Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

The importance of rapid screening in the battle against this pandemic has been seen as the preferred weapon of choice near the top of the wish-list of health experts and members of the business community since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected more than a year ago.

 

Thanks to the recent introduction of our pilot project that is seeing thousands of Abbott Panbio Antigen screening kits distributed to Waterloo Region SMEs (under 150 employees), many local businesses now have the capability to conduct rapid screening.

 

“If all businesses would jump on board with this process, then we would be able to keep a better eye on the virus as well as the variants,” says Cynthia Fernandez, owner of Accurate Auto Appraisal in Cambridge.

 

She is among at least 1,500 businesses in our region that have utilized the free kits through the www.chambercheck.ca website since the initiative was launched April 5.

 

The goal of the program, created through Health Canada and in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and Communitech, is to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals in effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

Volunteers prepare the kits for pick-up at Cambridge Chamber’s office at 750 Hespeler Rd. and in keeping with all the necessary safety protocols, a designate from each SME receives video training when they pick up their kits that explains how to properly supervise the screening process and safely dispose of the used kits.

 

“We know that rapid screening has always been the key when it comes to curbing the spread and having these kits is a great way to assist our SMEs get back on track after a difficult year,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. 

Cynthia agrees.

 

“It is a very nerve-wracking thing to still go to work (outside of the home) and know that it’s still a very real possibility,” she says, referring to the threat of contracting the virus. “Everyone who works for Accurate is very receptive of the screening and it provides a peace of mind for them and their families as well.”

 

Shimco President and CEO Peter Voss has discovered the same after utilizing screening kits for his staff.

 

“Employees have commented that they feel safer now coming to work, and they are more comfortable going home to their families now,” he says, noting they are conducting the recommended two sets of screenings every week.

 

In accordance with safety protocols, if a screen results in a positive for COVID-19, the employee is required to leave the workplace and notify public health to arrange for a PCR Test at an approved Public Health Collection Site and await further instructions from Waterloo Region Public Health.

 

“Our employees see it as a positive addition to our already strict COVID cleaning and screening procedures,” says Sara Chamberlin, Human Resources Manager at Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre.

 

At Swift Components Corp., Managing Partner Kristen Danson says having the kits has instilled confidence in her employees, including two additional hires the company made after she picked up her first order of kits the day the program was launched.

 

“Initially, when I said to them it was onsite work, they were quite cautious which is to be expected when starting in a new workplace,” she says. “(The kits) have really helped the new people to our organization see that we are taking this seriously and we have a process in place to control things.”

 

Besides helping employees, having a rapid screening process in place has also inspired more confidence for the clients of these businesses.

 

“For vehicle appraisal, it is very calming for the customers that we need to see in person to know that any of our appraisers that come out to see them are in fact negative, as well as vaccinated,” says Cynthia. “We are so very blessed to be able to have access to them; I feel that it has been a helping with anything that we need to see in person.”

 

The majority of those who’ve accessed the kits say the process is relatively easy to navigate in terms of ordering and administering them.

 

“You have to find a way that works in your system,” says Kristen, explaining how at Swift Components the first round of screenings were administered in a boardroom. “It took forever to rotate people through. But then we realized we have a cart with wheels that we were able to take out into the production area and literally do the screenings on the shop floor.”

 

She says this simple change expediated the process considerably.

 

“You just have to look at your process and space and figure out what works.”

 

Kristen says her company has picked up a second order of kits.

The initial orders provide businesses with two weeks of screening kits, but most are interested in obtaining more.

 

 “Should we use the supply we have been given, we will be requesting more as we continue to promote the benefits of the program to our team,” says Sara.

 

Peter feels the same.

 

“I know it’s not possible currently, but I liked to do the screenings daily if there was enough supply,” he says, adding his employees are screened before they even enter the building.

Each SME is required to electronically submit their screening results after each occasion and the accumulated data will be reported to the Ministry of Health bimonthly.

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For millions of Canadians, working remotely from home has become commonplace since the pandemic began.

 

Whether they are working at a desk in a spare room, rec-room or even the kitchen table, many Canadians have had more than a year to adapt to this new COVID-19 reality which continues to see our work habits evolve the longer it continues.

 

In fact, according to a Statistics Canada survey, nearly one-quarter of Canadian businesses expect that 10% or more of their workforce will continue to work remotely post-pandemic. That same survey indicates at least 25% of Canadian businesses will offer their employees the option to work remotely, while at least 14% said they will make it a requirement.

 

 

“I really think it’s going to change the landscape of your workforce in the traditional sense,” says Brandy Ireland, Business Development Manager with Peninsula Canada.

 

The company, created in 2017, offers expert advisors to provide HR, health and safety and employment support to SMEs.

 

“I think a lot of offices are going to be more of a co-operative space where people will have more flexibility,” she says, noting this will be a positive move for those who may find themselves with a sick child and no longer have to take the day off. “Before, you’d have to take a full day off and then try to play catch up. So, it’s stressful being at home dealing with a sick child and knowing you have all this stuff building up at work.”

 

But there are also negatives, as many of those who are working remotely have discovered, such as mental health issues and productivity concerns.

