Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

More than 60 per cent of Canada’s restaurants risk having to close their doors permanently by November, according to government data.

 

The Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), produced by Statistics Canada with support from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, found that 29% of accommodation and food service businesses cannot operate at all with social distancing measures in effect. A further 31% will only be able to remain operational for up to 90 days with distancing measures in effect. In other words, up to 60% of the industry could fail within three months.

 

 

These figures are even more troubling when you consider the jobs already lost. When COVID hit, 83% of businesses in the accommodation and food services industries temporarily closed and two-thirds were forced to lay off some staff, including almost a quarter that were forced to lay off all their staff.  According to Restaurants Canada, the food service industry lost 800,000 jobs.

 

While the economy is now slowly beginning to recover, to date the federal government has not offered help tailored to the needs of the hardest hit industries like food services, which will take a long time to recover. That’s why, with the support of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and 15 food service businesses, representing more than 60 brands, has launched the ‘Our Restaurants’ campaign.

 

“Local restaurants are vital to our economy and play an integral role in making Cambridge such a great community,” said Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher. “They need our support now more than ever.”

 

Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Hon. Perrin Beatty agrees.

 

“We need to act now. Across Canada, our restaurants are where we meet for business or pleasure, where we got our first job and where our families spend a night out. Simply put, our restaurants are cornerstones in our communities,” he said. “The ‘Our Restaurants’ campaign underscores the urgent need for Canadians – both the public and our governments – to come together to support these businesses in their time of need.”

 

The campaign puts a spotlight on the current situation faced by Canada’s restaurants amidst COVID-19: high costs, fewer customers, and government programs ill-equipped for the unique, long-term challenges faced by the industry.

 

Our Restaurants is a campaign led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and supported by:

  • Arterra Wines Canada
  • Benny & Co.
  • Boston Pizza
  • CWB Franchise Finance
  • Firkin Group of Pubs
  • Foodtastic
  • Gordon Food Service
  • Molson Coors Beverage Company
  • Northland Restaurant Group
  • Paramount Fine Foods
  • Pizza Pizza
  • Restaurants Canada
  • Service Inspired Restaurants (SIR Corp)
  • St. Louis Bar and Grill Restaurants
  • Sysco Canada

Together these companies represent more than 60 of the best-known restaurant brands across Canada and the whole of the food services industry.

 

“We can all make a difference. Canadians need to observe safety measures while also starting to resume our normal lives, including being able to go out for a meal. Everyone also needs to remind their elected representatives of the importance of our restaurants in our lives,” concluded Beatty.

 

The campaign is national, bilingual, includes paid advertising, and the launch of the website OurRestaurants.ca.

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce have released The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario.

 

This policy brief lays out a path to Ontario’s economic recovery offering practical recommendations to confront both immediate and longer-term challenges faced by women.

 

“With women’s labour force participation at a record low, decades of progress towards gender equality are at stake,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “This is not only a watershed moment for women but for Ontario’s economy and society more broadly, as women’s participation in the labour market is a precondition to its fulsome economic recovery and future prosperity.”

 

“The economic impacts of the pandemic were direct and immediate for women in Ontario,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “Temporary business shutdowns during the state of emergency most severely affected sectors that predominantly employ women. Restrictions on schools and paid child-care facilities have shifted additional hours of unpaid family care onto parents, and this work has largely been taken up by mothers.”

 

Major takeaways from the report include:

  • Leadership and accountability begin with a commitment from stakeholders to set collective targets, reward diversity, include women in decision-making bodies, and apply a gender and diversity lens to their strategies, policies, and programs for recovery.
  • Child care requires a short-term strategy to weather the pandemic and longer-term, system-wide reforms to improve accessibility and affordability.
  • Workforce development initiatives should focus on defining critical skills, accelerating women’s reskilling, and ensuring their skills are utilized – with a focus on increasing their participation in skilled trade, technology, and engineering roles in fast-growing sectors.
  • Entrepreneurship should be understood as a pathway to economic growth, and an inclusive ecosystem is critical to supporting women entrepreneurs.
  • Flexible work arrangements are one way to level the playing field for women and improve organizational outcomes.

