Northern Economist 2.0

Showing posts with label northern ontario. Show all posts
Showing posts with label northern ontario. Show all posts

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Recent Labour Force Numbers for Northern Ontario Are Not Pretty


Last week’s labour force numbers for Canada from Statistics Canada were seen as a bit of a shock given that employment fell by 88,000 in January. Part-time employment declined (-137,000), while full-time employment was up (+49,000). At the same time, the unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 5.9%.  Ontario also declined by about 51,000 jobs and much of the loss was due to part-time work.  So how does northern Ontario compare when recent labour force estimates are looked at?

 
The accompanying figure looks at employment growth for northeast and northwest Ontario compared to Ontario and Canada between December 2017 and January 2018.  Whereas Ontario and Canada saw employment drop by just over one half of one percent, total employment in the northeast declined 2.4 percent while in the northwest it fell by 1.8 percent.  As well, the losses were more driven by full-time employment as it dropped 2.5 percent in the northeast and 2.3 percent in the northwest.  All one can hope is that the January numbers are a short-term aberration because northern Ontario saw its employment drop more than either Ontario or Canada and the northeast seems to have been hit harder.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Economics News Around the North: February 11th Edition


Well, traveling in winter is never much fun and this weekend I was in Montreal for the Fraser Institute Student Seminar Series and my way back has been affected by snow and freezing rain and assorted other things.  Still, there is always time to blog so here are the economic news stories that have caught my attention over the last little while with respect to northern Ontario economic affairs.


Well, this makes a lot of sense.  I recall speaking on a Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce panel last spring where I made a similar remark that it was time to plan for a new span across the Kam River.  I suppose Thunder Bay City council is gambling that they can get something for nothing by getting CN to maintain the bridge but it would be forward looking to plan and line up the funding for a new modern bridge.  Best case scenario – they could end up with two bridges.  How’s that for infrastructure!


This is a good news story not least of which is that 40 jobs from the crew base are coming to Thunder Bay but because it bodes well for the development of Porter’s air network.  With a crew base in Thunder Bay, Porter can use Thunder Bay as a mini hub perhaps for an expansion west to Winnipeg or a link through Chicago as part of it existing network.  Porter is innovative and service oriented and a great alternative to Pearson. They are also adding a 7th daily flight out of Thunder Bay to Toronto. This weekend reminded me why I rarely fly out of Pearson.

In other transportation news, it would appear air travel is big in northern Ontario. North Bay is also getting some aviation jobs. I guess 40 is a magic number for airlines as it is expected that 40 jobs will be created here also.

Voyageur Airways receives $2.7 million to expand,” North Bay Nugget.ca, Fe. 9, 2018.

In other news…

Business confidence Drops in northeast: survey” Sudbury Star, Feb. 10th, 2018.

Apparently, less than a fifth of businesses in northeastern Ontario are confident in Ontario’s economic future according to this Chamber of Commerce annual report. This was reinforced by regional data, as the Business Confidence Survey reveals that nearly half of northeastern Ontario businesses expect their organization’s revenue to stay the same over the next 12 months.

It could be that the Canadian economy is finally slowing down given the recent numbers from Statistics Canada.


While Canada lost 88,000 jobs and Ontario and part time workers were heavily affected, it is only one month’s data – January – and you would need several months more before you could argue a trend was underway.  However, Thunder Bay and Sudbury saw their unemployment rates remain pretty much the same with Sudbury remaining at 6.8 percent and Thunder Bay dropping slightly from 6.1 to 5.8 percent.  However, as I have noted previously, the unemployment rate in northern Ontario is not the best indicator of job growth given the shrinking labour force.  Indeed, even the Sudbury Star noted that while Sudbury’s unemployment rate stayed at 6.8 percent, it nevertheless shed 800 jobs.

In Ring of Fire news, the saga continues.


Timmins is trying to boost tourism as is the Sault.



As so economic life goes on in northern Ontario. Have a great week!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Economics News Around the North: January 25th Edition

Here are the economic news stories that have caught my interest over the last little while in northern Ontario.  The start of the new year has been a bit slow when it comes to economic news in the region but then there is so much else going one politically, economically and otherwise in Ontario, Canada and the world especially as we move into a critical phase with the NAFTA negotiations and the start of election campaigning in Ontario in the run up to the June election.

Here goes....

Architect envisions creative solutions to re imagine existing buildings. TBNewwatch, January 24th.

Well, this looks like a creative way to try and create some type of downtown event centre/conference facility in Thunder Bay.  Of course, you can add Victoriaville as well as the empty Sears store at intercity to the list of underutilized space in Thunder Bay.  Personally, it would be nice to see the Sears store retooled in a circular two level galleria space of small stores around a public space that could be used to house the farmers market.  The only problem would be to find tenants for the small retail spaces given that rents at the ISC are apparently pretty steep.

