Provincial budget should focus on mining, energy, skills shortage: Chamber
THUNDER BAY – Businesses in the region have a few ideas for the province before it unveils its latest budget.
In a written submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce have highlighted mining, energy and skills shortages as key areas it wants the province to focus on.
That and addressing the deficit, which local chamber president Charla Robinson said is limiting the province’s ability to invest in areas to grow the economy.
“We recognize the fiscal situation of the province and we’re encouraging the government to do whatever they can to get the budget back into balance as soon is possible,” she said.
On mining, the chambers want to see progress in the Ring of Fire, specifically in getting Noront Resources the approval it needs to work on its environmental assessment. Robinson said there is a way for the company to continue that work while the province negotiates with the Matawa Tribal Council.
“Right now they’re basically sitting and waiting,” she said of Noront.
The Northern Industrial Electricity Rate program has helped energy costs for businesses in the region but the rebate needs to be permanent so that those industries can plan for the next decade or so with consistent costs in mind Robinson said.
Those businesses are also facing a continuing employee shortage. The province needs to look at its apprenticeship programs to find better ways to increase the skilled workforce needed.
“It’s becoming harder and harder for businesses to find the employees they need with the skills they require,” Robinson said.
Robinson said progress has been made on all fronts over the past few years but the work needs to continue. The same message will be brought up to finance Minister Charles Sousa when he’s in Thunder Bay next week for budget consultations.