 

For more, see the report at:  https://occ.ca/wp-content/uploads/OCC-shecovery-final.pdf

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Tired of staring at the same four walls?

                                                

The reality of COVID-19 has clearly altered travel plans for millions of people this summer and for the months to come, but the desire to get away from our day-to-day lives remains strong.

 

“I think there is a pent-up need for people who want to travel,” says Judy Silva-Foye, Branch Manager of Vision Travel Solutions.

 

With more than 30 years experience in the business, Judy has seen it all but says the COVID-19 crisis is something she has never faced before, even taking into account such other health emergencies like SARS, H1N1 and Swine Flu.

 

“We survived 9/11 and thought at that time there wasn’t anything that would look quite as a bad,” she says, noting the shutdown happened in early March marked the first time in 35 years she was forced to lock her office doors. “It felt so surreal.”

 

For Darlene Whipp, office manager at Donaldson Travel, reopening her office to the public in June – by appointment only – was a big step to returning to some sense of normalcy, even though several desks were removed to create safe physical distancing, plexiglass partitions installed and hours of operation shortened. 

 

“We’ve been dealing with a lot of cancellations and rebookings,” she says. “But we are getting a lot more people coming in wanting to travel.”

 

Winter holidays to the Caribbean, which has seen many destinations reopen thanks through various health and safety protocols, have sparked the interest of many travellers looking to get away.

 

“A co-worker of mine just issued tickets for 12 people to travel to the Dominican Republic in January,” says Darlene, adding her office has been keeping close tabs on what is taking place in the Caribbean. “We’ve constantly been taking webinars with the resorts as they go over all their new protocols and what they’ve been doing to make things safe for clients.”

 

Donaldson Travel President Mark Crone says the airlines have also stepped up with many new protocols and recalls a very positive experience he had on a promotional flight in mid-July to Montreal sponsored by Air Canada to showcase their company’s changes to travel industry experts.

 

“I think it’s really reassuring that planes are really being properly cleaned,” he says, adding that loosening restrictions around the 14-day quarantine period in Ontario would be in a major boost and confidence is coming back as more offices reopen. “A few months ago, we were all self-isolating but now I think we just want our freedom. But the big thing is what’s happening in the U.S. and if they could get more control of it (COVID-19) I think that would help the mindset here all that much more.”

 

Keeping that in mind, Judy says travel destinations in Canada has been a wonderful option for those itching to get away, which could include renting an RV.

 

“We’re suggesting to people that now is the time to see your own country,” she says, noting there are many options just within Ontario to provide people a great holiday, such as a wine tour. “I think this opened our eyes that we have to look into our own backyard this year and seeing what we have closer to home.”

 

But for those looking at travelling – for both holiday and personal reasons - to other provinces, or other countries that are allowing Canadian visitors, travel experts say that research is necessary to ensure what guidelines are in place.

 

“We have become quite the experts on where to find information,” says Judy. “Because it’s not just about the country you’re leaving from but the country you’re going to.”

 

Mark agrees and says the amount of information surrounding travel is overwhelming as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

 

“It’s all very fluid, and changes,” he says. “We’re getting creamed with information every day. You have to be on top of it for sure.”

 

That’s why Mark says turning to a travel expert for assistance is very good idea.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand why anyone would try to book a trip online if they don’t absolutely understand what’s going on right now,” he says. “There’s certainly a short list of places you can go.”

 

Judy says she is confident the travel industry will survive.

 

“Travel will come back because there is always going to be a desire for travel,” she says. “But will it come back the same? No. It will never be what it was before, just different.”

 

She says the impact of COVID-19 has created a domino effect and has resulted in a global connection towards trying to bring the virus under control.

 

“We don’t all have to have share the same beliefs, but we should all try to end up at the same place,” says Judy.

 

 

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A new idea has surfaced for a Cambridge bottled water provider to help it combat the effects of COVID-19.

