Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 

While COVID-19 has created a uniquely difficult situation for Ontario’s municipalities, it has also exposed areas to improve municipal fiscal governance.

 

Local governments do not have the fiscal autonomy they need to make them competitive and maintaining the status quo could be devastating for communities in a post-COVID economic recovery. The impact of the virus and the resultant public health measures have meant that most municipalities are seeing a decline in revenue and increase in expenditures.

 

In response, as all levels of government look to balance debt and deficits while protecting the well-being of our communities, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released its latest report, Better Budgets: Bolstering the Fiscal Resilience of Ontario’s Municipalities, which identifies 14 recommendations for both the Province and municipalities which can bring immediate and long-term relief to communities across Ontario.

 

“Municipalities in Ontario are facing a triple threat this year: an ongoing pandemic that has been devastating to local economies, reduced revenue from closed or limited services, and increased spending on public health and human services. The Financial Accountability Office estimates the pandemic will collectively cost municipalities $2.7 billion in 2021, on top of the expected $4.1 billion impact of 2020,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “In Budget 2021, the Government of Ontario committed to a long‐term economic growth plan. It is imperative public policymakers do everything they can do to ensure communities like ours do not get left behind in recovery.”

 

During the June 28 edition of our Chamber Chat, Cambridge City Manager David Calder and CFO Sheryl Ayres took a closer at the report and provided some great insight on the merits and viability of some of these recommendations, while identifying misconceptions relating to others.

 

“I commend the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on their work on Better Budgets,” said David, adding the report contained some ‘old chestnuts’ municipalities having been trying to change for many years when it comes managing finances. “It’s a good variety. Some we can support and some that might not be as supportable.”

 

Greg said for many years there has been ongoing discussion centred on the ‘restrictiveness’ of municipalities’ ability to raise revenue, noting changes are clearly needed, especially when it comes to Ontario’s property tax system.

 

“We have to undue to the system so to speak and make sure taxes are applied appropriately,” he said.

 

Sheryl agreed the current property tax system, which has been in place since the 1990s, is need of a full review.

“In doing that, they also need to look at other revenue tools that municipalities can use in addition to property taxes,” she said, noting that 91% of tax dollars go to the Provincial and Federal governments, leaving the remainder for municipalities. “Yet, we’ve got the greatest portion of expenses related to the assets that we own, and we are closer to the people in terms of the local services we provide. I believe we need a comprehensive review of the whole tax system and how it’s allocated across three levels of government, ensuring there is transparency and equity in how the funds are raised from the residents of Canada.”

 

David said the downloading of services to municipalities is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

 

“We need to review who should be providing what services and whether there are ways to be more cost efficient in the supply of those services,” he said. “It’s a very complex conversation but one that needs to take place.”

David said municipalities have been looking for ways to be more autonomous for many years in effort to make better decisions at the local level.

“We’ve got to figure out where do we want to be in that spectrum,” he said. “There needs to be discussion around trying to make sure we control our delivery a little bit where appropriate.”

 

The OCC report agrees and states the Ontario’s post-pandemic recovery and long-term success will depend heavily on unleashing the economic potential of its municipalities.

 

“Given that local governments in Ontario cannot run budget deficits, their current options for fiscal sustainability are limited to tax increases, service cuts, and the use of reserves,” said Claudia Dessanti, Senior Manager, Policy of the OCC. “Now is the time for municipalities and the province to explore alternative means of achieving fiscal sustainability.”

 

Key recommendations outlined in the report include:

Undertake a comprehensive and forward-looking review of Ontario’s property tax system to ensure the system is more equitable, efficient, and predictable for businesses.


Adhere to the ‘pay-for-say principle’ to ensure that all responsibilities are accompanied by adequate funding.


Enhance and incentivize regional collaboration across municipalities.  

 

The OCC report was created in partnership with KPMG Canada. Read the report.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

According to Statistics Canada in March:

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

 

Source: Financial Post

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie agrees and says etiquette is also constantly evolving.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

1. Create a hydration plan.

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

 

2. Watch what you put in your grocery cart.

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

 

3. Plan for leftovers.

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

 

4. Keep boiled eggs handy.

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

 

5. Make or buy soup.

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

 

6. Each meal should have balance.

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

 

7. Utilize flexible hours.

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

 

8. When you eat, just eat.

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

 

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

 

9. Focus on food with a function.

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

 

10. Remember and recall.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

StatsCan survey at a glance: 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Support for inclusive growth:

 

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

 

Supports for business:

 

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

 

Support for tourism:

 

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

 

Support for communities and municipalities:

 

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

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

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How long is your ‘to-do’ list?

