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Chamber head sees bullishness

DAVE Angus, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, believes a recent survey of Manitoba business leaders indicates a very strong degree of confidence among Manitoba's business community.

"The level of confidence out there speaks to a real opportunity," Angus said. "It is the conditions we need in order to grow."

With more than 50 per cent of respondents indicating their workforce has grown over the past year and more than 50 per cent having increased capital spending this year, Angus said it's a very good sign for the province.

According to the chamber's current theme, he said, "It's time to be bold."

The survey received responses from a selection of 174 chamber members.

The results reveal a much more optimistic outlook from the business community compared with the last survey the chamber did. But that was in 2010 while the economy was still feeling the effects of the last recession.

"This is a significant change from what business leaders told us in 2010 as the recession was having a clear impact on these key metrics," said Angus. "The challenge now for the various levels of government and the business community is to strengthen the business climate to ensure this becomes a reality."

According to the Bold Business Leaders Survey, done in partnership with Aikins Law, Lazer Grant LLP and Legacy Bowes Group, more than one in three (37 per cent) business leaders cited labour availability and skill shortages as the greatest challenge facing their company over the next year, followed by the continued economic slowdown and rising operational costs.

Province's jobs picture better

JOB prospects have brightened in Manitoba, according to the latest Help-Wanted Index survey by the Conference Board of Canada.

The board said Tuesday Manitoba's index rose 3.7 points in October, offsetting about half of the losses recorded in the two previous months. A rising index suggests more job growth in the short term.

The rise here was part of a broadly based trend that saw index gains posted in every province in October, the board said. That drove up the national index by nine points, which more than offset the losses from the previous two months. The Help-Wanted Index is based on the seasonally adjusted number of new, unduplicated jobs posted online during the month across 79 Canadian job-posting websites.

CWB ships first load of canola

THE Canadian Wheat Board has shipped its first load of canola, a cargo of 42,000 tonnes, aboard the ship Tai Health, which is bound for Japan.

Changes to the western Canadian grain marketing system, implemented this year by the federal government, allow the CWB to market canola for the first time in history. Adding canola expands the CWB's crop mix, which already includes wheat, durum and malting barley.

The canola, which was shipped from the Port of Prince Rupert in B.C., has been purchased by the Japanese agricultural co-operative Zen-Noh, which has chosen the CWB to be its main supplier of Canadian grain.

CWB president and CEO Ian White said the canola was a mix of cash purchases from companies and farmers as well as canola committed by farmers in the CWB pool which runs from harvest to June 30, 2013.

CP plans to cut 4,500 jobs

CALGARY -- Canadian Pacific says it will eliminate some 4,500 jobs by 2016 and expects more than a third of those cuts to come by year-end as the struggling railroad works to bring down its operating costs.

The Calgary-based company said Tuesday the reductions will be achieved through job cuts, attrition and reducing contractors as part of its restructuring plan.

It expects 1,700 positions to be eliminated by the end of the year. In total, the reductions will amount to the elimination of about a quarter of some 19,500 employees and contractors operating in six provinces and 13 U.S. states.

The cuts are part of a plan to increase annual revenue growth between four and seven per cent from 2012 levels as well as reduce its full-year operating ratio -- a closely watched measure of how much revenue is required to run the business -- to the mid-60s range by 2016.

The strategic moves are the latest for the railway since a new board of directors installed Hunter Harrison as its chief executive officer in the summer following a bitter proxy fight with the company's largest shareholder.

More lost days in public sector

TORONTO -- A new report suggests public-sector employees in Canada take nearly five more sick, disability and personal days per year than Canadians working in the private sector.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says those extra days cost up to $3.5 billion per year, noting some public-sector workers can bank unused sick days, then take a lump-sum payment or use the days to retire early.

The CFIB says federal government employees take the most time off, averaging 15.2 sick, disability and personal days per year compared with 12.9 days in the overall public sector and 8.2 days in the private sector.

Employees in businesses with fewer than 20 employees averaged 6.7 days off, while those in firms with more than 500 employees took 9.1 days, which is still lower than the public sector average.

-- from staff, news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2012 B6

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