Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Just a few short weeks ago it literally was business usual for everyone.

 

But as the scope of the COVID-19 crisis began to unveil itself all businesses, both big and small, were immediately faced with making some very tough decisions.

 

“When we initially heard everything what was happening with COVID-19  we decided to adjust to the situation and maintain a very safe environment,” says Christine Grant, co-owner of Modo Yoga Cambridge, noting reducing class sizes at their Ainslie Street North studio and introducing even stricter cleaning protocols were the first steps.  “But as the situation developed and we realized we had to close our doors it was incredibly emotional. You almost feel like you’re failing the community when you say, ‘we have to close our doors’.”

 

Mike Hruden, general manager and co-founder of Four Fathers Brewing Company said the moment the province first announced the closure of non-essential services it resulted in near panic.

 

“We had a very crazy day in retail because people thought everything was closing,” he says, adding that concern subsided once a revised short list of closures was announced.

 

But like all business owners they quickly realized they would have to switch gears to operate in this unprecedented economic reality.

 

“You can try to be a trendsetter but you don’t know what’s right or wrong, or what you can or can’t do, so we really paid attention to what the government has been posting,” says Mike, referring to the steps his business has taken.

 

Sadly, he says Four Fathers Brewing had to layoff its kitchen and taproom staff but continues to offer free local delivery and curbside pickup at its Guelph Avenue location. Takeout, delivery and curbside pickup are steps many local restaurants and eateries have now undertaken as the crisis continues.

 

“The first thing which has taken off and seems to be appreciated by the local community is free local delivery,” says Mike, noting it began as a March promotion but has been extended.

 

Although most of Four Fathers’ orders are coming from Cambridge, he’s also seen orders come in from Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph.  He says they are looking at extending the service to Fergus and Elora.

 

“It’s just something that allows people to stay inside and when we deliver, we put the box at the door and stand back and greet them,” says Mike, adding  similar safety protocols are in place with their curbside pickup which has jumped to at least 70 orders last week alone compared to the five or six they saw a month.

 

“There’s a lot of change happening right now, so you have to take it day by day,” he says.

 

Christine and her business partner, Emily Drouillard, agree and say thinking outside the box and being open to any ideas to assist customers is key.

 

“So many businesses have already made that shift,” says Christine, referring to online services now being offered by numerous local businesses, including food and supply pickups and fitness classes. “Don’t think about ‘what I’m not able to do in this situation’, but ‘what can I still do?’.”

 

She says business owners must realize that offering the same service as they did before is nearly impossible.

 

“You just have to do the best you can right now. You can sit and sulk, or you can get up and figure out how to move forward,” says Christine.

 

In their case they were fortunate the Modo Yoga community, which includes more than 70 studios worldwide, was able in just a few days time launch an online network offering numerous classes from around the world.

 

“It was pretty amazing,” says Emily, who says the Modo Yoga community initially had plans to launch this network in the fall but quickly decided to step up the process when the pandemic struck. “Four days going into this there were no videos but the whole community rallied together to send off videos and make content available, so now there’s hundreds of videos and it’s updated daily.”

 

As well, Modo Yoga Cambridge offers two live classes daily on its Instagram account, which are saved for future viewing to ensure followers can practice with their favourite instructors on their own schedules.

 

“It’s been a big learning curve for us,” admits Christine, explaining instructors themselves are learning to adjust conducting virtual classes. “But the response has been great and the support from the community has been wonderful.”

 

Emily agrees and says community support is vital to getting through this crisis.

“What we’re seeing is how responsive our community has been to this shift,” she says, adding very few businesses were prepared for something like this. “Nobody really has a choice in the matter.”

 

But businesses themselves are also doing their part to support the community, including adapting their services to help the healthcare industry.

 

At Four Fathers, Mike says they’ve created a batch of beer which is being sold over the next few months to benefit the Cambridge Memorial Hospital in its fight against COVID-19. He’s hoping to raise at least $4,000 through this fundraiser towards the purchase of needed medical supplies, including masks.

 

“We’ll give them a donation and they can buy whatever it is they want from their donation list,” he says.

