About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Economy Talk

Or as one might have called it jokingly "Frank & Gerard's Excellent Adventure." But with all due seriousness, the issues that have come out of today's events around Guelph paint a dire though not entirely hopeless picture of what's going on around the Royal City economically.

Liberal Industry critic Gerard Kennedy was in Guelph today as part of the "Sustaining Jobs" Liberal tour of communities across the country. In fact, Guelph was the kick-off point and was put together to "gather input for the upcoming federal budget and for measures beyond the budget required to support Canadian industry and jobs," according to the press release.

The day consisted of a series of meetings, but two were open to media: a tour of Guelph Tool on Lewis Rd. and a roundtable at the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre. Several social, business and neighbourhood groups were represented at the latter. A lot of information and statistics were flying fast and furious in the room, but it all painted a picture that was seriously pessimistic, while making you oddly appreciative for what these various groups are facing.

Here's some of the stats I gathered that came out of the meeting:
  • 23 per cent of the car parts business is done in Guelph
  • Food Bank use is up 19 per cent, and they gave away 850,000 lbs of food last year
  • It takes an average of 8 weeks to get your first E/I cheque
  • It can take up to 5 months to finish the application process for the provinces "Second Careers" retraining program
  • In the tri-cities area, out of 10,000 applicants under "Second Chances," only 70 have been accepted
  • 1 in 8 children live in poverty
  • 1 in 5 households are at risk of becoming homeless
  • An investment of 2 per cent of Canada's GDP can address many poverty issues
  • Public school breakfast programs spend $1.10/student
  • The E/I roster is up 25 per cent
  • The GBEC has seen an increase in 5-times the number of clients per week this month over last
  • But they only have 150 seeds for 500 applications
  • There's a decrease in childcare enrollment
  • There were 60 per cent more people on E/I in Oct. '08 than Oct. '07
  • Wellington County Social Services is still 140 calls behind since coming back from Christmas; and their case load increased by 102 in December '08, including the opening of new files from people who've never sought assistance before
  • The Hitachi plant in Guelph makes a truck worth $2.5 million
That's kind of a very brief overview of what came out of the meeting, and as Kennedy observed, the social services and non-profit organizations are the canary in the coal mine for how truly well or unwell the economy is doing.

There'll be more discussion about these issues in the days ahead, especially going into the budget next week, which will test how well the government is able to respond to Canadians' concerns. The tour of Guelph Tool is the focus of my next Guelph Beat column to, in Echo, on newsstands next Thursday.

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