Record year for airport. The Chronicle Journal, January 25th

The airport's economic role in the city of Thunder Bay and region continues to grow.  Passenger volumes in 2017 were 844,627 which represents an increase of 4.6 percent from 2016.  Since 1997, this represents an increase of over 60 percent.

In not so positive transportation news, cab fares in Thunder Bay are going up by 15 percent. They were already quite high.  And if that is not enough, it looks like the increase in Thunder Bay's tax levy is going to stay at around 3.6 percent as the budget remains pretty much unchanged.  Living in Thunder Bay does sometimes seem like a sort of reverse Walmart marketing jingle - pay more, get less.

On the bright side:

Getting more out of wood. The Chronicle Journal, January 23rd.

More federal funding to support initiatives in the bio-economy.

Conference explores growing economy. Sudburystar.com. January 7th, 2018.

On Feb. 6-7, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce will host its inaugural PEP (Procurement, Employment and Partnerships) conference and trade show presented by SNC Lavalin in partnership with the Canadian council for Aboriginal Business.

And of interest if you are planning to pursue resource development activities in the region North of 50....

Northern communities face threat of climate change. TimminsPress.com, January 24th.

Meanwhile, in the Sault....

New Sault company aims to create jobs, produce gadgets for all ages at soon-to-open shop. SooToday.com, January 23rd.

Of course, Sault Ste. Marie is disappointed that they did not make the 20 city short list for Amazon's second corporate campus and joins other disappointed Canadian cities, but not Toronto which remains under consideration. 

In North Bay, they are hoping home construction is going to jump start their economy.  Not sure where the housing demand is expected to come from but it is important to be hopeful.  Perhaps if Toronto gets the Amazon campus, given the cost of housing, Amazon workers will live in North Bay and commute to Toronto.

North Bay community is up to housing-construction challenge. North Bay Business Journal. Jan 2nd.

So that is what has caught my eye across this vast expanse at least economically.  One other bright item of news involves this morning's decision in a Thunder Bay courtroom exonerating the Chief of Police. Great to hear. All the best.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Crime in Northern Ontario Down


My last post on policing resources in the major northern Ontario cities noted that all five cities saw an increase in policing resources. In 2000, the largest number of police offers adjusted for population was in Thunder Bay at 171.6 (per 100,000 of population), followed by Sault Ste Marie at 156, Timmins at 153.1, North Bay at 147.6 and finally Greater Sudbury at 143.1.  By 2016, Thunder Bay was still first at 199.5 officers per 100,000 of population.  It was followed by Timmins at 196.2, Sault Ste. Marie at 176.7, Greater Sudbury at 160.7 and then North Bay at 152.6.  Growth in per capita policing resources was greatest in Timmins at 28 percent, followed by Thunder Bay which saw a 16 percent increase.  Next highest growth was Sault Ste. Marie at 13 percent, followed by Greater Sudbury and North Bay at 12 and 3 percent respectively.

Of course, the logical question that follows next is what was going on in crime rates over the same period of time?  It should be noted that policing is much more complex in the early 21st century dealing not only with traditional crimes but also with new crime areas such as cyber and internet crime.  As well, social issues in general have been consuming more police resources as well as new standards of accountability which entail more intensive use of policing resources when dealing with incidents.  Homicide investigation is especially resource intensive.  Nonetheless, a look at crime rates it is still a useful piece of information. 

Traditional measures of the crime rate such as criminal code incidents per 100,000 of population or per police officer measure the volume of crime.  One example is the homicide rate and past evidence has found the homicide rate declining in northern Ontario in a manner akin to other Canadian cities with the exception of a recent surge in Thunder Bay.  Another measure of crime is the Crime Severity Index.  The Crime Severity Index combines both volume as well as takes into consideration the seriousness of crimes by assigning each type of offense a seriousness weight and generally serves as a complement to other measures.  The index has been set to 100 for Canada in 2006 and enables comparisons of crime severity both at a point in time and over time. 

 
Figure 1 plots the value of the Crime Severity Index obtained from Statistics Canada for the five major northern Ontario cities for the period 1998 to 2016.  The severity of crime differs across these five cities in any given year but all cities have seen a decline over time.  The largest declines over time have been in Sudbury and North Bay at 36 and29 percent respectively.  Next is Thunder Bay with a 17 percent decline in crime severity between 1998 and 2016, followed by Sault Ste. Marie at 16 percent and then Timmins at 15 percent.  The good news is that while there are annual ebbs and flows, crime rates over the long term are down in these major northern Ontario cities.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Policing Resources and Costs in Northern Ontario: A Brief Municipal Comparison


Municipal budget season is upon us and expenditures on protection – police and fire – are some of the most important areas in which municipal tax dollars are spent. Municipal police services have the responsibility of ensuring the security of residents, businesses and visitors to their communities and the basic activities are crime prevention, enforcement of laws, maintaining public order,  assisting the victims of crime as well as emergency services.  Over the years, policing has become more complex dealing with new types of criminal activity in the cyber age as well as devoting more resources to social concerns.

