• It wasn’t an apology nor admission of wrongdoing. But it was certainly an about-face for Steve Williams, the CEO of Suncor Energy Inc. On May 3, Williams was very explicit about why Suncor would not be investing in any new projects in Canada.
    “Big investment in the resource industry….is starting to move away from Canada. And that is partly because of taxation, partly to do with royalties, partly to do with the uncertainty – the length of time it takes to get through these regulatory hurdles – and the general belief in the investment community that Canada is not a great place to spend money”.

    Can Niagara be More Resilient?

    by Brock Dickinson

    One of the realities of growth and job creation in the current economy is that new and entrepreneurial ventures are carrying a lot of the burden. The US-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) suggests that almost all of the job creation in the American economy since the year 2000 has been driven by companies less than five years old.

    This reliance on entrepreneurship ups the ante in terms of how well we support new business ventures. The World Bank says that Canada is actually the 2nd easiest country in the world to start a business in, with procedures that take a single day. But while red tape isn’t an issue in launching a business, the barriers begin to mount up starting on day two – and recent changes at both the provincial and federal levels have made it more difficult to get a new business from start-up to success.

    The Keys to Raising Financially Savvy Children

    by David Somerville

    If you asked any parent these days what about raising children is keeping them awake at night, it could be several things. One of the top three concerns for sure would be how kids today have no appreciation for money.  Kids these days don’t really understand the concept of money. Why would they? Parents today are basically glorified ATM machines in the eyes of their children.

    Most parents we talk to are overwhelmed with the expense of raising children. Not only are the basic needs draining the bank account, but the consistent wants of the children are financially exhausting.  The keeping up with the Jones’s – teen edition – is on full stage these days with the need to fit in and the social media barrage of advertisements.

    Bill 148 A Niagara Perspective

    by Kevin Vallier

     As the Niagara Independent wraps up its five-part series on the impacts of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, it has become clear that the legislation is stifling the growth of local companies. Small and medium-sized business owners in particular have stated they will have to lay-off employees, reduce hours or not hire seasonal workers to the extent they have in the past.

    It’s not only the rapid minimum wage increase that has added unanticipated costs to the bottom line but several other amendments to the Act as well including equal pay for full or part-time employees, vacation entitlements and scheduling. Business owners that The Niagara Independent spoke with said they have no issue with increasing minimum wage. The issue they have is with the phoney consultation process and rapid implementation.  

    Ontario’s Economic Performance worst in Canada Study Finds

    by Niagara Independent Staff

    Every year when the provincial or federal budgets are introduced, the public gets bombarded with economic spin as the governments of the day seek to put lipstick on a pig.  For the public, constantly experiencing unemployment, underemployment and a seemingly ever-increasing cost of living to go along with minimal income growth – these rosy statistics put out by government Ministers just does not seem to match their own realities.

    Recently Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios, academics with the Fraser Institute, put out several economic measures about Ontario’s economy over the last decade (2007-2016) to objectively measure its performance.  Matching what most Ontarians are feeling, the results weren’t good.

    Niagara Region’s Director of Economic Development David Oakes recently announced he was stepping down from the role after about two years in the position. Oakes is moving on to become the Deputy CAO of the City of St. Catharines, and he’s leaving behind some big shoes to fill.

    And filling those shoes will be a challenge.  I’ve worked in economic development for more than 25 years, leading projects and programs in more than 400 communities in 30 countries. For the past dozen years, I’ve also been the head of the University of Waterloo’s Economic Development Program, which runs the professional certification programs for those who hope to work in this field in Canada.

    Bill 148 came into effect in January of this year.  While most of the buzz created by the bill goes to the 36% hike in minimum wage, there are many additional measures in the Bill that are causing increased costs and concerns for businesses. 

    In the first two profiles, the Niagara Independent looked at the impact the bill had on a locally owned and operated restaurant followed by an agricultural business. In both cases, the owners had little to no option on raising prices or find ways to work more efficiently with few employees to make up for increased costs imposed on them by Bill 148.

    This is the second in a multi-part series of reports on how the Ontario government’s Bill 148 has impacted local Niagara businesses. The effects of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Job’s Act is hitting Niagara’s business sector. One local businessman willing to speak openly about the Bill, yet unwilling to disclose his name for fear […]

    Niagara’s Next Jobs

    by Brock Dickinson

    As you’ll see from coverage elsewhere in the Niagara Independent, Innovate Niagara is approaching the 10th anniversary of some of its operations in the community. According to ancient tradition (or to Hallmark – I’m never really sure about these things), the 10th anniversary is supposed to be marked by gifts of tin or aluminum. That’s not quite the “golden” anniversary we often look forward to, or the “diamond jubilee” we offer to monarchs, but it is a significant opportunity to look back and reflect on where we’ve come from.

    Innovate Niagara is one of 14 Regional Innovations Centres (or RICs, since we all love a good acronym) spread across Ontario, structures meant to promote and encourage innovation and the growth of high technology industries. Long before it started to operate under the name “Innovate Niagara” however, the organization was first known as nGen, and was focused on growing Niagara’s interactive and digital media industries. For the uninitiated, that’s things like video game companies, computer animation firms, online content creation businesses, and e-learning ventures

    Three months have passed since the onset of Bill 148, leaving small business owners across the Niagara Region conflicted by the impact of the changes to the Employee Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act. With increases in business costs across the board, employers have been left holding the bag on how to compensate for the rise in costs.

    Situated in the quiet town of St. David’s is The Old Firehall Restaurant. Originally a volunteer fire station, The Old Firehall is one of only two restaurants in the community. In 2001, owner Chris Rigas purchased the establishment from his father and since then has enjoyed the intimate dining experience the historic building provides local residents and visitors.

    Ontario’s small businesses have been struggling to cope with much more than hasty and hefty minimum wage hikes. Lying in the shadows of these dramatic increases are many other sweeping labour reforms that mean even higher labour costs and more red tape.

    The Ontario government has described its labour reform exercise as the biggest overhaul of the province’s labour and employment standards laws in over two decades. Yet, they have failed to adequately educate employers about the exhaustive list of other significant changes beyond the minimum wage. How can a business be expected to comply with what it doesn’t yet know and/or fully understand?

    One thing our new knowledge economy produces in huge volumes is a lot of vague but exciting-sounding terms meant to say something about how technology reshapes our world. You probably know the type of world I mean. There’s Hacking. And Cracking. And Phishing. And Making. And Coding.

    One of the more exciting ventures to launch in Niagara recently is called Code Niagara. Started by Yashvi Shah, a young woman from Niagara Falls, Code Niagara is a not-for-profit group that delivers “coding,” or computer programming training to young people in Niagara. Yahsvi’s story is an interesting one: As an undergraduate student, she signed up for some introductory computer programming classes at McGill University, where she found that her classmates from across Canada were already familiar with the basics of coding. Her own time in Niagara elementary and high schools had left her without any exposure to coding, which placed her at an obvious disadvantage. To make sure that other Niagara youth didn’t face the same challenges, she launched Code Niagara.

    The Biggest Risk Facing Canadians Is Their Debt

    by David Somerville

    When I get the chance to really talk to friends, family and clients, the one thing that comes up most often is how they are struggling to manage their monthly cash flow. This concern is not just limited to people I’m spending my time with, but rather Canadians as a majority are currently living month to month and for many, living in a debt and spending crisis.

    I came across some startling facts in my research for this article. In 2016 Canadians were adding more debt to their balance sheets faster than any other time in history.  Currently the average Canadian owes $22,595 of non-mortgage debt. Breaking it down another way, the average Canadian owes $1.64 for every dollar of take home income.