Now that the dust has settled – what can London expect from the new government?

In the aftermath of the Federal Election, the Throne Speech, and the Budget – what can Londoners and the rest of Canada expect from our new government and what impact will they really have on our economy locally and nationally?
Notwithstanding its odd title, the Speech from the Throne, “Here for all Canadians. Stability. Prosperity. Security.” does at least imply some hope that the government will be focusing on Canada’s economic recovery in the short-term. At the same time, the government has said it intends to take steps to pave the way for the long-term competitiveness which will be critically important in maintaining our positive international economic position. As a government, as a nation or as individual businesses, we cannot be complacent and risk economic peril if we do not address our lagging productivity.
London businesses and indeed most Canadian businesses are pleased that the government plans to implement the measures proposed in its March 22 budget which will move Canada forward in balancing its books without increasing taxes on businesses and families. I believe this approach is crucial to our long-term economic growth and competitiveness. Just as important, is the government’s commitment to curbing its own spending. After all, we/you had to do it… can they!
But how will all of this impact us in London? Will we see our fair share of funding coming out of Ottawa, particularly from FedDev? While it’s true that only 40% of the total FedDev funds have been allocated to date, many of us are concerned that the remaining monies will not be fairly distributed or that London (hardest hit by unemployment in the declining auto sector) will receive enough federal funding to make a difference in our quest to grow the economy and the jobs needed to make up the losses.
Furthermore, some in London are still expressing concerns that the feds may not be so willing to assist London because of the pre-election tiff that went on between Mayor Joe Fontana and soon to be re-elected MP Ed Holder. I for one cannot imagine that either party will let the antics of a federal election (and all elections have antics) stand in the way of doing what’s right for London. Both are staunch supporters of London and both in their own way have made very significant contributions to our economy and our quality of life here in London.

And both know that it will do little good or serve our community in a positive way if either is still holding on to grudges at this stage of our very fragile economic recovery. Should there be any truth to these post-election concerns, the Chamber would be pleased to offer its always popular workshop – “Bury the Hatchet 101” for any parties that may be interested.
On to the measures announced in the recent federal budget: most agree that those measures will support the economic recovery by helping Canadian businesses prosper, compete and create jobs. We are particularly pleased that this budget reflects the London Chamber’s call for a plan to return to a balanced budget in the medium term by committing to eliminate the deficit by 2014-15 without raising taxes on businesses and families. This will secure the fiscal flexibility that is crucial to our long-term competitiveness and it is encouraging that the government continues to focus on strengthening the economy and creating jobs. That is what London businesses and all Canadians need now.
For its part, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been calling on the government to bolster Canada’s competitiveness and ensure that our country remains a leader among G7 countries. The biggest challenge for the federal government now is to restrain its own program spending.
Canada’s long-term economic recovery and competitiveness will depend upon the private sector as government stimulus programs – quite rightly – wind down later this year.
Earlier this year, we asked the government to focus on the transition from government stimulus to a private sector-led recovery; a credible plan to eliminate the federal deficit; and a commitment to a tax and regulatory environment that will attract investment and create jobs. This federal budget would appear to demonstrate the government has taken the call of Canada’s businesses – its job creators – seriously. Now we just need to have all Londoners, including our elected representatives from all levels of government, rowing this boat in the same direction.


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