One interesting point of comparison for the five major northern Ontario cities is the number of police officers per 100,000 of population and the trend in this number over time.  Figure 1 plots Statistics Canada data on police officers per 100,000 for the period 2000 to 2016.  In 2000, the largest number of police offers adjusted for population was in Thunder Bay at 171.6, followed by Sault Ste Marie at 156, Timmins at 153.1, North Bay at 147.6 and finally Greater Sudbury at 143.1.  By 2016, Thunder Bay was still first at 199.5 officers per 100,000 of population.  It was followed by Timmins at 196.2, Sault Ste Marie at 176.7, Greater Sudbury at 160.7 and then North Bay at 152.6.   

 
As Figure 2 illustrates, growth in per capita policing numbers was greatest in Timmins at 28 percent, followed by Thunder Bay which saw a 16 percent increases.  Next highest growth was Sault Ste Marie at 13 percent, followed by Greater Sudbury and North Bay at 12 and 3 percent respectively.


 
Another point of comparison is spending. The BMA Municipal Reports provide some data on the costs of providing policing services. The rankings for costs generally parallel those for police numbers. When the net costs per 100,000 dollars of assessment are compared (including amortization), in 2016 the highest cost was in Timmins at $441 per $100,000 of tax assessment followed by Thunder Bay at $434. Next was Sault Ste Marie at $402, then North Bay at $317 and finally Greater Sudbury at $299.  Naturally, this ranking is influenced by the richness of the tax base and all other things given cities with a weaker total tax base can expect costs of policing per $100,000 of assessment to be higher.  At the same time, over the last decade, all five cities have seen a reduction in the net costs pf policing per 100,000 dollars of assessment.  This could be a function of growth in tax bases as well as other efficiencies and economies.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Economic News Around the North, December 9th Edition

Winter finally arrived here in Thunder Bay this week with a plethora of  snow, cold and ice.  I left for a short trip to Montreal on Monday afternoon with rain and warm temperatures and returned the next evening to a winter wonderland.  What better way to spend a cold Saturday here than by warming up the house with homemade pizza....



Without further ado, here are some of the stories making the economic news recently in northern Ontario.

Rising tourism boosts local economy. TBNewswatch, November 25th, 2017.

This is yet another positive economic impact story. However, tourism falls far short of the economic impact of Lakehead University as one recalls from this past story.

The Ring of Fire and its associated "production facility" have also been making the news again in the region.

Sault mayor confident in Ring of Fire Smelter pitch. Northern Ontario Business. November 21st, 2017.

Smelter won't go where it's not wanted, Noront. Northern Ontario Business, December 6th, 2017.

The smelter (or the "production facility") is seen as providing volume that would make the troubled Ontario Northern Railway more viable....

Noront facility could make ONR viable: Timmins councillor, Sudbury Star. December 9th, 2017.

Of course, if you don't get the smelter, there is always the option of storing nuclear waste.  Ignace, Manitouwadge and Hornpayne are all still in the running along with two sites near the Bruce Reactor - South Bruce and Huron-Kinloss.

Nuclear fuel bunker shortlist includes 2 sites near Bruce reactor. CTV News Kitchener. December 6th, 2017.

Despite the allure of smelters and nuclear waste disposal sites, there is still a search for economic visions in the north.  The Sault is obviously taking the lead in what is one of northern Ontario's booming sectors - economic development consultants.

Sault Ste. Marie seeks economic development vision.  TheSudburyStar.com. December3rd, 2017.

And another economic development vision seems to be in the offing in Timmins....

Bolivian economic development group in Timmins. Timminspress.com. November 27th, 2017.

On a positive note....

Sudbury adds 600 jobs in November. TheSudburyStar.com. December 2nd, 2017.

However, Sudbury's unemployment rate edged up slightly to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent.  Meanwhile, Thunder Bay's rate also went up to 6.1 percent from 5.8 percent the previous month.

Another item of relevance to northern Ontario.

Indigenous youth key to Canada's economic growth. Business Vancouver. December 5th, 2017.

Have a great weekend! Its time to enjoy the pizza.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Why Are Northern Ontarians So Happy?


I recently came across a Statistics Canada Report from 2015 on life satisfaction across Census Metropolitan areas and economic regions that presented ranked scores based on the responses to the Canadian Community Health Survey and General Social Survey. The responses are over the period 2009 to 2013 and the key question was:

“Using a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means “very dissatisfied” and 10 means “Very satisfied”, how do you feel about your life as a whole right now?”

There were nearly 340,000 respondents to the survey and the results for the CMAs had samples of at least 1,800 to 2,000 respondents.  Average life satisfaction from 2009 to 2013 across Canada’s 33 CMAs (as shown in Chart 1 below taken from the report) ranged from a low of about 7.8 in Vancouver, Toronto and Windsor to a high of 8.2 in St. John’s, Trois-Rivieres and Saguenay.  More interesting is that both Sudbury and Thunder Bay are in the top ten in terms of life satisfaction.  Moreover, the proportion of individuals reporting a 9 or 10 – the highest rankings – is highest in Sudbury and Thunder Bay and lowest in Toronto and Vancouver (As shown in Chart 2).  Even when the results are adjusted for individual-level socio-economic characteristics such as income, life satisfaction remains higher in smaller communities like Thunder Bay or Sudbury. 


