Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Chamber network urges government to address pain points and lay the groundwork for a strong rebound as province grapples with economic fallout of the crisis

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has released its 2021 Ontario pre-Budget submission, which focuses on recovery, growth, and modernization.

 

The submission calls for policies that minimize the impacts of business closures, uplift the sectors and demographics hit hardest by the pandemic, invest in the infrastructure and workforce of the future, and modernize government services to improve outcomes for businesses and residents.

 

 

“With Ontario’s economy expected to enter a period of recovery this year as vaccines are distributed and businesses begin to reopen, resources need to be focused on where they will have the greatest impact,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “In the upcoming budget, we would like to see a focus on reskilling, broadband, and access to capital, which will be necessary for the revival of small business and entrepreneurship as well as an inclusive   economic recovery.”

 

In 2021, Ontario will continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. The Cambridge Chamber and OCC’s submission notes the crisis has created new problems and exacerbated pre-existing ones. The impact on people and business has been catastrophic overall, and disproportionate for certain regions, sectors, and demographics.

 

“Resources should be targeted towards the sectors and communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including industries requiring face-to-face contact, small businesses, municipal governments, as well as women, lower-income, racialized, elderly, new immigrant, and younger Ontarians,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

The recommendations outlined in the submission were developed together with businesses, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade. The submission focuses on mitigating the immediate impacts of the crisis, while laying the groundwork for a robust and sustainable economic recovery.

 

Read our provincial pre-budget submission here: bit.ly/3qYxUqg

 

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The pandemic has not only dramatically altered our lives, but also the way we do business.

 

Conducting business online has become paramount for many operations which makes the the importance of effective marketing even more vital to ensure a strong client base.

 

“Is your website SEO and is it navigational intuitive? Have you thought about using Google ads?” asks Mike Jennings, president of the Cambridge-based digital marketing agency MoreSALES.

 

These are just some of the many questions that will form the base of the discussion he will lead at our next YIP Growth Learning Series event later this month ‘Marketing 101: 4 Ps of Marketing – Place, Price, Promotion, Product’.

 

This seminar is aimed at assisting entrepreneurs in understanding how to effectively market their product/service by utilizing the basic ‘4Ps’ strategy to create a sales and marketing strategy.

 

Mike says the onset of COVID-19 has resulted in many marketing changes.

 

“Prices aren’t going to change that much,” he says. “But promotion is going to be the main difference in a COVID world. How do you promote your product?”

 

He says the seminar will focus heavily on digital marketing, which has been his speciality for many years, and the importance of being able to shift when it comes to doing business.

 

“Do you shift your price to be more attractive on e-commerce?” asks Mike, noting that e-commerce is a vital tool for businesses when it comes to competing. “People are not going to be rushing back to your building. They’re still going to want to buy online and those businesses that are easy to buy from are the ones that are going to get the business.”

 

He says an important takeaway for seminar participants will be to realize these changes don’t have to signify the end for their business.

 

“There are ways to adjust,” says Mike, adding looking at the expected trajectory of the market is key. “You have to think six to 12 months ahead and how you apply these principles (4 Ps).”

 

He says a business will never ‘lose’ using e-commerce and digital marketing.

“It’s only going to compound the return to normalcy and accelerate that return to normalcy,” says Mike.

 

‘Marketing 101: 4 Ps of Marketing – Place, Price, Promotion, Product’ takes place Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 11 a.m. to noon and is sponsored by Deluxe.  Click here to register.

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This year, the conversations around proper mental health resources and funding are more important than ever.  A recent poll shows that 40 percent of Canadians have reported their mental health declining over the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the continued enormous pressure and strain families, employees and employers have been dealing with. There is no question this pandemic has taken a toll and as we continue to navigate a second wave and ongoing lockdowns, now more than ever it is important we take a moment to remember our own needs and support each other to get through these challenging times. While we are physically apart, no one is alone when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.

 

We have put together a list of resources that business owners, employers and employees can use to help navigate and manage mental health when it comes to our daily lives, the workplace and longer term tips and tricks. You can take a look at our full list of health resources here and even more resources from Bell, here.

 

Wellness Together Canada

Wellness Together Canada provides mental health resources and direct access to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls.

 

Mental Health Commission of Canada
The Mental Health Commission of Canada has developed a hub of credible information and resources about maintaining mental health during this time of crisis and supporting people managing a mental illness in this new context.

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health by Canada Life

Canada Life’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health website is a leading source of free, practical tools and resources designed to help Canadian employers with the prevention, intervention and management of workplace mental health issues.