 

These are some of the topics Brandy will touch on at our May 18 YIP Growth Learning Series event: ‘Workplace Discipline in a Remote World’. Her discussion will feature tips for employers that they can utilize to promote work productivity remotely, including clearly outlining necessary policies to ensure all parties are in agreement.

 

“We want to make sure you’re all singing from the same song sheet and understanding the expectations because that can really help,” says Brandy. “On the side of HR, there are no laws mandating what these policies need to look like. You just want to make sure you’re using the proper legal language to make sure it’s conveying the correct expectations.”

 

These include policies around such thing as a drugs and alcohol use.

 

“You have to make sure there can be no assumptions made,” she says.

Brandy says expectations could also change if an employee wishes to work remotely from another province, or even a different country.

 

“There’s going to be different implications based on where the employee may want to move to,” she says, noting occupational and health safety issues, as well at the Employment Standards Act, are different in each province. “You would have to adjust your contracts and your language. Also, if they move out of the country there could be tax implications and the employer would need to understand the tax restrictions of where they’re moving to.”

 

Besides work-related expectations, Brandy will also touch on the mental health issues now surfacing for many employers.

 

“I have had a lot of calls and claims coming from the mental health side of things and stress associated calls with workers feeling over-worked and uneasy, especially in light COVID-19 and the restrictions. People are just really lonely and tired of being stuck at home with no interaction,” she says, adding one of her tips will be to encourage employers to host team building activities. “It could be hosting a game night, or a game hour during lunch on a Friday. Or just trying to do some team building exercise as people transition into the weekend.”

 

Brandy says the need for empathy is one takeaway she hopes participants will receive at the Growth Series event.

 

“A lot of people are dealing with a lot of different situations in their households,” she says, adding many be trying to share their new ‘workspaces’ with spouses or children learning online. “There’s going to be specific and individuals stresses they are dealing with including anxiety and family. You really have to be empathetic.”

 

Also, Brandy says the need for clear communication and proper documentation will be other important takeaways.

 

“You want to make sure you’re doing what you can to provide a stable environment in an unstable situation,” she says.

 

Our YIP Growth Series: ‘Workplace Discipline in a Remote World’ event will take place Tuesday, May 18 from 11 a.m. to noon. Sponosred by Deluxe  For more, visit https://bit.ly/3vma3SX

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It’s been nearly five months since Racolta Jensen LLP made the move from the Pinebush Road area to its new location downtown into a refurbished building on Dickson Street and Noah Jensen couldn’t be more pleased.

 

“In COVID times it has been a blessing here. We have nearly twice the square footage, we were able to customize the space to ensure physical distancing - which was great for privacy in either case,” says Noah, a partner in the accounting firm. “We have three times the number of employees that we had when we moved into the last location, so it was necessary.”

 

The company’s move to Dickson Street, made possible in part through the City of Cambridge’s Building Revitalization Program (BRP) which funds up to 50% of the cost of the eligible work on the building, is a great example of how business owners and the City’s Economic Development office can work together, specifically when it comes to revitalizing the downtown cores.

 

That process is set to get an even further boost with the introduction of the proposed CIP (Community Improvement Plans) Programs. The new program, which consists of five components, four of which are grant-related and stackable, is set to become a powerful resource in the City’s toolkit towards instigating major investments in our core regions.

 

The creation of the Core Area Transformation Fund in 2019, which was formally approved in June of last year, was the impetus says James Goodram, Director of Economic Development for the City of Cambridge.

 

“One of the key investment colours within that fund was to look at private sector stimulus in the downtown cores,” he says, noting some of the current programs to stimulate revitalization have been in place since the late 1990s. “We felt the time was right to introduce some new programs to the cores and help us make that business case for the LRT coming into the core areas. We need more people living and working there.”

 

Noah agrees and says a negative narrative which has targeted the downtown core can dissipate with programs like these in place to bring new life and investment into the centres.

 

“Homeless people exist in every community, not just here. Be part of the positive solution and cut out the negativity,” he says. “Attracting more professional services firms that will use the core areas during the day times, enticing unique and diverse businesses that will be committed enough to offering their products and services offering normal business hours will be to everyone’s advantage.”

 

James says the core area of any community is a great way to gauge its economic health.

 

“Whenever you travel to a city, you typically go the downtown. I really think that the core areas are a reflection on the health of the overall city,” he says, adding a healthy core is not only vital for bringing in new investment but encouraging existing businesses to expand. “I would say 80% of your economic growth comes from companies that are already in your community.”

 

James says businesses looking to expand and attracting new talent is key for most of them.

 

“One of the ways we can help in attracting people to our community that want to live, work and play here is by having these vibrant core areas. What benefits the downtown areas benefits the whole community.”

 

Noah agrees and says a sense of community doesn’t really exist at a ‘SmartCentre’ or strip mall.

 

“Downtown provides a venue for artistic and niche stores that are fun to shop at rather than shopping for staples, and it provides an area to dine and drink in where you will run in to neighbours and friends, That applies to Preston, Hespeler and Galt as I’ve worked and lived in all three,” he says. “Personally, I’ve not filled my car with gas in over a month and I’ve improved my own personal well-being mentally and physically in walking to work and running errands all within walking distance from my home and office.”

