Editorial – Faster growth needed

It is fair to say that the announcement by Beavers Dental parent Envista that it will close early next year is a devastating blow to the South Dundas community. The loss of a business and about 175 jobs is difficult for any municipality to deal with. When that closure happens in a small community like South Dundas, the effects are usually amplified.

Following a week of bad news, South Dundas received a double-dose of good news. First, Statistics Canada released new data from the 2021 Census showing the municipal population increased in the past five years. Later, the municipality announced that a US-based company is buying 25 acres to set up shop in the Morrisburg Industrial Park.

According to StatsCan, South Dundas had the third-highest growth rate in SDG Counties in the past five years and now has nearly the same population as North Dundas. More people are moving here, and that will only spur more growth thanks to residential development projects like the Dutch Meadows development and a hot housing market. That growth is greatly needed considering the state of the economy and where jobs are coming from.

Since the 1980s, experts warned municipalities to diversify their economy, attract new employers and build more homes. Both forms of growth are needed to sustain what we already have, and to pay for growth. Losses to the industrial tax base are a double-whammy for municipalities. Industrial property taxes are five-times the residential property tax rate. Any loss to the industrial tax base adds a five-fold burden to residential taxes meaning you need five-times the residential development to recover lost industrial taxation.

Growing the residential population by nearly two per cent in five years is a good start. We need to grow by more than that rate to maintain the existing services available here and keep property taxes affordable. If South Dundas residents want more facilities, more services, more things to do, South Dundas should aim higher and grow by at least five per cent over a five year period. Growth pays for growth.

Our neighbours have already figured this out. North Stormont is still the smallest municipality in SDG Counties, but it is also the fastest growing. North Stormont grew more than South Dundas, South Glengarry, North Glengarry, and North Dundas combined. Multiple residential developments in North Stormont have contributed to that municipality’s well-deserved success, as has industrial development. Our neighbours in South Stormont and Edwardsburgh-Cardinal also follow this same playbook. Both townships enjoyed net increases to residential population and increased industrial activity, which attracts more residents.

There is no downside to diversifying South Dundas’ residential and industrial tax base. Our current rate of growth will barely maintain what residents currently enjoy, resulting in higher taxes and affordability issues. South Dundas needs to pick up the pace, or be left behind.

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