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Thunder Bay in last place
Growth hot spots include Kitchener and Saskatoon


By JOHN PARTRIDGE
Friday, May 27, 2005 Updated at 6:18 AM EDT
From Friday's Globe and Mail


Being in the cellar of a 25-team league is not a happy position.

So it's no surprise that Mayor Lynn Peterson of Thunder Bay was not exactly delighted to learn yesterday that her Northern Ontario community has come dead last in a new index created by CIBC World Markets Inc. to measure changing levels of economic activity in Canada's 25 largest cities -- or census metropolitan areas (CMAs) to be more precise.

Topping the CIBCWM Metropolitan Economic Activity Index -- and beating out such higher profile and much larger growth hot spots as Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton -- were the Kitchener, Ont., area, powered by its high-technology base, and Saskatoon, which gained great traction from a nation-leading 9.2 per cent year-over-year employment gain.

Thunder Bay scored a miserable minus 3 on the index, which was compiled by CIBC senior economist Benjamin Tal, based on year-over-year changes in eight key macroeconomic variables ranging from population and employment through bankruptcy statistics to house prices. By contrast, Kitchener scored plus 11.3, and Saskatoon came in at 10.5.


"I have a concern about [the] data," Ms. Peterson said, in particular querying the population figures Mr. Tal used. But she also said that while Southern Ontario may be booming, times are tough in her neck of the woods. "I think that you'll find a lot of northern communities, unlike the boom in large urban centres, [are undergoing] an out-migration issue."

Above all, she said, the forestry industry is hurting, courtesy of the softwood lumber dispute with the United States, the high Canadian dollar and rising energy costs. "When the forestry industry is hurting, it shows."

Mr. Tal's figures reveal, among other things, that Thunder Bay's population dipped by about 0.2 per cent year over year in the first quarter, that employment declined 2.7 per cent and that although housing starts rose by nearly 40 per cent -- second highest on the index -- house sales and prices fell.

Still, in an interview, the economist emphasized that his new index measures the rate of change rather than the level of economic activity and said that the worst may already be over for Thunder Bay. Its index reading hit rock bottom at minus 4.6 six months ago, he said. "In fact, it is recovering now a little bit."

The picture was, of course, much brighter in Kitchener. "It's gratifying in the sense that it validates the kind of direction we have been trying to take here within the Kitchener CMA," Mayor Carl Zehr said.

Mr. Tal cited Kitchener's "strong and dynamic high-tech sector" as likely being "an important engine" of its performance, which reflected above average growth in population and employment, a strong resale housing market and above average improvement in business and personal bankruptcies.

Mr. Zehr concurred, citing an estimate that the Kitchener region now accounts for about one quarter of all technology start-up companies in Canada. He added that he thinks even though Kitchener has grown to be "a fairly large community," it still has the sort of strong "work ethic" more readily associated with smaller towns.

Calgary, which ranked 10th on the index with a score of plus 7.7, led in population growth with a year over year increase of about 2 per cent, just edging out Toronto, which ranked fourth overall on the index with a score of 9.2.

Meanwhile, Saint John ranked No. 1 in terms of the increase in full-time jobs' share of total employment, which Mr. Tal is using in the index to approximate improvements in labour quality. It edged out Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Kitchener.

Trois-Rivières, Que., suffered the largest jump in business bankruptcies, while Greater Sudbury, Ont., endured the sharpest spike in consumers going bust.

Cities' pulse

The CIBC World Markets Metropolitan Economic Activity Index, developed by CIBC senior economist Benjamin Tal, is designed to capture the rate of change in economic activity in Canada's 25 largest cities based on 8 key macroeconomic variables.

"It's gratifying in the sense that it validates the kind of direction we have been trying to take here within the Kitchener CMA."

CARL ZEHR, MAYOR OF KITCHENER

"I think that you'll find a lot of northern communities, unlike the boom in large urban centres, [are undergoing] an out-migration issue."

