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CANADA VOTES 2021: Kitchener South-Hespeler Riding Candidates

 

There are many issues that have taken front and centre during this Federal election campaign, especially surrounding Canada’s economic future in wake of the pandemic.

 

The business community is looking for strong representation as it continues to forge a clear path towards toward recovery and ensuring more prosperous communities going forward.

 

We reached out to the federal candidates vying to represent Kitchener South-Hespeler – Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford, NDP candidate Suresh Arangath, Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose and People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner - with a series of questions to determine their priorities and goals.

 

(Conservative Party of Canada candidate Tyler Calver did not provide answers to these questions at publication time).

 

1. What type of leadership can members of our business community expect from you as our MP and why should they vote for you and your party?

 

Communication with the business community will play a key role for the candidates if they are elected to represent Kitchener South-Hespeler in Ottawa.

 

“I’ll be a strong voice for our business community, and a collaborative leader who wants to work alongside you to shape positive change in our community,” says Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford, adding as an economic development professional and Chair of the Manufacturing Innovation Network she has spent the last 15 years working to help bring jobs and investment to the region. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and we must do everything we can to support them.”

 

The same sentiment is shared by NDP candidate Suresh Arangath who, as a financial advisor and professional accountant, says he understands the intricacies of business.

 

“I understand and appreciate the role of small business who are the engine of job creation in Canada. As a Member of Parliament, I can relate to the needs of the business community and can be a bridge between the business, workers and the government.”

 

For Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose, a healthcare worker, listening to small business leaders will be imperative.

 

“My style of leadership is to listen and gather advice from community members and subject matter experts. As an MP, I would consult with small local business owners as well as workers on how the federal government could improve conditions for both employers and employees,” he says. “The Green Party has always been a supporter of small local businesses and believes that small local businesses are the backbone of a community’s economy.”

 

Listening to concerns from business owners is also important to People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner, who has roots in the wellness industry and is studying for her holistic nutrition designation.

 

“(Chamber) Members can expect me to go to bat for them to keep their doors open, and to fight against restrictions and mandates that can negatively impact their businesses,” she says. “They can always approach me with their concerns.”

 

She says a vote for her and the PPC is a good step towards fiscal responsibility.

 

“We understand that the best thing government can do for businesses is get out of the way. After we have balanced the budget and eliminated the deficit, we will begin cutting the personal income tax, corporation taxes, and capital gains tax,” says Melissa. “Excessive spending has created startling inflation, which impacts both businesses and consumers.”

 

Tackling issues related to regulatory process and lowering the small business tax, anything affecting the ‘bottom line’ for small businesses is on the radar for the NDP says Suresh.

 

“If elected, a New Democratic Party will be a government that helps small business access the services and infrastructure they need to thrive and expand, while investing in a health and talented workforce for overall success.”

 

The continued economic health of the community will also be important for Valerie and the Liberal Party she says.

 

“The Liberal government has had the backs of Canadian through the COVID-19 pandemic and a Liberal government will continue to support the business community as they get back on their feet and build back better,” she says. “They also delivered the vaccines we needed, ahead of schedule, bringing us closer than ever to brighter days. Now, we have a fully costed, action driven plan for Canada’s long-term care recovery across the economic board.”

 

2. What will be a top priority for you as our MP and what concerns are you hearing from the business community on the campaign trail?

 

When it comes to priorities, the candidates have a variety of issues in their sights which they hope to tackle while representing this riding in Ottawa.

 

“We need to finish the fight against COVID-19. This is a must if we are going to ensure that we secure people’s health, livelihood and prosperity,” says Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford, adding she’s ready to work the ‘fundamental’ priorities expressed by voters in this riding. “These entail supporting our local businesses and creating jobs, bringing in affordable childcare, taking action on the climate, and helping Canadians buy their first home sooner.”

 

Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose also says addressing the ‘climate crisis’ will be a priority, along with healthcare system improvements, creating affordable housing and providing more supports to the most vulnerable, including seniors and those with mental health and addiction issues.

 

Creating affordable housing will also be a priority for him, says NDP candidate Suresh Arangath who would like to work with developers and community builders about his party’s plan to build 1.7 million affordable houses in Canada. As well, he says helping small businesses is imperative.

