January 18


Another year is now in the books. A number of highs and lows were recorded in 2017 and we take a look at a few of the top business stories that helped shape our economy and what will continue to have an impact in 2018 and beyond.

NAFTA negotiations will be front and centre as Canada, the U.S. and Mexico get back to the bargaining table in an effort to salvage the 23-year-old trilateral agreement. At worst, it seems as if Canada and the U.S. will strike a deal, but it remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will freeze out Mexico altogether. But as former Canadian Chamber of Commerce policy expert Hendrik Brakel stated, it would be better to have no agreement than a bad one for Canada. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.

As of January 1, minimum wage earners in Ontario now receive $14 per hour and that figure will be raised to $15 per hour as of January 1, 2019. Wait staff and bartenders – where tips are the norm – will see their wages set at $12.20 per hour. You can bet other provincial and territorial jurisdictions will be watching with a close eye as this is going to serve as a real litmus test as to whether or not small businesses can absorb these higher costs. Keep in mind associated services and their charges will also be impacted. The service industry, most notably restaurants and bars, will be greatly affected. Then there are the thousands of people who were earning $13 or $14 per hour prior to the bump up. Will there be a ripple effect that sees their pay increase, or are they now going to accept being a part of a larger group earning minimum wage? The full impact likely won’t be known for at least three months and perhaps as long as six months.

Hunter Harrison was certainly not a household name, but for those who follow the multi-billion-dollar railroad industry, he was its superstar executive. The charismatic Harrison died somewhat unexpectedly in December at the age of 73, just two days after taking a medical leave of absence. His death leaves a large void that will be hard to fill. Harrison was a legend, known for turning around failing or underperforming operations and making them extremely profitable. Originally from Tennessee he was a no-nonsense individual who had a vision of the finish line and wouldn’t let anything stand in his way as he raced down the track. Harrison served as the chief executive with a number of companies, including Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific and was the CEO at CSX Corp of Florida at the time of his death.

Did you know?… Canada will become the first industrialized nation to legalize marijuana when it comes into law, likely in July. It will be interesting to see just how much of a volume increase there will be on Highway 420.

Angus Gillespie

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