Chamber developed official resolutions to lobby the OCC, based on input from its members as well as its Government Regulation and Policy Committee. As a sign of their broader impact on Northern Ontario, both policies were also co-sponsored at the event by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.
“Given the importance of energy and infrastructure for our members, we’re very pleased to be able to advance these issues at the provincial level," said Bigeau. "We developed strong partnerships with our fellow Northern chambers to establish some key support in advance of the meeting, and having the entire Ontario Chamber network expand that support is a sign of how badly action needs to be taken on these files.”
The May 1 event also saw the successful passage of several policies put forward by other Northern Ontario chambers and on which the Timmins Chamber had partnered in the interests of its members. This includes resolutions that the province refocus the Ontario College of Trades, improve the ability of employers to recruit skilled workers, and mitigate the impact of cap and trade regulations.
The Oakville conference also gave Timmins Chamber representatives the opportunity to speak directly to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, PC Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on these and other key issues for local businesses.
About the Timmins Chamber of Commerce
With 700 members, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest accredited chambers of commerce with distinction in northeastern Ontario. As the “Voice of Business in Timmins” since 1949, our advocacy and policy initiatives focus on ensuring a positive business climate in the City of Timmins.
Manager of Policy, Research and Communications
Timmins Chamber of Commerce