TIMMINS, February 12, 2014: With proposed investments in workforce training, infrastructure, and broadband Internet access, the 2014 federal budget holds promise for local businesses, according to the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.
The federal budget, as tabled on Feb. 11 by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, offers several opportunities for Timmins businesses, including:
$40 million to support full-time internships for recent post-secondary graduates, including $15 million specifically for small and medium-sized enterprises;
The creation of the Canada Apprentice Loan, offering interest-free loans of up to $4,000 per period of technical training for apprentices studying Red Seal trades;
Expanded research funding for post-secondary institutions, including $1.5 billion to create the Canada First Research Excellence Fund over the next 10 years;
$305 million over five years to extend and enhance broadband Internet service in rural communities;
$1.3 billion in additional infrastructure spending;
A four-year, $90.4-million investment in upgrading technology in forestry operations; and
Another one-year extension of the 15-per-cent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for flow-through share investors.
“By and large, the 2014 federal budget is a promising one, with several measures that stand to make a difference for Timmins businesses,” said Timmins Chamber President Phil Barton.
“In particular, we’re pleased to note that the federal government continues to place a considerable priority on improving hiring and training support for small and medium-sized enterprises. Staffing concerns continue to be top of mind for many Timmins businesses, and initiatives to assist with the issue are certainly appreciated.”
This support includes $40 million to create 4,000 new internships across Canada, of which 3,000 will be provided in “high-demand fields” such as skilled trades and engineering. The remaining 1,000 internships will be specifically created in small and medium-sized enterprises.
Also of interest to the Timmins businesses is the federal budget’s focus on enhancing Internet access in rural and remote areas. Broadband access is a crucial tool for doing business in today’s economy, said Barton, and local firms have strongly benefited from previous federally funded enhancements through such organizations as Timmins’ NEOnet.
Also of benefit to the region is another one-year extension of the 15-per-cent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit. Timmins in particular stands to benefit, said Barton, as junior mineral exploration firms can continue to see incentives for investing in the region. In support of another crucial resource sector, the federal government has also pledged $90.4 million to assist with technology upgrades for forestry companies.
However, there are some items of contention in the budget, including the continued rollout of the Canada Job Grant, the controversial training measure introduced in last year’s federal budget. Provincial governments have argued that the proposed program may potentially impose additional training costs on them, a concern shared by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. As well, the budget includes the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, which drew mixed reviews and outcry from Aboriginal groups when it was announced last Friday.
“There are a few items in the budget that we hope are open for discussion, but we’re generally satisfied that the federal government is focusing on key priorities for Timmins businesses,” said Barton. “In particular, we hope the government is willing to continue engaging with the provinces, First Nations communities, and employers on developing appropriate models for education and skills training. We look forward to working with our provincial and federal partners to help make these changes happen for the good of business, both in Timmins and beyond.”
This generally positive point of view was also shared by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which saw much to like in the 2013 federal budget.
Specifically, the organization applauded the federal government’s plan to invest $1.3 billion in additional infrastructure funding, which is crucial to maintaining the economic health of the country’s communities, according to Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty.
“Nobody cuts a ribbon when a new sewer pipe is installed. It’s just not a dramatic moment,” said 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.”
About the Timmins Chamber of Commerce
With over 800 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