 

“A priority is to mitigate the effects of debts accumulated by small business through financial incentives and supporting hiring, rehiring and/or retraining the current employees,” he says. “Additionally, we should think about extending the CRHP and the CEWS until small business are able to get stronger to stand up on their own.”

 

For People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner, she says the rights and freedoms of Canadians have been “under attack” for the past 18 months and that restoring them is a priority.

 

“In these 18 months, we went from ‘two weeks to flatten a curve’ to a segregated society,” she says. “This is the issue at hand, and it seems the other parties are aligned with each other on endorsing restrictions and also trying to ignore the elephant in the room.”

 

In terms of concerns, Melissa says how vaccine passports will affect their business is a key issue.

 

“People are wondering how they’re going to be able to keep their doors open if lockdowns persist,” she says. “I’m deeply concerned about the struggles that small and medium businesses are facing right now. It’s time to get back to business as usual.”

 

The struggles of trying to maintain their businesses is something that Suresh says he’s hearing from business owners.

 

“They are accumulating debts and left with no more room to grow or survive another crisis,” says the NDP candidate. “They ask the support from the government to continue the programs like CRHP and the CEWS for a period to help them pass through the post pandemic time.”

 

For Gabriel, pandemic uncertainties about the future and improving government supports for employees, including health and childcare, are things the Green Party candidate says he has been hearing from residents. As well, he says worries about labour shortages also tops the list.

 

Labour shortages and economic uncertainties are also things Valerie says she’s come across while campaigning for the Liberal Party and promoting its recovery plans.

 

“We have a real plan to manage the concerns of the present, while addressing the recovery of the future,” she says. “This includes direct support and relief programs, more good jobs and the community investments that help everyone get ahead and back out supporting the economy.”

 

3. What supports will you champion to assist businesses and sectors that continue to struggle due to the pandemic?

 

When it comes to aiding businesses and sectors struggling with the effects of the pandemic, candidates are looking at various ways to assist.

 

For NDP candidate Suresh Arangath, he says during his discussions with many business owners who’ve continue to survive the pandemic it’s apparent the need to mitigate accumulating debt is vital.

 

“Among those who survived, more than 40% of businesses with less than 20 employees reported that they did not have the ability to take on more debt,” says Suresh, adding providing financial incentives and to support hiring, rehiring and/or retraining current employees, is something his party champions. “The NDP’s plan to include the pharma care, dental care, and mental health care in our Medicare system will help employers to hire qualified and quality workers without spending on benefits to those workers.”

 

Skills training and development is a target he and the Green Party will be championing, says candidate Gabriel Rose.

 

“There is a huge shortage of skilled tradespeople, and I would be an advocate and encourage young people to choose a career in the skilled trades,” he says, adding holding taxation at no more than 9%, plus reducing paperwork for small businesses by eliminating duplicative tax filings and red tape, are other causes he will support. “I would also support a Made in Canada strategy and prioritize Canadian companies in any public sector contracts.”

 

Re-tooling the workforce is one of several issues Valerie says she will champion on behalf of the Liberal Party.

 

“The pandemic has also had the impact of changing the nature of my many jobs, and we’ll make sure no Canadians are left behind,” she says, adding shifting to virtual work or creating new career opportunities will be part of the plan. As well, she says creating more green jobs is something else they will promote.

 

“We don’t have to choose between fighting climate change or growing the economy,” says Valerie. “Through new initiatives like a Net-Zero Accelerator Fund, we’ll capitalize on the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit already present in the riding. I will be a champion for our riding and help stimulate investment and opportunity from both the public and private sectors.”

 

Ending all federal measures that support lockdowns is something People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner says she will champion as MP.

 

“We will not bail out provincial governments that choose to close down their economies,” she says. “We must learn to live with this virus – the sooner we recognize this, the sooner we can get back to regular business.”

 

4. Will you support a national vaccination passport plan and national childcare strategy?

 

When it comes to implementing a national vaccination passport plan, the candidates are split, with the Liberal and NDP hopefuls in favour.

 

“Many businesses have already established policies that reflect this sentiment, as it is simply good business practice to do everything possible to keep customers and employees safe,” says Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford.

 

Her NDP counterpart Suresh Arangath concurs, explaining it ‘would just make life easier.’

