Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

On a warm summer day, the patio at Thirteen in downtown Cambridge is a popular spot.

 

The pedestrian-friendly space created by the temporary closure of Main Street between Water Street South and Ainslie Street North has enabled the restaurant and its neighbouring eateries to create an inviting atmosphere for residents and visitors as Ontario’s reopening continues in wake of the pandemic.

 

But despite this great potential, Thirteen co-owner Matt Rolleman has only been able to operate the restaurant five days a week due to a staffing shortage.

 

“The staff we have is great and they’ve worked so hard, but I would have to put everyone into overtime all the time if we wanted to remain open seven days a week,” he says. “Right now, we don’t use our second-floor restaurant at all. We definitely don’t have the staff for that.”

 

He’s not alone. Many industries – from construction to manufacturing to hospitality – are having difficulty finding workers.

 

According to Statistics Canada, as reported by the Financial Post in early June, an estimated 632,700 positions – approximately 4.1% of jobs in Canada - were vacant in March. This translates, according to the article, approximately 100 basis points higher than pre-pandemic levels.

 

Matt says by the fall his ultimate hope is to be able to run the restaurant at pre-COVID-19 levels.

 

“But it’s going to be a struggle,” he admits, adding while searching the job site Indeed Canada looking for staff, he’s noticed many people working in local restaurants seeking opportunities in other establishments.

 

“There’s been a lot of upheaval. Some people who’ve been out of the restaurant industry for the past year have decided they are not coming back and that’s just the way it is.”

 

Canadian Tire owner Kerry Leroux has also found himself facing a few hurdles when it comes to finding employees.

 

“We are in a constant state of hiring. We’re always looking for people,” he says. “You’re also in a constant state of training as well which makes it very difficult on the other staff, so we have to get them trained as quickly as possible.”

 

He says some retail businesses will put new employees right to work on the floor with virtually no training which is something he doesn’t do at his store which usually employs about 150 workers (about 40% of whom are full time).

 

“That’s really not fair to the employee or the customers when you do that,” says Kerry, adding this is the first time he’s experienced an employment situation like this since taking over the operation of the Pinebush Road store 10 years ago.

 

Like many, he finds it difficult to understand why there are so many job vacancies, considering

Canada’s unemployment rate in May was 8.2% which translated in the loss of 68,000 jobs.

 

But Brendon Bernard, a senior economist at Indeed Canada Corp., was quoted in the Financial Post explaining that the natural push and pull between the number of people seeking employment and available jobs has been thrown into turmoil by the pandemic.

 

Factors in this ‘upheaval’, according to the article, include a spike in demand for products and services in sectors that were already struggling to find qualified workers and potential health risks frontline workers face being exposed to COVID-19.

 

Couple these factors with enhanced employment benefits from the federal government, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), and the pressure has been reduced for people when it comes taking what are considered as lower-paid jobs.

 

“Once the CERB was announced by the Feds that really slowed down the number of people applying for jobs,” says Kerry, noting that providing the benefit to students during January and February which are the slowest months in the retail business also didn’t help

“It made no sense at that time of the year for the government to hand over $500 a week to a student living at home,” he says, adding the money might have had more impact if it had been directed towards their education costs instead. “I think they (government) looked at it in the wrong way.”

 

For Mehrzad Salkhordeh, part owner of dB Noise Reductions Inc., a Cambridge-based engineering company that offers a variety of noise reduction solutions, he says the CERB has made it difficult for many small businesses.

 

“I think for the younger generation - not to stereotype or categorize – it won’t hit them until it hits them,” he says, adding the tax implications of collecting the benefit will eventually be felt. “When they do their taxes next year, they will see the impact and then they will start looking for opportunities. For them, I think next year is going to be wake-up call.”

 

Currently, he too has had trouble filling positions and says ongoing border closures has resulted in fewer qualified immigrants entering the workforce as well as international students from taking part time jobs in many sectors.

“I’m hoping with the vaccinations and with better progress we seem to be having with COVID-19 that things will go back to being a bit more normal,” says Mehrzad, adding there is a need now for the government to motivate and accommodate small businesses.

 

He says offering higher wages seems like an easy fix but doing so will quickly impact the bottom line for most small businesses.

 

“I think $20 an hour is a pretty good starting point for someone with no experience who is starting fresh. But I know you can’t live off $40,000 a year and feed a family and pay rent,” he says. “As a person I understand that. But as an employer, if I want to pay this person $25 an hour, I must raise my pricing and servicing and will not be able to maintain the business.”

 

Kerry says offering incentives – such as profit sharing and good benefits - and promoting how his store is ‘different’ from other retailers is imperative when it comes to finding workers.

 

“There’s a lot of jobs out there and people are coming in with very specific questions on what this job can do for me, and that’s fair,” he says. “I want them to ask those questions because I want them to see the differences between one or the other.”

 

Matt agrees finding the right person is vital but says even without CERB, which is scheduled to end on September 25, hiring workers will remain difficult taking into account new and larger employers in our Region, such as the suspected Amazon facility in the works near Blair.

 

“These opportunities are great and will employ a lot of people in terms of secure jobs. But I look at them as an opportunity for me to lose some staff,” he says, adding at his restaurant COVID-19 fears have lessened among staff due to ongoing and strict safety protocols. “There’s enough going on in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge right now so if someone wants to leave a job and find another job, they can do it relatively quickly depending on what they are looking for.”