 

I guess it bears repeating that economic success and achievement and life in the big city may not be all it is cracked up to be.  Given the surge in rents and housing prices in places like Toronto as of late, and the increased congestion and traffic, one would expect these life satisfaction rankings results would persist if a survey was done today.  Even with slower economic growth in northern Ontario, it remains that for many people there is an advantage to living in communities where there is a more intimate and human scale of life. 

At the same time, given the higher rate of aging populations in smaller communities and the u-shaped relationship between life satisfaction and age the report notes, it may simply be demographics - an older population seems to be a happier one.  While young people are striving and competing and making their way in the world, older people have pretty much come to accept where they are at and are comfortable in their own skins. Having a larger proportion of older people in a community may be the key to tranquility and happiness on a community level.

Nevertheless, northern Ontario can use all the good news it can get.  Residents of northern Ontario have apparently decided to embrace Albert Einstein’s observation that: “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success.”

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Thunder Bay Construction Intentions Drop, Sudbury Up

Statistics Canada's latest building permit numbers show an increase nationally in September with a monthly increase of 3.8 percent.  Yearly (September 2016 to September 2017), the total value of permits in Canada was up 12.43 percent.  As noted by Statistics Canada: "Canadian municipalities issued $7.9 billion worth of building permits in September, up 3.8% from the previous month. A 1.7% decrease in the residential sector was more than offset by a 13.9% increase in the non-residential sector. A high-value institutional building permit issued in Alberta was behind much of the increase."  Ontario posted a decrease mainly due to lower construction intentions for apartments which probably does not bode well for the future of renters in the province.

With respect to the specifics across cities, the accompanying figure presents the percent change from September 2016 to September 2017 ranked from highest to lowest for Canadian CMAs.   For all CMAs, the increase was 14.5 percent.  At the top we have Halifax, St. John's and Brantford at 196.9, 154.5 and 145.2 percent growth respectively.  At the bottom - well, Thunder Bay is last at -62.9 percent, just behind Hamilton at -43.7 percent and Kingston at -40 percent.  Sudbury actually manages to shine at an increase of 123.3 percent - just behind Brantford putting it in fourth place.  Of the 14 CMAs showing a decrease, seven were in Ontario - including Toronto which saw a year over year decrease of 13 percent.




Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Economic News Around the North, October 24th Edition

It is quite the blustery day here in Thunder Bay today so what better way to hunker down and enjoy the day than taking a look at the major economic news items over the last little while.

Ontario's GDP boosted billions per year by Lakehead University Thunder Bay, Orillia campuses. CBC Thunder Bay, October 24th, 2017.

Well, it turns out that according to a study authored by faculty at Lakehead's business school that Lakehead University's economic impact on Ontario is 1.4 billion dollars.  To my way of thinking, the faculty are the core of the university - indeed all the expenditures a university makes are to allow faculty to generate research, teaching outcomes and human capital value added for graduates so given that there are about 300 full-time faculty at Lakehead, I would estimate my personal economic impact on Ontario's economy at 4.7 million dollars (1.4 billion dollars divided by 300).  Based on my current salary, I am obviously grossly undervalued.  That is a pretty good return to any investment.  Come to think of it, hiring more full time university faculty is obviously a cheap and effective way to boost Ontario GDP.  Let the hiring boom begin.

Business ties with India explored. Chronicle Journal, October 24, 2017.

Well, a few weeks ago it was a delegation from China.  This week a delegation from India is passing through Thunder Bay.  Given the precarious state of our NAFTA negotiations, I would imagine it is a good idea to try and build as many ties as possible with the Asia Pacific region.

Northern business owners in 'defensive mode' about proposed tax changes. CBC Sudbury, October 24th, 2017.

This is the northern Ontario take on the tax changes being shepherded by Bill Morneau.  However, as we know there are going to be revisions.  Moreover, there may be other goodies coming down the pipeline in the wake of today's fiscal and economic update in Ottawa.

And in other Sudbury economic and business news....

2 former chairs quit Sudbury Chamber of Commerce over casino, arena position. CBC Sudbury, October 19th, 2017.

No comment there.  Sounds like a pretty strong difference of opinions.

While Thunder Bay is focusing on India and China for its economic enhancement efforts, it would appear that Timmins Economic Development Corporation has targeted Bolivia.

Exchange will see Bolivian delegates visit Timmins. TimminsPress.com. October 4th, 2017.

If you are interested in the Elliot Lake model of economic development, there is this...

Sault's becoming a popular retirement destination, credit analyst says. SOOTODAY.com, October 6th, 2017.

