OPINION: Our city, our future, our fight

Since the depth of the recession in 2008, London’s job growth in nearly every sub-sector was below regional, provincial and federal averages.

Our economic decline has caused a sizeable portion of full-time employment to either disappear permanently, or be replaced with part-time employment. The economic decline has been attributed to, more broadly, a structural economic shift.

Recently, Statistics Canada announced December’s jobless rate for the London-St. Thomas area at 7.6 percent in December, down from 7.8 percent in November. About 2,700 or more are now with a job in the area compared to the previous month.

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There’s still a long way ahead of recovery, but the numbers are positive and the region is expecting further growth in 2015.

Mainstream economists believe that oil prices and the low dollar will combine with the U.S. economy to boost growth in Southwestern Ontario. Oil prices can play a key role in growing the region’s economy, but a depreciating dollar would do the opposite. Keynesian economists have said that the low dollar will help increase exports. They’re right, only short-term.

When the pie of real wealth is growing, the purchasing power of money will likely follow which leads to currency appreciation. With an increase in the production of goods and services and the consequent falling prices and declining production costs, local producers can improve their profitability and their competitiveness in overseas markets while the currency is appreciating.

However, in this interval, Canadians are getting less for what they are selling abroad and paying more for what they are buying abroad; concurrently, they must restrict their consumption.

 This year can be a turning point for London. If we want to increase economic development and quality of life then we must take initiative and leverage our competitive advantages. We also need to address the challenges we are facing in the present and future.

Transforming London into a beacon for good governance and citizen engagement should be a key priority.

City hall’s data needs to be open and accessible for residents and businesses to use creatively. The city also needs to implement a plain language policy. Being an open and transparent city council means using language that all of us can understand.

As a community we have to do more to bring people together through smart investments in infrastructure that help to break down the geographic, economic and social barriers in our city. We need to control urban sprawl (which helps reduce taxes) and finally get serious about rapid transit.

By building on our strengths we can find innovative ways of developing and supporting local talent. We need city council to create the conditions for growth, then step aside so that Londoners can lead the way.

One of London’s biggest competitive advantages lies in the agricultural sector. London and the surrounding region has some of Canada’s best farmland. Only five percent of the Canadian land mass is classified as prime agricultural land (0.5 percent is classified as Class 1). However, in in this area, Class 1 Agricultural Land is prevalent, with the majority of our agricultural land considered to be Class 1.

 We need to invest in infrastructure that helps us keep pace with the digital age. Installing fibre optic internet lines is now an important part of the conversation. Expanding our airport is important as well.

Employment in trades has recently been increasing in the local area. Employers reported a modest amount of hiring in apprenticeship and trades expected as well.

Nonetheless, decision-makers must create an apprenticeship plan for the trades. We need to foster partnerships between post-secondary and industry to find placements and co-ops for students. We also need a system wide job developer training around apprenticeships and to increase employer provided training.

London was once designated by Lieutenant-Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland in 1826 as the administrative center of Southwestern Ontario.

With today’s economic challenges and demographic shifts, London can once again become a regional leader. When the region prospers, so does London.

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi

Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.

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