 

According to Statistics Canada in March:

  • 4.1% of jobs in Canada – roughly 632,700 – were vacant
  • Canada’s unemployment rate was 8.2%, with another 68,000 jobs lost
  • Hospitality sector posted a vacancy rate of 7.4% (roughly 68,400) unfilled jobs
  • Construction sector posted a vacancy rate of 5.8% (roughly 58,300) unfilled jobs
  • Transportation & warehousing posted a vacancy rate of 3.9% (roughly 30,600) unfilled jobs
  • Retail posted a vacancy rate of 4% (roughly 75,300) unfilled jobs
  • Healthcare & social assistance sector’s job vacancy rate was 4.8% (roughly 104,200 jobs)

 

Source: Financial Post

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Having employees return to the workplace will be a welcomed sign for many as an indication the worst days of the pandemic may finally be behind us.

 

But that return will be accompanied by questions and concerns as businesses and their staff learn to navigate what is likely going to be a very different work environment – both professionally and personally - compared to the one they left in March 2020.

 

“There are a lot of employers and HR people who right now are putting together some policies and codes of conduct for their workplace,” says Julie Blais Comeau, Chief Etiquette Officer at Etiquettejulie.com, explaining that these guidelines will be imperative for employees. “At first, generally speaking, we’re all going to follow our employers’ guidelines.”

 

But outside of these guidelines there will be the personal interactions with both co-workers and clients, many of whom returning employees may not have seen in-person since the start of the pandemic.

 

In terms of these interactions, various safety protocols we’ve all lived with for the past year and half – wearing masks and staying socially distanced – will likely remain at the forefront of our minds when we once again are face-to-face with others.

 

“Before asking any questions or displaying certain behaviours, you’re going to think back to your relationship with that person from before,” says Julie, suggesting approaching from the perspective of ‘friend or foe’. “You’re going to want to switch that lens 180 degrees and approach them from an empathic perspective. How do you feel that person perceives you?”

She recommends letting a person’s body language guide you, noting that 55% of communication is based on body language and that tone and pitch of the voice make up the remainder.

 

“Make sure that whatever you’re going to do or say will be perceived in a positive manner,” says Julie. “There will be nothing wrong with saying, ‘I’m so glad to see you again – how are you?’. And then wait and observe the visual cues.”

 

She says taking the cues from the person you’re interacting with is very important, noting that in some cultures personal health issues are not something that is shared, while others may prefer to keep their mental and physical health status private.

 

“If you’re going to ask questions then ask yourself why are you asking? Are you generally concerned or being cautious for yourself or is it just curiosity?” says Julie, adding being ‘nosy’ is not a valid reason. “What is the context of why I’m asking and what could be the consequences if it’s not interpreted well?”

When it comes to sharing one’s vaccination status, she says it’s OK to volunteer your status if you are comfortable with that person but that others may not feel the same.

 

“Some people don’t want to say because they’re afraid of confrontation and afraid the other person is going to lobby for them to get vaccinated,” says Julie, noting there are many reasons why a person may choose not to be vaccinated. “I think we have to be very benevolent and respectful for the people who don’t want to.”

 

Questions surrounding vaccinations and how employers must handle this issue is a key concern right now says Victoria Vati, Account Manager at Peninsula Canada. The company provides a variety of services pertaining to human resources and health and safety.

 

“Each individual workplace has a number of staff all of whom will have a different level of understanding and different opinions,” says Victoria, noting ensuring staff remains safe but also feels secure are top priorities when it comes to implementing workplace guidelines and policies.

 

She says her company has been providing the latest information regarding the vaccines to ensure its employees have the education they need to make informed choices. Also, she says some companies may even provide a day off for employees to get their vaccinations.

 

“Finding a balance that works not only for your industry but for your staff will be the most important thing,” she says. “Not every business has the luxury of having employees work from home. You need to find a good balance that meets health and safety requirements but doesn’t infringe on anyone’s human rights.”

 

She says screening and contact tracing will continue to be very important, as well providing things such as hand sanitizer and even wearing masks.

 

“You can still argue right now masks are mandatory and must be worn in common areas, especially when social distancing rules cannot be applied,” says Victoria, adding businesses can insist masks continue to be worn even if they are no longer mandatory in public places.

 

She says ensuring employees are aware of the health and safety policies that are in place is vital through signage and written communications.

 

“If you don’t have it in writing, it doesn’t really exist,” says Victoria, referring to guidelines and polices.

 

She says the pandemic may have provided businesses with a unique opportunity.

 

“Let’s try to come out of this with new ideas and a bright fresh start; it’s kind of having hit the reset button,” says Victoria.

 

Julie agrees and says etiquette is also constantly evolving.

 

“We observe with this great microscope what is commonly agreed upon as to what is acceptable for a large group of us versus another,” she says, referring to etiquette experts like herself. “Society dictates what is appropriate.”

 

For more information, please visit Peninsula Canada or Etiquettejulie.com.

 

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Cloudy morning skies gave way to afternoon sunshine which paved the way for a fun day at our recent Golf Classic.

 

The annual tournament, the first ‘official’ large golfing event held at the Galt Country Club since the pandemic began, brought out more than 80 participants July 12, many of whom couldn’t wait to hit the links again and reconnect with others outside of a virtual setting.

 

“It’s so nice to see camaraderie and nice to actually see people and faces,” said Energy+ CFO Sarah Hughes, after taking a swing mid-course during the day-long event.

 

She had already been golfing for a couple of weeks with her women’s league prior to our event but relished the chance to golf with members of her corporate team.

 

“One of the gentlemen is new to our team so this is a nice onboarding. And another gentlemen on my team I haven’t seen in-person in a year and half,” said Sarah. “It’s just so great to be able to see people.”