 

James says having the CIP Program in place ‘levels’ the playing field for potential investors who are willing to take on refurbishing a downtown building, especially a heritage structure which often comes with additional and often unforeseen costs.

“It is a lot easier to go in and build a building on a greenfield site or larger site,” he says, adding downtown buildings often offer limited space when it comes to renovations.

 

Noah, a former member of the Economic Development Advisory Committee, says he’s grateful in the help he received from the Economic Development Department’s  Invest Cambridge office in bringing his new office together.

 

“Our building was a restaurant before we moved in, so the only remaining piece of what we bought that is original is the roof and brick walls,” he says. “We had to think outside the box to find a building that was just right, and it was a bonus that for the same cash flow we had in our last location we could renovate something customized for us. Our staff and clients have been very pleased with the outcome of the building.”

 

James says the CIP Program will offer even more opportunities for existing businesses to expand and developers, the majority of whom embrace the city’s heritage buildings.

 

“One of the big selling features is our heritage properties. That’s something that has attracted developers to the community,” he says, referring to the creation of the Gaslight District as a prime example of a great mix of new construction with heritage properties.

 

He says the CIP Program works hand in hand with other downtown revitalization initiatives, including its Ambassador and enhanced security programs.

 

“There’s no one silver bullet. It’s going to be a combination of all these things that we’re doing. From the financial perspective, I expect these programs we’re offering kind of cover off that financial piece to encourage development,” says James, noting the positive reaction he’s received from many local groups, including the BIAs, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Advisory Committee. “The time is right, and we want to see our core areas evolve and want to see more investment in them.”

 

City council will vote on the CIP Program at its May 25 meeting. If approved, it will then be sent for final approval to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in June.

 

“People underestimate the value of having a progressive core area and community with nice public art, unique restaurants, art galleries and artisanal stores,” says Noah, who encourages other businesses to look closer at the downtowns. “If you are a business-person who has employees, your employees will be happier residing in a town that has a vibrant core area they can have as a destination (probably more in post-COVID times).”

 

For more, visit https://bit.ly/3ea7cpy

 

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Pandemic underscores the need to address pre-existing agri-food industry issues and put a spotlight on new ones

 

During the COVID-19 crisis, Canada’s food supply chain experienced numerous pressures, ranging from panic buying to temporary shortages to the rapid shift to e-commerce for grocery stores, farmers, and restaurants.

 

The latest report by the Ontario Chamber Network, Growing a More Resilient Food Supply Chain in Ontario, outlines why public policymakers need to take note and take action on issues such as rising food insecurity and food fraud as well as supporting the demand for local food and the shift to online sales to help grow a stronger agri-food sector.

 

“COVID-19 brought our agri-food system and supply chains to the forefront. We can all remember food flying off the shelves in Waterloo Region due to stockpiling and panic buying at the outset of the pandemic. Ultimately, while the pandemic caused parts of Ontario’s food supply chain to bend, the chain itself did not break,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  

 

The report examines issues that emerged in the last 12 months and other longstanding ones that were exacerbated by COVID-19. It explains how Canada’s food system continued to provide Canadians with uninterrupted access to food throughout the pandemic due to the strength of the many sub-sectors and businesses that make up the food supply chain. However, the pandemic put a spotlight on why we need to take action - so the system never gets to a breaking point.

 

“Addressing red tape and labour shortages among farmers, as well as tackling food fraud and food insecurity, will not only ensure Canada’s agri-food sector is able to withstand future challenges, but it will also support agri-food businesses and an equitable recovery,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

The recommendations outlined in Growing a More Resilient Food Supply Chain aim to strengthen the agri-food sector – a sector that is not only a significant economic driver in Ontario and Canada but also a competitive advantage. Specifically, the report makes a series of recommendations aimed at federal and provincial policymakers:

 

  1. Meet the demand for local food and shift to online sales by continuing to invest in relevant programs that help producers transition to e-commerce;
  2. Improve the AgriStability program by increasing the payment cap and payment trigger, and processing claims more quickly;
  3. Remove red tape facing farmers, including inter-provincial trade barriers for meat and meat products;
  4. Support the next generation of farmers by attracting youth to the sector and reducing other barriers to entry like access to land and capital;
  5. Curb food fraud through improved seafood labelling and a pragmatic plan; and
  6. Eliminate food insecurity by collecting data, setting targets, and investing in road development in Indigenous and remote communities.

 

Read the policy brief: https://bit.ly/2PZvzOm

 

This policy brief was made possible by support from Beef Farmers of Ontario, Durham College, and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

 

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The pandemic has created many new shifts, especially when it comes to how millions of Canadians now spend a typical workday.

 

Even before this latest provincial stay-at-home order took effect April 8 requiring all those who can work from home to stay there, a recent Labour Force Survey indicated that 3.1 million Canadians were already working from home temporarily due to COVID-19 as of February 2021.