 

For local realtor Scott Bennett, who works at the ReMax Real Estate Centre on Hespeler Road, giving back to the community has resulted in a growing movement. Since late January, when COVID-19 was only a threat to Canada, he began a campaign of creating and delivering emergency hygiene packs to those in need, including seniors and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

 

To date, and with the support of the Cambridge Rotary Club, ReMax and volunteers, his campaign has resulted in the delivery of at least 400 kits each containing hand sanitizer, antibacterial hand soap, non-latex gloves and disinfectant wipes.

 

“There’s been such a big response from the community,” says Scott, who receives messages on Facebook regarding residents who need kits.

 

“I’ve been doing quite a bit of running around. A lot of the products are hard to find now,” he says. “I’ve had some store managers who call me when they get in a new shipment.”

 

The kits are packed at Fiddlesticks Community Centre where Scott is now including homemade disinfectant wipes created by liquid Lysol soaked in cloth purchased online in bulk.

 

“We drop off the kits on the porch and there’s no contact. I’m really surprised by the demand and the need,” says Scott, adding his real estate work hasn’t slowed down. “I’ve actually been pretty busy with that lately. I thought a pandemic would slow things down.”

 

He says conducting even more virtual tours has become the norm and that great care and the necessary precautions are being taken when showing clients’ a home.

“It’s not the ideal situation but a lot people have to move because they’re closing on other houses,” says Scott.

 

It’s expected our current situation may not change for several months, but in the meantime, staying connected and healthy is important.

 

“We feel now more than ever it’s important people keep moving their bodies and connecting with friends,” says Emily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am a small business owner based in Cambridge, Ontario.  Along with my partners, we operate two manufacturing operations employing a total of about 25 people.

 

I am proud of all of the response of our political leaders to this crisis on all levels – local, provincial and federal.  They have taken a sober and analytical approach to the immediate needs of the citizens of this country.

 

Their willingness to commit funds, resources and support to our front line workers, small businesses and all in need will get Canada through this ordeal.

 

As a business owner, my top priority is always looking ahead to determine how I can not only succeed; but avoid unexpected disruption to my team; and minimize our potential for risk of any kind.

 

This is where I think the business community needs more support from our leaders.

 

The question of when we should re-open for business is open for debate.  The leaders in Canada, USA and abroad have differing opinions on this matter. 

 

There is only one question on my mind – what is required for me to do business in a way that will be safe for my team, clients and supply chain?  This is the question that must be answered prior to our return to regular business.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that the scientists of the world will determine when it should happen; using the tools and expertise available to them.  It brings me comfort to know that our Canadian politicians are being guided by science in their decision making process on these issues.  

 

However, there is another component to this decision that I think we are neglecting.  Whenever we return to work, it will be to a new business landscape.  There are new risks, new considerations and a higher expectation from the community for business owners to provide a safe working environment.  As a community, we need to determine what will be required to have in place prior to a return to “regular” business. Until we have a vaccine / “herd immunity”, do workers require masks to be safe?  Do we need to require hand sanitizer at entry points to work areas and require all team members to use?  In Taiwan, there are some common practise expectations for citizens that have allowed them to maintain a very low infection level of COVID without restriction on children being at school, or businesses operating normally.  What can we learn from their example that can help us to prepare to resume our work?

 

If Toyota, Honda, or even my business or a local hair salon re-opened in two or four weeks without making any adaptations to how the risk of COVID transmission is controlled; how will we have made progress against this disease?

 

The saying “time heals all wounds” has never resonated with me.  Time doesn’t heal all wounds; but time does offer us the opportunity to prepare for what is coming at  us next.  We know that the economy will have to resume prior to COVID being completely eradicated.  The question is – what will we as a community do to mitigate the risk of another peak of infection as we make that return to the new normal?

 

There is no question that children will have to return to school; I am less concerned about when that happens than I am about what the plan is to keep them safe and healthy once they are there.  We have the example of how Taiwan has made this work; kids wearing masks and having plastic cubicle style dividers between desks during meals.  Will we use this time to learn from their example and adapt our own action plan for what is required to be in place prior to resuming their in class education?  My hope is that we do. 

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is starting to gather experts and business owners to start this discussion.  I am proud to be a part of this discussion; I look forward to learning and planning together with others to determine how we as a business community can plan to get back to business.  This is new territory for everyone – consumers, business owners, employees, politicians, government, youth and seniors.  If we can agree on the supports that are needed to re-open in a safe manner, the time spent until that happens can be spent planning and making the required changes to how we do business to accommodate the new reality we live in.  If as a community we neglect this opportunity to plan and adapt, we are destined to repeat this cycle of the pandemic again in the not so distant future.