 

Mineva – Water Refined, which has provided water treatment systems in Cambridge since 2011 centred on the process of electrolysis to remove bacteria and viruses, has received its DIN (Drug Identification Number) from Health Canada to manufacture a powerful disinfectant.

 

This new product, which the company is calling ‘Power Play’, is ideal for businesses, schools, and clubs.

 

“We started doing testing and making products back in March,” says Water Refined President Bryan Box, noting the idea first surfaced shortly after the lockdown. At that time, in accordance with safety protocols, his technicians were restricted from entering homes and businesses, which includes dairy farms, to install or service the firm’s patented water technology. 

 

However, he says some employees were kept busy thanks to the company’s work as operators for the wastewater plant of a local manufacturing facility.

 

“That kept some revenue coming in,” says Bryan.

 

But things changed a couple of weeks into the COVID-19 crisis when he began fielding phone calls and requests from clients asking if their water systems could be ‘tweaked’ to create disinfectant.

 

“I had two home users and a dentist all within 10 hours call and ask if they could take their electrolysis system and add salt to it and make disinfectant,” says Bryan, explaining this formula leads to the creation of hypochlorous acid, a very safe substance that white blood cells manufacture to fight infections.

 

“It’s a very powerful disinfectant but very safe,” he says.

 

These requests, including one from a competitor asking if they could use the company’s water bottling line in St. Catharines, prompted Bryan and his team to begin looking into Health Canada regulations to see  how they could pivot their operation to start manufacturing disinfectant.

 

“We joked that we started going down the rabbit hole,” he says.

 

As they investigated this possibility, his company also began sourcing another disinfectant called ‘Neutralyze’ from a B.C. company that does similar work to get the ball rolling locally.

 

Bryan says they enlisted the help of a consultant to help navigate the Health Canada system, which can be daunting, to obtain a DIN.

 

“You don’t know if it’s going to take two months, four months or even eight months,” he says.

 

The proper approvals were obtained, and Bryan says his new product has already been used at the Cambridge Sports Park, The Zone Training in Waterloo and Guelph, Cambridge Kips Gymnastics Club, several dance studios and dental offices.

 

As a father with children who are active in the local sports community, he says having a locally produced product will make it less costly for many organizations.

 

“The prices out there are just astronomical,” says Bryan, referring to the cost of other products available on the market.

 

He says his company has also been in contact with local school boards letting them know about these products as schools prepare to welcome students back.

 

“There might be a mad dash when schools realize there’s not a lot of supply around and everybody’s scrambling,” says Bryan, adding his company is also toying with the idea of providing the necessary prepackaged ingredients to let customers use their own water systems to create the disinfectant. It’s a plan that would also require Health Canada approval.

 

“But that could be another 12 to 18 months do this,” he says, adding he has learned a great deal over the past few months.

 

“It certainly has been an interesting process,” says Bryan.

 

For information about these new products, please visit www.mineva.com

 

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Recovery Activation Program expands to Cambridge

 

COVID-19 has changed everything, requiring telecommuting, on-demand delivery and services, supply chain resiliency and virtual collaborations.

 

Even as the province begins to reopen, the pandemic has heightened the urgency for businesses to digitize to survive.

 

To address this change, Toronto Region Board of Trade and World Trade Centre Toronto created the Recovery Activation Program, or RAP. RAP offers businesses the know-how, blueprint and partners to address the conditions that COVID-19 has created by implementing digital solutions to their front, middle and back-offices. It will not only equip them to come through COVID-19 intact, but to thrive.

 

With the support of a $7.7 million investment from the Government of Canada and Government of Ontario, RAP is now expanding to businesses of all sizes throughout the province, including Waterloo Region. The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has been selected as an important partner to help ensure local businesses benefit from the customized services and mentorship that RAP offers.

 

“We’re recruiting for RAP because we believe this program will provide our Members with a great opportunity to move their businesses forward,” says Cambridge Chamber President & CEO Greg Durocher. 

 

By enabling this partnership between the Cambridge Chamber and the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the governments’ investment in RAP will also help make sure at least half of RAP’s participants are based outside of Toronto.