 

That same sentiment was shared by many of the participants as they made their way around the 18-hole course, and visited the sponsored holes spread throughout.

 

“I find it very energizing to see people and reconnect,” said Kristen Danson, Managing Partner at Mitographics Inc./Swift Components Corp., adding the tournament is a great way for operators of the businesses that sponsored holes to network. “It’s neat for them to have the chance to engage with Chamber Members. A virtual setting is hard for small businesses, and they really need to be here in-person talking to people.”

 

Networking and having the chance to meet people was something Anthony Gignac, an Associate at Racolta Jensen LLP Chartered Accountant, said he welcomed as a first-time participant at the Golf Classic.

 

“It’s great to have the chance to socialize and say hi to new people,” he said, while finishing his boxed lunch after a busy morning of golf.

 

Lunch and a take home dinner ‘kit’ created by the talented kitchen staff at Galt Country Club were provided to all the participants in keeping with Stage 2 safety protocols regarding indoor dining. (Waterloo Region was scheduled to move into Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan on Friday, July 16).

 

In terms of the COVID-19 protocols, participants said they felt very safe.

 

“People are just so glad to be outside. I don’t think there’s as much apprehension or hesitation considering vaccination rates,” said John Tyrrell, Sales Manager at TD Commercial Banking.

 

Erica Tennenbaum, Wealth Advisor at RBC Dominion Securities, agreed and said she felt comfortable with people’s mask etiquette.

 

“It’s just so nice and refreshing and heartwarming to see everybody,” she said.

John echoed that same feeling.

 

“It’s just nice to be out of the office and see people’s faces again and golf is really the only thing you can do in a larger group setting, so it’s nice to see some familiar faces again,” he said.

 

Having the opportunity to not only reconnect with both familiar and new Members helped make the day a success said Cambridge Chamber CEO and President Greg Durocher.

 

“We’re thrilled we could provide our Members and their guests with the chance to not only meet safely but have a great time doing something that’s familiar and fun. We all can use it considering how tough the last year and half has been,” he said. “We also appreciate the support of our many sponsors for helping to create such a memorable event for everyone.”

 

Plans are in the works for our annual Fall Scramble, so please keep an eye on our Events calendar for more.

 

For a look at photos from our Golf Classic and a list of prize winners, please visit: https://bit.ly/3AEyTkB

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With travel and tourism in general still off the agenda due to the lingering impacts of COVID-19, many people have been transforming their own backyards into the ideal ‘destination spot’.

 

The term ‘backyarding’ has become a very familiar one for those who specialize in the home and garden industry, especially over the course of the last few years.

 

“Backyarding has grown phenomenally both on the backyard garden side of things and the home gardener aspect of it as well as the bird feeder side of the business for us,” says Ian Graham, General Manager of Pinebush Home & Garden Ltd. “People are spending a tremendous amount of time in their backyards.”

 

He says the pandemic has only amplified the situation, noting a significant increase in business at the Sheldon Drive wholesale facility which offers bird feeders and garden tools and is a subsidiary of B.C.-based West Coast Seeds.

 

“We had already slated ourselves for some serious growth going into 2020,” says Ian, outlining how the company moved from Mount Forest to its brightly coloured 30,000-square-foot facility in Cambridge nearly two years ago with plans for product expansion related to its parent company in B.C. “Then COVID-19 hit, and we could barely keep up with things out west, so we’ve had to postpone doing it (expansion) until the next calendar year.”

 

And although June and July are a slower season in the seed business, since most planting is conducted in the spring, he says business has remained steady not only this summer but throughout the pandemic for him and the handful of his employees who work in Cambridge.

 

“There was already a movement towards sustainability, and about growing your own food,” says Ian, noting the pandemic has only enhanced it.

 

“Gardening and birding are very much people’s passions,” he says, joking how he

has installed eight to 10 bird feeders in his own backyard.

 

“It can be very addictive,” says Ian.

 

The results of a 2020 HomeStars report indicated that using their extra time at home to create a ‘backyard oasis’ has been a popular pastime for many.  

 

According to the report, the results of which were published in April by Realtor.ca, show nearly half of survey respondents took the time to make many outdoor updates, such as adding landscaping, fencing, building a deck, or creating ‘kitchens’ or ‘living rooms’ outdoors.

 

As well, pool and hot tub installations are also near the top of the backyard ‘wish list’ of many homeowners, just ask Cambridge Pool Supplies owner Melissa Deverell.

 

“Last year the pandemic was still very new to everybody,” she says, taking a break between helping customers at the family-owned business on Dundas Street North. “At first, people weren’t leaving their homes because they were scared, but we became overwhelmingly busy once people realized we could still help them out curbside.”

 

 

However, fast forward a year and Melissa says the picture has dramatically changed.

 

“It’s been absolute insanity. In all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” she says, describing the demand for pools, hot tubs and supplies which quickly skyrocketed, noting they installed their first pool at the end of March. “Everybody seems to be spending money on their homes that normally they may have spent on themselves.”

 

Melissa says business became so brisk she and her sister, Becky Smith, called in their mother, Anne, who retired from the business several years ago, to help.

 

The company has even left the deadline for its pool opening services ‘open ended’ to assist folks who have been late out of the gate getting their pools ready.

 

“I’ve had to hire extra people,” says Melissa, noting this is the busiest year she’s experienced in the eight years of owning Cambridge Pools and Supplies and that keeping up to the demand while following provincial restrictions does offer its challenges.

 

“There’s nothing easy trying to run a business curbside, especially when it’s supposed to be so interactive,” she says, adding having customers back in the store and the support of the community has been wonderful.