 

And for those working in their home office - which can translate into a spare room, the kitchen table or even the couch- trying to stay healthy can be difficult, especially when it comes to nourishment and physical activity.

 

“I think some people are working extra hard at home. They’re not having separation of home and work and don’t stop to eat, so they’re not nourishing themselves as well as they should be,” says Janet Jacks, founder of the highly successful Ontario-based organic food and supplement retailer Goodness Me! Natural Food Market. “And other people, because the food is nearby and there are little breaks, they go and grab something and are snacking a lot.”

 

Janet says there has been a shift from the when the pandemic began, and Ontario went into its first lockdown in March of last year.

 

“In the beginning, people were so anxious to eat well and improve. I really sense that people took an interest in eating better food,” she says, noting the popularity of the home baking trend last year. “But I feel like people are tired and although in their mind they know they want to eat better; they just feel like it’s not always easy.”

 

Shane Gray, owner of Rio Nectar Eatery in Cambridge and Guelph, agrees and says many people are even busier at home, whether with work or new hobbies, so eating healthy doesn’t appear to be an option.

 

“People are still grabbing fast food and choosing less healthy options because I’m also finding we’re getting fatigued quicker,” he says, adding the pandemic has left many feeling unbalanced. “As human beings, we need balance and we’re all off balance right now.”

 

That’s why scheduling is so important, says Ashley Viljoen, Regional Manager for Anytime Fitness.

 

“First and foremost, the best advice I can give someone is stick to a schedule just like you would on a workday,” he says. “If you normally work to 9 to 5, make sure you work 9 to 5. If you used to go to the gym from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., still make the time to get out and exercise and be active during that time.”

 

To ensure its members remain connected, Anytime Fitness has been offering online coaching to encourage them to keep up with their routines and stay in the best physical shape they can be, especially with the threat of COVID-19 variances. 

 

“We have a team of coaches that look after them and provide them with online workouts,” says Ashley, explaining it was something the company was looking at prior to the pandemic and expects will continue. “We’re trying to find a market that’s going to accommodate everyone at the end of the day.”

 

He says working out a home doesn’t require a great deal of equipment or space.

“You don’t need a whole apartment to enable you to do a workout,” says Ashely, noting even canvas shopping bags and water bottles or cans that can be adjusted for weight can work for an ‘at home’ training session. “All our workouts that we’ve based it on have been based on functional body weights and exercises.”

 

Staying active, says Shane, who is a parttime paramedic and fitness enthusiast, is vital and urges people to get out of their home office and move around.

“Go for a quick walk, do something,” he says. “It’s not just important for your physical health but overall mental health.”

 

But when it comes to eating, Shane suggests prepping meals ahead of time using non-processed meats like chicken or beef that can be quickly heated up is a great option during a busy workday.

 

“Most meals when you prep them can sit for about three days in the fridge, so now you’ve got something there you can throw in the microwave and eat,” he says, adding eating ‘clean food’ is important for a healthy lifestyle.

 

Janet, who opened her first store in 1981, couldn’t agree more and says eating healthy will manifest itself into being more productive at work.


“If we could feel more energetic and feel like we’re sleeping better and have more energy for other things it is more self-motivating,” she says, noting the staff at Goodness Me! can offer some great nutritional advice.

 

10 pieces of advice from Janet Jacks regarding healthier eating while working at home:

 

1. Create a hydration plan.

“When we are thirsty, we tend to sometimes misinterpret that as hunger and we’re eating when our body is really saying please drink something.”  She recommends keeping a container of green tea or ginger tea, or even lemon water around. Also, if water is too ‘boring’ try throwing in some cucumber slices. She says ginger tea is especially cleansing and very detoxifying. “Whatever it might be, we need a plan to keep us hydrated because will be more clear-minded and have more energy and our body will work better.”

 

2. Watch what you put in your grocery cart.

“When you’re shopping, stock up on real food options, use fresh whole foods.” This includes things like raw cheeses, avocados, nuts, olives, easy vegetables, Bok choy, naturally fermented pickles, tuna and salmon. She recommends sauteing some Bok choy or cabbage in a frying pan for a few minutes and enjoying it with a plate of vegetables is a quick and easy lunch.

 

3. Plan for leftovers.

“Some people are great at using leftovers, and others will see them languish at the back of the fridge and they will end up being thrown out. I think you should even plan for it.” She says leftovers quite often are good for one person, which is great for lunch. She suggests cooking some hearty crockpot or Instant Pot meals that will provide leftovers. Or at dinner, she says cook extra vegetables so you will have some left for lunch the next day. “You can eat these things cold and they are very good, or you could warm them up quickly.”

 

4. Keep boiled eggs handy.

“Just have some in a bowl in the fridge. They’re so hearty and so healthy. All you need is a little bit of salt and you’re good to go. They’re great for snacking or lunch.” Also, she says they provide a great source of protein.

 

5. Make or buy soup.

“I know we’re coming into warmer weather, but a pot of soup is like planned leftovers. Having a big pot of soup in the fridge actually improves with sitting and you can just take out what you need. It’s so fast and hearty. What’s not to like?”