 

“The Recovery Activation Program is a direct response to what we’re hearing from our members and the business community at large: digital tools and services are crucial to success, but challenging to implement,” said Jan De Silva, President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. “Cambridge’s involvement in this program will result in the digital transformation of businesses outside of Toronto who will now be in a position to shore up their current business offerings, create new businesses opportunities and explore new markets.”

 

Recruitment is now open and interested businesses can apply here.

 

For more information, please contact Cambridge Chamber President & CEO Greg Durocher at 519.622.2221, Ext. 2223, or by email at greg@cambridgechamber.com.

 

 

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  “Complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before being ascertained.”
    – Vladimir Nabokov

 

As countries across the world continue to cope with the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, necessary questions are being asked about how governments and the various multilateral and national institutions and organizations designed to prevent these kinds of outbreaks failed.

 

It will take time to untangle the myriad of geopolitical and governance failures behind the present condition, but it is hard not to see how complacency played a role in our collective pandemic prevention and preparedness.

 

The result of this complacency is that Canada is experiencing its worst economic downturn in decades that is wreaking havoc on Canadian companies, their employees and federal, provincial and municipal balance sheets. According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey on Business Conditions in May, 61% of businesses in Canada reported laying off 50% or more of their workforce. Even the most optimistic economists are projecting that it will take years, not months, for Canada return to the levels of economic activity that was taking place before the pandemic.

 

The biggest recovery issue for governments around the world – including in Canada – is whether they can control and reduce the spread of COVID-19 without resorting back to economically devastating shutdown measures. Our short-term economic health and public health are inextricably linked.

 

As Canada tries to chart its medium- and long-term economic recovery plans, one of the most important issues is whether the country can overcome the economic complacency that had taken root long before the pandemic hit. Before COVID-19 disrupted nearly every aspect of our economy, Canadian policymakers were seemingly content with low-level business investment and economic and productivity growth.

 

Despite having an unnecessarily complex and inefficient tax system, successive Canadian governments over the last 60 years have avoided taking the necessary step of comprehensive tax reform. In the face of this inattention, the Canadian Chamber recently launched an independent tax review to help spur our recovery.  Other countries including the U.K. and New Zealand have shown it can be done and overhauled their outdated tax systems. Now, as business demand and revenues are down, it is more important than ever for Canada to look at tax reform as an opportunity to lower business costs and free up more capital for them to invest in recovery, growth and job creation.   

 

Despite having some of the highest environmental standards in the world, Canada has become complacent about allowing much needed infrastructure to be built so we can sell our energy resources to customers that are willing to pay just as much for energy products produced in jurisdictions with inferior environmental standards. In our present economic and fiscal situation, it would be economically negligent to concede that new energy driven jobs, growth and tax revenue to fund social and other spending programs should happen in those other countries and not ours.   

Despite federal governments over the last two decades repeatedly acknowledging that red tape and regulatory inefficiency continues to be a drag on growth in this country, they have all continued to introduce measures that increase the overall burden on businesses. Serious economic recovery plans must include regulatory measures that create a less uncertain and less costly environment to operate a business.

 

Canadian businesses and their employees have paid an exceedingly high price for the global complacency that got us here. Many businesses did not survive the first half of 2020 and more will close their doors permanently in the coming months. The ongoing impacts of this pandemic have shattered governments out of the complacency that allowed a localized outbreak of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China to spread to every corner of the globe.

 

As it considers long-term recovery and growth ideas this fall, it is still unclear whether governments recognize that economic complacency has shaped Canadian policymaking in recent years. By watching what happens with tax, regulatory and energy policy over the next several months we will soon find out.

 

For more information, please contact:
policy@chamber.ca

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The Cambridge Chamber has joined Canada United, a national movement to support local businesses in communities across the country.

 

As part of the movement, RBC has brought together more than 50 of Canada’s leading brands, Business Associations and the national Chamber network to rally Canadians to “show local some love” by buying, dining and shopping local.