 

Among the more popular items being sold at the store, besides pool toys and ‘fun’ signs, patio furniture is near the top of many lists.

 

“Usually, we only pick up a couple of pieces a year. But this year, we brought in a whole line of furniture,” says Melissa.

 

As well, she says many customers are paying even closer attention to the quality of their water because of COVID-19.

 

“We’ve had more people come in and get their water tested and learn more about water chemistry and what are the proper parameters to ensure their families are safe,” says Melissa. “It’s a question that should have been asked years ago.”

 

She says going forward, she expects some changes will remain in place at the store, such as keeping a hand sanitizer station at the front door and a plexiglass shield at the front counter.

“It changes your whole mindset,” says Melissa, referring to the impact of COVID-19. “I don’t know what the next year is going to be like, but I know once a pool is installed that’s maintenance for life.”

 

For more, visit  https://www.cambridgepoolsupplies.com and https://www.pbhomegarden.com

 

PULLOUT: The top-10 home improvements in 2020 according to HomeAdvisor:

 

1. Interior painting

2. Bathroom reno

3. Flooring

4. Landscaping

5. Kitchen renos

6. Exterior painting

7. Smart home technology

8. Roofing

9. Fencing

10. Deck or Porch

 

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As the world slowly begins to reopen in wake of the pandemic, thoughts of visiting other places are very much on the mind of many.

 

Trave expert Judy Silva-Foye, Branch Manager at Vision Travel in Cambridge, says the pent-up demand for wanting to travel is growing steadily as restrictions continue to be lifted and vaccinations roll out.

 

“People are tired of being confined to their homes. They’re tired of being scared and not being able to socialize. They’re just tired period,” she says. “There is a huge demand right now for travel and I believe when the floodgates open, there will be a lot of people who just want to travel.”

 

The indication, currently being seen in the U.S., is clear that leisure travel is already beginning to rebound toward pre-pandemic levels as travel experts like Judy field numerous inquiries from people looking to book holidays for later this year and next.

 

But what about those travelling for business?

 

According to Fortune magazine, it was estimated that until the pandemic struck in March of 2020 decimating the entire travel sector, corporate travel accounted for roughly $300 billion of the global airline industry’s $800 billion in revenue and represented about 50% to 70% of its profit basis.

 

Companies during the greater part of this worldwide crisis quickly began to rely on Zoom meetings with more success than many had initially predicted, not to mention saving millions on travel with an expectation this trend will continue.

 

However, this may not be the case. According to a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month, many companies that have learned to do without travel during the pandemic say they are ready to start packing their bags again instead of defaulting to virtual alternatives. In fact, several high-profile events, such as the TED conference, are returning to an in-person format this summer.

 

“I think Zoom has filled a void and has allowed people to realize it can be an option. But I firmly believe it will not be the main option,” says Judy. “I see it as a secondary choice for some of those lesser calls or meetings that don’t require people travelling to discuss an issue.”

 

A survey conducted in mid-June by Statista – a German-based company that specializes in market and consumer data – contacted companies in several countries, including Canada, to get a sense of what their travel plans are.

The results among Canadian companies were as followed:

  • 18% said they have no plans to resume travel in the near future;
  • 52% have considered resuming travel in the near future, but have no definite plans;
  • 18% said they plan to resume travel in the near future (1-3 months);
  • 12% said they were unsure.

Judy says her company’s corporate division has been fielding many inquiries recently for business travel and have been signing new accounts.

 

“We have a bunch of new businesses that want to turn to a professional service to handle their business needs,” she says, adding human nature will play a key role in the recovery of the sector. “Human beings are relational. We were made to interact with other people so I expect travel will come back.”

 

According to Businesswire.com, which wrote in May about the Key Trends in Business Travel (2021) report, the lasting impact of COVID-19 will continue to affect the travel industry well beyond 2021.

 

Some of the key highlights in that report include:

  • Traditional reasons for business travel may see a decline, but a new kind of business traveler may emerge. As many employees may have become remote workers due to the pandemic, the industry can see an uptick of visiting colleagues when restrictions fully recover.
  • As vaccine rollouts are gaining traction across the world, it is opening-up the opportunity to travel for many. Important nations with high percentages of business travel are also far along with vaccination progress. The U.S., where 20% of domestic travel in 2019 and 2020 was for a business purpose, is progressing well with its vaccination program for example.
  • Many companies are focused on reducing emissions and carbon footprint to reach a sustainability goal. These companies will have sustainability practices in place with a corporate sustainability policy. However, many companies do not incorporate business travel into a sustainability policy. Some methods of travel can be extremely harmful to the environment, and it is the company's responsibility to ensure that sustainable options are always considered.

For Judy and other travel professionals, if there is one ‘positive’ takeaway from the pandemic is the fact that working with a travel agent can be vital in times of crisis, considering the many Canadians who were left stranded when COVID-19 hit.

 

“I think consumers can now see how important it is to actually deal with a professional,” says Judy, adding their connections to tour operators has been key. “We probably managed to get refunds for people faster and helped them navigate the unchartered waters of these trying times. People have realized how important is to have someone in your corner who has your back.”

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The news we heard Thursday from Waterloo Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang was extremely disappointing to us. Our Board of Directors adamantly encourages all businesses to practice within the law but also echoes your concerns and disappointment at this decision.

 

In fact, officially, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce does not support Dr. Wang’s recommendation to keep the Waterloo Region in Stage 1 of Ontario’s reopening framework, considering the rest of the province will be moving into Stage 2 on June 30, an estimated two weeks ahead of our Region. As such, we would have preferred this move to Stage 2 remain on hold until Waterloo Region can catch up.