 

6. Each meal should have balance.

“Every time you eat, try to avoid grabbing a cookie and think about I need protein and fat and some kind of vegetable. If I’m going to eat a cookie, it could for dessert as part of that meal.” She refers to this thinking as foundational nutrition and says meal portions are not as important as balance.

 

7. Utilize flexible hours.

“We have these flexible hours which are a great way to try intermittent fasting. It can be a very healthy mechanism. You eat your meals within a more compact window, rather than spread out.” She compares this to the way farmers eat breakfast after they finish their morning chores, suggesting people who work at home could eat their first meal later in the morning after they start work leaving only a few hours before they consume dinner. As a result, she says if they don’t snack in the evening, they could wind up with at least 10 hours or more between their next meal. “That way you give your body more chance to use what you’ve eaten and process everything. Often people feel better when they do this.”

 

8. When you eat, just eat.

Janet says taking the time while eating to stop and savour your food, is important for digestion.

 

“You allow your digestion to have more power. Take a breath and enjoy the colours and the flavours of your food. Sometimes we eat and don’t even know what we just ate.”

 

9. Focus on food with a function.

“Food should taste delicious, but also have a function in the body. Think about food as nourishment that lowers stress or builds immunity, or soothes and restores and rebuilds your digestive system, or keeps inflammation at bay because that’s the root of disease.” She says knowing what foods can help your body is important. “When you’re shopping, rethink food. Respect food and while eating it, think this is taking care of my body while I’m enjoying it.”

 

10. Remember and recall.

“Quality food speaks volumes, and you can feel the difference.”

 

For more information or tips, visit https://goodnessme.ca, https://rionectar.ca and https://anytimefitness.com

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The arrival of a third provincial shutdown could spell even more trouble to the food services sector, which has already been dealt a harsh blow since the pandemic began more than a year ago. 

 

According to a Statistic Canada survey (full survey: https://bit.ly/3t2CvbK) conducted from January to February of this year and released in March, nearly three-fifths (56.6%) of food services and drinking places were already anticipating their profits to drop between January and May of 2021 - even before this latest shutdown - compared to just over two-fifths (41.8%) of all businesses.

Tack these numbers on to the four-fifths (86.5%) of these businesses which already experienced a drop in revenue in 2020 compared to three-fifths (60.5%) of all businesses and it’s easy to see why those in this sector are feeling very frustrated.  

 

For Matt Rolleman, co-owner of Thirteen at the corner of Water and Main streets in Galt, learning to adapt to the roller-coaster of rules contained within the provincial COVID-19 Response Framework has been an ongoing challenge for him and others in the food services sector. 

 

“You don’t really plan for that,” he said, referring to the ‘up and down’ restrictions. “That’s been our biggest disappointment.” 

 

During the first lockdown last year, Matt said like many restaurants he was left with an abundant of product and nowhere to sell it. This included 22 kegs of beer which had been tapped and could no longer be sold.  

 

Like many other restaurant operators, he donated food to those in need in the community and had no choice but to dump the beer. 

 

“Since then, we’ve been more cautious when we bring in products,” he said, noting the introduction of a scaled-down menu which had been slowly increasing after the second lockdown ended in mid-February and Waterloo Region went into the ‘Red Zone’ allowing a maximum of 10 diners inside. 

 

In an interview just prior to this latest shutdown, Matt said he had brought back some additional staff and that a few above-seasonal days resulted in patrons enjoying the outdoors on Thirteen’s patio Main Street. In fact, he’s made an application to increase the restaurant’s patio along the Water Street side of the building.  

 

“Even being open in the modified Red Zone and business was good on the weekend,” he said, noting that patio season really won’t ramp up until the end of June.  

 

Add in takeout sales, something Matt said Thirteen did very little of before COVID-19, and he was seeing sales of up to 40% to 45% on a ‘good day’ of what he would have made prior to the pandemic. 

 

“But from that perspective, our business model wasn’t generated on the idea that we were going to do 50% to 55% less sales,” he said, adding utilizing the various support programs, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, are imperative to small business operators. 

 

“If there were no wage subsidies, we’d probably wouldn’t have re-opened, or we would have just been doing takeout at a very basic level because it just wouldn’t be worth it.” 

 

The survey shows that at their current level of revenue and expenditures, more than half (51.2%) of food services and drinking places are unsure how long they can continue operating. 

 

Fortunately, Matt said owning the building that houses the restaurant has helped but that many others are not in the same boat. 

 

“If I was a restaurant owner that had this much space that I was paying rent for I may have may have packed up my bags and went home for a while,” he said, adding that having cashflow on a busy day is helpful when it comes to paying the bills. 

 

“But the grant program (Small Business Support Grant) is crucial for us when we decide to increase our inventory and want to bring back more staff,” said Matt. 

 

He recommends SMEs like himself utilize as much government support as possible. 

“Just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks,” he said. “If you truly need it to help your business survive, then get at it. We’re all going to be paying it back anyways.” 

 

Matt, who describes himself as a realist, said he remains confident in his business but admits it’s difficult for him and his staff to stay optimistic, especially when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 safety protocols in addition to their regular work duties.  

