Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli isn’t buying totally into a report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce that indicates Northeastern Ontario may see a small rebound next year. The chamber’s Ontario Economic Report 2017 indicates businesses in the northeast are seeing some cautious growth. That’s according to Christine Bender, the president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce who is also quick to point out that businesses continue to have grave concerns over Ontario’s regulatory burden. Fedeli agrees that businesses are optimistic but adds they are optimistic about themselves but that’s offset by the pessimism they have about confidence in the province. He says their optimism is found in their ability to find ways around obstacles. “These are entrepreneurs who know how to take adversity,” says the MPP. “They don’t always agree with the government. But what they want is consistency or to know the rules. They say if these are the rules, I hate them but I’ll live by them and make my business grow despite the blocks the government puts up.” The Tory finance critic says examples of those blocks are Ontario having the dubious distinction of having the highest hydro rates in North America and the highest payroll taxes across Canada.
Fedeli notes that even the Ontario chamber Allan O’Dette has warned about regulatory burdens hamper economic growth. And Fedeli says in one way the chamber’s latest economic report acknowledges this. In 2014 when Kathleen Wynne won a majority government the chamber produced a report called Emerging Stronger and showed business confidence at 48 percent. The chamber continued to release annual Emerging Stronger reports and each year business confidence either dropped or was unchanged. He says in 2017 with business confidence dropping to 24 percent, half of what it was three years ago, the chamber changed the name of its report to simply Ontario Economic Report 2017. “To me is the Ontario chamber admitting we’re not emerging stronger,” Fedeli said.