 

In fact, our Region did its best to help the province in the early stages of the third wave through the redirection of vaccines to hotspots around the GTA to curb the spread in those communities which significantly helped, but in the end proved detrimental to us, so it seems only fair to suggest some courtesy be extended to the citizens of Waterloo Region.

The Region has been calling for a ramp up of vaccine allocations and while that has started to occur, it is in fact a case of too little too late.

 

We understand the worries surrounding a possible fourth wave if dramatic steps are not taken and are very aware of the threat the Delta variant poses, especially amid troubling reports of people who are not following the provisions of the law by gathering in groups which in turn are creating community and workplace outbreaks. Currently, we are now seeing COVID-19 patients being transferred to hospitals outside our Region due to capacity concerns.

 

This is all very frustrating and discouraging to think that people would intentionally break the rules, risk lives, and in the end hurt businesses.

 

Our local Public Health officials have determined that if we do not hold back a bit, we will very likely see a fourth wave that could easily spread provincewide resulting in not only another round of restrictions, but another potential lockdown.

 

Keeping this in mind, we are continuing our efforts to fight for added supports from both the Federal and Provincial levels of government and calling for more vaccines so we can protect our community and get things open sooner. The Chamber will continue to do all it can to support, guide and advise to the best of its ability until this crisis finally comes to an end.

 

Sincerely,

 

Greg Durocher

President/CEO

 

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Positive online reviews and endorsements can be very important for small to medium-sized businesses.

 

Unfortunately, unscrupulous competitors or those with an ulterior motive can sometimes try to use these tools to their advantage and sabotage these businesses by posting negative fake reviews.

 

The Competition Bureau Canada is an independent law enforcement agency that ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competition and innovative marketplace. And fake reviews and ensuring truth in advertising in our digital economy are on the Bureau’s radar.

 

“Generally, anyone who posts fake endorsements or reviews could be liable under the Competition Act,” says Josephine Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner, Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate, Competition Bureau.

 

Enforcing the Competition Act is a key responsibility of the Competition Bureau, and the Act’s deceptive marketing provisions prohibit any business from making materially false or misleading claims to promote a product, service or business interest. A ‘claim’, which refers to any marketing material – such as any in-store ads, social media messages, promotional emails, and endorsements, among other things – is ‘material’ if the general impression it conveys leads someone to take a particular course of action, like buying or using a product or service. When determining if such a claim is false or misleading, the courts will consider the ‘general impression’ it conveys as well as its literal meaning.

 

The Bureau has previously pursued enforcement action related to fake reviews. In 2015, the Bureau concluded that Bell employees were encouraged to post positive reviews and ratings on the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, without disclosing that they worked for Bell giving the impression they were independent and impartial consumers. The Bureau and Bell reached a consent agreement, putting an end to the practices, and sending a strong message that this kind of conduct is not tolerated.

 

And more recently, an investigation resulted in $5.8 million in penalties for FlightHub in 2021 after the Bureau determined the online flight-booking company made numerous false or misleading claims, even penning positive customer reviews to promote its services. Besides the penalties, as part of the settlement with the Bureau, FlightHub was required to remove any online reviews that were posted by or on behalf of the company but appeared to be from customers.

 

“Anyone who believes they have been misled by fake reviews or who has been approached with offers to post fake reviews, is encouraged to file a complaint with the Bureau using our online complaint form ,” says Ms Palumbo, adding the Bureau addressed the issue of fake reviews in a consumer alert in 2014 and in its Deceptive Marketing Practices Digest in 2015. Besides fake reviews, the Bureau recommends that SMEs contact them if they believe a competitor is engaged in price-fixing, bid-rigging or deceptive marketing. As well, they should be contacted if an SME believes a dominant business in the market is abusing its dominance to harm or discipline its competitors, or that a merger in their market would prove harmful to competition.

 

Besides fake reviews, the Bureau recommends that SMEs contact them if they believe a competitor is engaged in price-fixing, bid-rigging or deceptive marketing. As well, they should be contacted if an SME believes a dominant business in the market is abusing its dominance to harm or discipline its competitors, or that a merger in their market would prove harmful to competition.

 

“Enforcing Canada’s competition laws and advocating for increased competition in regulated sectors is good for all businesses,” says Ms Palumbo. “It promotes a level playing field where businesses have an equal opportunity to prosper based on their merits. Fair competition between businesses also drives them to innovate as they seek to attract consumers by offering better products and services than their competitors.”

 

The Bureau provides many resources to help SMEs comply with the law and avoid potentially devastating consequences of an investigation. These include guidance on establishing a Compliance Program.

 

In addition, the Bureau provides numerous tips and advice to SMEs to protect themselves from fraud.

 

To find out more,  please visit: https://bit.ly/3g9RBIH

 

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Nothing represents summer more than a barbecue.

 

The smell of food cooking on the grill and the sounds of the outdoors are a feast for the senses, especially on a warm and sunny afternoon.

 

But for many, good food is not the only reason barbecues are so popular.

“A barbecue is a meal that everyone can enjoy,” says Steve Varnasidis, General Manager of Q BBQ Public House in Cambridge, who has spent 25 years cooking on just about every surface possible. “It brings people together.”

 

James Empringham, Chef De Cuisine at Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre, agrees.

 

“I think for myself and a lot of other people, the biggest attraction to BBQ, like any other food, is the social interaction,” he says, adding ‘breaking bread’ or this case beef, pork, seafood or chicken, is important. “It’s that aspect of standing around a BBQ, smelling that delicious food while in the company of friends and family on a hot summer day.”