 

People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner says having such a passport is a “gross infringement on the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

 

“Vaccination should be a personal choice of every Canadian, with informed consent, not something you are coerced into so that you can travel to another province or enter the supermarket,” she says.

 

Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose also does not support a vaccination passport but supports people getting vaccinated.

 

“It’s important to realize that fully vaccinated individuals are still able to acquire mild and asymptomatic infections of COVID-19 and are still able to transmit the disease to others,” he says. “For that reason, I do not support mandatory vaccination or a vaccine passport plan. I support the proven gold standard method of eliminating COVID-19: test, trace and isolate.”

 

Gabriel, like Valerie and Suresh, does support a national childcare plan.

“The Liberal plan for $10/day childcare will allow parents, particularly women, to fully participate in the workforce,” says Valerie, adding every dollar invested in childcare returns $2.50 to the economy.

 

Suresh says the NDP’s plan to invest $20 billion in childcare over four years will help.

“There’s no recovery without the support for women and for many this includes childcare,” he says. “Childcare is fundamental to restarting our economy.”

 

His PPC counterpart says her party is standing firm on its decision not to institute any new social programs in effort to get the budget under control and eliminate the deficit in one term.

 

“Healthcare is within provincial jurisdiction, and realistically any childcare strategies should fall within their responsibilities,” says Melissa.

 

5. Do you see the possibility of collaboration between the Federal and Provincial levels of government on finding solutions to the growing shortage of doctors/nurses due to the impact of COVID-19 and mental health?

 

This is something most of the candidates would like to see occur.

 

“This is a crisis. During a crisis, issues should be addressed immediately by close coordination between the provincial and federal governments,” says NDP hopeful Suresh Arangath.

 

Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford agrees.

 

“That is a collaboration I would like to see,” she says. “Re-electing the Liberal government means continued work with the Provinces and Territories to make our healthcare system even stronger. That includes investing $10 billion to eliminate waitlists and another $3 billion to hire 7,500 family doctors, nurses and practitioners over the next four years.”

 

Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose says as a healthcare worker himself, he’s experienced burnout due to the pandemic and believes both levels of government can do more to address not only the shortages of frontline staff, but other health professionals such as respiratory therapists, diagnostic imaging technologists and medical laboratory technologists.

 

“Governments also need to provide much more funding to colleges and universities to create more seats in healthcare programs across the country, as well as abolish tuition fees so that more potential students have access to education in healthcare.”

In terms of any collaboration between both levels, PPC hopeful Melissa Baumgaertner says since healthcare is a provincial matter, the provinces would have to ask the Federal Government for guidance.

 

“Far too many problems in Canada have arisen from the Federal Government interfering with provincial matters,” she says.

 

6. What inspired you to run in this election?

 

When it comes to the key reason why these candidates decided to throw their hats into the ring, the majority say the need for change is imperative.

 

“Parliament is currently broken. There is too much negativity and cynicism in federal politics, and we need more loving and caring MPs that are interested in helping people above all other considerations,” says Green Party hopeful Gabriel Rose. “I am passionate about being part of this change.”

 

Wanting to help the most vulnerable in our society is what NDP candidate Suresh Arangath says inspired him.

 

“I am not convinced when the government cuts the benefits for the common man citing limitation on the availability of the funds,” he says, adding the housing crisis and climate crisis need to be addressed. “I think I can be part in expediting the whole process to make the lives of Canadians better.”

 

For PPC candidate Melissa Baumgaertner, she says the “fearmongering” and the “divisive and abusive” narrative of the current government inspired her to run.

“Watching small and medium businesses get crushed by these absurd lockdowns, while large corporations are allowed to remain open and reap massive benefits has been a major concern to me,” she says. “This isn’t right, and I’m ready to stand up against it.”

 

Standing up for the community is why Liberal Party hopeful Valerie Bradford decided to join the race.

 

“It’s important to me that you have someone in Ottawa who understands this riding, has experience building up the community and strengthening businesses,” she says. “Much of the region has transformed, but with change comes challenges, including the unprecedented time we’ve been living through during the pandemic.”

 

 

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CANADA VOTES 2021: Cambridge Riding Candidates

 

The Cambridge business community is seeking strong representation as it continues to forge a path towards toward economic recovery and ensuring more prosperous communities going forward in wake of the pandemic.