 

“The Cambridge Chamber is pleased to support the Canada United movement and help bolster businesses in and around our community. Small businesses are the backbones of our local economies and key to thriving communities,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for businesses in our region and across the province. We need to continue to support SMEs who create jobs, drive innovation, and generate wealth for communities across Ontario – they will play an integral role in helping the province bounce back.”

 

Canadians are invited to join the Canada United movement by buying and dining local, including celebrating and supporting local businesses during the Canada United Weekend from August 28 to 30.

 

Canadians are also encouraged to watch the Canada United videos online at GoCanadaUnited.ca, like posts from @GoCanadaUnited on social media and use #CanadaUnited to demonstrate their support. For each of these actions until August 31, 2020, RBC will contribute 5 cents up to a maximum contribution amount of $2 million to the new Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, while working with government and corporate partners to source additional contributions to the fund during the course of the campaign. This fund will provide small businesses with grants of up to $5,000 to cover expenses related to personal protective equipment (PPE) renovations to accommodate re-opening guidelines and developing or improving e-commerce capabilities.

 

Small Canadian businesses across the country will be able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding. The program intends to support small Canadian businesses of all kinds from across the country. The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund will be administered by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the national Chamber network. Small business owners who are interested in the program can visit GoCanadaUnited.ca to learn more about grant application details, including eligibility criteria, and to apply.

 

“We are excited to welcome the Cambridge Chamber to Canada United to help local businesses and Canada’s economy come back strong,” said Neil McLaughlin, Group Head, Personal & Commercial Banking, Royal Bank of Canada. “Canada United was created to kick-start an economic rebound by rallying consumers to give local businesses the support they need to re-open during these uncertain times. By bringing together government, business associations and corporate Canada, we are looking to start a movement to get Canadians to buy local and support businesses across the country. We are genuinely excited by the energy all of our partners are bringing to this effort.”

 

“If there has been one silver lining in all the tragedy and sacrifices of the current crisis, it has been the spirit of collaboration and unity of purpose that has been evident between levels of government, across provinces and across sectors,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

“We are calling on that same unity of purpose with Canada United. Small, local businesses are the heart of our communities, our Main Streets and our economy. Together, it is time to show local some love.”

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Life must find a way to continue, even during a pandemic.

 

For those hoping to get married, or sadly for those faced with the loss of a loved one, having to navigate these important life-changing events in this COVID-19 world may appear exceptionally more difficult.

 

“I really feel like the rug has been pulled out from under all our couple’s feet because they’ve been planning this beautiful day for so long,” says Vanessa Davis, Executive Special Events Consultant for Pearle Hospitality, referring to those faced with altering wedding plans at the company’s many well-known properties which includes the Cambridge Mill and Whistle Bear Golf Club. “The part that I’ve been hearing that is the hardest for people has been the not knowing.”

 

She estimates COVID-19 has affected at least 500 weddings planned at Pearle Hospitality properties.

 

“In March and April, we were under mandated closures so there really were no options,” says Vanessa, adding that changed a few weeks ago.  

 

As of June 13, indoor wedding and funeral venues were allowed to operate at a maximum of 30% capacity, with outdoor ceremonies limited to 50 attendees. Receptions remain limited to the 10-person restriction. 

 

And for both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, those attending must follow proper health and safety advice, including practising physical distancing from people who are not from the same household or their established 10-person social circle. 

 

These changes mean couples looking to marry are now faced with making new decisions and left asking many questions.

 

“What will it be like? That’s a really challenging thing people for people to deal with right now,” says Vanessa. “It’s very emotional for them. They’re weighing a lot of positives and negatives because it’s not what they originally wanted.”

 

She says some have decided to postpone until they can stick with their original plans, while others for personal and even cultural reasons, are choosing to go ahead and hold a smaller gathering.

 

“They may decide to have a virtual ceremony they can share with guests near and far on the planned wedding day and have a reception at a later time,” says Vanessa. “I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. It’s whatever they’re going to feel the most comfortable and happy with.”

 

Virtual ceremonies have become a popular alternative for not only weddings, but also funerals as industry experts do what they can to ensure their clients’ needs are met.

