Northern Economist 2.0

Showing posts with label news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label news. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Economic News Around the North: June 25th Edition

video
Well, I have returned from a rather lengthy set of travels.  My trip home was via the scenic Highway 17 drive through Sudbury, the Sault and around the north shore of Superior to Thunder Bay. There is nothing quite like this drive in terms of the vastness of the land and the vistas of rocks, trees and highway.  I had not done this drive in a number of years and perhaps because of the extra rain this year the landscape seemed a lot greener than I remembered it. The video link here shows a bridge crossing along the way (I was in the passenger seat doing the filming for those of you who might be concerned about my safety).  Nevertheless, here are some of the economic news items that have caught my interest.

Well, there were a number of not so flattering stories dealing with Thunder Bay in the national media over the last few weeks but the economic news was somewhat more upbeat.

$23M from Ontario government for school upgrades. CBC Thunder Bay. June 19th, 2017.

Thunder Bay Sears Location to Remain Open. Tbnewswatch. June 22nd, 2017.

Thunder Centre shopping area to be sold to new owner. CBC Thunder Bay June 19th, 2017. 

The Thunder Centre has got a new owner and despite Sears Canada's financial woes, the Thunder Bay store at Intercity Mall is to remain open - at least for now.  Sudbury and The Sault were not as lucky.  North Bay's store is also not closing.

As for the new school construction, it comes at the cost of some closures - rule of thumb in Thunder Bay based on this story is close three old schools to get one new one.  While closing schools is one way of generating some new construction activity, in the end, there are only so many schools that can be closed.  Eventually, to get new schools we will have to do it the old fashioned way - boost enrollment.  Other northern Ontario cities also seem marked by the dynamic of out with the old and in with the new.  In the Sault, the original St. Mary's College was demolished to make way for a new elementary school. One wonders when this dynamic will hit the school boards in Toronto. Curious to see when they will knock down stately old Jarvis Collegiate or UTS in order to build a shiny new building.

Also, in Thunder Bay tourism news, the decommissioned icebreaker Alexander Henry has left Kingston Ontario and is set to return to Thunder Bay to serve as a transportation museum on the waterfront. 

In Sudbury, there seem to be a lot of projects coming to a head with respect to community infrastructure.  A key debate is where to build the new sports arena - downtown or outwards.

Sudbury at a crossroads: build downtown or build outwards? TVO. June 23, 2017.

True north wants to convert downtown arena into arts centre. CBC Sudury. June 22, 2017.

Rainbow Centre makes pitch for Sudbury library, art gallery. CBC Sudbury. June 23rd, 2017.

New Casino in Sudbury depends on where city builds new arena. CBC Sudbury. June 14th, 2014.

In other potential infrastructure news from a natural resource perspective:

Noront looks for smelter landing spots in Sudbury, Timmins. Northern Ontario Business. June 20th, 2017.

New gold mine in Timmins by 2018: Gowest CEO. mining.com. June 4th, 2017.

In other news, North Bay's housing market is still doing well according to this source

Meanwhile, for those of you that missed this, the June 1st provincial byelection in Sault Ste. Marie for the seat vacated by Liberal David Orazietti was won by a Conservative for the first time since 1981.  A sign of things to come? Hard to say.  The election is still officially a year away (though one might see a snap election called in the fall if the governing party feels confident) and alot can happen in a year. Stay tuned.



Friday, 14 April 2017

Economic News Around the North: April 14th Edition

Well, we are heading into the Easter weekend.  Spring is a time of rebirth and who knows, after two decades of slow growth, perhaps the north's economy will finally resurrect itself in the third. On the other hand, Good Friday this year coincides with the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Here are some of the stories that I felt were of economic significance for northern Ontario over the last week or so. 

Gas prices soar in city. TbNewswatch, April 13th, 2017.

Well the price of gas has shot up again, just in time for a long weekend but it is a phenomenon that hit the entire province.  If you want some insight on Canadian gasoline prices in general, there is an old post I did on gas prices on Worthwhile Canadian Initiative that also attracted quite a few comments that provided some interesting points.  The long and short, in my opinion, prices are higher because the companies can get away with charging more.  Price differentials across regions have converged over time and this may signify greater market power on the part of gas companies.

Alexander Henry one step closer to returning home. CBCThunderBay. April 11th, 2017.

