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Businesses expressing concerns over affordability, labour, and supply chain challenges

Educating for jobs today and jobs we don't know about in the future is key, Yedlin said.

Canadian businesses are expressing continued concerns over inflation, labour participation, continued high costs of doing business, and lack of growth in profitability.

Those, according to the Q3 Canadian Survey on Business Conditions from Statistics Canada.

Local businesses are facing even higher uncertainty depending on their sector, according to the survey data released by the national statistical agency along with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“They’re facing a confluence of factors,” said Deborah Yedlin, CEO for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“I think they probably thought that after the pandemic was over things would get a little easier, and unfortunately they haven’t.”

Yedlin said that local businesses are facing growing supply chain problems, rising interest rates, and a weaker Canadian dollar. Businesses in Calgary are also facing issues surrounding labour skills needed to support business operations.

“When the bottom fell out of the energy sector in 2014, we had people starting to look elsewhere, and we still have an economy that’s diversifying, and we need the skill sets to support that diversification,” Yedlin said.

“We don’t necessarily have that, but the world’s facing talent shortages. This isn’t unique to Alberta.”

Data from Statistics Canada shows that within the next three months, Alberta businesses are more optimistic than the overall Canadian average that they will be able to recruit skilled employees. However, the percentage of businesses saying they expect obstacles ranges from 15.5 per cent for the agriculture and forestry industries, to 38.2 per cent for health care and social assistance, to 51.7 per cent for accommodation and food industries.

Chamber calls on all orders of government to improve business conditions

Yedlin said that affordability for businesses continues to be a global problem. Canadian, Albertan, and Calgary issues exasperate challenges for Chamber members.

On the issue of supply chain challenges, she pointed to the ongoing work on the Port of Vancouver as a Canadian example that affects Calgary businesses.

"That's been a project, I think it's been in the works for eight years now. It's still not received all its environmental approvals that it needs," she said.

"The infrastructure piece, from a business standpoint, this is an issue that has to be addressed as a pan Canadian problem and we have to understand that we have to enable the efficient flow of goods and services."

She said that Alberta has the highest wages per capita in the country.

"In theory, you should be able to attract the talent that you need to fill the jobs that that you have that are open," Yedlin said.

Yedlin called on all orders of government to find ways of training, and accrediting workers.

"We obviously know that immigration is a very important part of this. We need to make sure that there's an avenue for people who immigrate to Canada to become accredited in their professions, and be able to be part of the economy going forward," she said.

"That has to be an efficient process, and we haven't figured that out."

Local municipal permitting delays, post-secondary funding need to be addressed

Yedlin said the provincial government needs to commit to funding post-secondary institutions to meet business needs.

"Just as an example, the University of Calgary was operating at the equivalent of 2005 funding levels with record enrolment," she said.

"If you really want to invest in the future, and you want to create the talent pool for the future, you have to invest in education. That's K through 12, that's post secondary, and it's also technical schools. We really need a comprehensive strategy to make sure that we can educate the population to be as productive as possible for an economy that has jobs today and for jobs that haven't been created yet."

Permitting issues with the City of Calgary are also causing delays for businesses. Yedlin used an example of a small bakery, still waiting to open in a neighbourhood strip mall. They're still waiting for a permit.

"If we can just decrease the time that people need to obtain permits for constructing and getting their businesses up and running. That's something we hear about all the time," Yedlin said.

"In this world time is money. You borrow money, and whatever you do, however you fund your operations, you don't want to have to be waiting to open your business when you have everything else in place."

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that Calgary City Council has read the comments from the Chamber regarding affordability, on the upcoming city budget, and are interested in creating a business friendly city.

"I can tell you that this council, including Councillor Chabot and myself, are very interested in doing just that."

"We have Councillor Sharp who serves on council now, that used to be in business and local economy team. She brings with her a very strong understanding of the policies that we need to create a thriving business environment within our city."

She pointed to the Strategic Meeting of Council that occurred on Sept. 20, as an example of how council is working to balance mill rates between residential and non-residential properties.

"We talked a lot about what it means to set a mill rate, and what it means to have a budget where we understand how we fund and finance the things we need in our city," the mayor said.

"I think people will be happy with the diligence that council has shown and the way we're able to provide equity between residential and non-residential properties."