 

The Farm Boy Product Development Chefs (Maria Garza, Liam Fulcher and John Cadieux) also agree and say not ‘heating up’ the kitchen is another big attraction to heading outdoors.

 

“It’s an easy clean up and the ability to cook many different foods at the same time,” says Farm Boy’s Maria Garza.

 

However, when it comes to barbecuing, there can be so many questions  surrounding not only what to put on the grill, but how to cook it?

 

So, we asked these local barbecue experts a few questions to help you host the best barbecue possible this summer:

 

1. Does the heat source matter?

* According to the Farm Boy chefs, the answer is yes since – gas vs charcoal vs wood – all give a slightly different taste profile. “For the novice, gas would be the easiest and most convenient way to grill, whereas charcoal or wood require a bit more know-how so you can regulate temperatures correctly,” says Liam Fulcher.

* For Todd Diamond, Director of Food & Beverages at Bingemans, using the proper heat source is imperative. “Ultimately, there are a number of different ways to approach a BBQ and a variety of different preparations for the meal,” he says. “The important part is matching them together to produce the best results.”

* When it comes to producing the best results, Steve at Q BBQ Public House says wood is a great heat source. “I like to mix fruit wood, like apple or cherry, and then mix it with maple or oak which are more readily available around here.”

* James and his colleague Nick Ruthardt from Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre say flavour is everything and the right heat source can help. “Charcoal briquettes are one of the most popular heat sources and they can provide a wonderful grilled flavour. Then as you get more into BBQ and adventurous, you can start to also play around with smoking with woodchips and the different flavours they can add to the cooking process.”

 

2. What is the best thing to cook on a barbecue?

* Pork is great thing to cook on the barbecue according to Todd at Bingemans. “But I really believe the very best thing to cook is whatever you are working with on any given day,” he says. “It’s about the amazing variety of incredible meals that you can prepare, just don’t be afraid to try something new.”

* James and Nick Ruthardt also believe the possibilities are endless, including various meats, seafood, and all sorts of vegetables. “Once you dive down into it, there really isn’t much you can’t do on a BBQ or with a smoker,” says James. “Yes, some of these things take a little bit more practice than others to really get them down to perfection, but BBQ really does have a little bit of something for everyone.”

* Farm Boy Flattened chicken receives top marks from both the Farm Boy chefs and cooks up fast and crispy, while remaining moist.

* Steve at Q BBQ Public House also agrees that flattened chicken is great, providing it’s well marinated and basted on the grill.

 

3. What can be the most difficult thing to cook on a barbecue?

* For the Farm Boy chefs, they say fish and seafood can be a difficult because it can stick to the grates and can easily be overcooked. “Same applies to seafood, because it cooks so fast, you have to be careful not to overcook,” says John Cadieux.

* For Steve at Q BBQ Public House, he says cooking the perfect steak can often prove difficult. “If you’re not an expert barbecue or griller, it can be really challenging,” he says.

* For James and Nick, they insist brisket is the hardest thing on a BBQ to get done properly. “It’s hard cut of meat to get tender because it’s a very fatty piece of meat and takes a very long time for the collagens to break down so that it is super tender,” says James. “When cooking brisket, it is definitely a long game and can’t be rushed.”

* Todd at Bingeman  jokes that dessert is the toughest thing to barbecue.

 

4. What is the easiest thing a novice can cook on the barbecue?

* When it comes to simplicity, Steve at Q BBQ Public House says a really tasty homemade burger is a great thing for a novice to try. “Grill up some portobello mushrooms and put them on top, or some bacon or pineapple,” he suggests. “It’s delicious and everybody appreciates a good homemade burger.”

* The Farm Boy chefs agree and say the Farm Boy gourmet burgers are quick and easy. As well, they recommend the Farm Boy mesquite chicken wings and all beef frankfurters.

* James and Nick recommend trying some pulled pork, if a nice bone in pork shoulder slice of meat can be used. “The key to pulled pork is low and slow. One the pork shoulder is on the BBQ, all that has to be done is wait,” says James. “Fun fact, when people refer to a ‘pork butt’, they are actually referring to the widest part of the shoulder.”

* When it comes to something simple, Bingemans’ Todd Diamond also says pork chops are easy to whip up.

 

5. What are the most common mistakes you can make barbecuing?

* The Farm Boy chefs say not planning ahead is a big problem and that lighting the charcoal or wood far too late doesn’t allow the barbecue to property heat up. As well, not cleaning and greasing the grates is another mistake.

* James and Nick agree. “Starting with a grill that isn’t up to temperature will result in either burned food, undercooked food or food that just won’t come unstuck from the grill,” says James. “Another mistake I see often is people opening the lid way too much. It’s important to keep the lid shut.”

* Using a fatty slice of meat is another mistake says Steve at Q BBQ Public House, when it comes to barbecuing. He says fatty meat can lead to a great deal of smoke and flame ups.

* For Todd at Bingemans, he says using lighter fluid is a big no-no and must be avoided.  “Don’t use too much heat,” he says.

 

A few tips from the experts:

  • Don’t use too much heat
  • Be creative with veggies
  • Know your equipment inside and out
  • Don’t move the food around
  • ‘Rest’ all the meat
  • Cook food in order of how long things take to cook
  • Don’t forget the wine/beer

 

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The sign outside the Hamilton Family Theatre in downtown Cambridge which usually is ablaze with light announcing current and upcoming productions for Drayton Entertainment has remained blank for some time.

 

But with vaccination rates rising and COVID-19 infection numbers continuing to slide downward, there is a growing sense of optimism in many business sectors, including tourism and sports and recreation, both which generate a hefty spinoff in our local economy and have been hit extremely hard by this crisis.

