THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce (NOACC) have provided written submissions to the Ontario pre-budget consultations by the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.
The Thunder Bay Chamber got into a scuffle with Thunder Bay City Council last year when a report was releases that showed the city finances were not headed in what the Chamber said was the right direction.
Nathan Lawrence, NOACC President says, “ We highlighted the incredible opportunity in the mining sector and the need for provincial support through investments in infrastructure and skills training to ensure we can realize the potential.”
Both organizations outlined additional concerns including:
– Ontario’s fiscal situation has negative consequences for all Ontarians. We encourage the Government to take bold action to bring the budget back to balance as soon as possible.
– The importance of moving forward simultaneously on environmental assessment processes and government to government negotiations in the Ring of Fire. We are concerned that on-going delays could reduce investor confidence and a potential loss of the economic opportunities in the area.
– The skills gap is growing as businesses struggle to find skilled workers. Apprenticeship ratios are too high for small communities and should be adjusted to increase the numbers of apprentices trained by each journeyperson. Aboriginal communities need access to skills development to ensure they can take advantage of economic opportunities.
– Affordable and reliable energy is needed to ensure that manufacturing of forest products and processing of minerals can be done within the region. We recommend that the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate program be made permanent and that required power transmission infrastructure be put in place to address energy needs.
The Thunder Bay Chamber also raised concerns regarding the length of time it takes for Provincial ministries and departments to pay their bills and recommended an immediate payment of 25% upon
receipt of invoices from qualified small businesses. Thunder Bay Chamber President Charla Robinson comments, “Waiting 60 to 90 days or longer for payment is a huge strain on the limited resources of a small business. We hope the Province will put our recommendation into action to address this concern.”