 

“I think they’re just getting worn down,” he said, adding even seeing the framework return to the ‘Orange’ or ‘Yellow’ zones would boost morale. 

 

“I would love to see the Drayton theatre (Hamilton Family Theatre) open again but am not sure how that’s going to happen. It’s such a vital part of the downtown core just to bring people in.” 

 

But in the meantime, Matt said he finds hope in seeing more people being vaccinated and remains passionate about running his own business, which includes pitching in to help his staff as much as he can. 

 

“You need to go back to your grassroots of what you can do,” he said. “If that means I’m sweeping the floor and washing dishes, that’s life. It’s not necessarily where I saw myself being, but that’s what you do to keep your business alive if you truly believe in your business.” 

 

StatsCan survey at a glance: 

 

  • In 2020 nearly one-fifth (19.4%) of food services and drinking places made 30% or more of their total sales online, more than double the proportion that did in 2019 (9.1%).
  • Over four-fifths (86.5%) of food services and drinking places experienced a decrease in revenue in 2020 compared to three-fifths (60.5%) of all businesses.  
  • A decline in revenue of 40% or more in 2020 was a reality for over two-fifths (42.9%) of food services and drinking places, with those in Quebec (50.9%), Manitoba (47.9%) and Ontario (44.9%) most likely to see this level of loss. 
  • At their current level of revenue and expenditures, over half (51.2%) of food services and drinking places do not know how long they can continue to operate before considering closure or bankruptcy. 
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The arrival of the pandemic has altered our lives in many ways, especially how business is now being conducted.

 

As more businesses and organizations look for ways to present their message to potential customers and supporters, creating quality videos should be the method near the top of their list.

 

“In light of COVID-19, we have seen the world turn to video as a lifeline not only professionally, but personally,” says expert video strategist Sheryl Plouffe. “It is the way of the future and businesses that do not integrate video will fail over the next decade.”

 

The international speaker and successful entrepreneur will share some of her valuable insight at our next YIP Growth Learning Series event that focuses on video messaging, which experts say is a great way to connect on an emotional level with your audience compared to other content.

 

“I see a lot of people watching their competition using video, taking their prospects and clients away from them because they’re not willing to face their fear or nervousness about stepping in front of the camera,” says Sheryl. “A lot of people are hanging onto a level of perfectionism that is hindering their growth.”

 

Known for using simple, yet strategic storytelling, she will share some of her best on-camera strategies to assist participants in creating polished and professional products, with an emphasis on how video messaging can benefit their business by making bigger impacts.

 

“My intent is that they’ll feel motivated to take those first few important steps towards building a video strategy that builds their platform and brand,” says Sheryl, adding she’s an ‘open book’ when it comes video. “I also consider myself a video marketing crash test dummy to some degree, so I feel like people who come to this presentation will benefit from asking me anything.”

 

Find out more by joining our session, YIP Growth Learning Series: Video Messaging, on Tuesday, April 6 from 11 a.m. to noon sponsored by Deluxe.

 

To register, visit: https://bit.ly/3smSWPY

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber Welcome Focus on Tourism, Small Business, Women, Training, and Local Communities

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce released the following response to the Government of Ontario’s 2021 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy.

 

“Ontario’s 2021 Budget means supports for the hardest-hit sectors and communities including right here in Waterloo Region, much needed aid for women who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, and initiatives that will create a strong economic rebound related to tourism, training, and vital infrastructure such as broadband,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Leading up to Budget 2021, the Ontario Chamber Network was calling for policies that mitigate the immediate impacts of the crisis and lay the groundwork for a robust and inclusive economic recovery. Resources need to be focused on those hit hardest by the pandemic, where they will have the greatest impact.

 

“Ontario’s business community welcomes the 2021 Budget, which gives businesses much-needed supports to confront the current health crisis while laying the foundation for a strong and inclusive economic recovery,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

 

Some of the things called for in the Ontario Chamber Network pre-Budget Submission included:

  • Targeted support for the hardest-hit sectors and communities;
  • Demand-driven skills programming;
  • Enhanced access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs;
  • Bold action on interprovincial trade;
  • Strengthening of municipalities’ fiscal capacity; and
  • A sensible path to getting Ontario’s finances on track post-pandemic.

 

“Women’s fulsome participation in the labour market is a precondition to our economic recovery and future prosperity. We greatly appreciate the new supports for women, as they have been among those disproportionately impacted by the crisis,” said the report’s author Claudia Dessanti, Senior Policy Analyst of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “A taskforce for inclusive economic growth, further supports for child care, a job training tax credit, relief for the tourism industry, and support for survivors of domestic violence are all welcome initiatives that will help turn the tides on the impacts that were so severe and immediate for women in Ontario. Budget 2021 addresses many of the supports we called for in our recent report, The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario.”