On the other hand, what if Amazon builds its new headquarters in the Sault?  The Sault is sending in a proposal. Check here.  Quite frankly, I have not come across other northern Ontario cities doing the same.

As well, there is television production activity underway in the Sault.

Producer returns with big projects for Northern Ontario. SaultOnline. October 15th, 2017.

And all the way in North Bay, there is this item referring to a recent Fraser Institute Report by Ross McKitrick and Elmira Aliakbari:

Ontario's green energy policies killed jobs.Nugget.ca, October 19th, 2017.

Even North Bay is apparently getting into the film business...

Film industry applauds local cinematography program. BAYTODAY.com, October 14th,017.

Have a great week!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The State of the North

The State of the North conference hosted by the Northern Policy Institute was held in Timmins from September 27-28 with much of the discussion focusing on reversing the north's economic decline.   Charles Cirtwill, President of the Northern Policy Institute sent out the slides of his presentation with an invitation to share and today's post reproduces a few of those slides.  Figures 1-2 present some GDP estimates by sector for the Northwest and the Northeast of Ontario while Figures 3-5 present non-residential building permits for assorted northern Ontario districts.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Economic News Around the North: October 3rd Edition

Here are some of the items of economic interest with respect to northern Ontario that have caught my interest over the last little while.  There truly is never a dull moment when it comes to the economy of northern Ontario.

White River Benefits from new Harte Gold mine. CBCNews Thunder Bay, October 3rd, 2017.

While being a small resource based community means dire times when the main industry shuts down, the converse is that when a new industry starts up, there can be a boom.  White River is getting good economic news.

Porter Airlines sets up a Thunder Bay crew base. TBNewswatch. September 19th,  2017.

This is definitely good news and raises the prospect that Porter may be looking at expanding its service west and south.  I would expect to see more flights through Thunder Bay to Winnipeg and perhaps through Chicago Midway to connect with the current Chicago-Toronto run.

Liquid natural gas coming to communities on Lake Superior's north shore. CBCNews Thunder Bay, September 25th, 2017.

And here are two interesting and related items:

Delegates discuss keys to reversing decline. TimminsPress.com, September 28th, 2017.

The State of the North - A New Vision is Emerging. TBNewswatch, September 28th, 2017.

I suppose you can start to smell the prospects of elections coming soon.  A provincial election is expected by spring while municipalities will be going to the polls next October.  Needless to say, the shopping lists are being put together in the form of strategies and plans designed to reverse the northern Ontario economic decline and to get candidates elected.  Such regional studies and strategies have a long history in the north - think back to the 1970s (Design for Development) or the 1980s (Royal Commission on the Northern Environment) or the 2000s (Regional Adjustment Strategy, The Northern Growth Plan, the Rosehart Report).   Given the lack of success to date in reversing northern decline, one must admire everyone's faith in grand economic studies and development strategies but then I suppose there is no serious expectation they will reverse anything.  Their purpose is simply to put together the wish list for new government spending initiatives designed to continue northern Ontario's palliative economic care.  This is not really a new vision at all but rather business as usual.

And in terms of some of the more entertaining economic development strategies being touted:

City signs friendship agreement with Nanning, China. TbNewswatch, Septembner 22nd, 2017.

City makes friends with Nanning, China. The Chronicle Journal, September 23rd, 2017.

Apparently one of the visions discussed was shiploads of vegetables and beef and other agricultural produce from Thunder Bay's port to Nanning.  According to one Thunder Bay City Councillor: "There is that kind of potential for our agricultural sector."  I assume this meant western Canada's agricultural sector (but then why ship to China through Thunder Bay rather than Vancouver or Prince Rupert) given that Thunder Bay's agricultural sector would be hard pressed to feed 100,000 people locally never mind 7.5 million in Nanning.

Still, its nice to be friends with other cities even if the expectations are a little off kilter.

In other news:

Could more autonomy hurt the North? One expert says yes. Northern Ontario Business. October 2nd, 2017.

Cambrian student population reaches highest total in 10 years. Northern Ontario Business. October 2nd, 2017.

Give First Nations priority access to marijuana industry. Nugget.ca. October 2nd, 2017.

Developing a Smart City important for the economy. Saultstar.com. September 29th, 2017.

And in terms of negative economic impact when a major broader public sector employer shuts down....

Laurentian University strike enters second week, administration says new offer on table. CBCNews Sudbury. October 2nd, 2017.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Not So Giving North?

Well, here is some interesting data on median donations by Ontario CMA in 2015 available from Statistics Canada (Table 111-0001).  It is of course useful as an index of local generosity to charitable causes.  Please note it is not a complete index as it only takes into account the value of donations and charitable activity also can involve a great deal of donated volunteer time - which this measure does not capture.  Nevertheless, Figure 1 is somewhat disappointing when one looks at the performance of northern Ontario.

