Even Canada’s weak economic growth bypasses rural areas: Canadian Chamber of Commerce vice-president

Warren Everson, Senior Vice President for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, addresses the South Dundas Chamber of Commerce tonight, April 5.

Warren Everson outlines economic challenges for S. Dundas Chamber of Commerce

MORRISBURG — Rural Canada proved infertile ground for the modest 280,000 jobs created in Canada last year, Canadian Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Warren Everson told members of the South Dundas Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting earlier this month.

“None of those jobs were created within rural Canada,” declared Everson at the April 5th session, answering his own “trick question” posed to the audience while speaking on “The borders between our countries are meeting places not dividing lines.”

Everson, originally from Glengarry County and an admitted former employee of The Chesterville Record, informed the group that Canada has been stuck in a “low growth trap” for four years with less than two percent growth annually. “If this were 10 years ago, people would have been calling it a recession,” he said.

Natural resource prices and the Canadian dollar have both declined, he noted, and yet, unusually, Ontario’s manufacturing sector has failed to fill the growth gap this time. “Manufacturing should be soaring, and it’s not.”

Adding to the woes, business investment fell eight percent last year in Canada and is down a further 15 percent in the first quarter of 2017, he reported.

Canada, as a presumed believer in globalism and liberalized trade, has “run into one problem, Trump,” he asserted, also adding the UK’s Brexit-implementing prime minister, Theresa May, to that list. “The sooner the U.S. gets it’s stuff together, the sooner we can,” he asserted.

So what’s to be done to boost entrepreneurship in Canada’s particularly stagnant rural economy? The speaker pointed to “significant opportunities” in agriculture and innovations in agri-food, highlighting milk cartons that change colour as the contents spoil as just one idea.

On an optimistic note, Everson observed that the “urban, progressive” Trudeau government has more recently seen a rise in cabinet ministers with actual business experience. “They’re like raisins in dough, showing up and visible,” he quipped.

As for Canada’s tourism industry, he described this country as a “poor performer” in the sector.

While visits to Canada were up 21 percent last year, those to the U.S. and China increased a whopping 47 percent, he noted. And American’s tourism growth rate would outpace Canada’s even further if not for the “Trump slump” since the election of the new U.S. president, he acknowledged.

Everson attributed some of Canada’s paltry tourism performance to the meagre $58-million this country spent marketing itself abroad in 2016, suggesting the figure was less than Microsoft’s advertising budget for video game Halo 2.

The Canadian visa system also deters potential tourism visits from certain countries, he added, describing the documentation regime as “infuriating and confusing.”

He also pointed to Canadian air travel costs as a major factor in the depressed tourism numbers.  Airline fees are “like an ATM for the federal government,” he said, adding that Canadians increasingly choose to disembark on their travels from airports in the U.S. instead of Canada.  

Asked for his take on the biggest changes faced by the rural economy over the past 20 years, Everson highlighted a decline in food tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers standing in the way of exports.

New president

The South Dundas Chamber of Commerce’s AGM also saw a new president take the helm of the organization, Tom Morrow. The meeting also served as one the final highlight on the Chamber’s calendar before this weekend’s annual Spring Home & Trade Show at the Morrisburg Arena.


South Dundas Chamber of Commerce Spring Home & Trade Show

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