 

Lumino Health Stress and Anxiety Guide from Sun Life

Sun Life’s Lumino Health platform, which is free to use and available to all Canadians, features a wide variety of mental health information and tools, including a Stress and Anxiety Guide that helps Canadians easily navigate to resources that fit their needs.

 

Workplace Mental Health Solutions from Sun Life

Sun Life’s Workplace Mental Health Solutions website provides organizations and their plan members with relevant resources that support all stages and needs, including free mental health e-training and industry-leading thought leadership.

 

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The release of the province’s Budget 2020 Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover has gained the support of the Chamber of Commerce network and business community.

 

The recent budget lays out $187 billion in expenditures this year to help the province recover from the impact of COVID-19, earmarking cash for healthcare and subsidizing electricity rates for businesses.

 

 

“These are extremely difficult times for businesses, and we understand that there is only so far a provincial government can go,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “I was particularly please with the reduction in electricity, education tax and the increase in the exemption to the employer’s health tax.”

 

Many of these items were called for in a pre-budget submission released last week by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Darren Drouillard says the board supported.

 

“Focusing intently on reducing overhead for SMEs through lower utility costs and tax reductions to business and improving IT infrastructure throughout the province, it is evident that the OCC is in touch with the needs of business and has a well thought-out set of recommendations to guide us through the next stage of the pandemic and economic recovery,” he said.

 

The OCC and Cambridge Chamber have long advocated for greater investment in broadband and cellular infrastructure, reforming taxes to enhance business competitiveness, developing new skills training opportunities, and lowering the cost of electricity for industry, all of which are priorities in Budget 2020.

 

“I certainly welcome a reduction for small businesses in the property tax, however, we will need to see how that comes off the page,” said Greg. “Municipalities cannot hold the burden of these reductions when they are unable to run deficits or borrow money for operational losses.”

 

The province is looking at spending $45 billion over the next three years on the crisis, taking into account the $30 billion already announced earlier this year, plus $15 million in new funding over the next two years. The plan also shows a record deficit of $38.5 billion for this year, which is in line with the government’s projections in the summer. A plan to balance the budget is expected in next year’s budget.

 

 “Now is the time to explore innovative partnerships – such as pubic/private partnerships to build our needed rail infrastructure, commissioning, alternative financing, and community and social impact bonds – to share risk and make the most of every dollar spent,” said Greg, noting small businesses are the heart of the community.

 

Darren agrees.

 

“We, as a business community and network of Chambers and Boards of Trade, will continue to overcome through collaboration, innovation and resilience,” he said.

 

Some key measures in Budget 2020 supported by the Ontario business community include:

 

  • Reducing commercial and industrial electricity rates will make Ontario businesses more competitive and enable them to invest in recovery and growth. For years, Ontario businesses have paid more for electricity than most other jurisdictions in North America, and the pandemic has only increased electricity system costs.
  • Business Education Tax rates vary throughout Ontario; as a result, businesses in London, Waterloo, Hamilton, Toronto, Windsor/Middlesex, and Kingston are paying higher taxes than those in other regions. The government has announced it will both reduce the BET rate and address regional variance within that rate, both of which the OCC and its Chamber network have advocated for in the past.
  • The decision to make the higher Employer Health Tax threshold permanent is a welcome one that will free thousands of businesses from having to pay this tax.
  • The move to allow municipalities to target property tax relief specifically to small business is a creative and important tool to grant communities, given that small business has been hardest hit by the pandemic.
  • Broadband is a basic infrastructure requirement in today’s economy, but the ongoing pandemic has made it even more essential to public health and economic resilience. The Chamber network is very pleased to see the government take this seriously with an additional investment of $680 million (for a total of nearly $1 billion) over six years.

 

For a look at the budget, visit: occ.ca/rapidpolicy/2020-provincial-budget

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Small business keeps the Canadian economy healthy, but the continued effects of COVID-19 have left many SMEs on life support at a time when we need them the most.

 

“Never has there been a time that is more important to shop locally and spend locally, and support your friends, family and your community by buying from a local small business,” says Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Despite a strong local economy thanks to a number of larger industrial businesses and manufacturers, he says at least 70% of our local workforce is employed by SMEs.

 

“They employee most of the people who live in the community,” says Durocher. “So, it’s vital for us to make sure we do whatever we can to help small business.”

 

He is hopeful the federal government’s revamped COVID-19 relief programs which aim to steer $2.2 billion into the pockets of commercial tenants and the extension of the wage subsidy that should cover 65% of eligible costs for business owners through December, will provide some assistance.

 

“The problem is that the big gears in government turn very slowly,” he says, adding processes that normally could take months or even years are being put in place in a matter of days. “That bucks against the system and it makes it difficult for government to do that because they like to analyze everything before they send it out the door.”