“One of the jobs of a funeral director is not just helping people co-ordinate a funeral that’s unique and personalized, but to provide them with all the information so they can make an informed decision,” says Jon Rolleman, Managing Funeral Director of Coutts Funeral Home in south-end Cambridge.

 

When it comes to planning a funeral during COVID-19, he and others in his industry have also quickly learned to pivot in wake of strict health restrictions.

 

Through the course of the pandemic, Jon says many clients chose direct cremation or immediate burial for their loved ones due to the uncertainty of the situation, while others chose to have a limited number of immediate family members take part in a visitation.

 

“They still got to have the closure they wanted, and I think some people weren’t even expecting to have that opportunity,” he says.

 

Like those in the wedding industry, Jon says his business practices have also been modified to provide more virtual options including a webcast of the burial service.

“It’s nice to be able to provide that to the people who otherwise couldn’t come,” he says, noting Coutts Funeral Home also ensures through its online condolences system the bereaved know who attended the virtual service. “That way they can still reach out individually and still have the support they need.”

 

For additional support, Jon says his clients also can utilize a compassion ‘helpline’ on the Coutts Funeral Home website that provides 24-hour access to a variety of services, including certified grief professionals and psychologists. The service is offered through its parent company Dignity Memorial. 

 

“We have some really amazing benefits from being part of a such a large network of funeral homes,” he says, adding they have seen an increase in usage of the helpline during this time. “It’s nice to know it’s there and we get to offer that to our clients.”

As well, clients of Coutts Funeral Home can also make arrangements online, however, Jon says many still prefer the more ‘personal’ touch of a face-to-face meeting.

 

“We leave it up to them,” he says. “We prefer in person because there is so much more of an individual connection and that’s a big part of what we do.”

 

Despite creating new options and working within the ongoing restrictions, Jon says his key role and that of his team has remained the same throughout the pandemic.

“Obviously, our job is more empathy and compassion than anything else and making someone’s difficult time easier and the way we approach a family has never changed,” he says.

 

And with new safety protocols in place, which includes very specific physical distancing rules at visitations and following a series of guidelines, such as collecting information for potential contact tracing purposes, Jon and has team have learned to adapt very quickly.

 

“Personally, I’m very adaptive so it didn’t stress me out,” he says. “A big part of my role has been making sure I get all this information to my staff and help them manage the changes quickly and make sure their comfortable with the new systems.”

 

They keep the capacity of mourners at 50 invited guests if a service is requested to take place at a church, or in a cemetery, which Jon says is quite manageable. 

 

“We want to do our part for the community,” he says, referring to keeping people safe. “It’s a real balance to be able to give families what they need.”

 

Jon says the need for a funeral is imperative in the grieving process and feels sorry for those who decide to forgo that option. 

 

“People are justifying things in different ways for what they’re doing, but they’re really depriving themselves of what a funeral is and what it stands for and how it helps,” says Jon. 

“They’re depriving themselves of that opportunity, so I’m concerned about people’s mental health going forward.”

 

To rectify this issue, he hopes to be able to offer an ‘open’ memorial service, perhaps several, for those clients who have lost someone during the COVID-19 crisis and chose not to have a funeral.

 

“At least people who didn’t do anything can have a more formalized service,” says Jon, adding funerals are a celebration of life and are no longer ‘traditional’ as they once were. “Funerals are much more personalized and unique. Our job now is to give clients all the options so they can make informed decisions that are right for them.”

 

The same sentiment holds true when it comes to planning a wedding, especially during a crisis like COVID-19.

 

“My biggest piece of advice is that whatever they decide to do it’s going be great,” says Vanessa. “If the couple decides they want an intimate ceremony with 10 of their closest people, their other friends and family will understand. And if they decide to wait another year and do the party as planned, that’s a beautiful idea too.”

 

For more, visit pearlehospitality.ca or  dignitymemorial.com

 

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When COVID-19 struck and Ontario went into lockdown many beds at the two shelters the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region operates were left empty.

 

However, this was not something that CEO Jennifer Hutton admits she was glad to see.

