Thunder Bay’s economic hardships are a sign
Livio Di Matteo is a professor of economics at Lakehead University.
There’s a good argument to be made that Canada would not exist as we understand it today without Thunder Bay.
The 19th-century federal policies around building the Canadian Pacific Railway made it necessary to build cities on Northern Ontario’s lakehead. Port Arthur and Fort William, the cities that would amalgamate into Thunder Bay in 1970, became grain shipment points for the prairie frontier, bringing the area prosperity. That was only amplified by provincial government policies supporting the myriad industries that followed suit: forestry, mining, shipbuilding, rail-car manufacturing, pulp and paper. And the economic infrastructure that was laid in the first third of the 20th century provided opportunities for immigrants in the area’s sawmills, pulp mills, grain elevators and manufacturing plants.
This was the golden age of Thunder Bay’s economic development. By the 1970s, the city offered numerous well-paid industrial and transportation jobs for unskilled labour, spawning a large and prosperous local middle class that required little investment in education. Moreover, the relative isolation of the local economy created a captive market for retail goods and services, as well as a cozy business environment dependent on a few key industries in a company town.
But then the veneer of that golden age began to chip off. Thunder Bay was forced to adjust to labour-saving technological change, greater global competition in resource industries, shifting grain markets and the decline of the grain trade. The forest-sector crisis ultimately saw three out of four pulp mills and a major sawmill close. Deep cuts to the work force this summer at Bombardier – whose manufacturing plant has become a crucial part of the city’s landscape – are a continuation of this saga.
As its traditional resource and transportation sectors shed employment, Thunder Bay diversified into health care, postsecondary education and government services, with the broader public sector accounting for 30 per cent of employment. So now, the city remains a company town – but the public sector is the company, making the city extremely sensitive to the whims of politicians in Ottawa and Toronto.
Despite that, Thunder Bay’s economic growth remains arrested; it has not been able to generate sufficient opportunities beyond the activities that powered its initial growth. As a result, the city’s population has not grown since the 1970s. The economy has evolved into an enclave of high-paying and more secure knowledge-economy jobs, broader public-sector jobs and a swath of minimum-wage service jobs. The municipal tax base is stretched thin, providing spending and service levels that evolved when there was a lucrative industrial tax base; property taxes have been rising for years. After decades of youth out-migration, the population is aging faster than the Canadian average, even with the influx of a young and rapidly growing Indigenous population.
Its dual role as a city and a region makes economic transition even harder to pull off. Federal and provincial resources for health, transportation, education and social services are geared to its municipal role, but Thunder Bay is also expected to function as a regional health and social centre for the entire northwestern region of Ontario – an area the size of France.
This has increasingly made economic polarization, mental-health and addiction problems and a decaying social fabric marked by crime, drugs and an increased use of shelters and food banks a fact of life in Thunder Bay. In many respects, what has happened here mirrors the state of affairs in the U.S. Rust Belt or Northern Italy’s industrial cities, where economic trauma has fuelled populism and negative attitudes. Here, increased friction with a young, growing and more assertive Indigenous population with legitimate needs and aspirations can spill over into racism.
How Thunder Bay deals with its economic and social challenges should not be viewed as a spectator sport by smug urban elites in central Canada. What is happening here is not comeuppance for bad behaviour. Thunder Bay is the canary in the coal mine for the rest of Canada – a country so vast and sparsely populated that other cities, forced to also function as centralized regional hubs with the conspicuous absence of the provincial and federal governments, will surely soon experience similar struggles.
This is what can happen when you are a small economy in a changing world, dependent on a few key export industries that tank. Those who cannot see that need to look in a mirror and open their eyes.
Quebec proposes making French mandatory for all economic immigration programs – Canada Immigration News
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has proposed major changes to Quebec’s economic immigration criteria.
Speaking on May 25 with the Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration, Christine Frechette and the Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, Legault says the changes will ensure that nearly 100% of new economic immigrants to Quebec will know French before they arrive in the province by 2026. This is meant to promote Francophone economic immigration in Quebec.
“As we have seen for several years, French is in decline in Quebec,” said Legault. “Since 2018, our government has acted to protect our language, more than other successive governments since the adoption of Bill 101 under the Lévesque government. But if we want to reverse the trend, we must go further. By 2026, our goal is to have almost entirely Francophone economic immigration. We all have a duty, as Quebecers, to speak French, to transmit our culture on a daily basis, and to be proud of it.”
Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration
Knowledge of oral French will be required for adults. This is meant to ensure that those who wish to settle in Quebec will be able to communicate in French throughout day-to-day interactions at work and in their communities.
