January 31, 2013– The Ontario Business Confidence Index shows that most Ontario businesses are confident in their own outlook (72%) and are planning to expand over the next five years (60%). However, those same businesses are unsure about the overall direction of Ontario’s economy (41% confidence).
The index is a survey of 2,386 businesses and was conducted as part of Emerging Stronger 2013, a business-driven economic agenda for Ontario released today by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce, along with their research partner, the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto.
Emerging Stronger 2013 is a transformational agenda aimed at accelerating Ontario’s economic growth. It identifies Ontario’s challenges and advantages, and sets out practical and detailed recommendations for government and business.
Some of its key recommendations include: enabling better access to capital for start-ups and small businesses through crowd funding, encouraging businesses to employ more Aboriginal people and people with disabilities, a focus on workforce training and skilled trades gaps, opening up more government services to private sector and not-for-profit delivery, exploiting global opportunities, utilizing Ontario’s immigrant population to grow exports, and allowing more employers to participate in training.
The agenda comes days after Kathleen Wynne was named Ontario’s next premier and is intended to provide a non-partisan platform that should appeal to all three parties.
TheCornwall Chamber saw the trades sector as one of the key component in the agenda.“With a critical and ever increasing shortage of skilled trades people,” said Kevin Hargreaves, President, Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce, “the Cornwall & Area Chamber of Commerce would like to see significant educational investment in trades training with centres ranging from St. Lawrence College in the southeast to selected colleges in the GTA, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay.”
The Chamber President also focused on global trade. “As Cornwall area firms continue to make inroads into Asian markets and particularly, China, they are faced with too much red tape,” continued Hargreaves. “Ontario’s industries have much to offer the Chinese and other Asian markets but need assistance from the government to eliminate barriers such as this one.”
“The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has criss-crossed this province engaging and hearing from local chambers and their 60,000 members,” said Allan O’Dette, CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We are confident that Ontario has all the assets to prosper, but we need to act collectively, strategically, and with purpose.”
“This Index is one of the largest surveys ever conducted of business opinion in Ontario,” according to Dave Scholz, Vice President of Leger Marketing, the pollster. “Business sentiment is very much ‘glass half-full’ in the province right now.” Among the survey findings are:
Ontario is falling behind on productivity: only 10% of respondents believe their sector is a global leader in productivity.
Some sectors are much more confident than others: the financial services sector is the most confident in their own outlook (74% say their business will expand in the next 5 years).
Businesses are struggling to diversify their exports: 45% of Ontario businesses view China as the most critical market in the next 5-10 years. Yet only 1.4% of Ontario’s exports are bound for China.
Some regions are more confident than others: Greater Hamilton Area businesses are most likely to respond that the economy is heading in the right direction (48%), while Eastern Ontario businesses are the least likely (36%).