Northern Economist 2.0

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Economic News Around Northern Ontario: April 2nd Edition

Well it has been a busy end of term not just on campus but across northern Ontario. Here are the items that caught my interest over this last week in terms of general economic significance for the region.  The first two stories deal with the MPAC assessments this week.


This is a municipal public finance story that has been many years in the making.  Essentially, as a result of appeals and a ruling by MPAC, the City of Thunder Bay will have to refund $2 million to several retailers and grain elevator companies.  While this refund has been planned for, it does mean a reduction in revenues from these properties in the future.  This is part of a long-term trend away from business/industrial properties towards residential ratepayers and over the course of 25 years in Ontario has meant a shift in the share of property taxes away from the business/industrial sector and onto residential ratepayers.  While one might argue that in the past, the business/industrial sector was bearing too large a share, the situation has certainly gone the other way.  Of course, the real question is what should the optimal division be between the share of property taxes paid by residential ratepayers and business/industrial one.  In Thunder Bay, the situation has been aggravated by the industrial decline of the last 25 years which has seen several pulp and sawmills as well as grain elevators shut down,  For my  take on property taxation in Thunder Bay, see my January 24th 2017 post.  While there is certainly an economic case to be made about the division between residential and business property taxation, in the end the balance will be a political decision.

In other news:

The Niagara Region will be hosting the 2021 games beating out bids from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa and Sudbury.  The Games are an opportunity to showcase your community and acquire some new infrastructure but at the same time they do come with some expenses.  Getting them can be a mixed blessing but they are fun.  I remember participating in the opening ceremonies of the 1981 games that were held in Thunder Bay.  I was much more agile as a dancer then.

Budget could transform FedNor: MP, Chronicle Journal, March 31st, 2017.

A lot is being made about the $25 million boost to FedNor as some type of trans-formative change to the agency.  A similar spin in a story in North Bay.

Feds ‘rebuilding’ FedNor, March 26th, 2017. 

The fact remains that FedNor's budget a decade ago was $76 million and last year it was $31 million and the $25 million is being spread out over 5 years.  I guess I really would need to be sold on what FedNor actually is other than a fund to sprinkle some politically motivated funding  on assorted projects to give some semblance to the idea that the federal government cares about northern Ontario's economic development.  The minor increase in funding without some kind of vision of what FedNor is transforming to suggests treading water in a palliative care setting rather than trans-formative change.

In other news of concern to long-term regional infrastructure and the north's transportation role:

Soo Locks economic necessity; future worries USACE, March 28th, 2017.

 The Chamber of Commerce did a big presentation in Timmins last week (They are coming to Thunder Bay April 21st).
Report cites challenges for Northern economy, March 29th, 2017.
 Other items:

Facts ‘n’ Figures: Canadian mining by the numbers, The Northern Miner. March 28th, 2017.

 This last item presents some numbers for the provinces but since all of the mining in Ontario is a northern Ontario economic activity, it provides an interesting snapshot.  Have a great week!