There seems to be some support for relocating the former icebreaker Alexander Henry from Kingston to Thunder Bay's waterfront.  In principle, this will be an excellent addition to the waterfront as it can serve as the core exhibit for a transportation museum.  This might mesh in nicely with the plans for a grain museum which is being worked on by Nancy Perozzo's group.  As well, there are plans to relocate the Thunder Bay Art Gallery to the waterfront also.  When one looks at the restaurant development in the Waterfront area combined with the location of Magnus Theatre and the long-term plans to place an Events Centre in the area, one can finally see a substantial entertainment district coming into shape.  The one caveat - customers and money.  I know, presenting caveats and pros and cons does not go over well with local movers and shakers who prefer expressions of cheerful mindless optimism when it comes to economic development in the north but Thunder Bay's tax base is under stress and the city's population base and market size are limited.  Can Thunder Bay become a tourism destination with its central Canadian waterfront marked as "The Mid-Coast?"  Who really knows?

Thunder Bay taxi bylaw causes concern for council, taxi companies.  CBCThunderBay. April 11th, 2017.

Getting a taxi in Thunder Bay is a ordeal.  If you ever needed a taxi in the middle of a weekday afternoon on short notice, forget it as they are all engaged in "school runs". This is another example of how dependent even the private sector in northern Ontario is on public sector spending.  I won't even get into trying to get a taxi at the airport or late on a weekend after an evening out or the price.  Supply constraints have been very profitable for Thunder Bay taxi companies and by taking five years to re-write the taxi bylaws, Thunder Bay City Council has been aiding and abetting a cozy oligopoly.

Other Thunder Bay economic news:

First salty arrives in port. TbNewswatch. April 8th, 2017.

Grain shipments make for busy March at Thunder Bay port. CBCThunderBay. April 5, 2017.

Well, this has all been rather Thunder Bay centric to this point.  In other news:

Sudbury loses 400 jobs in March. SudburyStar.com. April 7th, 2017.

Yet, things are going to get better as the Canada Revenue Agency has announced it is adding 543 full-time jobs to the Sudbury tax centre.

Council sets criteria for location of new events centre. CBCNewsSudbury. April 12th, 2017.

Sudbury appears to be moving forward at a rapid clip with a site selection team in place.  However, four of the five members of the selection team appear to be directly related to Sudbury's municipal government with a consultant from PWC as the fifth.  It would have been useful from an optics point of view to have a more arm's length group of experts.  Apparently the criteria for site selection includes cost, economic impact and parking.  In the end, it is all about weighting the criteria and if parking carries the biggest weight, then one should expect the greenfield site outside of the downtown as the final destination.

Here are some interesting items from North Bay.

Casinos siphoned millions from Sudbury, Brantford and Thunder Bay in 2014-15. Nuggest.ca. April 12th, 2017.

And in another tourism infrastructure related story. ..

North Bay city council votes to keep Dionne house. CBCNewsSudbury. April 5th, 2017.

The only surprise here is that the City of North Bay was actually considering giving the historically significant house to a group that was going to move it to a "pioneer village" project 70 miles south of North Bay.  Why stop there, maybe they should consider moving it to Thunder Bay's waterfront - a nice plot of land between the yet to be completed hotel and the new condos?  

And in the relentless and ongoing efforts to attract new business activity via marketing techniques....

Invest Sault Ste. Marie website launched. SaultOnline. April 6th, 2017.

Sault needs to find gaming 'sweet spot'. SaultStar.com. April 9th, 2017.

And in Timmins, this story about the mining sector.

Gold is the new economic driver for Ontario mining. TimminsPress.com. April 12th, 2017.

There were a number of interesting comments made. I was particularly intrigued by the Red Tape Challenge - an Ontario government consultation program for mining asking for input on what could be done to make the mining industry work better with government.   Dealing with red tape by engaging in yet more consultation seems like a typically Ontario way to address questions of efficiency and regulatory barriers.  However, with respect to gold as a driver, according to the president of the Ontario Mining Association:
What has changed in Ontario in the last 10 years is that gold is now a larger contributor than nickel and copper. That’s new and it is a combination of the price of the commodities and the number of new discoveries of gold and the new investments around gold,” said Hodgson.

Have a nice long weekend.




Sunday, 26 March 2017

Economic News Around Northern Ontario: March 26th Edition

Here are some of the recent items I found to be of economic significance to northern Ontario.  If you are interested in the regional impact of the Federal budget this week from my perspective, see my previous post. There was also this somewhat more upbeat story on CBC:

First nations, northern infrastructure to benefit from federal budget.  CBC News Sudbury. March 23rd, 2017.

As well, the 25 million dollar boost to Fednor seems to have gotten some attention.  I guess in northern Ontario, 25 million dollars is considered alot of money and the source of much optimism.

FedNor gets $25-million funding boost. Sudburystar.com. March 24th, 2017.

In other upbeat news....

First ship of season arrives in Thunder Bay. Tbnewswatch. March 24th, 2017.