 

“We really saw a significant decrease,” she says, referring to the number of women and children who seek refuge from domestic abuse at Haven House in Cambridge and Anselma House in Kitchener. “But what was keeping me up at night was worrying about what was actually going on in those homes. The abuse that was pre-existing was likely worsening, especially when you add in the additional stress and financial worries.”

 

Jennifer estimates the shelters, which provide 90 beds between them, saw their occupancy rates drop in the early weeks of the crisis to around 40% to 50% capacity compared to the usual 90% as well as a reduction in calls to access their resources. 

 

“There’s research to prove that violence against women does tend to increase during times of stress,” she says, adding there was a great deal of uncertainty when the pandemic struck which made it even more difficult. “There are already so many barriers in place for a woman to leave an abusive relationship. Then layer it with increased uncertainty, and often women have to think about their children, so it’s hard for them to plan for the future.”

 

Besides encouraging via social media for friends and family to check in with loved ones they fear might be at risk of abuse, the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region launched a chat feature on its website to provide women with a tool to safely connect with their services.

 

“There had been talk about it (chat feature) but now more than ever we needed to do it quickly,” says Jennifer, noting the system was up and running within a 48-hour period. “Now, a woman might be able to pull up our website discreetly on her phone and send us a quick message.”

 

Having the ability to reach out and connect during the pandemic is vital says Grace Brown, a psychotherapist and PAR (Partner Assault Response Program) Facilitator at Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge & North Dumfries. 

 

“One of the key factors that allows the abuse to continue is the person feels isolated,” she says.

 

In terms of isolation, Grace says feelings of loneliness is something she has been seeing during her counselling sessions, which have been conducted virtually or by phone, as the COVID-19 situation continues. 

 

“A lot of clients I work with talk about intense feeling of loneliness and isolation because before the pandemic they could be out with friends and doing all these fun things to offset this solitude,” she says. “If you’re more on the extrovert side of the scale, you’re probably struggling a little more.”

 

Grace says for single people who have been isolating on their own, they face a variety of anxieties which could lead to depression. And for couples who were having challenges in their relationship prior to the pandemic, she says the crisis likely has made the situation even worse.

 

“There’s only so much walking away one can do when you’re supposed to be quarantined,” says Grace, adding couples need healthy communication during this time. “Choose your battles.”

 

She offers similar advice to families, who also may find nerves becoming frayed as physical distancing rules continue to slowly ease.

 

“For most, it’s the lack of access to external fun things that really are making so many people frustrated and anxious,” says Grace. “In the old days, it was called ‘Cabin Fever’.”

But she says there are many successful examples of things couples and families have been doing to cope, besides connecting virtually with family and friends. 

 

“People have really been recapturing some of those old school entertainments, like jigsaw puzzles and board games. It’s been really neat to hear from some of my clients on how they’re making it work with that they have at home,” says Grace, adding some ‘super busy’ families are appreciating the fact they can take a break together.

She says self-care is essential at this time, starting with the basics like eating healthy, exercising and getting the right amount of sleep.

 

“I often describe it to my clients as emotional shock absorbers. Stress is always going to be in our world in varying degrees, so the more you have self-care that’s your shock absorber,” says Grace, explaining self-care comes in many different forms. “It’s really about focusing on yourself for a moment and doing anything that brings you a sense of calm and a sense of renewed energy.”

 

She tells her clients, especially women, that’s it OK to put their needs first once and awhile. 


“I caution them this (pandemic) is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and we don’t know how long it’s going to last so you’ve got to preserve your energy.”

 

At Haven House and Anselma House, Jennifer says, as predicted, capacity levels have climbed sharply to near capacity in the last few weeks once the province began to reopen. She says strict protocols are in place to keep staff and clients healthy, including temperature checks twice daily and making masks mandatory for all staff members.

 

“The shelters themselves are very busy,” says Jennifer, explaining the women and children staying there aren’t venturing as much into the community to connect with family and friends due to the pandemic. “There’s a lot of activity and not many places for them to go, and we have some pretty stringent rules in place.”

