Government investment, weakening dollar, stronger US economy could spell relief for Canada’s manufacturers

A couple of announcements from the federal government in the last few days could mean good news for Southern Ontario’s manufacturing sector.

Last Friday, the government announced that it was investing $530 million in the Southern Ontario Prosperity Initiatives (SOPIs). These initiatives are not manufacturing specific, but are open to all types of business ventures. This includes new businesses that are starting up require mentorship and entrepreneurial support. Established businesses that “have the potential to be global players” can also apply for funding.

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Today in a separate announcement, the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), Gary Goodyear, announced the launch of the Advanced Manufacturing Fund (AMF). The fund is meant to aid in developing “transformative products and technologies” that will help Ontario manufacturers create jobs and compete globally.

The aim of the Advanced Manufacturing Fund is to create the new and innovative products “that will push Ontario to the forefront of high-tech manufacturing,” Minister Goodyear said.

The president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), Jayson Myers, said that his organization supports the launch of the AMF “as it continues to equip manufacturers with the right tools to become more successful.”

Advanced manufacturing means, for the purposes of the fund, “the development and/or adoption of cutting-edge technologies that demonstrate a commitment to product, process, and technological innovation.”

Canada’s manufacturing sector has seen some signs of renewed vigour in the last few months. In November, manufacturers added 24,900 new employees to their payrolls. Statistics Canada said that manufacturing led all but one of the sectors it tracks in November, that one sector being business, building and other support services, which added 31,200 positions.

Economists are already talking about a Canadian dollar below 90 cents US, which will help Canada’s manufacturers. Some see the dollar’s slide as evidence that the worst may be over for the sector. A CME spokesman noted that positive economic news in the United States—improving employment, increased housing starts—“are signs we’re looking for.” The US unemployment rate is now at 7 per cent, a five-year low.

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