The median donation ranges from a high of $470 for Wellington Centre to a low of $140 dollars for Petawawa.  With the exception of Elliot Lake which is in the middle of the distribution, northern Ontario cities are all clustered in the bottom third.  Elliot Lake comes in at $340 followed by Kenora at $290, North Bay at $270 and Thunder Bay at $260.  Timmins and the Sault are at the bottom of the northern median donation list at $160 and $210 respectively.  It is a somewhat disappointing performance given our self-perception as being very community minded.

Of course, a possible explanation could be that the value of donations is a reflection of lower incomes in the North.  However, as my last post demonstrated, income growth has been pretty robust in northern Ontario.  Moreover, as Figure 2 shows, the median income of donors across Ontario CMAs shows that the northern Ontario CMAs are more dispersed across the income range.  Donor incomes in northern Ontario CMAs are not clustered at the bottom.  Elliot Lake, is at the bottom of the donor income plot and yet is the most generous northern Ontario CMA whereas Sudbury which has the highest median donor income is near the bottom when it comes to median donation values.

Needless to say, I am not too despondent over this.  While all I can offer is anecdotal evidence, I think that donors in northern communities probably are much more giving of their time than money when it comes to charitable activity.  Thunder Bay for example has numerous community events - most recently the 2017 18U World Cup - that are only possible via the selfless activity of numerous volunteers.  Then there are the activities of food banks and other facilities that also rely heavily on donated time.  So, in the end, when it comes to charity, I think money is not everything.  Still, it would be nice to see those numbers go up.  If Elliot Lake can do it, why not everyone else.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Household Incomes in Ontario: Northern Exceptionalism

Statistics Canada has released the figures for median household income in Canada from the 2016 census providing comparisons for the period 2005 to 2015.  The median total income of Canadian households rose from $63,457 in 2005 to reach $70,336 in 2015 - an increase of 10.8 percent.  This growth was led by the resource intensive provinces and Ontario appears to have done particularly poorly- it had the lowest growth rate at 3.8 percent.  Even Quebec did better at 8.9 percent - the second lowest growth rate.  Almost every metropolitan area in Ontario saw growth below the Canadian average - with an interesting set of exceptions.

What is interesting in these numbers given Ontario's poor performance is the performance of the major northern Ontario cities, what I like to term the N-5: Thunder Bay, Timmins, Greater Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.  Incomes in three of these five  cities all grew above the Canadian average - a much better batting average than the rest of the province.  Moreover, all five of these cities grew above the Ontario average.

Figure 1



Of course, median household incomes in these northern Ontario cities are still below the Ontario median (See Figure 1) but over the course of a decade they appear to have closed the gap substantially despite the forest sector crisis and other assorted slings and arrows.  Indeed, as Figure 2 shows that median household incomes in Timmins, Sudbury and North Bay all grew above the Canadian and Ontario average.  Thunder Bay and the Sault did not top the national performance but they still topped the provincial performance.

Figure 2



If you are wondering about income growth in some other Ontario cities, for the record: Toronto (4%), Hamilton (5.3%), Ottawa (4.4%), London (-2.1%), Windsor (-6.4%).  The urban north of the province appears to have done surprisingly well in the median household income sweepstakes and this probably represents another factor in why house prices to date have been as robust as they have been in places like Thunder Bay and Sudbury. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Economic News Around the North: September 8th Edition

Summer is over, autumn is back and winter is coming.  It is the start of a new academic school year and life takes on a brisker pace here in Thunder Bay both on and off campus.  Traffic is noticeably up everywhere in town and the drivers are in a hurry.  So, without any more delay, here are the recent stories I feel have some economic significance for northern Ontario.

Vale to shut Clarabelle Mill Crushing plant. CBCNews Sudbury. September 7th, 2017.

As noted in another story in the Sudbury Star, Vale is not closing the mill itself, but only the crushing plant.  This is expected to affect 13 jobs but no plans for workforce reduction have been announced yet.  It should be noted that it has apparently been a good month for commodity prices.

Also in Sudbury...

Sudbury city councillor wants a closer look at de-amalgamation. CBCNews Sudbury, September 6th, 2017.

Sudbury city councillor Michael Vagnini wants to put forth a motion to re-examine the amalgamation of 8 areas that took place in 2001 to create Greater Sudbury.  Laurentian University economist David Robinson says amalgamation hasn't worked.  Vagnini notes that municipal employment in the former cities together has grown 30 percent since 2001 which suggests rising costs (and taxes) underpin his concerns.  Of course, breaking everything asunder after it has been put together will involve substantial transition and transaction costs and the key question should be what are the benefits and what are the costs.  If Sudbury explores this option, is Thunder Bay next?  One can make the case that having twin cities at the Lakehead led to economic competition that may have generated some growth and development benefits.  It could be more than a coincidence that amalgamation in 1970 which resulted in monopoly municipal government also coincided with the start of decades of slower economic growth.