 

Despite COVID-19 and the precautions, she encourages women who are experiencing domestic abuse to reach out, even those who may not be sure if they’re ready to leave.

“That’s OK. They may just want to meet with someone to ask questions, or get some information,” says Jennifer, adding the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region offers outreach programs. “I always suggest they get some guidance on how to make a safe exit plan.”

 

She says research shows the most dangerous time for an abuse victim is when they are planning their escape.

 

“It can become quite unsafe for a woman if her abusive partner thinks she is going to leave,” says Jennifer. “Things can really escalate at that time.”

 

Visit  wcswr.org  or fcccnd.com for more information. 

 

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A proven, but not widely used technology, is giving one Cambridge business the opportunity to pivot its operation during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Angus Audio, which provides a wide variety of technical services for theatre, music and corporate events, has shifted its focus in another direction. Under the banner of a new division called Angus Industrial, the company is focusing attention on the distribution of ultraviolet light disinfection systems suitable for a variety of workplaces, such as loading docks, production halls and offices.

 

Angus Industrial has joined forces with Luixbel, a Belgium-based company, to provide two disinfection systems designed for surface and air disinfection. 

 

“It’s a pretty high science, but at the same time, they’ve made it easy to understand,” says Marshall Angus, noting much of the same technology his company uses to calculate beam fields for lighting up events comes into play.  “You can pretty much kill off any surface virus or bacteria, based on a math equation.”

 

He says ultraviolet light technology has been around for a long time. 

 

In fact, the germicidal properties of sunlight were first discovered in 1877. But it wasn’t until 1903 did Niels Fensen win a Nobel Prize for his use of ultraviolet light to combat tuberculosis, did the technology first come into play. A few years later, the first drinking water disinfection system using ultraviolet light began operating in France. After that, the technology changed little until tubular lamps were developed in the 1930s, and by the 1960s, UV disinfection was becoming more widely used in commercial applications.

“It’s pretty cool stuff,” says Marshall, noting that educating people on the properties of UV disinfection is key.

 

He says the systems they distribute, which range in price from $1,000 to $1,300, are ideal for a variety of applications, especially in a production line situation where they can be operated safely between shift changes and on average take about 15 to 20 minutes to ‘cleanse’ an area. 

 

“They would just become part of the cleaning process you already have in place,” says Marshall.

 

One system, the B Direct II, uses light bulbs and must be operated without anyone in the room for safety reasons. The other system, B Air, can be operated safely with people in the room.

 

“The bulbs will only have to be changed once every couple of years,” says Marshall, adding each system comes with a variety of safety features, including motion sensors and alarms. “If someone comes into the room, the system will shut off.”

 

He says the systems could also help build consumer confidence in a company’s products.

 

“There’s stuff coming off trucks covered in plastic wrap and you don’t know where it’s been. You can put a couple of lights in your loading dock to clean the skeds before your employees even touch them,” says Marshall. “And if you buy something from a particular warehouse, you now know it’s guaranteed to be clean coming out because of the process they have in place.”

 

He says this is a product that should have already been place years ago, even before the pandemic.

 

“But there wasn’t a market call for it then,” says Marshall. “It’s a proven technology that has been used in the medical industry, however, the units in the medical field can cost at least $30,000 which makes them unattainable by small businesses.”

 

But learning to make changes in business can be necessary, which he says he has witnessed firsthand in his own industry since the arrival of COVID-19 has seen most of the events Angus Audio handles cancelled or postponed.

 

“There have been a few different things pop up,” says Marshall. “But we don’t think this industry is coming back probably before the summer of next year.”

 

To combat this, besides the UV disinfection systems, he says Angus Audio has also been providing studio space at its Turnbull Court headquarters for companies wishing to create more professional online productions and content.

 

“People are being really inundated with streaming content right now and a lot of it is not good quality because it’s off a web cam,” says Marshall, adding Angus Audio has the equipment and expertise to polish any project. “We can also interface the system with other platforms, like Hopin, and run it with multiple people.”

 

Visit angusindustrial.ca or angusaudio.com to find out more information.

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