 

Some of the measures welcomed by the Ontario Chamber Network in the 2021 Budget are:

 

Support for inclusive growth:

 

  • A taskforce for inclusive economic growth. The COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected women, racialized individuals, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and other communities in the province. The new taskforce will examine how to increase women’s participation in the workforce, which will support economic recovery.
  • Temporary Job Training Tax Credit. Studies suggest about half a million jobs are not expected to return in Canada after the pandemic, the majority of which are occupied by women. Financial support for underemployed individuals to access training and reskilling will be particularly important for lower-income workers, new immigrants, and Ontarians living in Indigenous, rural, remote, and northern communities.
  • Child care support. Access to affordable child care is a long-standing issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Enhancing the CARE tax credit for 2021, extending financial support for virtual learning costs, and investing in new child care spots will help ease the burden for Ontario families and allow more women to re-enter the workforce.
  • Supports for women fleeing domestic violence. The increase in domestic violence incidences during the pandemic has forced many women to leave their homes and communities, jeopardizing their safety and livelihood. Support for women in transitional housing and underserved areas will help provide safety for women in vulnerable situations.

 

Supports for business:

 

  • Doubling of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. The grant has helped many organizations survive the crisis thus far and making this an automatic top-up instead of asking businesses to re-apply will reduce the administrative burden on both businesses and government.
  • Additional resources for the Digital Main Street Grant. Many small businesses, particularly in rural and remote regions, have benefited from the supports of this grant to get their business online. Expanding the program will help more businesses digitize and prepare for the economy of tomorrow.
  • Invest Ontario Fund. Additional funding in Invest Ontario over the next four years will be important to create jobs and investment across the province.

 

Support for tourism:

 

  • Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant. The OCC recently wrote to the Ontario government about how the tourism industry is not eligible for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. This new grant is welcome news for hotels, travel agencies, hunting and fishing camps, and other organizations that did not qualify for the original grant.
  • Local Tourism Tax Credit and Tourism Recovery Program. Many of the chambers of commerce and boards of trade are active in the tourism industries within their local communities. These additional supports will be critical to support a revival of tourism after the pandemic.
  • Support for alcohol producers & local distilleries. Ontario’s vineyards, cideries, and small distillers have been greatly impacted by the pandemic as tourism stalled this year.

 

Support for communities and municipalities:

 

  • Broadband investments. The pandemic has put the spotlight on the digital divide for people and businesses, particularly in remote and rural communities. Additional funding to connect all Ontarians, including businesses, to reliable broadband by 2025 is welcome news. 
  • Regional Opportunities Tax Credit. Additional resources towards this program will allow rural and remote communities to invest in projects that create local jobs and economic growth.
  • Property reassessment for municipalities. Pausing the property tax reassessment gives municipalities and businesses more capacity and time to adjust to the economic uncertainty and challenges caused by the pandemic.
  • Expansion of the Ontario Together Fund. The Ontario Together Fund has successfully leveraged Ontario’s business community to address pandemic-related challenges and support relief efforts.
  • Access to vaccination appointments. The Ontario Chamber Network welcomes support to help seniors and people with disabilities get to their vaccination appointments. The faster the population is inoculated, the sooner we can focus on recovery.
  • Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund. Renovations to local buildings and sports facilities will also be integral to local economic growth and recovery initiatives.

Read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce full pre-Budget submission here.

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Like many parents, the pandemic forced Alexandra Allen to drastically alter her family’s routine when it came to child care as she and her husband came up with ways to juggle work and their children’s needs.

 

Trying to work a full-time job while also being a full-time child-care provider is enough to make you go crazy,” says the Cambridge mother referring to the period when she pulled her two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter out of daycare after the centres were first allowed to reopen last June, relying instead on family supports.

 

However, when they returned to the YWCA child-care centre they attend at a local school in the fall, Alexandra says this proved difficult since she was required to still pay for her spots even if the children were unable to attend due to illness.

 

“It became financially taxing in November, especially when it got colder and the kids couldn’t spend as much time outside,” she says, adding even a case of the sniffles meant keeping the child at home. “There needs to be bigger help.”

 

Rosalind Gunn, Director of Marketing and Communications at YWCA Cambridge, agrees and says the need for a national child-care strategy to foster economic growth and stability was first identified in 1967’s Royal Commission on the Status of Women, but little has transpired since that time to address those concerns.

 

“It’s actually not a new problem. Just like so many other social services or conditions of living, the pandemic has only really exposed the fault lines,” she says. “There have always been these issues.”

 

She says our region, which has seen at least 40% of its child-care operators remain closed since the start of the pandemic, was already experiencing a shortage of spaces and estimates before COVID-19 there were only 216 child-care spots available for every 1,000 kids looking for space.

Rosalind says many operators have stayed closed due to lower enrolments since the ratios were reduced in the beginning and that many parents - whether they were working from home, lost their jobs or had safety concerns – started keeping their children out of daycare full time.

 

“Even though we’re now able to operate at full capacity, many providers don’t want to do that because they don’t want to risk any outbreaks,” she says, adding more staff is needed to ensure the safety of fewer children which leads to higher costs. “It’s sort of the perfect storm.”

 

For Alexandra, who works as a volunteer program co-ordinator at Hospice Waterloo Region, she says having family members help them out in the summer was a luxury that many parents aren’t fortunate enough to have.

“But by the end of summer, we had grown really tired of making it work so we put the kids back in child care by September,” she says. “Right away it was challenging.”