Of course, Thunder Bay has enough issues on its plate without embarking on revisiting its own amalgamation.  If anything, it apparently could use some good news and this week has seen a spate of good news stories especially from its local CBC outlet.  There have been stories on the start of school, the excitement of the XXVIII WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup 2017 which is being held in Thunder Bay and the community spirit it has brought to the fore as well as a story on making clowns feel better given that nasty Stephen King character.  However, the most interesting story has been a set of stories on why Thunder Bay is important to Canada and in particular, this one:

What makes Thunder Bay important? Economically, it's our location. CBCNews Thunder Bay, September 5th, 2017.

Its an upbeat boosterish piece not out of place with the pre-World War I brochures that used to extol Port Arthur and Fort William as the future hubs of the Dominion.   In many respects, little changes in Thunder Bay when it comes to its approaches to marketing economic development.  This morning also had an interview featuring young professionals noting all the potential that Thunder Bay has when it comes to opportunity and that the economy seems to be doing well because restaurants are opening. Don't get me wrong.  I think Thunder Bay is a great place to live and work but I think these types of self-obsessed feel good efforts directed at ourselves reflect a fundamental insecurity and an insular preoccupation with ourselves.  We really should be aiming any marketing campaign outside of the city, not at ourselves and I'm a bit surprised by the relentless onslaught of feel good stories by the local outlet of the national broadcaster.  Perhaps there has been a recent local management change or perhaps the PMO has sent the national broadcaster a directive that there must only be "sunny ways" stories in rural remote regions.

In other upbeat news with a more direct quantifiable economic impact:

Rainy River gold mine prepares to process ore. tbnewswatch. September 7th, 2017. 

Brookfield prepared to exit stake in North American Palladium as metal soars. The Globe and Mail. September 8th, 2017.

North American Palladium posts $8M profit in turnaround quarter. The Northern Miner. September 7th, 2017.

Indeed, the upbeat news from mining and the promised Ring of Fire Road has led to at least one First Nation being "anxious" for a gateway role in the Ring of Fire as this Chronicle Journal story notes.

In related mining news, it would appear the good news from the Ring of Fire has also caught the attention of other interests.  Indeed, it is infectious.

Should Ontario Northland be the railroader for the Ring of Fire? BAYTODAY.ca, September 7th, 2017.

City continues ferrochrome plant pitch. saultstar.com. August 29th, 2017. 

And in Timmins, more mining progress.

Sage Gold bulks up for mill sample. Northern Ontario Business. September 1st, 2017.

So, it looks like everything really is sunny in northern Ontario this week though even when it comes to the mining sector there are some critiques.  I guess we all need to make a conscious effort to spend more time out in the sunshine especially before the winter sets in.

And one last bit of good news, just out from Statistics Canada.  Canada's unemployment rate declined slightly to 6.2 percent.  Thunder Bay's rate for August is 6.5 percent (down from 6.7) and Sudbury's is 5.2 percent (down from 5.4)

 Have a great weekend.











Monday, 4 September 2017

Northern Ontario Wildlife & Vistas

It is Labour Day and the official end of summer break and the start of a new academic year.  Traditionally, this weekend also marks the end of summer fashions such as white shoes though strict adherence to such practices have rarely characterized the social circles I move in.  Summer in Thunder Bay can be quite pleasant though this year was a little cooler than usual. Nevertheless, the scenery this year was greener than usual due to the rain and the cool temperatures.  The trees in my yard filled out very nicely and their canopies provided a home for quite a few birds including this visitor under my pear tree...a Red Tailed Hawk I believe.

Red Tailed Hawk from my dining room window
And from the basement window

We were alerted to the hawk's presence by some shrill shrieks outside and it appears the hawk had managed to find something to eat.  The hawk's presence may be a factor in why the yard has been so quiet today when it comes to bird song in general.

On another day while walking along the nearby trail, came across one of nature's armoured tanks.  I was surprised to see this out in the middle of the day and plodding along on its way to the nearby river.




Also managed to get out to Nipigon this summer for a day trip that involved a visit to the waterfront, a short hike along the trail to Red Rock and then a very nice lunch at the Edgeview Restaurant.  A shot of the Nipigon River from the trail and another that also manages to include the new bridge - which incidentally is still a ways from being finished.

 
Not a bridge too far, a bridge that does not yet go far enough

The scenery in Nipigon was very pleasant and the visit also include a stop at the recently unveiled Paddle to the Sea Park.  Those of you who are of a certain age will likely remember the children's book and NFB film.

And one final picture from my summer sojourns around Thunder Bay and the North.  A shot of me and one of my minions!  Every self respecting economist must have an abundance of minions to support their policy prescriptions and points of view. 


































Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Another Look at Northern Ontario Economic Activity...And the Pictures are Not Pretty

When looking at trends in the northern Ontario economy, we often look at evidence on population growth, unemployment rates, personal incomes or employment creation.  Well, here is another indicator courtesy of Statistics Canada Table 11-001 - Summary of charitable donors, annual.  Now this data is on charitable contributions and provides information on the value of donations (more on that in a later post) but it also provides data on the number of taxfilers by jurisdiction.

