For the first time since the start of this pandemic, we have a path back to normal.
Last week, the Province of Ontario laid out its plan to safely reopen Ontario and manage COVID-19 for the long term. This includes lifting capacity limits this week for businesses that require proof of vaccination, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and arenas.
The really big news out of the announcement is seeing an end date. If all goes according to plan, on March 28, 2022, remaining public health and safety measures will be lifted. No more mask, proof of
vaccination or social distancing requirements.
Of course, the whole “if all goes according to plan” is a big if. Not much has gone according to plan for the last couple years. But it’s the first time our provincial
government has been confident enough to put a date on the end of this and, right now, that’s a big light at the end of what has been an awfully long tunnel.
Between now and then, the Province plans to gradually scale back public health restrictions. By mid-January, they’ll remove vaccine certificate requirements for lower risk settings like restaurants, bars and recreational facilities.
Of course, the end of March isn’t going to just be a big reset back to 2019. The lifting of mandatory public health measures won’t be a snap of the fingers back to whatever it is we each want normal to be.
It’s going to take a while to work through our habits and hesitations for social contact — and with good reason. Some of us are going to abandon our masks with great excitement and seek out physical contact. Others are going to want their space and thorough public hygiene.
While some things seemed to have been on hold throughout this public health crisis, others have moved ahead by leaps and bounds. Business went online in a big way and we’re going to continue shopping, ordering and booking online. Committee, board, and team meetings that can be done over video will continue to be.
The hybrid workplace is going to continue to evolve. Some people like working in a
physical office, others like working from home, but it’s expected that quite a few people will maintain a hybrid setup that involves a bit of both. According to Statistics Canada’s third quarter Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, 15% of businesses anticipate shrinking their physical office locations. This also impacts neighbouring businesses who have depended on office staff grabbing lunch or picking up a few things on their way home.
Working from home has also opened people up to work opportunities well outside our region.
Then there are some big items that are going to take strong leadership to sort out. Pressure is mounting on our federal and provincial governments as well as employers to offer paid sick days. The days of workers showing up sick and powering through are over. Neither are schools likely to accept a coughing or
snotty-nosed kid, keeping a parent home to look after them. Some of us can make it up by working from home. However, for many workers, there isn’t a lot of choice if not showing up means not getting paid.
Employers are passing the pressure from employees on to the upper levels of
government to create permanent sick day reimbursements through programs like employment insurance.
We have new cohorts of people getting retrained and reinvesting in their skills. Our post-secondary institutions are taking a renewed look at their role in developing the skills and qualifications needed for a new, modernized workplace.
We have a lot to sort out as far as what 2022 and beyond is going to look like, both in personal and business terms. But getting serious about what a post-COVID world is going to look like is
Small businesses are the heart of our communities.
They create jobs, drive innovation, and generate wealth for our community. As we conclude Small Business Week, we’re encouraging people to shop and support local.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce joined the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and more than 155 chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the province to encourage Ontarians to support local businesses in their
community as well as amplify on-going advocacy and
initiatives to promote and protect small businesses who have been hardest hit by the crisis.
As part of our celebration of local business, we held our annual Business Excellence Awards. Check out our website and social media channels to see the video presentation of all our award winners. Our local business community is resilient and inspiring.
Where did they go?
According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce,
long-term unemployment numbers are still nearly double what they were
pre-pandemic. Despite being in a labour shortage, 27.3% of unemployed Canadians are unaccounted for.
“We can speculate all day, but the fact is, we currently have no data to tell us why nearly 400,000 Canadians haven’t been able to rejoin the workforce after 27 weeks or more,” says Leah Nord, Senior Director of Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “Is it a skills issue? Compensation? Life re-evaluation? This is critical information that we need to find out if we are to come up with effective,
evidence-based policy solutions. Canadians want to work, most are not
unemployed by choice, so we need to dig down and find out exactly what’s holding them back so we can make evidence-based decisions. Our full economic recovery depends on it.”
We hear regularly about unemployment numbers as a benchmark for our economic success, but it’s not that simple. The Local Labour Market Planning Report from the Workforce Development Board notes that tracking our workforce through unemployment numbers misses out on other issues. Unemployment rates don’t differentiate between full-time and part-time work, reductions in hours, and it doesn’t include people not looking for work due to certain barriers. Our region typically has a lower
workforce participation rate due to its older population.
