Chambers set provincial priorities

·4 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Members of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce advocated for three resolutions during a conference with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Ontario ministers and provincial party leaders last week.

Representatives sponsored a call for government action to support biomass generation, investments in mining innovation, and elimination of the expansion of municipal land transfer taxes.

“Our chamber called on the government of Ontario to take specific steps to ensure the future of sustainable forestry and biomass generation and it was adopted 100 per cent,” said Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce.

“It was unanimously supported by the delegation.”

The resolution specifically speaks about biomass power purchase agreements that should be renewed.

Robinson says, “Resolute Forest Products, for example, has a biomass power purchase agreement, but the contract is almost up. We’re saying that all of those agreements should be renewed for at least 10 years because they need that business.”

She said they’ve seen some agreements that are starting to be renewed by the government for five years, but says five years isn’t long enough.

“It’s not enough time to provide that certainty to the business to make sure that they’re still not going to make a big investments into more biomass procedures and biomass production, machinery, etc., if it’s not going to be long enough to be able to pay back that investment,” Robinson said.

“We’re saying we want a minimum of 10 years on these power purchase agreements, and that they need to be at least the same amount of fibre volume as the previous agreements because we also saw the government starting to reduce the fibre volumes, which is again a concern.”

These two key elements were examined along with the need to create a policy that supports the development of new generation within possible district energy systems and better utilization of biomass as an energy source for the province.

The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce also supported Sudbury’s call for investments in mining innovation by extending the length of mines and getting more return out of the mining investments.

“We need government support to enable those kinds of things and to help them with innovative research and getting some of the new systems in place,” Robinson said.

The Sault Ste. Marie chamber’s resolution for the elimination of the expansion of municipal land transfer taxes was also supported by the Thunder Bay chamber.

Robinson explained that currently Toronto is the only municipality in Ontario that is charging a land transfer tax.

“We know that there’s been a number of municipalities across Ontario that have said, ‘Hey, how come Toronto gets to collect this tax, yet the rest of us don’t?’ There’s been some municipalities that have been pushing the government of Ontario to allow them to add a second tax that would be collected by the municipality versus not just the government of Ontario,” she said.

“This resolution focused on the negative aspect of imposing new taxes and basically urges the government not to impose new taxes, including a municipal land transfer tax on Ontario homeowners.”

Robinson says there are so many concerns about housing prices “going through the roof” and this is just one more expense, making houses less affordable.

The chamber also called for a review of the municipal act to make sure that it better aligns with policies that would promote housing while simplifying the municipal system and work with municipalities to amend the property tax regime to help municipalities with their finances.

“Municipalities are sort of the child of the province and so everything that they do is governed under the municipal act,” she said.

“We suggested some recommendations specifically on how the municipal act can be possibly tweaked to help to allow more municipal financing, but not through land transfer tax cuts.”

She added that they don’t think that would be a negative thing to the already unaffordable housing challenges.

Robinson says they were “proud” to be one of the sponsors on all three policies that were all adopted and are now considered Ontario chamber policy. These will be policies that the Ontario chamber will be working with the next government to promote in the next legislative session.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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