Growth is here — now what?
Our region’s population grew by 9,445 people between 2016 and 2021 — an increase of 6.8%
That’s above the provincial population growth change of 5.8%, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
What’s most surprising is the imbalance in growth between Peterborough city and county. The City of Peterborough added 2,619 people, an increase of 3.2%, while the county added 6,858 people for a staggering 12% increase — more than double the provincial average.
The County of Peterborough’s outgoing Official Plan worked with the projection of the population increasing to 61,000 by 2031. It’s currently at 64,000. The current draft official plan has a revised projection of 82,000 people by 2051. If growth continues at its current pace, it will hit that target by 2031. Even at the provincial average growth rate, Peterborough County will hit 82,000 people by 2041.
There is the possibility that at the last 5 years are an anomaly. Perhaps it was the perfect storm of ready-to-go subdivision plans, investments in municipal water and sewer capacity, and a sudden desire for people to get out of the big city and move here. Between 2011 and 2016, the county’s population increased by a respectable 4.4%.
Meanwhile the City of Peterborough has been consistently growing at around 3% every five years. The census indicates growth at 4.4% in 2011, 2.9% in 2016, and 3.2% in 2021. It’s on track to hit its growth target of 88,000 people by 2031 as set out in the official plan.
Evidently, the desire for growth is still outpacing our ability to provide it. The average house price in January jumped to $814,495. Month-after-month of record-breaking house prices should be a good indication that our region has more growth potential.
Growth in this range is going to bring more challenges, especially as more people flock to rural communities.
Transportation infrastructure is critical in managing a booming population. We need efficient ways to move people where they want to go. We’re going to find that some of our four-way stop sign intersections can’t handle the volume of traffic any more. Roads will need to be upgraded, passing lanes added, and bridges rehabilitated. There is also a growing desire for better cycling infrastructure and transit service. Facilitating growth includes expanding infrastructure like water and sewer service, recreational facilities, and high-speed internet.
Growth can be expensive.
But growth also brings opportunity for local businesses. More people living local leads to an increased need for groceries, places to eat, recreational opportunities, and entertainment. Some new residents are even bringing their businesses with them. The overall customer base is growing and that’s a community benefit.
The census numbers also show that growth happens with no particular concern for municipal borders, highlighting the need for us to work as a region in our approach to economic development and planning future infrastructure.
Regardless of the price tag, our region is in the midst of a population boom. It’s time to embrace the situation, plan and invest in the infrastructure needed to facilitate this growth, and make the most of the opportunities it presents.
iGaming rollout raises concerns
People have been gambling and betting online since the 90’s. It has been consistently growing and has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry.
The Government of Ontario is looking to get a piece of this lucrative sector, setting a launch date of April 4 for its new iGaming initiative.
The modernization of gaming revenue in Ontario is an important issue that provides new opportunities while also raising some concerns. It is anticipated that the iGaming initiative will allow the Government of Ontario to capture revenue that might otherwise go to offshore gaming providers. However, we are concerned that Ontario’s approach may come at the expense of current revenue and employment sources our communities depend on.
A recent study by HLT Advisory Inc. examining the impact of the iGaming initiative on Ontario’s gaming industry concluded that over the next 5 years there is a potential loss of more than 2,500 Ontario-based casino jobs, $191 million in municipal contributions and $3 billion in Ontario government revenues.
It’s not as simple as just regulating and taxing an existing offshore industry — it has real implications for jobs and revenue locally.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce is leading an advocacy initiative, working with eight additional chambers as well as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, to push for a more cautious, balanced approach to the iGaming rollout.
Ontario is not the first jurisdiction in North America to legalize iGaming. Every U.S. state that has introduced iGaming has done so in a coordinated manner with existing land-based casinos. While we remain supportive of proposals to expand opportunities for private enterprise within Ontario’s regulated gaming space, the chamber is raising concerns regarding direct impacts to land-based casino operations as a result of the legislation as currently drafted.
We are urging the Government of Ontario to:
● Work with stakeholders, including land-based casinos, to minimize local job losses and ensure the addition of iGaming will result in the growth of Ontario-based jobs in the gaming sector;
● Provide casino host communities with an iGaming plan that demonstrates a negligible impact on municipal revenue sharing;
● Provide municipalities across Ontario with an iGaming revenue sharing agreement with a similar structure to the gas tax program; and
● Work with stakeholders to establish a competitive tax rate for iGaming that is fair to land-based casinos but also encourages offshore operators to join Ontario’s proposed framework.
Our approach is not aimed at stifling a growing sector, but making sure our foray into it is balanced and doesn’t come at the cost of existing community benefits. We have an opportunity to make iGaming a win for communities across Ontario. Let’s take our time and get it right.
Business outlook gaining optimism