We have new Municipal Councils, a new MPP and a Federal election. We have a possible VIA Rail
announcement, an official plan to complete, and numerous local decisions to be made. We’ve had the closure of GE and will likely face continued pressures on businesses, both large and small.
Our local Councils, be they Township, County or City, are in tough. If it’s one thing we face together, it’s the accumulated debt of all levels of government. Our rural governments find keeping up with basic infrastructure needs a challenge, let alone providing for waste management, social services, recreation or EMS. They all find a way, but it’s not getting any easier.
Our new City Council, the youngest and most diverse Council in our history, will face many big decisions in 2019. The budget, the official plan, arenas, affordable housing, and significant projects such as the Louis Street Park and the Bethune Street development will all require Councils attention. This of course barely scratches the surface, and it remains to be seen whether Council has the appetite to go back and undue some of the work of the previous Council. Let’s hope not…
The Federal election will most certainly trigger significant discussion. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is active on a number of federal policy files, including trade/exports, taxation, regulation, agriculture, and resource development. Opportunity abounds if we can work well with the new USMCA and CPTPP trade
agreements, not only developing new markets, but attracting investment. Simply improving trade between our own Provinces can be a challenge!
Who knows whether we will see Federal support for VIA Rails' High Frequency Rail proposal, but the fact is that the project checks a lot of boxes. The vast majority of VIA’s business comes from the Quebec City – Windsor corridor. VIA has faced decades of challenge trying to provide timely, let alone high frequency service along the Lakeshore line. Their HFR proposal completely changes to game, allowing VIA to provide consistent, predictable, high frequency service to the most densely population region of Canada. The Federal Government did its own study of the VIA Rail proposal in 2018 and the decision is on the Ministers desk. We wait with fingers crossed. And just to make the point, anyone who politicizes this project is doing it a tremendous disservice.
The role of the Chamber in all of this is not always clear to everyone. For nearly 130 years the
Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has served the business community by making suggestions to all three levels of Government. Our lobbying efforts focus on policy, not politics, and we work closely with whoever is elected. Our core function is to make sure the Government understands the role of the business community and the challenges it faces. Sometimes that can be seen as pitting the business community against other sectors, and as “politics” becomes increasingly polarized, there is a danger that the business
community will too.
We will always try to provide a balanced argument on behalf of our members.