The arrival of the M.V. Manitoulin was a record breaking early arrival for the first ship and leads to the hope this is the start of another great shipping season for the Port of Thunder Bay.  The Port of Thunder Bay has been on an upward trend the last few years.

As well, it turns out Sunrise Records will be adding to Thunder Bay retail filling the hole left by the closure of HMV. See:

Thunder Bay indie store welcomes Sunrise.  CBC Thunder Bay. March 24th, 2017.

And the upbeat news continues all over the north.  In the Sault, despite concerns raised by the local Chamber of commerce at a public forum, the city's Mayor has assured everyone that municipal costs are under control.

City is controlling costs: mayor. Saultstar.com. March 24th, 2017.

After all, the city council in the Sault has shrunk from 12 to 10 saving $60,000 annually! However, to put $60,000 in perspective, keep in mind the total municipal levy for 2017 in the Sault is projected at 108.9 million dollars.

In terms of infrastructure, Timmins is opening a new hospice center  and the optimism was contagious also spilling over to a generally positive view of certain elements of the federal budget by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.  Perhaps some of that new Fednor funding is headed towards highway construction in the Timmins area. See:

Timmins might choose concrete highways.  Timminspress.com. March 24th, 2017.

Hopefully, concrete might do a better job withstanding the potholes that have been plaguing me as I drive around Thunder Bay.  It is difficult to remain upbeat when one's innards are constantly jarred by potholes.

Meanwhile, things are looking up in North Bay.  While North Bay's population, like much of that in northern Ontario is aging at a fast rate, it remains that there might be a silver (no pun intended) lining....

Growing seniors resource to north and south represents jobs.  Nugget.ca, March 25th, 2017.

Finally, this item in terms of potential impacts of alleviating access in remote First Nation communties:

Pilot project could see drones deliver much-needed items to northern Ontario First Nations. CBC Toronto. March 19th, 2017.

Have a great week!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Economic News Around the North: March 12th Edition


Here are some of the items that caught my interest this week in terms of some economic significance for northern Ontario as well as more general interest.  A fair number of stories having to do with mining and the growing feeling that there is finally a resurgence in the mining sector.  A story in this morning's Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal also mentioned that the Hemlo mine may have more life in it.   However, it is important to separate this from the hype regarding the Ring of Fire which faces a number of other obstacles (see my previous post).  As The Economist story referenced below noted: "The potential of “green” metals and minerals, which along with copper and cobalt include nickel, lithium and graphite, is adding to renewed excitement about investing in mining firms as they emerge from the wreckage of a $1trn splurge of over-investment during the China-led commodities supercycle, which began in the early 2000s. The most bullish argue that clean energy could be an even bigger source of demand than China has been in the past 15 years or so."


In other news, like Thunder Bay, Sudbury is also going through debate and discussion on a new arena and like iterations of the debate in Thunder Bay, location is an issue.  One view sees a new arena in the downtown area on the site of the current arena whereas another view wants it further afield.  Interesting point is the proposed price tag which comes in at $80 million dollars (plus another $20 million for land) which is  below what estimates ($114 million) for a new facility in Thunder Bay come in at. Sudbury is apparently also getting a new casino.

Casino Operator will focus on Sudbury in May. Sudbury.com. March 11th, 2017.

It also turns out there is a bit of contention over OPG jobs which have been moved out of North Bay and partly to Timmins and Cornwall, Ontario.  Jobs are a scarce commodity in the north and the broader public sector has become a pillar of most communities.  When it comes to employment, I suppose the public sector giveth and the public sector taketh away.  
20 OPG jobs coming to Timmins. TimminsToday. March 6th, 2017.
While North Bay is unhappy with the OPG development, it can take consolation in new dealings with Russia.  I would imagine this will provide opportunities for travel.

Invest North Bay signs agreement with Russian investment group. Northern Ontario Business. March 8th, 2017.

And for those of you waiting for what will happen to redevelop HMV properties being vacated in the north, this item.


Thunder Bay is apparently not getting one yet.  However, residents of Thunder Bay can take some solace in its new transit development courtesy of The Beaverton and more seriously the proposed infrastructure spending on its recreational facilities at local schools.  Regarding the proposed infrastructure spending on track and field facilities, a student is quoted as saying: "It's an opportunity to play on a field like to play on a field like the people down in southern Ontario get to play (on)." I suppose we can all regard this development as helping to level the playing field with respect to southern Ontario at least with respect to sports, if not the use of the English language. However, it may be a long-term investment in health via exercise as other stories suggest the North may still not be a very healthy place relative to southern Ontario. See for example: Grim Data Emerging. The Chronicle Journal. March 12th, 2017. This story did not provide a regional breakdown on snowmobile deaths but the gender breakdown shows males are more likely to die in snowmobile accidents.  On a per capita basis, there are probably more deaths in the north.  In the week of February 22nd, there were five fatalities - one in Oro-Medonte, one in Thorton, two in Nipigon and one in Lindsay, Ontario.