 

This is work that our Chambers of Commerce, professional associations, industry associations, regulatory bodies or governing standard registrars, perhaps the labour unions and school boards are well poised to do.  They have connections to business in their sector, a communication channel with a broad range of companies in a vertical market, and the support of their members.  If we all pressure these organizations in our own industries to get to work on our behalf, we can start planning for the future.

 

It’s time to change the question from “when can we re-open” to “what is required for a safe and healthy re-opening in my workplace to get through this crisis”?

 

Let’s get to work.

 

Kristen Danson

Managing Partner

MitoGraphics Inc. / Swift Components Corp

519 240-4205 Direct

 

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Self-isolation. Social distancing.

 

These are terms that have now become part of our daily life in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, which is causing anxiety worldwide both socially and economically.

 

But ensuring we maintain good mental health amidst this trying time is vital, says Angela Englander, a registered psychotherapist and trauma specialist who operates Ways to Wellbeing Therapy in Cambridge and Tillsonburg.

 

“We need to be reaching out to each other now more than ever,” she says. “We really need to be connecting with our community.”

 

Angela, who specializes in the treatment of all of types trauma, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), says what we’re dealing with is very similar to what the world experienced during the First and Second World Wars.

 

“We’re getting isolated and starting to get scared of each other,” she says, adding that in the years following the COVID-19 crisis we may be faced with a large number of people dealing with PTSD and a variety of mental health issues. “Many people appear to be having an acute traumatic stress response right now in that they're hypervigilant and full of adrenaline and flooded emotionally.”

 

Angela says nightmares and trouble sleeping are just a few of the common reactions to trauma people may be experiencing.  She has, however, noticed that some of her clients who are dealing with PTSD seem less concerned since many already often live in self-isolation.

 

“They’re saying, ‘the rest of the world is living like us now, and that’s kind of validating’,” she says, adding there are others who fear society will break down as a whole.

 

“People are concerned about becoming ill, experiencing pain, suffering, starving and having their neighbours and people around them turn on them, with riots in the streets.”

 

Angela says the long-term effects of PTSD could include headaches, flashbacks and mood swings.

 

“I think there will be a lot of mental health fallout but I hope the government will step up to fund psychotherapy so people can heal,” she says.

 

Currently, OHIP does not cover the cost of psychotherapy.

 

To combat these fears and anxieties surrounding COVID-19, Angela recommends not only reaching out to a professional for coping strategies and support but by creating a daily routine of self-care.

 

“Maintain routine and focus on your accomplishments,” she says. “Stay connected to others through social media or Skype or by phone.”

 

She says deep breathing, stretching and yoga are also good methods to boost good mental health.

 

“And now that we may not be distracted as much by our work, we can start connecting with more of the community,” says Angela. “This could be our golden opportunity to turn things around.”

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has a brand-new online look.

 

The Chamber’s new website offers visitors a fresh and vivid digital experience as they access information on the many learning programs, incentives and events we offer that benefit our local business community.

 

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer a new site that is easy to navigate and still provides our Members with the valuable information they’ve come to expect,” says Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

With a click of a button on the home page or from the ‘events’ page, Members will be able to easily access and manage their own accounts using a simple username system. They will not only be able to update their profiles to add or delete employees but will also be able to pay bills online.

 

“This feature will be a huge benefit to our Members and streamline our operation so we can concentrate on what we do best: helping businesses grow and prosper,” says Durocher.

 

The site itself is much brighter and colourful and contains fewer links which in turn will make using it a far more engaging experience for visitors.

 

As well, a new mobile site is included which means much clearer access on all digital devices.

 

“We have no doubt users will find this feature a huge bonus,” says Durocher, noting how much communication is conducted on smartphones.  “It’s important for all businesses to adapt to the latest trends.”

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Letter Sent to the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Membership

 

The federal government's recent small business tax proposal is punitive and will have damaging effects on business communities in Ontario and across the country.Over the summer, the federal Finance Department has made it clear that it intends to make the most sweeping changes to business taxes in 50 years.These proposed changes will negatively impact tens of thousands of businesses by raising taxes, reducing incentive for private investment, increasing administrative burdens, and making it even more difficult for a business to be transferred from one generation to the next.

