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Lefebvre: Despite pandemic, Sudbury economy is still doing well

Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre says construction is up, mining companies and mining suppliers are prospering and home sales are through the roof
MP Paul Lefebvre

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was in fact only eight months ago that one of Canada’s leading economists predicted Sudbury would have one of the strongest local economies in Canada.

Sudbury’s growing position as an internationally renowned global hub for mining and processing, coupled with its focus on attracting international workers, was starting to pay off, Trevin Stratton, chief economist and vice president of policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, told a local audience.

“There are a lot of positive stories, job growth has been strong going forward and there are a lot of opportunities in Sudbury, as well. You know, I think the way that the economy is changing, the way that the mining sector is changing, can be a huge opportunity for the region,” Stratton, said.

At that time, Sudbury’s unemployment rate was at 5 per cent, the lowest in recorded history. Sudbury had added several thousand new jobs in 2019. Construction was underway (and continues) on Vale’s $750-million Copper Cliff mine expansion, as well as Glencore’s $700-million Onaping Depth project.

And numerous Sudbury mining supply companies are leading the way in electric

underground vehicle technology. New battery and energy storage tech is being pioneered at an

industrial scale.

A lot has happened since Stratton addressed the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce last

December, but he was clearly right about Sudbury’s long-term future.

Specifically, Sudbury’s growing reputation as a mining centre has allowed our post-secondary schools to develop outstanding programs and attract the best students from other countries. That, in turn, makes it easier for local employers to fill the talent gaps that have been holding them back.

In fact, many of Sudbury’s small- and medium-sized mining suppliers continued working through the pandemic. Though travel restrictions made it hard to serve clients around the world, they adapted. Vale and Glencore kept producing, milling and smelting in Sudbury.

One of the biggest impediments many businesses faced was a shortage of skilled labour. The Rural and Northern Immigration Partnership officially launched in the spring, and the first of many much-needed foreign skilled workers have begun making homes in Sudbury.

Those businesses that did see disruptions were able to stay afloat thanks the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. And workers displaced benefited from millions of dollars paid out in Canada Emergency Response Benefits.

The fact is, Sudbury’s economic fundamentals remain strong. Sudbury’s July unemployment rate was 9.2 per cent, while Ontario and Canada were both well over 12 per cent. House sales broke a record this June, and are up 27 per cent over last summer, while the value of those sales are up 40 per cent. Contractors are impossible to find.

Trust me, I’ve tried.

Throughout the pandemic, Sudbury has benefited from a large group of asylum seekers, including many from Nigeria. They have never stopped working on the front lines in health care as PSWs, and in the retail and hospitality sectors. We owe them a debt of thanks, along with all of our frontline workers.

And in perhaps the most exciting news we’ve heard this summer, IAMGOLD announced it will start work immediately on its Côté Gold mine north of Sudbury with an initial capital expenditure close to $2 billion. All told, the project will create 1,000 construction jobs and 450 full-time jobs when Côté enters production, and their mine offices will be in Sudbury.

Going forward, I anticipate local, provincial, and federal discussions on re-opening our country and rebuilding our economy safely and sustainably. The pandemic exposed a lot of holes in our social safety net, especially EI and disability supports. These will have to be sealed.

And research shows a disproportionate number of displaced workers in Canada continue to be women. Quality, affordable childcare has to be part of the discussion, so we can return to full workplace participation again.

We have accomplished a great deal together in the past several months. But we have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure Canada remains a safe and inclusive country for everyone.

Paul Lefebvre in Member of Parliament for Sudbury and Parliamentary Secretary the Minister of Natural Resources.