 

It’s a question many of us ask ourselves when we look at ways to create a better time management system.

 

“For most of us, our to-do list will never end,” says Murray Smith, Principal of The Achievement Centre. “For most of us there are more things we’d like to do in a day than we can do in a day and that’s why it becomes really important to establish what are the priorities.”

 

Managing your priorities will be a key focus at our March 25 YIP Growth Learning Series event: Time Management, which Murray will facilitate.

 

But he warns participants won’t be provided with the ultimate solution to managing their time.

 

“Some people will be looking for some ‘magic’ system,” he says. “There is no such thing as a perfect system.”

 

Instead, he says the many methods people may already be using to manage their work duties - from apps and computer calendars, to even notepads – are fine and there is no right or wrong when it comes to creating your own time management system. “You get a system that works, and chances are you’re going to use a combination of a few. What I will be encouraging people to do is create a system that works.”

 

Murray says managing priorities is important and looks for inspiration from author Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a point of reference.

 

“He set up that urgency/ importance matrix and it makes a lot of sense,” he says. “It’s more about understanding what is urgent and what is important versus what’s perhaps urgent for other people but is not important to you.”

 

And with many people working from home due to the ongoing pandemic, Murray says most of us are dealing with more distractions.

 

“The notifications on our phone create an urgency. Unless your job is tied to responding to those notifications, you’ve got to control them,” he says. “The bottom line is priorities and eliminating those distractions.”

 

Murray says knowing what your priorities are and being able to communicate that to others, especially your employers, is vital.

 

“Time management is as much about communication with others who do have influence on your time and priorities as it about fulfilling the task list,” he says. “When you know what is most important, you have the power to communicate with others when the inevitable change to your pile of tasks occurs. Don’t complain, communicate.”

 

Our YIP learning session is sponsored by Deluxe and takes place Thursday, March 25 from 11 a.m. to noon. For more, visit https://bit.ly/2OfZVeM

 

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(February 5, 2021) – The Chamber Network is looking forward to create a co-ordinated approach to reopening the province’s economy in the wake of the pandemic and calling on the Provincial government to ensure this happens in a balanced fashion.

 

“In the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, it is difficult to think beyond confronting the immediate demands of COVID-19,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.   “However, even as we continue supporting each other today, we must also begin looking over the horizon to ensure businesses are prepared for the province’s reopening and recovery. It is never too early to start planning how our province and economy can emerge stronger while doing everything necessary to avoid further lockdowns.”

 

Each region’s experience differs significantly across the province when it comes to transmission rates, tracking and tracing capacity, and other variables.  The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have written to the Premier so that when the time comes businesses of all sizes have a predictable and coordinated effort to ensure society reopens in a harmonized fashion that prioritizes individual safety as well as economic stability asking for the following:

 

  • A readiness plan with a focus on sectors and regions hardest hit. It is critical that Ontario’s employers are aware of how reopening will take place step-by-step so they can properly prepare.
  • Advanced notice. Businesses and their employees need sufficient time to prepare to get back to work. 
  • Clear guidelines. Businesses need to clearly understand the rules and how they will be enforced. Inconsistent and unclear public health guidelines cause confusion among businesses, employees, and consumers alike, and make it difficult for individuals to take appropriate action to protect themselves and their communities.
  • Fulsome communication. Educational training via virtual workshops in advance of reopening would equip employers with practical information to help them keep staff and customers safe.
  • Workforce management systems. Employers in Ontario should adopt a scalable digital software tool for routine self-screening and assessment by employees, as part of a comprehensive workforce management system.
  • Rapid testing. Sufficient and timely testing and tracing gets employees back to work quickly, ensuring continued productivity and reduced strain on families.
  • Evidence-based decision making. A strong testing and tracing apparatus ensures the province can accurately assess where and how the virus is spreading, so that efforts to target restrictions can be confidently based on solid data.
  • Continued supports for those who need it most. Finally, continued timely and accessible supports for business will prevent further layoffs, closures, and bankruptcies.
  • Leveraging private sector to support vaccine distribution and deployment. Businesses will be critical in supporting public awareness, logistical capabilities, and best practices.

“As the government explores options to safely re-open the economy, it is worth noting that businesses already adhere to a number of existing health and safety protocols and will do their part to support a safe re-opening. The business community will continue to prove their commitment to safety protocols to protect their worker and customers to keep their doors open,” added Durocher

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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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