LYNN PETERSON, MAYOR OF THUNDER BAY

CIBC's eight key macroeconomic variables: Population growth, employment growth, unemployment rate, full-time share in total employment, personal bankruptcy rate, business bankruptcy rate, housing starts and MLS housing resales.

Kitchener: 11.3

Saskatoon: 10.5

Sherbrooke: 9.7

Toronto: 9.2

Quebec City: 8.6

Winnipeg: 8.3

Sudbury: 8.2

Edmonton: 7.9

Regina: 7.9

Calgary: 7.7

Hamilton: 7.5

St. Catharines: 7.4

Montreal: 7.2

Halifax: 7.2

Vancouver: 7.0

Trois-Rivières: 6.9

Saint John: 6.6

Victoria: 6.5

London: 6.1

St. John's: 6.0

Saguenay: 5.8

Ottawa: 4.7

Kingston: 2.1

Windsor: -0.4

Thunder Bay: -3.0

SOURCE: CIBC WORLD MARKETS INC.
 

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There is the answer to the question I asked myself after looking at Stats Can's population figures: why is Kitchener-Waterloo growing so much...27,000 over the last four years...
 

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It isn't so much that Kitchener has a lot of high-tech industry, it is a blue-collar city; it's actually Waterloo where the high-tech businesses are centered.

Check out the careers available at RIM:

http://www.rim.com/careers/na/index.shtml

They have been hiring like this for several years now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
^I'll second that. The K/W area is a nice mix of manufacturing and high-tech. The University of Waterloo is in no small way responsible for K/W's success. Let's not forget Cambridge too.. all the same wonderful pot.
 

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algonquin said:
^I'll second that. The K/W area is a nice mix of manufacturing and high-tech. The University of Waterloo is in no small way responsible for K/W's success. Let's not forget Cambridge too.. all the same wonderful pot.

Don't forget North Dumfries either!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
marathon said:
Don't forget North Dumfries either!
yer such a nut!

no, no... more like an ENIGMA. The strange American with an unholy knowledge of Ontario municipal structure... or some dude who uses google alot.

Speaking of which, RM Waterloo seems like the most likely candidate for amalgamation. 3 cities that comprise 1 single urban build-up, 4 townships, all within one county. Yet it didn't happen.
 

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algonquin said:
yer such a nut!

no, no... more like an ENIGMA. The strange American with an unholy knowledge of Ontario municipal structure... or some dude who uses google alot.
No google. Keeping up with the municipal structure in Canada is required for my job...and it keeps changing! Five years ago there was no Mississippi Mills, no Saugeen Shores, no West Nipissing, no Trent Hills...tell Ontario to stop it!

Speaking of which, RM Waterloo seems like the most likely candidate for amalgamation. 3 cities that comprise 1 single urban build-up, 4 townships, all within one county. Yet it didn't happen.
There's no dominant city there...if you amalgamated it into one city, what would you call it? ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
^ I'd avoid a name like Saugeen Shores, thats for sure. Sounds like a retirement home.

You have to tell me what your job is, I'm dying of curiosity. Are you a spy? Some sort of urban-planning James Bond?
 

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algonquin said:
^ I'd avoid a name like Saugeen Shores, thats for sure. Sounds like a retirement home.

You have to tell me what your job is, I'm dying of curiosity. Are you a spy? Some sort of urban-planning James Bond?
I'm a demographer and statistician, or what KGB would (and has!) call a "shitcounter" ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
marathon said:
I'm a demographer and statistician, or what KGB would call a "shitcounter" ;)
why the focus on Ontario? Do you observe demographics for all of North America, or are we some sort of worse case scenario?
 

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marathon said:
I'm a demographer and statistician, or what KGB would (and has!) call a "shitcounter" ;)
Do you count the shit, do you at least get to wear gloves ?
 

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algonquin said:
why the focus on Ontario? Do you observe demographics for all of North America, or are we some sort of worse case scenario?
No focus on Ontario at all. I can rattle off geography from any country you care to hear it...
 
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