By: Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Ontario’s economic outlook is dampened by labour shortages and supply issues, says the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce.
The local chamber of commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) recently released the sixth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER).
The report provides regional and sector-specific data on policy priorities, business confidence and economic indicators, the latest data on Ontario’s economy and a view on the coming year and hurdles that may lie ahead.
According to this year’s OER, because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hardest-hit sectors were small businesses, those located in border regions and organizations led by women and people with disabilities and businesses in the entertainment, arts and agricultural sector.
“Our small business members in Leeds and the Thousand Islands have proven their strength and resilience over the past two years,” said Bill Stewart, executive director at the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce, in a prepared statement.
“Business confidence is rising across the province but for many the additional strain on operations as a result of new variants and additional restrictions continues to dampen their recovery.”
He said the Shop Local campaign that ran for the last few months of 2021 helped support local retailers and businesses through the holiday season and continued on throughout January. Stewart said he hopes that the support will continue throughout February and into the spring months this year.
Thanks to progress on vaccines and reopening, Ontario began to see some positive momentum in 2021, said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in a prepared statement.
“Business confidence, GDP, and employment growth are trending upwards after record lows in 2020. However, the road ahead remains uncertain for businesses and households as labour shortages, supply chain disruptions, and inflation are hitting home,” he added.
Most sectors, 62 per cent, faced labour shortages and expect to continue facing them over the next year, according to the OER.
Stewart said the Leeds and the Thousand Islands area mirrors what is being seen across the country, in regards to labour shortages. He expects to see some local businesses open and hire employees sooner than they did last year, such as tourism businesses.
“I think people do want to work and get back to some sense of normalcy and that’s what we’re pushing for this spring,” said Stewart.
According to the report, almost 30 per cent of Ontario businesses are confident in Ontario’s economic outlook in 2021, compared to 21 per cent of business in the previous year. Fifty-seven per cent of businesses are confident in the outlook of their own organizations, which is up from 48 per cent.
For the upcoming year and tourism season, Stewart said there has already been a positive uptake of festivals and older festivals coming back to the area, like the RibFest coming back to Gananoque this summer after being cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re also promoting with our tourism partners, the attraction of visitors not just from the province but Canada and Internationally,” Stewart said, adding a new digital visitor guide is coming out in the next few months to further promote the area.
Findings from the OER will help policymakers develop a strategy for the province’s long-term economic recovery and growth.
“Two years into the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we need a long-term plan that will provide stability and lay the groundwork for economic growth,” said the report’s co-author, Claudia Dessanti, senior manager of policy at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
(Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)