 

Alexandra says she’s fortunate Hospice Waterloo Region let her adjust her work schedule accordingly, but that her husband, who does shift work at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, isn’t able to do the same.

 

“It would be nice if some money could flow towards child care so that parents like us don’t have to struggle so hard,” she says. “It’s a tough situation for parents who want to keep working.”

 

Rosalind agrees, explaining that since women make up approximately 40% of household incomes and that the COVID-19 crisis has had a disproportionate economic impact on women, there is already a significant ripple effect occurring.

 

“We know that investing in child care brings money into the entire economy and bolsters everyone,” she says, noting for example that subsidized daycare in Quebec results in $147 being put back into the economy with every $100 of publicly invested money. “There is a direct link there with child care.”

 

However, there is a glimmer of hope for change. According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent report The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario, both the federal and provincial ggovernments are supporting licensed providers with funding to absorb added costs, including nearly $147 million through the Canada-Ontario Early Learning and Child Care Agreement and $234.6 million through the Safe Restart Agreement.

 

Also, in the last election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to address shortcomings in the system by creating 250,000 additional child-care spaces across Canada, with at least 10% reserved for care during extended hours, and establishing a national secretariat to lay the groundwork for a pan-Canadian child-care system.

 

“We’re all really latching on to this opportunity to keep pushing for actual tangible change,” says Rosalind, adding support for change from organizations like the OCC and Canadian Chamber of Commerce is helping.

 

Earlier this month the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Council for Women’s Advocacy released a statement offering five recommendations to the federal government to support women and foster economic growth due to the pandemic.

 

These included: working with province, territories and stakeholders to ensure schools and daycares remain open through subsequent waves across the country; establishment of an inclusive Task Force to focus on child-care capacity and support through the ongoing crisis; removing tax barriers for child care; providing enhanced opportunities for women-owned businesses to meaningfully access public procurement contracts, including federal government diversity targets specifically for women-owned business and female workforces; and supporting job pivots for women, including training, upskilling and job transitions.

 

As well, the OCC’s The She-Covery Project report recommended several child-care reforms, including increased investment, subsidizing parents and providers, prioritizing equity, and addressing the shortage of early childhood educators. Also, the report suggested both the federal and provincial governments ‘explore’ creative solutions ranging from in-program changes to workplace-based child care.

 

“There is hope when we’re seeing such cross-sector acknowledgement that there is a need for child care that is good for the entire economy,” says Rosalind. “I do think there is hope for change.”

 

Read The She-Covery Project report at: https://occ.ca/wp-content/uploads/OCC-shecovery-final.pdf

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When it comes to the battle against COVID-19, businesses need an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.  

 

One of the best, besides the necessary PPE, is contact tracing which is a core disease control measure.

 

“To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in a workplace, it is critical businesses conduct contact tracing,” says Dr. Ryan Van Meer, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Waterloo Region Public Health. “Businesses know where staff work, with whom, and when, and have means to contact staff who may have had close (high risk) contact in a prompt manner to instruct them to self-isolate and get tested.”

 

He says many workplaces are conducting contact tracing well, despite the fact there may be the perception it is difficult because it is typically done by nurses and other professionals.

 

“But many workplaces have gained experience with it over the pandemic and our COVID-19 Contact Tracing resource is an excellent tool to help guide them through the decision-making process,” says Dr. Van Meer.

 

At the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, we have partnered with Get Ready, a CBRN and Chamber Member, to provide an easy electronic screening tool to ensure the safety of our staff, customers, visitors and contractors, entering our office. The tool utilizes a quick scan of a ‘QR Code’ on their mobile devices or desktops which provides all the necessary information that Public Health will require for contact tracing purposes should an employee get sick or exposed to the virus in the workplace.  The province of Ontario has required all workplaces to implement daily screening for any workers or essential visitors entering the work environment.

 

Dr. Van Meer says the Region has resources in place to assist workplaces.

 

“Our guide for workplaces helps employers determine who is a close (high risk) contact that needs to self-isolate and get tested,” he says, adding there are other ‘upstream’ public health measures workplaces can use to prevent high risk contact. These include physical distancing, PPE, preventing close contact during lunches and breaks, as well as environmental cleaning and disinfection.

 

Dr. Van Meer says when there are multiple confirmed cases in a workplace, the Region’s Workplace Team follows up directly with the employer to support contact tracing and ensures Public Health measures are in place to prevent further spread.

 

“We currently have approximately 135 staff supporting case and contact management across all settings, as well as additional support from the province,” says Dr. Van Meer, adding there are steps employers must take if a worker tests positive for the virus. “Workplaces should work with their employee who is a confirmed case and consult the Contact Tracing guide for workplaces to determine who would have had close (high risk) contact with the case during the period the case was infectious and instruct those contacts to self-isolate and get tested.”

 

For more information on the Region of Waterloo’s COVID-19 resources for workplaces, visit: https://bit.ly/2ODUWEx

 

To learn more about the ‘Get Ready’ screening tool for your office, please visit: https://bit.ly/3euKYQQ

 

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