 

Family businesses and family farms are being touted as tax cheats by the Federal Government. Although, they have walked that back - the fact is they have described legitimate and legal use of the tax laws are wrong and most commonly referred to as a loophole. This is not only ignorance of what it takes to build a successful business, but makes Canada the only country in the world to impose such punitive tax measures on small business. It is clear, this government has no respect for business, especially the locally owned family business.

 

The immediate reaction from our members and businesses across Canada was negative. We are particularly worried about the effects of the proposed tax changes for small and medium sized businesses - who are essential to our thriving local business community. We encourage local businesses to contact our  MP to provide feedback on the possible changes.

 

Bryan May, M.P., Cambridge & North Dumfries
534 Hespeler Road (Main Office)
Suite A4
Cambridge, Ontario N1R 6J7
Telephone: 519-624-7440 Fax: 519-624-3517 

Bryan.May@parl.gc.ca

 

Marwan Tabbara, M.P. Kitchener South - Hespeler
153 Country Hill Drive (Main Office)
Suite 2A
Kitchener, Ontario N2E 2G7
Telephone: 519-571-5509 Fax: 519-571-5515 

 Marwan.Tabbara@parl.gc.ca

 

 As an organization, we support reasonable attempts to reduce tax evasion or loopholes. However, these changes are insulting to businesses that have worked within the rules in good faith to build their businesses, to save for retirement, and sometimes just to keep their doors open.

 

Small Business is Too Big To Ignore and we need to demonstrate this with one voice.  

 

If you're not a small business owner but work for one, ask Mr. May and Mr. Tabbara to protect YOUR job by supporting small business entrepreneurs in Cambridge.

 

SIncerely,

 

Greg Durocher

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

President/CEO 

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If your business is incorporated, you could be facing a larger tax bill and big compliance costs from the government’s new proposals to change the way corporations are taxed. Here are three things you need to know about the tax changes proposed by the federal government:

 

  • Do you employ family members? The government wants to scrutinize their compensation to apply a much higher tax rate on income they consider “unreasonable.”

  • Do you invest the profits from your business? The federal government is proposing to tax that income at an effective rate of 70%. 

  • Do you want to pass your business on to your children? Tough new rules make it difficult for younger kids to get the capital gains exemption. They could be double-taxed.

 

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are the engine of the Canadian economy – estimates range from 85 to 90% of all businesses in Canada are SMEs.

 

The chamber network across Canada is using its collective voice on this issue; your voice as a business person needs to be heard as part of this initiative. Send a message to your MP today. Government needs to know that this tax reform will harm businesses of all sizes.

 

Don’t know where to send the message to your Member of Parliament? Look up their address using your postal code.

 

Thirty-five business groups, including the Canadian Chamber—on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of members they represent—have presented a letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau asking the government to take these proposals off the table and instead meet with the business community to address any shortcomings in tax policy affecting private corporations.

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First you have the Provincial Government with Bill 148 and then you add what our Federal Government wants to do regarding taxes and in reality it just adds up to a nightmare for small businesses. Greg explains in this weeks' 'The City'.

 

 

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Big increases to minimum wage are becoming fashionable in Canada: first Alberta (from $12.20 currently to $15 in October 2018), then B.C. (from $10.35 to $11.35 in September 2017) and now Ontario (from $11.40 to $15.00 in January 2019, a 30% hike in 18 months). Are workers better off or does it mean fewer jobs?


The debate has been ferocious because economists don’t agree, but let’s look at the fundamentals. The government accepts that carbon taxes are effective at reducing emissions because if you make something more expensive, people will use less of it. We agree, but the same logic must apply to wages. And, actually, a business owner faced with the rising cost of an input (labour) has three options:

  • Absorb the added cost out of her profit margin
  • Raise prices
  • Reduce use of labour by substituting in morecapital or simply making do with less work

Let’s take these in order. Some businesses are so spectacularly profitable that owners can just absorb rising labour costs. But Apple and Microsoft don’t use minimum wage labour. If we look at profit margin by industry, the biggest users of minimum wage labour are in retail and food service, with razor thin (below 3%) margins. There is very little room to absorb these costs, and if a business is not profitable, there is not much point in keeping it going.


What about raising prices? The critical ingredient in business success is getting the right price point for your market. One restauranteur told us that the lunch menu in her neighborhood has to be $5-$8, any higher means flirting with disaster. In retail, the competition is with online giants, like Amazon. Often, there is no room to raise prices without driving away customers.