 

We reached out to the federal candidates vying to represent Cambridge – Liberal Party incumbent candidate Bryan May, Green Party candidate Michele Braniff and People’s Party candidate Maggie Segounis - with a series of questions to determine their priorities and goals.

 

(Conservative Party of Canada candidate Connie Cody and NDP candidate Lorne Bruce did not provide answers to these questions at publication time).

 

1. What type of leadership can members of our business community expect from you as our MP and why should they vote for you and your party?

 

Service and collaboration, plus challenging the ‘status quo’ were some of the sentiments expressed by the candidates.

 

Liberal Party incumbent candidate Bryan May says local business leaders can expect the same level of service and support he’s been providing the riding for the past six years helping them pursue federal grants, programs and supports to grow their business.

 

“Our government has been providing assistance through grants for innovation and research, export and import support through EDC, and direct support through FedDev here in Ontario,” he says.

 

Green Party candidate Michele Braniff says she will focus on a shared values and strong relationships for collaboration.

 

“I’m an entrepreneur and have both practical and academic experience and training in social innovation to explore creative solutions and win/win results,” says Michele, whose had a varied career as a lawyer, mediator, and non-profit mental health service provider, and currently teaches social justice courses. “The business community needs to rely on the federal government to create conditions for: stability in the markets; consistency/predictability in regulations, laws and taxation; and conditions that promote well-being for employees and their families. The climate crisis is urgent and government leadership is essential.”

 

For People’s Party candidate Maggie Segounis, avoiding “unnecessary” lockdowns is something the esthetician and former restaurant manager says will be key.

 

“Over the course of one mandate, we (PPC) are going to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 15% t0 10% and ultimately get rid of the personal capital gains tax,” she says. “Meaning, businesses will have more control over where their profits go, and more money will be going into the pockets of Canadians.”

 

For Bryan and his party, he says their recovery plan offers businesses the best option.

 

“Our plan seeks to continue the programs that helped businesses through COVID-19 and pave the way for a more sustainable and profitable economy in the coming years,” he says. “We were there for businesses when they needed us.”

Re-imaging the future is key for the Green Party, says Michele, adding she aims to challenge the status-quo.

 

“During the Second World War, Canada had an all-party war-time cabinet; what if we had a Climate Crisis All-Party Cabinet? We need to be innovative, and we need to take an entrepreneurial approach to the climate crisis,” she says. “Vote for me to ensure a voice in Ottawa for a sustainable prosperous, healthy, and happy Cambridge now and for the future.”

 

2. What will be a top priority for you as our MP and what concerns are you hearing from the business community on the campaign trail?

 

There are several priorities the candidates have on their radar, including housing, the climate crisis and mandated lockdowns.

 

“We will lobby against all COVID-19 related mandates because we believe Canadians can make their own informed decisions and are responsible for their own health,” says PPC candidate Maggie Segounis.

 

For Liberal Party incumbent candidate Bryan May, affordable housing tops his priority list.

 

“Businesses must have talented employees that are willing to move to our area,” he says. “Life must be affordable so that people can continue to grow and expand the local economy. Affordable housing connects to every other aspect of people’s lives, our business community, our social fabric, and the strength of our region in the coming decade.”

 

Safeguarding the planet for future generations will be one of her main priorities as MP, says Green Party hopeful Michele Braniff.

 

“Some politicians talk as if we must choose between the economy and the environment, but the best prospect for Canadians is a Green Economy,” she says. “We have broad consensus for an economic recovery plan and so it most opportune to develop a fully costed, sustainable Green Recovery Plan that is evidence-based with a clear government action plan ensuring social justice and sustainable economic development.”

 

Michele says resilience is imperative and that she has heard stories of hardship from business owners and those in other sectors, many of whom have had to ‘pivot’ quickly to survive.

 

“We need serious federal investment in the social infrastructure which keeps us healthy and resilient,” she says. “At least some of the billions of dollars currently dedicated to fossil fuel subsidies and buying a pipeline would be far more wisely invested in the health, education and care of Canadians.”

 

Staff shortages is something Maggie says she’s been hearing a great deal about from business owners, adding the current government has made people reliant on government funds and has used “scare tactics” to keep them away from work.

