By Mike Baker
The president of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce wasn’t surprised by the general negativity surrounding the release of the fifth annual Ontario Economic Report [OER] last week.
Providing the latest data on Ontario’s economy and business confidence, the report states the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on many industries, most notably accommodation and food services, the arts, entertainment, recreation, and retail.
Considered one of the province’s premiere tourism hubs, Haliburton has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Many places who rely on business brought in by day-trippers and cottagers found life especially difficult in 2020. Two lockdowns and a wealth of other COVID-19 restrictions that specifically impacted businesses took their toll says Andrea Strano, president of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the lifeblood of our communities. Our small business members are the least confident in our province’s economy, as they continue to face unprecedented liquidity constraints, increased costs, and reduced revenues,” Strano said. “Many businesses in the Muskoka-Kawarthas region, which includes the Haliburton Highlands, have already had to shut their doors indefinitely.”
The 2021 OER states that only 21 per cent of businesses in Ontario are confident in the province’s economic outlook – a historic low since the organization began tracking data back in 2011.
While many businesses in the Haliburton area have struggled over the past year, others have thrived. The report states that employment data from 2020 shows there were far fewer job losses in the Muskoka-Kawarthas region than in any other region across Ontario. Overall employment was down in the local region by 0.9 per cent, whereas the provincial average hovered around 4.9 per cent.
Around 50 per cent of surveyed businesses from the Muskoka-Kawarthas region felt the community provided enough economic activity for their business to thrive, while 37 per cent did not feel they could thrive.
Looking ahead to 2021, the Muskoka-Kawarthas region is projected to have a lower unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent, compared to 9.2 per cent in 2020.
To view the full 2021 OER report, visit occ.ca/interactive-oer2021/.