The third option to cope with rising wages is making do with less staff. This is controversial because many studies show that minimum wage can be increased without a corresponding rise in unemployment.

 

That’s why the recent Seattle study produced such a bombshell. Washington state collects detailed data on hours worked and it showed how part time workers with irregular schedules are cut back. Seattle’s minimum wage hike reduced the total hours worked by the low-wage workforce by about 9% while raising their wages by only about 3%. The net loss to workers was an average of $125 a month. This is a big, immediate hit to the most vulnerable workers.


In the long-term, minimum wage hikes can also drive labour-saving capital investment. The former CEO of McDonald’s told Forbes, “demands for a much higher minimum wage would force businesses with small profit margins to replace full-service employees with costly investments in self-service alternatives.” At the time, labour groups accused business owners of crying wolf. McDonald’s is now rolling out touchscreen selfservice kiosks across Canada and the U.S.

 

There is some evidence that modest increases in minimum wage can be done without disrupting labour markets, but governments have to be cautious about hurting competiveness. Previously, I had said there are three options to deal with rising costs, but there is actually a fourth and a fifth option: shut down or move to a different jurisdiction. Let’s provide input to the Government of Ontario to prevent this from happening. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has
done some great work on this issue and has a report that can be viewed here.

 

For more information, please contact:

Hendrik Brakel

Senior Director, Economic, Financial & Tax Policy

613.238.4000 (284) | hbrakel@chamber.ca

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Tick-tock! The U.S. Trade Representative just sent the official notification to Congress that NAFTA negotiations will begin in 90 days. The Canadian government must now negotiate and resolve all the hot button issues with our American and Mexican friends—in the midst of a highly charged political environment. How will it play out?

 

For the next 90 days, every special interest and aggrieved Wisconsin dairy producer will have a chance to provide input during the consultation period under Trade Promotion Authority. Then, whatever new agreement is negotiated must pass the House and the Senate. All three governments want NAFTA 2.0 wrapped up ASAP. Canada wants to end the uncertainty that is hurting investment, and for our partners, it is even more urgent.

 

Mexico’s presidential election is set for July 2018 and will be in full election season by the early spring. Polls show the current leader is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a fiery left-wing nationalist who filed a human rights complaint against Mr. Trump and his plans for the border wall. He calls it embarrassing to see the current Mexican government prostrate before Trump. Mexico’s government would dearly love to conclude the NAFTA well before the election.

 

Similarly, U.S. mid-term elections will be held on November 6, 2018, and Republicans need to show progress on trade. The likelihood of NAFTA passing Congress drops off significantly after the mid-terms.

 

Gallup points out that when the U.S. President has an approval rating below 50%, his party loses an average of 36 seats during mid-term elections. President Trump’s approval rating is well south of 50%, in the high-30s. If the administration remains mired in scandals, special counsels and the Russian Connection, the Republican house is likely to lose its 31-seat majority. Would a newly-elected Democratic house be eager to pass Mr. Trump’s NAFTA?

 

No way. Is it even possible to renegotiate NAFTA before the deadlines? The original Canada-U.S. FTA took 18 months (May 1986 to Oct 4 1987), and our governments at the time were the closest of friends.

 

So it’s possible but very unlikely because of the politics. We often hear from Americans that Canada is not the main target of U.S. trade ire. Canada just needs to give the Trump administration a PR win, which it defines as a big give on supply management and softwood lumber, then it can have whatever it wants— regulatory cooperation, movement of people, maybe even an exemption from Buy American.

 

But the politics are awful because Mr. Trump’s bullying, blustering threats have made it impossible for Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Pena Nieto to agree to concessions without appearing weak. Their supporters despise Mr. Trump and would be furious. And even if it wasn’t politically poisonous, why should we make concessions for another country’s domestic politics?

 

There may be another way. The USTR referred to NAFTA modernization as opposed to renegotiation. In the past, NAFTA has been amended extensively without going back to Congress. We could add a chapter on ecommerce, fix the rules of origin and sign a bunch of side letters that could give the Americans the win they need. Let’s hope they take what they can get. Otherwise, NAFTA 2.0 is doomed.

 

Hendrik Brakel

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Senior Director, Economic, Financial & Tax Policy

613.238.4000 (284)

hbrakel@chamber.ca

 

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