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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: January 19, 2022

Premier Ford says businesses forced to shut down due to surging COVID-19 infections should expect a positive announcement later this week.

In this edition:

Premier Ford teases positive announcement
Ontario summit on housing crisis
Flash freeze to hit Niagara
Lincoln community grants open
Pelham votes for integrated transit
Niagara Health opens COVID clinic
Inflation hits 4.8%
House prices remain historically high

Premier Ford teases “positive announcement” for businesses this week

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says “restaurants, gyms and other folks” forced to shutdown because of surging COVID-19 infections should expect a positive announcement from the province later this week.

Indoor dining and gyms have been closed since Jan. 5 when Ontario introduced a circuit breaker to curb the explosive growth of the Omicron variant. The current restrictions are in place until Jan. 26.

Many businesses say they are grappling with a lack of clarity and direction from the provincial government on whether they should be preparing to reopen.

The GNCC has repeatedly asked the Government of Ontario for reopening plans and contingency plans for tighter restrictions, and the metrics that would trigger those developments.

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Government of Ontario holds summit with big-city mayors and regional chairs on housing crisis

Today, Premier Doug Ford and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, met with big city mayors and regional chairs to discuss the housing crisis and coordinate efforts to increase the supply of homes across the province.

During the summit, Premier Ford announced more than $45 million for a new Streamline Development Approval Fund to help Ontario’s 39 largest municipalities modernize, streamline and accelerate processes for managing and approving housing applications.

The government also announced over $8 million through the Audit and Accountability Fund to help large urban municipalities identify potential savings and efficiencies through third-party reviews.

The GNCC considers solving the housing crisis a priority for economic growth. We have previously advocated for more intensive urban development, making the creation of rental units from existing building stock easier, and incentivizing the private development of more affordable units.

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Flash freeze to hit Niagara

Above freezing temperatures have spread across southern Ontario this morning and highs today are expected to be in the low to mid single digits. Late this afternoon, a cold front will push through the region which will cause temperatures to abruptly drop below freezing in time for the evening commute.

Businesses should be advised that roads and parking lots may become icy overnight. Businesses opening on to a sidewalk should be prepared to clear ice.

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Lincoln community groups invited to apply for grants

The Town of Lincoln invites eligible community groups to apply for grant funding. The Town offers two opportunities for community groups to apply for funding projects, initiatives, and events. Each funding opportunity has specific criteria that organizations must meet to be eligible. The funds open once per year to accept applications.

The Whipple Trust Fund Grant Program is created through the endowment fund of Helen E. Whipple to support community groups developing or maintaining floral programs in Beamsville.

The Grow Prosper Belong Community Fund provides financial assistance for events, projects, and/or programs with an identified start-up and completion date.

Click here for more information.

Town of Pelham becomes 9th Niagara municipality to vote for integrated public transit

The Town of Pelham council, at the January 17, 2022 special meeting, voted unanimously in favour of combining all of Niagara’s existing services into one single, integrated transit commission serving all of Niagara.

The consolidation of transit in Niagara brings together independently operating local transit systems in Fort Erie, St. Catharines, Welland, and Niagara Falls, as well as Niagara Region Transit and NRT OnDemand which is currently offered in Pelham. The consolidation will provide consistent operating hours and fares, new digital payment technology, and better connections for riders across the Niagara Region. In rural areas and where demand doesn’t warrant a fixed route service, the OnDemand transit model would continue.

With a triple-majority achieved, the new Transit Commission will be created and is proposed to begin operation on January 1, 2023. In the interim, the existing transit systems would continue to operate and deliver service while the Region takes steps to ensure a smooth transition.

Click here for more information.

Niagara Health opens COVID-19 Clinic in St. Catharines

Niagara Health opened a COVID-19 Clinic this week at the St. Catharines Site that is accessible by referral only for patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19, or who are suspected of having or are confirmed with COVID-19.

Referrals can be made by primary care providers, the Emergency Department, Assessment Centres and Telehealth.

The clinic is located in the Mental Health Outpatient area. Hours of operation from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This clinic is different than our assessment centres and does not provide PCR testing. The COVID-19 Clinic, a Clinical Assessment Centre, will help patients who cannot manage their symptoms at home safely but do not require emergency services.

Click here for more information.

Inflation rate hits 30-year high of 4.8%

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 4.8% on a year-over-year basis in December, up from a 4.7% gain in November. Excluding gasoline, the CPI rose 4.0% year over year, due in part to higher prices for food (+5.2%), passenger vehicles (+7.2%) and homeowners’ home and mortgage insurance (+9.3%).

Grocery prices continued to climb in December, rising 5.7% year over year, the largest yearly increase since November 2011. Prices for fresh fruit (+5.6%), including apples (+6.7%), oranges (+6.6%) and bananas (+2.5%), increased on a year-over-year basis. Unfavourable weather conditions in growing regions, as well as supply chain disruptions, led to higher prices for households. Prices for bakery products rose 4.7% year over year as drought during the summer months reduced wheat crop yields.

Consumers who purchased household appliances, like refrigerators and freezers (+13.9%) and laundry and dishwashing appliances (+10.4%), paid 8.9% more in December 2021 compared with December 2020. This was the largest yearly gain since June 1982.

The Bank of Canada will announce policy on January 26. It is widely expected that the Bank will raise interest rates.

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Home sales remain historically high

Statistics released by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) show national home sales remained historically high in December 2021, as the end-of-month supply of properties for sale hit an all-time low.

“With the housing supply issues facing the country having only gotten worse to start 2022, take any decline in sales early in the year with a grain of salt because the demand hasn’t gone away, there just won’t be much to buy until a little later in this spring” said Cliff Stevenson, Chair of CREA. “But when those listings eventually start to show up, the spring market this year will almost certainly be another headline grabber”

Ontario saw year-over-year price growth remain above 30% in December, with the GTA continuing to surge ahead after trailing other parts of the province for most of the pandemic.

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Reading Recommendations

When new Covid variants upend your return-to-office plans

Harvard Business Review

The year 2021 was supposed to be a turning point in the pandemic. As vaccine rates soared, companies across America geared up to head back into the office. Plans to re-open were put into motion and target dates were set. But then, the “hot vax summer” turned into the Delta delay as companies were forced to postpone their returns to in-person work.

Now, we face the ominousness of Omicron, a highly transmissible and vaccine-evasive variant portending more unpredictable months to come. As many companies push back their return-to-office mandates yet again, the back and forth is giving employees whiplash, further threatening company morale.

Niagara COVID-19 statistics tracker

Niagara COVID vaccination tracker

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here. The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.

Through the Daily Updates, the GNCC aims to deliver important business news in a timely manner. We disseminate all news and information we feel will be important to businesses. Inclusion in the Daily Update is not an endorsement by the GNCC.

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