“We will open up businesses and get people back into the workforce,” she says, adding drug injection sites is another concern businesses and residents have raised. “We want to promote clean and health living; we don’t want to encourage drug use; we want to end the problem not perpetuate it.”

 

Recovery, says Bryan, is something at the front of the minds of many business owners who fear what will happen in the next six to 12 months.

 

“With the U.S. going through an uneven recovery and still struggling with COVID-19, as well as some businesses here in Canada experiencing outbreaks and lower-than-normal customer orders, business owners are concerned about the coming fiscal year,” he says. “In order to combat this, we need to do two things: increase vaccinations and create a workplace standard for vaccinations and ensure that businesses are able to weather an uneven recovery.”

 

3. What supports will you champion to assist businesses and sectors that continue to struggle due to the pandemic?

 

In terms of supports for businesses, the candidates offered several views.

“The pandemic has been a crisis in which business, provincial, local and federal government have collaborated at an unprecedented level. Government leaders must continue these highly effective, efficient, evidence-based ways of working together to accomplish mutual goals,” says Green Party hopeful Michele Braniff. “Businesses and community need government leadership with respect to standardized requirements for masking, COVID-testing, vaccines and other safety precautions.”

 

For Liberal incumbent candidate Bryan May, the continuation of current support programs for businesses – CEWS, CERS and CEBA - will remain important.

 

“We provided over $1.5 billion through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund to help more businesses and organizations in sectors such as manufacturing, technology, tourism that are key to the Region,” he says. “We are going to keep up this work by providing direct financial support – for employees, and subsidies for rent and operating costs. These supports help businesses stay open, bounce back fast and expand as the economy recovers.”

 

Keeping businesses open will play an important role for her as MP says PPC candidate Maggie Segounis.

 

“We will allow businesses to operate at full capacity with no restrictions at their own discretion,” she says. “This will help our economy flourish and return to where our businesses were thriving pre-pandemic.”

 

4. Will you support a national vaccination passport plan and national childcare strategy?

 

The candidates offered a few different opinions regarding these two issues.

Liberal incumbent candidate Bryan May is in full favour of a national vaccination passport plan.

 

“The federal government has already mandated federal employees be vaccinated, and is requiring vaccination for federal travel (aircraft, trains, cruise ships etc),” he says. “We’re also providing funding for provinces that create their own vaccine passport plans and implement them.”

 

For Green Party hopeful Michele Braniff, an evidence-based decision-making approach when it comes to public health recommendations is crucial.

 

“In the same way that mandatory masks made it easier for businesses to keep their premises safe, I believe that a passport plan standardizes expectations for customers and clients,” she says. “The details and specifics of such a plan would be crucial to its success.”

 

PPC candidate Maggie Segounis is adamant no such plan should be imposed.

“Absolutely not,” she says. “We believe that nobody, but your personal healthcare professional should know or have access to your medical privacy.”

 

In terms of a national childcare plan, Maggie says her party’s focus is to get more children back into school.

 

“We will create more jobs, get parents back to work and build a stronger economy therefore Trudeau’s $10 a day daycare won’t overpopulate and overwhelm the childcare system and it won’t be an issue.”

 

Bryan, on the other hand, says the Liberal Party’s plan has already seen support from many of the provinces.

 

“This is critical to getting our workforce back to the workplace, and particularly supporting more women to enter the workforce, as we recover from the pandemic,” he says. “Childcare costs are a major financial burden for families, particularly with more than one child, and they prevent many women from entering the workforce.”

Michele supports a federally funded universal childcare system.

 

“What we need is ‘upstream thinking’: going to the source of the problem and investing in resilience and wellness for children,” she says. “Affordable childcare supports families and ensures stability and diversity in the workplace now and in the future.”

 

5. Do you see the possibility of collaboration between the Federal and Provincial levels of government on finding solutions to the growing shortage of doctors/nurses due to the impact of COVID-19 and mental health?

 

In terms of finding solutions to this issue, all three candidates are looking at different approaches.