Between unemployment numbers and labour market participation, there are still a lot of unknowns that need more research to get a better handle on our workforce struggles.
Despite an initial quick recovery, the supply of homes is drying up and impacting the real estate industry. According to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the real estate sector accounts for 13% of Canada’s GDP.
Meanwhile, BDC reports that with more things open this summer, more Canadians
traveled. This meant people spent less on home renovation projects, decreasing demand and prices for building products, dropping lumber retail sales by 7.3% and wholesale by 12.4%.
As of the end of August, BDC estimates our economy to be running at 98.8% of its
It’s a worker’s market
The Business Development Bank of Canada reports 55% of Canadian entrepreneurs are struggling to hire workers, leaving them working more hours as well as delaying or refusing orders. More than a quarter report difficulty retaining employees and 30% of companies report difficulty hiring new employees because the
salaries are too low. BDC doesn’t expect the labour shortage to end any time soon.
Wages are expected to go up an average of 2.7% for 2022, the highest in the last five years. This comes after 36% of companies froze wages in 2020, 12% in 2021, and only 3.3% expect to in 2022.
Ontario is going to need 1 million new homes over the next 10 years, according to the report Baby Needs A New Home: Projecting Ontario’s Growing Number of Families and Their Housing Needs. The report is from the Smart Prosperity Institute, funded by the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.
Our populations is growing dramatically. From 2011 to 2016 the population of Ontario grew by 600,000 people. From 2016 to 2021 that number grew to 1 million. Over that same time, the rate of building new homes stayed about the same. Over the next 10 years, our province is expected to grow by 2.27 million people.
Currently, the report states Ontario is short 65,000 homes and without changes in our approach to
building housing, that gap will continue to grow.
In the Peterborough census division (which includes the City of Peterborough and the townships of Selwyn, Cavan Monaghan, Otonabee-South Monaghan, and
Douro-Dummer), the population is expected to grow by 15,400 people over the next 10 years. This is projected to add 6,601 additional households needing a home to live in.
This housing crunch has hit new levels over the last couple years. According to the Peterborough and
Kawarthas Association of Realtors, there is typically less than a month’s worth of housing inventory on the market, far lower than it has been over the last decade. All this has driven housing prices through the roof. The average house in Peterborough this year is selling for over $700,000. We’ve seen headline after headline about record house prices. The average house price has increased nearly 170% over the last decade.
It’s not just difficult to find a place to buy, but rental vacancy has been hovering just above 0% for a few years now.
It’s supply and demand.
While some people can afford to compete for the limited housing available locally, others are being left out of the market altogether.
Building wealth through real estate can be an effective economic driver, but there needs to be balance. Our community needs people from all walks of life to grow effectively and efficiently. If we’re going to welcome 6,601 new households in our community, whether that’s new residents coming to the region or our children growing up and establishing their own lives — they all need places to live.
To realize our potential growth and provide the quality housing our community needs, it’s going to require investment and cooperation. The City and its neighbouring townships as well as the provincial
government need to work together to provide the infrastructure, planning, and conditions to build more homes while growing our community in a responsible way that sets us up for
success down the road.
The City is also nearing the end of its decade-long Official Plan Update. This document guides all planning and growth for the City. There’s a public open house planned for Oct. 21 before the
document heads to a public meet at the City’s General Committee on Nov. 1.
It’s important that we get this right. It’s going to take leadership from our
governments, our community, and our business leaders. Right now the balance of supply and demand is heavily in the demand category and left unchecked it will continue to swing further. We know our community needs more supply. Ultimately, people need a place to live.
We are in the midst of a period of economic growth as we head into the fall. It’s good news for most
businesses and industry
sectors. We’re not in the clear by any means, but an upward trend is a good sign for what is a critical time of year for many businesses.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Deloitte Canada took a deep dive into Statistics Canada’s third
quarter Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, coming back with some key
Over the next three months, 82% of business expect sales to increase or stay about the same. Optimism that things will increase or stay the same over the next three months hits 85% for demand for products and services, 91% for selling price of goods and services, and 93% for the number of employees. All of these figures have increased quarterly throughout the year. Expectations are up that operating income and
profitability will rise this fall with operating expenses declining slightly.
However, uncertainty is on the rise in terms of viability, with 39% of businesses unsure how long they can continue to operate at current revenue and expenses before they have to consider closing.
