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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Building hopes on Trudeau’s investment plans

His promises include billions in infrastructure spending, boosting a pension plan and middle class tax cuts.

After Justin Trudeau’s Monday night majority win, Niagara’s business leaders are weighing how these and other Liberal economic policies could affect the region.

Mishka Balsom, president and CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, said a business community survey done this summer indicates a generally positive reaction to these kinds of infrastructure plans.

“They said the investment in infrastructure was needed,” Balsom said. “It was something we hadn’t seen in a long time and 60% of the businesses said that kind of investment is needed and will be good for Niagara.”

Trudeau has promised to double of the Conservatives’ Building Canada fund, adding $60-billion in spending over the next decade, in order to boost economic growth.

It will also contribute to the temporary running of federal deficits.

Other previously-announced proposals — including a cut to the Employment Insurance premiums and lowering the tax for small businesses — are well-received, Balsom said.

“Some .. are saying it’s a timely commitment, especially in light of additional costs a lot of them are facing with new programs the provincial government is trying to move forward.

“The concerns probably have to do with expanding the Canada Pension Plan,” she said. “It might raise the costs for employers.”

In addition to promising to cut income taxes for Canadians earning between $45,000 and $89,000 a year and raise them for wealthier Canadians, the CPP could get a shakeup, with Trudeau vowing to bolster the plan.

Balsom said it’s not yet known how that might affect the already-announced and additional Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.

“This is something businesses are probably going to be watching,” she said.

Niagara Region chair Al Caslin also spoke of the election and its potential positive impact on the region.

“We’ve got a number of priorities on the go that we’d like to see continue (among them being) the GO Train into Niagara Falls,” Caslin said.

In Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, the speedway and marina projects are also top of mind, he said.

Caslin also said a priority is having Niagara accepted as a foreign trade zone and “trying to get an international airport, that … certification is important to Niagara.

Caslin said he’s spoken to St. Catharines Liberal MP-elect Chris Bittle “just briefly, the rest of the folks in Niagara I already know.”

“I am trying to set up a meeting with Chris to go over what our priorities are and understand from him what he’d like to get done in his agenda,” he said.

Niagara’s wine industry also has an eye to its future relationship with a Liberal government.

“We have nothing in detail at this point in time,” said Patrick Gedge, CEO of the Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario, adding his alliance has worked closely with all major federal parties in addressing its interests prior to the election.

“We have been educating them about the wine and grape industry in Ontario and across Canada, because frankly you want to end up with a legislative and regulatory environment at the federal level that has the support across party lines.”

“That generally tends to help things move more quickly,” Gedge said.

He adds having two Liberal MPs in Niagara “I know will be very supportive of our industry,” he said.

“It’s nice to have local MPs who are part of the ruling government as it provides a natural conduit for them to be champions of our industry

Justin Trudeau’s planned infrastructure boost could mean promising things for St. Catharines, says its mayor.

“We will be looking at the infrastructure and program they’ll be rolling out,” said Walter Sendzik. “While we have had significant infrastructure investment into key marquee buildings, like most municipalities … we do have (basic) infrastructure challenges.”

Sendzik pointed to issues like financing roads, sewers and water, “and hopefully that program will provide some relief for the property taxpayers in our community

“We’ll be able to balance some of those federal infrastructure dollars with the core infrastructure that’s needed now,” he said. “We’re hoping those infrastructure dollars will close that gap.”

He also spoke of the needs of public transit: “As we move toward a one-transit model in Niagara, will there be additional funds related to creating stranger public transit networks in communities?”

The federally-owned Port Dalhousie piers, temporarily closed due to structural integrity issues, is another concern, he said.

“That is a significant investment and we want to be sure in the infrastructure portfolio there will be opportunities to rehabilitate those piers.”

Innovation funds and accessing them for innovation hubs like at Brock University and Niagara College is also important, he said.

“Hopefully, they’ll flow also to the start-ups,” the mayor said. “Those actually on the ground starting up new businesses with new ideas.

“So there’s something in there for everybody … and we’re going to be sure that when those programs are announced we’ll be at the table.”
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