 

“It (optimism) permeates our industry because the pandemic has reinforced to many arts organizations about how important the arts are to so many Ontarians and recognizing the role they play contributing to a healthy and prosperous society,” says Steven Karcher, Executive Director of Drayton Entertainment. “I don’t think people realized how much they enjoy and appreciate the arts until they ceased to exist.”

 

He recalls how overnight the world changed for Drayton Entertainment in mid-March of 2020 when it was forced to cancel the run of its first show of the season Kinky Boots, which quickly led to pulling the plug on the entire theatre season at its seven stages.

 

“It was a difficult but necessary decision,” says Steven, noting how the company, which is also a registered charity, lost 100% of its revenue and had already incurred the pre-production costs of preparing 832 performances for its 2020 season. In fact, he says an increase of 20,000 tickets over the 2019 season had already been sold.

 

He says recovery will be a ‘multi-year’ effort and that for an arts organization like Drayton Entertainment, it is not something that can rebound in six months.

 

“We’re not able to just take our product and simply put it on a shelf and pivot to reopening with a notice of 48 hours,” says Steven. “We’re talking about an artistic process that takes anywhere from six to eight months in order to realize the end result that people will be seeing on stage.”

 

For sports organizations, detailed planning is also required to prepare of an upcoming season.

 

Indoor Soccer Park Sign“I think we were always optimistic there was going to be a season for our recreational league kids,” says Derrick Bridgman, General Manager of Cambridge Youth Soccer, referring to the 2020 season.

 

He says planning had started in March of last year to prepare for the upcoming season and that 1,000 children had registered to play outdoors when the scope of the pandemic became clear.

“At first we didn’t know how long it was going to last or was it only going to be that ‘magical’ two weeks, or would it be done in a couple of months so we could get our season in,” says Derrick.

 

He says thanks to a comprehensive return to play plan created by the Ontario Soccer Association, his group was able to see a limited amount of action on the field and by the end of last summer had managed to see a few games played.

 

However, that changed in the fall when new restrictions came into play and affected Cambridge Youth Soccer’s Fountain Street North indoor facility, which the group also rents to external users.

 

“We thought it (pandemic) would be behind us when it came to our indoor season but unfortunately there was such a significant impact on indoor sports,” says Derrick, referring to the indoor capacity levels which at one point only allowed up to 50 people – players included - at a game. “We had to get resourceful and creative, just like a lot of other sports organizations and try and maintain a positivity not only for our staff, but for our users. I think a lot of parents just want to get back to normal.”

 

He says there is a sense of optimism for the upcoming season, noting seeing those between 12-17 getting vaccinated has been a positive step. However, he says his group, like many sports organizations, remain at the ‘mercy’ of the province, health officials and the City of Cambridge whom they rent fields from in terms of possible restrictions.

 

“Also, there are parents that aren’t comfortable yet putting their kids back into sports until they’re confident the pandemic is over,” says Derrick, adding his organization is now looking to start its 2021 season the weekend of July 11 in accordance with the province’s three-step reopening plan.

 

“The government has been intentionally vague, in my opinion, in how it has crafted some of the wording when it comes to sports and recreation,” he says. “I think they did that on purpose so provincial sports organizations can amend their return to play documentation.”

 

Minto Schneider, CEO of Explore Waterloo Region, says the sports and recreation sector is returning a little faster than others.

 

“We’re also seeing conferences rebook as well. It’s happening, but happening slowly,” she says, noting experts are not predicting a full economic recovery until 2024. “Part of the challenge is that leisure travel will likely rebound more quickly, but business travel is not rebounding as quickly since conferences generally have a further booking window.”

 

Minto says also having the U.S./Canada border closed and seeing conferences cancelled in the GTA has also affected local tourism due to the substantial spinoff visitors bring to the hospitality industry in terms of hotel stays and restaurant visits.

“One of the things that really drives the tourism business in Waterloo Region is group business, whether it’s a sports tournament or a conference. Those are the things that really drive our visitor traffic,” she says, adding there have been limited ‘windows’ between lockdowns for potential visitors. “We’ve had to be very cautious of how we promote our region. We don’t want to be seen as trying to attract visitors from other areas, particularly at a time when Toronto and Peel were in the ‘Red Zone’. It’s been challenging.”

 

But in turn, Minto says Explore Waterloo Region has been promoting the region to its own residents, encouraging them to get out and see what exists in their own backyards.

 

“That’s been the silver lining to this whole thing. We’ve been able to, hopefully, create ‘ambassadors’ for Waterloo Region within the region itself.”

 

In the future, Minto also says more conferences will operate using a hybrid method, allowing participants the opportunity to attend in person or virtually.

 

“This will be great because never before will so many people have the have opportunity to learn more,” she says.

 

Several virtual initiatives launched in the past year by Drayton Entertainment have also helped his organization, says Steven. Among these was a virtual variety show engaging more than 40 artists using the video platform Vimeo.

 

“We were completely overwhelmed by the uptake on that,” he says, adding the show was viewed by more than 80,000 people worldwide and came away with 125,000 impressions.

 

This was followed by a cabaret series via Facebook, plus Drayton Entertainment has continued its ‘world famous’ 50/50 draw online.

 

“We’ve been able to give away significant jackpots in the three months we’ve been running that,” he says, adding having the 50/50 draw has also ensured Drayton Entertainment fans and supporters remain feeling connected to the organization.

 

And although a virtual component may still play a role for Drayton Entertainment once audiences are allowed to return to its theatres, Steven says it will never replace the feel of having a live audience.

