Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce mulls over future under new Progressive Conservative government

Members of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce are waiting to see how they will benefit from the new provincial government's declaration that Ontario is "open for business."

Premier Doug Ford declared Ontario 'open for business' but chamber wants to know more

Science North CEO Guy Labine moderated a panel for the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce on the future of business under the new PC government. L-R Labine, Centre for Mining Excellence and Innovation President and CEO, Doug Morrison, ServiceMaster and Build North co-owner, Tracy Nutt, and Vice President of Policy for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Ashley Challinor. (Kate Rutherford/CBC)

Members of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce are waiting to see how they will benefit from the new provincial government's declaration that Ontario is "open for business."

During a panel discussion Tuesday, three speakers gave their thoughts on what has happened so far and what might happen in the future.

The vice president of policy with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Ashley Challinor says it's really not clear what the relationship between businesses and the Progressive Conservative government will be. But she says they're optimistic about his tone. 

"That's something that businesses right now are very excited about. They want to hear that kind of language from government, but we don't quite know what that means yet," she said.

"We're hoping to obviously understand more about how the government plans to make Ontario open for business, and we have our own ideas as well; and this is why the Ontario Chamber of Commerce wrote blueprint letters to each of the ministers essentially laying out how they can make Ontario open for business."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford waves during his unofficial swearing in ceremony in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, June 29, 2018. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

However, Challinor is cautious about how the Ontario government will act moving forward.

She said Premier Ford appears concerned with "quick wins" and is not afraid to break promises, such as backtracking on a pledge to keep the basic income pilot project in place. 

The president and CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, Doug Morrison, says the Premier appears to be pushing things too far and too fast.

He fears taxpayers could bear the brunt of backlash such as the cost of the potential outcome of a lawsuit the government is facing by electric car-maker Tesla after cancelling the cap-and-trade program; or the legal action against the government over legislation that cut the size of Toronto council.

Morrison says the government needs to engage with everyone, not just his own supporters.

"So far what we've seen, he doesn't appear to be particularly receptive to many messages outside his own base. I hope that will change in the future," he said.

Bill 148 to be re-opened

One business owner was very concerned about the legislation passed by the former Liberal government to increase the minimum wage and the provisions for paid sick days and emergency leave.

Tracy Nutt is co-owner of ServiceMaster and Build North Construction in Sudbury.

She says the changes she was forced to make because of that legislation cost her between $15,000 and $20,000 in the first six months it was in effect.

Nutt is looking forward to the government's promise to re-open the legislation and possibly repeal some measures.

She, along with Morrison and Challinor, are concerned that Kenora MPP Greg Rickford will be too busy to further their causes with the province.

Rickford is the Minister of Energy. He also handles the Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs portfolios.

Morrison says Rickford's focus will have to be on energy and he won't have time to deal with economic development.

Doubts about Ring of Fire road

Morrison is predicting the Ring of Fire chromite project will never be developed because the cost of putting a road 300 miles through the muskeg is beyond the government's financial ability.

"No one has ever done such a thing," he said.

Challinor said Rickford is an experienced politician but he has high expectations to meet.

None of the three expressed hope that the NDP MPP's elected in Sudbury, and in ridings across the north, will be able to benefit the region in the face of a PC majority.

With files from Kate Rutherford


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