Why is the number of taxfilers an interesting number?  If your economy is growing and there is substantial economic activity, more people are either working or setting up businesses and income is being generated and by extension the number of income tax taxfilers should be going up. So what do the numbers look like?

Figure 1 presents the number of income tax taxfilers for Thunder Bay and Sudbury from 1997 to 2015 and for Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins for the period 2008 to 2015 (which is what is available),  Needless to say, things look a little flat in these northern Ontario cities especially compared to Ontario as a whole in Figure 2 which has seen steady growth in the number of taxfilers despite having a fairly moribund economy until just a couple of years ago.




Figure 3 provides the percent change for these northern Ontario cities and Ontario as a whole for the period of commonly available numbers spanning the years 2008 to 2015.  The number of taxfilers has shrunk in four out of the five cities - only Thunder Bay has managed a slight increase.  North Bay shrank by -0.3 percent and Sudbury by -0.5 percent which is rather modest compared to Timmins and the Sault.  The number of taxfilers in Timmins shrank by 3.1 percent and the Sault by 2.6 percent.   Thunder Bay, on the other hand registered a very miniscule increase of one tenth of one percent. Ontario as a whole saw an increase of 9.2 percent in the number of taxfilers between 2008 and 2015.



So - more evidence of the blatantly obvious I suppose.  Growth in northern Ontario's economy has essentially come to a halt.   Given the coming provincial election, it will be entertaining to say the least to watch how the three party leaders handle the issue.



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Economic News Around the North: August 15th Edition

We are in mid-August and the summer is drawing to a close.  The economic news has been pretty slow in northern Ontario.  Here are the stories of economic significance to northern Ontario over the last week or so.  They are mainly focused on the Conference Board Reports which were issued in late July and early August and that show the northern Ontario economy is not growing as fast as either Ontario or Canada.

Thunder Bay economy advances "sluggishly".  Tbnewswatch, August 9th, 2017.

Incidentally, Netnewsledger in Thunder Bay ran this story August 3rd (and was reported in my last northern Ontario economic news post.) I suppose narrative is everything.  According to the Conference Board Report in the above story, real GDP in Thunder Bay will rise 0.2 per cent in 2017 and 0.9 percent in 2018 following a 0.2 per cent increase in 2016.  Compare this to the Canadian economy which is expected to grow 2.3 per cent in 2017 and just under 2 percent in 2018.  Ontario is forecast to surge at 2.3 percent in 2017 but then scales back to 1.8 per cent in 2018.  Real GDP growth in Thunder Bay is forecast at below 1 per cent until 2021,  Yet, apparently life in Thunder Bay goes on with personal income per capita expected to grow at greater than 3 per cent from 2018 to 2021.  While the overall economy is not growing, having 30 percent of your employment in the broader public sector is lending a certain punch to average personal incomes.

Meanwhile in Sudbury, the Conference Board projects real GDP will grow at 1.2 percent in 2017 and 1.0 percent in 2018 but real GDP growth over the period 2018 to 2021 is also not expected to top 1 percent.  Yet, the narrative in Sudbury is a little different.

Sudbury to grow in 2017: Conference Board. Thesudburystar.com. August 4th, 2017.

In other Sudbury economic news:

Vale looking at layoffs in Sudbury. Thesudburystar.com. August 12th, 2017.

In terms of the size of Vale's economic footprint in Sudbury: "Vale operates five mines in Sudbury, as well as a mill, a smelter, a refinery and employs nearly 4,000 workers. It mines nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group metals, gold and silver."

Timmins and the Sault also made their way into the Conference Board's Mid-Sized Cities Outlook and the report forecast real GDP in the Sault to grow 0.6 percent in 2017 and for Timmins to grow 1.4 percent in 2017.  Of the four cities covered in these Conference Board Reports it would appear that Timmins is doing the best with the manufacturing sector as well as the primary and utilities sectors driving growth.  Thunder Bay is forecast to grow the least. 

Timmins ready for economic growth says Conference Board of Canada. timminspress.com, July 27, 2017.

Sault growth behind that of Ontario, Canada. saultstar.com. July 28th, 2017.

So what about North Bay?  Well, no Conference Board Report for them.  They are neither a "big" northern CMA like Thunder Bay or Sudbury or a "Mid Size" city like Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins.  I'm sure that North Bay at least self-identifies as a Mid-Sized city and I wish to state that I consider North Bay one of the northern urban league of  five - the N5 as I sometimes like to refer to them.  

Still, here is an item of interest regarding the employment impact in northern Ontario - particularly North Bay -of an Electricity Trading Agreement entered into last fall with Quebec by the Ontario government.

Fedeli request leads to FAO probe on Ontario-Quebec Power deal. BayToday.ca. August 11th, 2017.

And another page in the inexorable march of retail change in the north:

Self-checkout threat to local jobs very real, labour warns. Nugget.ca, August 5th, 2017.


Enjoy the rest of the summer.