Canadian Tire Sets an Example In Innisfil

Canadian Tire has set an example. Not a positive one, mind you. The company was allowed to dodge an increase in development charges, saving $354,200 as an incentive to complete their Alcona store in Innisfil. But after securing a building permit in September 2009 (the only condition imposed) ‘construction’ is still literally at ground level.

Initially the company claimed it was waiting for the ‘right economic conditions’. Now, the situation is blamed on “site preparation delays”. (i.e. – “We didn’t dig the foundation fast enough”?) The building might be ready to open this fall or as late as next spring in 2012.

This experience should be a cautionary example of what to expect when trying to lure major corporations to Innisfil. Some people pin hopes on job creation by attracting businesses to the Innisfil Heights industrial area.  Long experience has shown that this type of industrial development has a poor track record. Companies are prone to play one region against another, seeking tax breaks, grants and loans, lower wages or other concessions. And when circumstances change, they have no commitment to the host community and are the first to pack up and leave. In Barrie, all of the major manufacturing employers have long since moved to low-wage regions and countries. New arrivals are welcome but we also need to focus on existing local resources, including established businesses, new entrepreneurs, and the people who already have a commitment to this community.

In Canadian Tire’s case, a major tax incentive, a waiting family community, a potential multi-million dollar retail market  [Potential Purchasing Power in Innisfil] and a lack of local big box competition wasn’t enough to convince it to act as a responsible corporate citizen. Other municipalities with a Canadian Tire store or Marks Work Warehouse project on the books might want to take notice.

When Canadian Tire does arrive, it will bring some new retailing vitality to Innisfil but will also negatively impact some local businesses such as existing gas retailers, hardware chains, pet supply, and garden nurseries and draw some business away from south Barrie. Overall, it’s hard to say what the net benefit will be… every Innisfil household has sacrificed about $35 in lost municipal revenue for this venture and we’re still waiting. There better be some spectacular opening specials!