 

Durocher says the original and much criticized CECRA (Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program) is as an example of an initiative that needed serious fine tuning.

 

“They rushed stuff out putting in legislation, which to some degree protected the government, and then found no one qualifies for it because of those protections,” he says. According to a CBC report, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CIFB) estimates that 47% of small business tenants who needed help with rent couldn’t access the $3 billion budget set back in April, and that as of early October approximately $1.8 billion of that budget had been spent.

 

“We’re (Chamber network) cautiously optimistic at this point the new commercial rent assistance program is going to be better and appeal to more small businesses, or include more small businesses in the equation,” says Durocher, adding the Chamber network has been encouraging Canada’s Minister of Small Business Mary Ng and the finance ministry to roll it out soon so they can review the regulations.

“They’re (federal government) trying to make key changes necessary to make the program more responsive to small business owners, so I think they’re trying to move it along fairly quickly.”

 

He expects the new program will appeal to more small business owners because it will take the onus off the landlords, many of whom were also facing heavy financial burdens under CECRA, and will feature a ‘sliding scale’ that will give businesses who’ve seen a 70% drop in revenues up to 65% of rent coverage.

 

Besides rent relief, Durocher says the extension of a revamped wage subsidy program until June 2021 is also a positive move since our economy is facing some ‘sluggish’ months ahead.

 

“The wage subsidy is going to be very important moving forward, however, the criteria around the new program is that it’s variable so depending on what your revenue has dropped by will determine the amount of subsidy you’ll receive,” he says. “The new program really takes into account those businesses that have reopened and are getting more of their revenue back.”

 

As well, Durocher says the revamped CEBA (Canadian Emergency Business Account) program, which will now provide interest-free loans of up to $20,000, on top of the original $40,000, can also provide much-needed relief for small business owners.

“I think it’s a really important part of the puzzle,” he says. “It’s not that a small business needs, wants, or should accumulate debt, but these are extraordinary circumstances. The important thing will be how do you find a path to ensure ‘my business’ comes out of this pandemic.”

 

Unlike larger businesses, Durocher says SMEs do not have the luxury of being controlled by the global status of the economy.

 

“They can only survive, or fail, based on the local economy,” he says. “What we all know is that we’re sick and tired of the pandemic, but the virus isn’t tired of making us sick.”

 

Impact of COVID-19 on SMEs – (StatsCan and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce)

  • 68% saw revenue decrease by 10% or more
  • 22% unable to stay fully or partially open during the pandemic
  • 25% can’t stay open more than three months
  • 1.2 million SMEs in Canada (426,490 in Ontario) as of December 2017
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Small businesses are at the heart of our communities. They create good jobs, grow our economies and bring life to our main streets. But they have also been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

As we continue to fight this virus, small businesses face further losses, increased costs to reopening and an uncertain economic future. The Government of Canada is committed to doing whatever it takes to support small businesses and their communities. Their success is critical as we recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

On Tuesday, during Small Business Week, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, announced an investment of $12 million in the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund.

 

“The support announced today is yet another lifeline for resilient small businesses across Canada. These grants will help them cover expenses involved in reopening and allow them to build a stronger digital presence,” said Ng.  “As we’ve said from the very beginning of this pandemic, we will always be there for small businesses and the millions of hard-working Canadians they employ.”

 

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher welcomed the news. “There has never been a more important time to support local small business than right now. They are critically important to our own local economy.”

 

Canada United is a national fundraising campaign created by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in collaboration with private sector partners and provincial and territorial chambers of commerce, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). The campaign has been rallying support from Canadians for local small businesses in every corner of the country.

 

The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, which is managed by the OCC, is supporting Canadian businesses across different sectors and industries with grants of up to $5,000. These grants will help thousands of small business owners cover the costs of personal protective equipment, make physical modifications to their businesses to meet local health and safety requirements, and enhance their digital or e-commerce capabilities. This is especially important as we enter the second wave of the pandemic.

 

This investment builds on the federal government’s continued support for small and local businesses through a wide range of COVID-19 emergency programs, such as the expanded Canada Emergency Business Account, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy.

 

At A Glance:

 

  • Starting on October 26, small businesses can apply online through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce for the next wave of Canada United Small Business Relief Fund grants.
  • Applications are open to small businesses across sectors and industries in every part of the country that have between $150,000 and $3 million in annual sales; have up to 75 employees; are registered in Canada; and would use the grant to cover the costs of personal protective equipment, make physical modifications to their businesses to meet local health and safety requirements, and enhance their digital or e-commerce capabilities.
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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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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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