Editorial – Addressing our economic fragility

Last week’s workforce reductions at Ross Video has brought to the forefront a nagging problem that continues in South Dundas and in Eastern Ontario – economic fragility. Specifically, how vulnerable our communities are to an economic downturn. Eastern Ontario keeps being ignored when it comes to large-scale investments and the good-paying jobs that go with it.

Ross Video is South Dundas’ largest employer and that business just expanded. The company expanded, then contracted its workforce. Outside of Ross Video, economic development growth has been limited to an announced distribution centre (Safavieh) and potential legal cannabis grow-ops. The municipality’s primary economic growth comes from retail, tourism, and agriculture. Except for the steady growth in agriculture, our growth hinges on market trends. Considering record high inflation, that outlook is not great.

Looking wider to the SDG Counties, logistics and tourism are the primary drivers of economic growth. Replacing good-paying jobs that have left with logistics positions, is no different than the previous panacea of replacing high-wage mill and factory jobs with low-wage call centre jobs in the 1990s and 2000s.

Ontario is on a kick to support “green jobs” building new battery plants and expanding the province’s automotive sector. Federal money is being spent in Quebec to do the same. It has been said before in The Leader, and elsewhere, that spending by various levels of government stops at Highway 416 and goes no further east. Yes, there are limited investments (we call that spending) to support projects, but none of these are of the scope, breadth, or depth of the projects moving forward in Toronto, the Golden Horseshoe, and southwestern Ontario.

It has come to be expected that this region will get left behind by those in upper levels of government. There is also an expectation that local politicians will get upset about this. Where are those squeaky wheels? Morrisburg just lost Beavers Dental, which closed up shop earlier this year with barely a whisper to mark the occasion. That is another 150 jobs gone with little outcry. Why do we not see more advocacy, more advertising, more shaking of fists and knocking on doors to get these big projects into South Dundas, or at least east of the 416 so some of our residents can financially benefit through employment?

South Dundas, and this region, has a housing crisis that mirrors that of the rest of the province and the country. We also have an employment crisis. By not working to get more jobs in the community that are significantly better paying than minimum wage – no one will ever get ahead.

There is a long-term risk of not addressing our economic fragility. One plant moving elsewhere, one larger company shutting down, will devastate this municipality and region. Our economic fragility needs serious consideration by all those involved.

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