With demand and sales expected to increase, businesses have shifted their concerns toward
supply-related obstacles. This includes rising product costs and the ability to hire/retain skilled employees.
Rising sales also increases cashflow and confidence,
allowing businesses to be able to take on more debt. Confidence that a business could take on more debt jumped from 23% to 55% between the second and third quarters of this year.
Additional debt capacity helps businesses invest in their facilities, workforce, inventory and production capacity to help them grow and thrive. It’s also a sign of recovery if fewer businesses are at the limit of what they can borrow.
There has been a lot of talk about workforce challenges over the last few months. One route that businesses are taking to address this is through third-party platforms, often called ‘gig’ workers, freelancers, and contractors. The services businesses use third-parties for changes depending on the sector, but the leading services are website or software development, professional services like accounting or law, and graphic design/audio-visual production.
Another popular workforce subject is teleworking with employees working from home. Businesses in urban areas are more than twice as likely to be planning to shrink physical office locations with 15% anticipating doing so. That number goes up in more dense urban areas like
Toronto, where 24% of
businesses are looking to reduce their office space by having staff work remotely.
For those looking to recall their workforce back from the home office, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
partnered with Abacus Data back in March to survey employed adults. They found just under half of those
surveyed would be comfortable returning to the workplace for most of their work. Within that, the survey showed women are less comfortable returning to in-person work and people 30 to 59 had more reservations than their younger or older colleagues. The survey identified interacting with customers/clients and use of public transit to commute as the biggest safety concerns. Top actions an employer can take to make their workers more comfortable with working in person include daily cleaning of the
workplace, strict distancing rules, and having everyone where masks.
We’re still a long way from being back to “normal,” or whatever that is going to mean down the road, but it’s encouraging to see more optimism in the business community. For some, this amounts to a shift in stress points from inability to serve their customers due to health restrictions to inability to meet demand due to supply limitations. There are still many challenges to overcome. But we’re moving forward.
Transportation is a fundamental part of our community. It affects nearly every part of our lives. It’s how we shop, commute, visit friends and family, get to school, and get the supplies our businesses need to produce and sell their goods. It impacts safety in front of our homes, our ability to exercise outdoors, and climate change. It’s also an area where we spend many millions of dollars every year.
The City of Peterborough is currently undertaking a new Transportation Master Plan. This an opportunity to take a closer look at our priorities. Not just the opportunities for the municipality, but for ourselves. This isn’t about wishful thinking, but setting concrete goals and objectives that will guide City spending for years to come.
Peterborough is growing and some parts of our transportation network are feeling the strain. But solving congestion and wear-and-tear issues isn’t just about expanding our road networks.
At the core of the plan is the balance between different forms of transportation, including passenger cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians.
The vision statement reads:
"As the City grows, Peterborough’s transportation network will be enhanced to create a low emissions, responsive system where people of all ages and abilities can move safely, sustainably and
efficiently, no matter how they choose to travel, today and in the future."
The objectives council set
out for the Transportation Master Plan are:
Continually improve travel choices for people and goods by providing an
increased number of
reliable, equitable, and
accessible options that support the health and well-being of our growing community.
Plan the transportation
network to support the growth of vibrant
communities in the region.
Improve safety of
transportation systems for all users. Ensure that
enhance equity and
accessibility by expanding access to jobs, services and
amenities regardless of age, ability or travel choice.
Climate Mitigation &
Protect against negative impacts to the natural environment and reduce vehicle emissions to achieve Council’s Climate Change targets.
Economic & Financial
Enhance access to jobs, services and amenities to support a more resilient regional economy. Invest strategically in new capital projects that will provide long-term benefit to the City, while ensuring that existing assets are maintained and supported.
Shifting people from cars to alternative transportation
can have some huge
benefits for community health and safety, reducing
our impact on climate
change, and less spending on expensive road networks.
But this only works if the right investments are made that make people want to choose options other than their car.
Transportation is a topic that brings out some strong opinions. We’ve seen the debates over new roads, bridges, bicycle lanes, street parking, busing, and street widening. The Transportation Master Plan will help guide this and future councils on how they make those
The City of Peterborough is currently looking for your input through an online survey available until Oct. 8. This is an opportunity to take a look at how you
interact with your
community, how you would like to do so in the future, and provide your
perspective on your