Have a great week.
 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Economic News Around the North: March 3rd Edition

Well, this has been a busy week when it comes to news of economic significance for northern Ontario.  Here are some of the items that caught my interest with some occasional commentary.  Have a nice weekend!

Mining report card shows Ontario has room for improvement.  Northern Ontario Business. February 28th, 2017.

According to this report out of the Fraser Institute, Ontario has dropped to 18th place globally as an attractive place to do business in a mining company survey and ranking.

Sault Locks to open on March 25. Northern Ontario Business.  March 2nd, 2017.

Here's why health care funds for First Nations children aren't being spent. CBC News. March 3rd, 2017.

As is often the case, coordination and transactions costs are important elements in government and economic policy.  First Nation's health is under federal jurisdiction while health care is a provincial responsibility and most health services are provided under provincial jurisdiction and therefore require travel to access if you live on a remote reserve - yet travel costs are often not covered by Health Canada.

Thunder Bay shipyard owners reveal their plans. Tbnewswatch. February 28th, 2017.

Apparently, Thunder Bay's shipyard facility - a facility with a long and storied history dating back to the early 20th century - will soon be up and running again and creating 25 full-time jobs.

New garbage limit excludes apartment buildings and business. Tbnewswatch. February 28th, 2017.

This is quite an interesting story relating to municipal public finances.  The City of Thunder Bay is looking to save money by reducing the current limit of containers for residential garbage collection to two.  Apparently, these changes along with others will eliminate one truck and two positions through attrition resulting in savings of $150,000.  Needless to say, I am not particularly impressed with savings of $150,000 on a annual tax levy that is growing at over 3 percent a year and is approaching 200 million dollars.  Reducing the garbage limit is something that has been done in many other cities but it has been accompanied by substantial expansion of convenient recycling options.  This is not the case in Thunder Bay.  However, what is even more interesting to me is that businesses and apartment buildings are being excluded from the limit.  What this means is that residential ratepayers - who are now responsible for two-thirds of the tax levy - are seeing a 33 percent reduction in their service - while other ratepayers are seeing no change in their service level.  This essentially means that residential ratepayers are going to further subsidize the garbage service collection of non-residential rate payers.

A brief history of mining in Greater Sudbury. Sudbury.com. March 2, 2017.

Check out the historical footage on the accompanying video.

Timmins economic outlook predicts population decrease. Timminspress.com, February 26, 2017.

Mayor unable to confirm possible OPG job losses.  nugget.ca, March 1st, 2017.

And of course, what I think is the biggest story of the week given the energy intensive nature of northern Ontario economic activity...

Ontario cuts hydro bills by 17%, but ultimately it will cost ratepayers $1.4 billion a year more. Financial Post. March 2, 2017.

Essentially, Ontario electricity policy has become a case of either pay more now or pay more later with the distribution of payment over time a function of the temporal distance until the next election.  Editorial reaction is not particularly positive.  And, businesses are excluded from these hydro rate reductions apparently.  Besides, I just received a letter from my local hydro utility dated March 2nd that has "re-adjusted" my monthly billing amount and in an odd coincidence my new monthly bill just went up 17 percent!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Economic News Around the North: February 17th Edition


Here is listing of some news stories across northern Ontario over the last few days that I feel are of some economic significance for the region.  There was actually quite a bit going on.  Have a nice weekend.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Economic News Around the North: January 27th Edition

Here are some new items that I found to be of interest with respect to the economy of northern Ontario over the last week or so.  Some are not quite what they seem - North Bay (and Thunder Bay) do well by not making this list.  Have a nice weekend. Livio.


New Veterans Affairs office opens in Thunder Bay. CBC News, Jan. 26, 2017

5 Things to know about Thunder Bay's proposed city budget. CBC News, Jan 24, 2017.

Tax levy could rise by millions. Chronicle Journal, Jan 24, 2017.

Steel, hub important to Ontario, Wynne tells mayor. Sault Star, Jan 26, 2017.

Mineral exploration on the rebound. Northern Ontario Business. Jan 26, 2017

Putting a value on the North's assets. Northern Ontario business. Jan 24, 2017.

Proposed Sudbury arena would be a "showpiece of Northern Ontario" sudbury.com,  January 26, 2017.

North Bay fails to crack list of top 25 cities. North Bay Nugget. Jan 27, 2017.