Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments about the current challenges facing the local business community that I hope will help to frame your budget discussions in the days ahead.
2022 is starting much the same as last year…with closure orders and capacity restrictions imposed on many of Thunder Bay’s small businesses.
Supply shortages have also been felt across many sectors, pausing construction projects, limiting sales opportunities for hard-hit businesses, and in some cases, causing short-term staff layoffs.
In addition, the surge of the Omicron variant is hitting workplaces hard as employees become sick, are exposed to a sick contact or can’t work due to a lack of school or childcare, causing staffing shortages and in some cases, short-term business closures.
The Federal and Provincial Governments have reopened numerous programs with direct financial support for businesses, however, we are concerned that the limited eligibility criteria will leave many impacted local businesses without sufficient support. As such, we are continuing our advocacy efforts with the Canadian and Ontario Chambers to expand access to these program.
We recognize that there is not a lot that the municipal government has control over in the fight against COVID-19. Where you DO have control is in the increase in property taxes and fees that are levied upon our community.
During these uncertain times, the 2022 budget process is an opportunity for City Council to provide an economic shot-in-the-arm to taxpayers by taking every possible step to reduce its spending and the subsequent tax levy increase on our properties. Every cost reduction you make right now, to both tax funded and COVID expenditures, acknowledges the hard reality confronting many of our citizens.
We are encouraged that the proposed 2.44 percent tax levy increase is less than CPI and we see this as a positive start to your deliberations. We hope that you will continue to look for savings and that any additional spending proposals will be offset with reductions in other areas.
We would remind Council that inflation will rise in the coming years. It is not a matter of if, but when and by how much. Savings today will offer compounded savings tomorrow.
We welcome the investments in implementation of the program and service review directives including steps to increase efficiency through digitization and human resources department enhancements.
We also recognize that our community’s social issues continue to add costs to the city budget. We know that the numerous charitable organizations across our community whose work is vital to addressing the scourge of homelessness, food insecurity, drug addiction, mental health issues and crime are greatly supported through donations and supportive efforts of the business community. These are challenges that we will continue to face together and the Chamber offers our support for ongoing advocacy and action.
Thank you for your attention. We wish you well in your budget deliberations.