The changes are part of a new permanent immigration program for skilled workers in Quebec. The province says the Skilled Worker Selection Program will “take into account the diverse needs of Quebec.”
Candidates in the program will be evaluated in four categories that have not yet been made clear, but the province says that three of the categories will require that the principal applicant and their accompanying spouse have knowledge of French.
There will also be revisions to existing programs. For example, the work experience requirement will be removed from the Quebec Experience Program for graduate students from a French-language study program.
Family reunification measures include making it mandatory for the guarantor to submit a plan for reception and integration that will support the learning of French for the person they are hosting.
Immigration is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments. Quebec’s agreement is unique from other provinces in that it can select all its economic immigrants. Quebec does not have the authority to select family class sponsorship applicants or those who arrive in Canada as refugees or other humanitarian classes.
For 2023, Quebec has targeted that 65% of newcomers admitted to the province will be economic class.
Increasing immigration numbers in Quebec
The province is also considering raising the number of permanent selection admissions from 50,000 to 60,000 per year by 2027. This is in stark contrast to Legault’s recent comments that there was “no question” of Quebec accepting any rise in the number of newcomers and publicly rejecting the federal Immigration Levels Plan, which has a target of 500,000 permanent residents admitted to Canada each year by the end of 2025.
These changes also follow Quebec’s Immigration Levels Plan for 2023, where it was announced that the province would move away from plans that forecast only the coming year and begin introducing multi-year plans for immigration by 2024.
Why the changes?
Quebec is unique in Canada as it is the only province where French is the official language. The province is fiercely protective of its language, saying it is vital to protecting Quebec’s unique culture and status.
Legault is the leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) and is currently in his second term as Quebec’s premier, having been reelected last October. One of the main pillars of the CAQ party is to protect the French language in Quebec.
Immigration was one of the key issues in the recent election. Throughout his campaign, Legault said that Quebec would allow only 50,000 immigrants per year into the province as it would be difficult to accommodate and integrate more than that into Quebec society. He said that accepting more than that would be “a bit suicidal.”
Regardless, Quebec, like the rest of Canada, is experiencing a labour shortage as the population ages and the birth rate remains low. A report released last March by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows that the province could face an annual shortfall of up to nearly 18,000 immigrants, who would be able to fill Quebec’s labour needs.
Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration
Lira hits record low, but stocks rise after Erdogan win in Turkey
The Turkish leader won the presidency for a third time after a run-off vote on Sunday.
The Turkish lira has plunged to record lows after the re-election of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a sign that currency markets are not confident in the country’s economic future after the longtime leader’s re-election.
The Turkish currency weakened to 20.01 to the dollar on Monday after the high-stakes run-off a day earlier.
But Turkish stocks, on the other hand, rose as Erdogan entered a third decade in power with the benchmark BIST-100 index up 3.5 percent and the banking index rising more than 1 percent.
The lira fell to a record low as the country battles a cost of living crisis and depleted foreign reserves.
On the campaign trail, Erdogan pledged to slash inflation to single digits and boost economic growth, a message he reiterated in his victory speech late on Sunday. But analysts said his economic policies are unorthodox and predicted they will lead to more pain for Turks.
“In our view, Erdogan’s biggest challenge is Turkey’s economy,” Roger Mark, an analyst at the Ninety One investment management firm told the Reuters news agency. “His victory comes against a backdrop of perilous economic imbalances with his heterodox economic model proving increasingly unsustainable”.
Hasnain Malik, head of equity research at Tellimer, an emerging markets research firm, told the agency: “An Erdogan win offers no comfort for any foreign investor.”
“Only the most optimistic would hope that Erdogan now feels sufficiently secure politically to revert to orthodox economic policy,” he said.
Interest rate cuts sought by Erdogan sparked a devaluation of the Turkish lira in late 2021 and sent inflation to a 24-year peak of 85.5 percent last year. The president had argued that higher interest rates cause inflation while central banks around the world were raising rates to reduce price rises.
Turkey’s struggling economy, also reeling after the country’s devastating double earthquakes in February, was a major thorn in Erdogan’s prospect for re-election.
The leader has defended his economic policies, reassuring Turks that investment, production, exports and an eventual current account surplus will drive up Turkey’s gross domestic product.
U.S. economy and new incentives put Canada at disadvantage in Stellantis negotiations, professor says
Two weeks of negotiations between the federal and provincial governments and Stellantis have failed to produce a new deal for the NextStar EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont. Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, says the economic might of the U.S., coupled with the incentives offered in recent legislation, make it extremely challenging for Canada to compete.
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