In partnership with business leaders from across Northern Ontario, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce is urging the province to address the regional challenges posed by the lack of affordability and transparency in energy pricing as it builds its Long-Term Energy Plan 2017 (LTEP).
In a joint submission to the Ontario government’s LTEP review process, which will help form the basis of Ontario’s energy strategy over the next 20 years, the Timmins Chamber called on the province to ensure its approach reflects the realities of doing business in the North. Soaring electricity costs have been felt more acutely in the North due to harsher seasonal climates, greater transportation costs, and a larger number of natural-resource-sector firms who are counted among the province’s largest users of energy.
It is crucial that the province consider the growing impact this sector is having on the North’s ability to attract and retain businesses, according to the submission, which was issued in partnership with the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, and North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce.
"The geographic and economic realities of Northern Ontario mean that energy costs make up a greater portion of a business' expenses here than elsewhere in the province," says Timmins Chamber President Christine Bender.
"It’s no surprise that our member businesses have routinely identified the rising cost of energy as their largest challenge, as these prices have continued to climb at an unsustainable rate. The province has taken some commendable steps in recent years, such as the establishment of the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate program, but much more needs to be done, which is what we have tried to identify with our LTEP submission."
In order to address these concerns, the northern Chambers’ joint submission proposes 12 recommendations, a few of which include the following:
• Include economic development among the principles governing the province’s approach to energy within the LTEP. Economic development should be the first and over-riding principle.
• Increase transparency and offer greater detail on how government will achieve targeted greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, including what support government will offer to businesses so they can remain prosperous while finding innovative solutions to reduce their emissions.
• Clarify the global adjustment (GA) so that ratepayers can better understand their electricity bills. Take steps to reduce the GA as a portion of electricity bills so that businesses are able to see real savings from their conservation efforts.
• Expand access to natural gas pipelines and improve the electricity transmission grid to ensure communities can develop and businesses can afford to invest in Northern Ontario.
• Increase transparency and accountability by publishing additional details about cap and trade; this should include specifying how proceeds from cap and trade will be spent to help transitioning businesses, and publishing regular economic impact assessments on how cap and trade is affecting local businesses and supply chains.
A recent report issued by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success, 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.
These concerns are only exacerbated by the considerable uncertainties around the implementation of Ontario’s pending cap and trade program, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2017. Despite repeated requests by business, many questions still remain about the full impact of cap and trade, and how proceeds from the program will be spent.
“Given the looming impact of Ontario’s cap and trade system on our region’s businesses, and the many unanswered questions surrounding its design, we will continue to work together with chambers across the North to address this issue,” said Bender.
You can find the complete submission and the full list of recommendations put forward by the Northern Ontario chambers of commerce at www.tinyurl.com/LTEP2017
About the Timmins Chamber of Commerce
With over 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