 

“One of the things people don’t realize is how imperative a live audience is to not just a live theatre experience, but any live cultural experience,” he says, adding people crave the ‘connectivity’ of being together, even when it comes to family gatherings.

 

Minto agrees and says vaccinations and initiatives, such as the rapid screening kit program launched by the Cambridge and Kitchener Waterloo Chambers of Commerce, and Communitech, have been beneficial to the community.

 

“I think it has given people confidence that they can go to work. In our industry, we’ve had staff who’ve been afraid to go back to work because they hadn’t been working for a while and want to make sure they don’t bring something home with them to their families,” she says, adding Explore Waterloo Region and the Chambers continue to work with other partners to ensure the most up-to-date and reliable information is conveyed to all their stakeholders.

 

“I think everyone is really looking forward to a time when they can actually open their businesses and welcome people back,” she says.

 

For more on Explore Waterloo Region, visit http://www.explorewaterlooregion.com. For information about Drayton Festival, visit https://bit.ly/3z2aqop. And for more on Cambridge Youth Soccer, visit www.cambridgesoccer.ca

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As vaccinations continue to rollout in the fight against COVID-19 and infection numbers in Ontario continue to drop the thought of reopening businesses and schools is on the minds of many.

 

After more than a year of restrictions and strict safety protocols the prospect of returning to the workplace looms closer, and for some, so does a growing sense of anxiety.

“There is quite a bit of apprehension around the thought of going back to work. It really depends on the person,” says Grace Brown, Clinical Supervisor/Registered Psychotherapist at Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries, explaining an extrovert, introvert or ambivert, will react differently.

 

“If you live in a very active community, you’re probably going to feel stronger and feel more prepared because you have supports – like child care – in place,” she says. “I also think the anxiety level will be determined by the safety protocols each organization has in place or is intending to put in place.”

 

Kate Urquhart, a Psychotherapy Clinical Intern at Carizon Family and Community Services in Kitchener, agrees.

 

“Having timely information is going to be such a key thing because there has been such ambiguity since the pandemic began,” she says, adding employers need to ensure they have a plan in place that can address the concerns of their returning employees. “People can’t plan if they don’t know what they’re getting into.”

 

Even with lower transmission rates and vaccinations, she says COVID-19 safety protocols will still be in place at workplaces when the province reopens and that these should be clearly conveyed.

 

“It’s about making sure those are clearly communicated so that people who have anxiety can feel confident their employer is taking all the appropriate precautions and that people with less COVID-19 anxiety must also follow those same protocols,” says Kate.

 

Grace says people should also know their own limits when it comes to dealing with this pandemic and that being proactive rather than reactive when the times to come to return to the workplace is the best way to reduce stress or apprehension. She suggests staying informed with the latest Ministry of Health recommendations is a good first step.

 

“It’s not going to be very helpful for people to reduce their anxiety if they are waiting for their boss to tell them what’s going to happen,” she says. “I think that is going to cause much more anxiety than if you researched on your own and know what your personal limits are and proceed accordingly.”

 

But even with proper safety protocols in place, walking back into the office may prove to be difficult for many says Carizon Psychotherapist Dan Young.

 

“Even though we may be going back to a situation that might be similar, we’ve all been changed by this,” he says, adding grief and loss will play roles as people come to terms with their emotions when they return to the workplace.

 

This could involve the tangible loss of a co-worker who passed away, or a potential career move an employee may feel they missed because they had to stay home to care for children or an elderly relative. As well, Dan says some employees may just no longer feel comfortable with the physicality of being around other people again in an office setting.

 

“For businesses, the challenge will be how do they recognize that they need to do something to support people,” he says. “There is no one size fits all.”

 

Kate says many returning employees may also suffer from ‘survivor’s guilt’.

 

“We’ve all been through, or are still going through, this huge worldwide traumatic event,” she says, adding some may feel they don’t have the right to complain when others appear to have lost so much more.

 

“I think that needs to be addressed. It’s OK for you to complain,” says Kate. “Everybody has lost something, and your losses are real for you. You need to come to terms with your own personal losses in order to take that step forward.”

 

She encourages employees to access potential workplace EAPs or mental health resources in order to find help.

 

“Even if you feel just a twinge, you don’t have to be in a crisis state to reach out,” she says.

Grace says reaching out to employers about instituting a gradual return to work can also be explored if someone who no longer can continue to work remotely is concerned about a sudden return to the office.

 

“It’s my hope this will open an ongoing dialogue and communication between employers and employees versus mandates that don’t take into account everyone’s different situation at home,” she says, adding empathetic employers will see higher productivity and better retention rates. “If an employee gets the sense an employer is very much just about producing that’s definitely going to feed into anxiety and stress.”

 

Dan says providing employees with choices is empowering and that changes in the workplaces should be expected.

 

“We know it’s not going to be the same,” he says. “We’re not going back to the way it was before.”

 

In preparation, Grace says everyone, especially those with children, should be talking about what life may look like when things begin to resemble ‘normal’ again.

 

“Talk to them about their concerns and expectations, even what they might be looking forward to because that may have to be adjusted as well,” she says, referring to the possible need to continue wearing masks in schools or getting vaccinations. “Communication is going to be very important.”

 

As well, talking to a professional counsellor is also a good option.

 

“Now is the time to connect with a counselling agency before the rush in order to not only prepare yourself, but provide support for your children,” says Grace. “Anxiety is a real thing and pretending it doesn’t exist actually makes it worse so everybody should start talking about the reservations they have and be supportive of each other.”

 

For more, visit https://fcccnd.com or https://www.carizon.ca

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