THUNDER BAY – BUSINESS – In partnership with business leaders from across Northern Ontario, the Thunder Bay 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 Thunder Bay 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, North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, and Timmins Chamber of Commerce.
Charla Robinson, President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce says, “Ontario is at a turning point in its planning process regarding the future energy needs of the province. In order for businesses in Northwestern Ontario to grow and succeed, it is imperative that future energy policies respect the concerns of businesses and support future economic growth.”
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.
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.
You can find the complete submission and the full list of recommendations put forward by the Northern Ontario Chambers of Commerce at www.tbchamber.ca/news/.