The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce has a mixed reaction to last week’s provincial budget. The local chamber says it’s pleased the government is investing in regional economic development as well as money towards apprenticeship and skills development. The province is also committing $500 million towards increasing broadband access in areas, like Haliburton County, in need of high-speed internet.

However, Chamber Vice-President, Linda Baumgartner says the rising cost of doing business in the province is hindering small businesses. Baumgartner adds that if entrepreneurs make between $50,000 to $150,000 in passive investment income, that would work out to an extra $350 million a year in revenues for the province. Earlier this year, local chamber President Richard Wannan said that small businesses account for over 97 per cent of businesses in Ontario and that raising taxes on them is unfair. However, Wannan also mentioned there was a shortage of skilled labour, but the budget addresses that.

The Eastern Ontario Regional Network is the organization trying to eliminate high-speed internet gaps and cell phone coverage gaps in Haliburton County. Last year, E.O.R.N. Co-Lead Jim Pine said that he had hoped to get a response from the federal and provincial governments by November of 2017, but that came and passed without a word. The provincial budget will see spending of over $158 billion this fiscal year carrying a $6.7 billion deficit.