 

“Federal-provincial, non-partisan collaboration is essential if we want to resolve this complex problem,” says Green Party candidate Michele Braniff, adding national standards and guidelines are essential due to shortages which are creating burn-out and compassion-fatigue for healthcare workers. “The healthcare profession has an international employment market, and we need to ensure efficient, accurate and fair national accreditation of foreign-trained professionals and also create working conditions and career paths that retain Canadian health professionals in Canada.”

Liberal incumbent candidate Bryan May says his government will continue to invest in healthcare, including providing $3.2 billion towards hiring 7,500 new family doctors, nurses and NPs nationwide, plus boosting the salary of PSWs and expanding virtual healthcare services.

 

“Millions of Canadians face problems accessing primary care,” he says. “We want to help solve this problem and improve Canadians’ access to universal, public healthcare.”

 

For People’s Party of Canada hopeful Maggie Segounis, she says shortages will only continue and increase with “mandates” and “unconstitutional decisions”.

 

“Eighteen months ago, the nurses and doctors were considered our ‘frontline heroes’. Now, due to the provincial vaccine mandates, the government considers those working in the medical field who are unvaccinated ‘super spreaders’ and are releasing those frontline heroes because they decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

 

6. What inspired you to run in this election?

 

A desire to make our community a better place now and in the future is one of the reasons the candidates have their sights set on representing Cambridge in Ottawa.

“Our rights and freedoms are at stake, and I believe Cambridge needs the right representative to tackle the important issues. I am that representative,” says PPC candidate Maggie Segounis. “The younger generations need to have access to all the information, and they need to get excited about the democratic system.”

 

A better and greener future is important for Green Party candidate Michele Braniff, who is representing her party for the third time in this riding.

 

“I want to see politics done differently with proportionate representation and evidence-based decision-making with fully costed platforms where public funds are invested in programs that improve public welfare and community well-being,” she says. “The Green Party values, priorities, fully costed accountability, and its evidence-based policy information align with my values.”

 

For Liberal incumbent candidate Bryan May, his desire for re-election centres on continuing to build a better community for his children.

 

“I want to build an economy and community that they will be happy and healthy to live in,” he says. “They are my inspiration for running, and a big reason I want to make sure all our children and youth have every opportunity and option available to them.”

 

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Cambridge Chamber and Ontario Chamber of Commerce release first pillar of their ‘Ontario Business Matters’ federal election campaign focused on business competitiveness and workforce recovery

 

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and Cambridge Chamber of Commerce are calling on all political parties to take bold action to strengthen business competitiveness as the economy continues to reopen and recover.

 

In its Ontario Business Matters federal election platform, the OCC and Cambridge Chamber underscore that longstanding issues – including barriers to interprovincial trade, relatively low immigration quotas, financing challenges, and infrastructure gaps– must be addressed to strengthen Canada’s long-term resilience and recovery.

 

“As the economy continues to reopen, labour shortages are being felt across the province. The skills mismatch has been a longstanding challenge for businesses to remain competitive and has been amplified by the crisis,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “We are calling on the next Parliament to address these critical labour market needs, along with enhanced access to capital and trade, to support Canada’s recovery.”

 

The first pillar of the Ontario Business Matters campaign is Workforce Recovery and Business Competitiveness, with recommendations such as:

 

  • Removing barriers to interprovincial labour mobility and trade.
  • Increasing Ontario’s allocation of immigrants under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program.
  • Enhancing access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Modernizing federal privacy frameworks.

“With Ontario responsible for 40% of the national GDP[1] and home to almost 50% of all employees in high-tech, financial services, and other knowledge-intensive industries[2], adopting pragmatic solutions to support Ontario business competitiveness will be a critical driver of Canada’s economic recovery,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

 

The Cambridge Chamber and OCC underscore that special attention must be placed on policies that facilitate equitable recovery for small businesses, communities, and sectors that have been most severely impacted by the pandemic, including women, Indigenous peoples, racialized people, and businesses in the tourism, retail, and foodservice industries.

 

Through the Ontario Business Matters federal election campaign, the Cambridge Chamber and OCC, along with more than over 155 local chambers and boards of trade, will be sharing pressing policy issues related to Ontario business that need to be front and centre in the federal election.

 

For more information about the Ontario Business Matters campaign, please visit the OCC’s website.

 

 

 

 

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Positive online reviews and endorsements can be very important for small to medium-sized businesses.

 

Unfortunately, unscrupulous competitors or those with an ulterior motive can sometimes try to use these tools to their advantage and sabotage these businesses by posting negative fake reviews.

 

The Competition Bureau Canada is an independent law enforcement agency that ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competition and innovative marketplace. And fake reviews and ensuring truth in advertising in our digital economy are on the Bureau’s radar.

 

“Generally, anyone who posts fake endorsements or reviews could be liable under the Competition Act,” says Josephine Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner, Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate, Competition Bureau.

 

Enforcing the Competition Act is a key responsibility of the Competition Bureau, and the Act’s deceptive marketing provisions prohibit any business from making materially false or misleading claims to promote a product, service or business interest. A ‘claim’, which refers to any marketing material – such as any in-store ads, social media messages, promotional emails, and endorsements, among other things – is ‘material’ if the general impression it conveys leads someone to take a particular course of action, like buying or using a product or service. When determining if such a claim is false or misleading, the courts will consider the ‘general impression’ it conveys as well as its literal meaning.

 

The Bureau has previously pursued enforcement action related to fake reviews. In 2015, the Bureau concluded that Bell employees were encouraged to post positive reviews and ratings on the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, without disclosing that they worked for Bell giving the impression they were independent and impartial consumers. The Bureau and Bell reached a consent agreement, putting an end to the practices, and sending a strong message that this kind of conduct is not tolerated.

 

And more recently, an investigation resulted in $5.8 million in penalties for FlightHub in 2021 after the Bureau determined the online flight-booking company made numerous false or misleading claims, even penning positive customer reviews to promote its services. Besides the penalties, as part of the settlement with the Bureau, FlightHub was required to remove any online reviews that were posted by or on behalf of the company but appeared to be from customers.

 

“Anyone who believes they have been misled by fake reviews or who has been approached with offers to post fake reviews, is encouraged to file a complaint with the Bureau using our online complaint form ,” says Ms Palumbo, adding the Bureau addressed the issue of fake reviews in a consumer alert in 2014 and in its Deceptive Marketing Practices Digest in 2015. Besides fake reviews, the Bureau recommends that SMEs contact them if they believe a competitor is engaged in price-fixing, bid-rigging or deceptive marketing. As well, they should be contacted if an SME believes a dominant business in the market is abusing its dominance to harm or discipline its competitors, or that a merger in their market would prove harmful to competition.

 

Besides fake reviews, the Bureau recommends that SMEs contact them if they believe a competitor is engaged in price-fixing, bid-rigging or deceptive marketing. As well, they should be contacted if an SME believes a dominant business in the market is abusing its dominance to harm or discipline its competitors, or that a merger in their market would prove harmful to competition.

 

“Enforcing Canada’s competition laws and advocating for increased competition in regulated sectors is good for all businesses,” says Ms Palumbo. “It promotes a level playing field where businesses have an equal opportunity to prosper based on their merits. Fair competition between businesses also drives them to innovate as they seek to attract consumers by offering better products and services than their competitors.”

 

The Bureau provides many resources to help SMEs comply with the law and avoid potentially devastating consequences of an investigation. These include guidance on establishing a Compliance Program.

 

In addition, the Bureau provides numerous tips and advice to SMEs to protect themselves from fraud.

 

To find out more,  please visit: https://bit.ly/3g9RBIH

 

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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 Federal Government has unveiled details of its new commercial rent subsidy program, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS).

 

This new program replaces the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) which by early October has delivered more than $1.8 billion in rent support to more than 130,000 small businesses.

 

The CERS will provide financial support to help businesses, charities and non-profits who’ve suffered a revenue drop due to the pandemic by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 65% of eligible expenses, until Dec. 19, 2020.

 

Unlike the CECRA, businesses do not require a 70% revenue decline to qualify. Even with a decline of 1%, businesses can still qualify.

 

For example:

 

  • 30% revenue decline;

  • $15,000 monthly rent for office space (before H.S.T.);

  • Calculation of subsidy is 0.8 x 30% = 24%, then 24% x $15,000 = $3,600/month. 

This means for each 1% of revenue decline, you are entitled to a 0.8% rent subsidy.  Once you hit a revenue decline of 50%, the calculation changes to a 1.25% subsidy for each 1% decline in revenue, up to a maximum subsidy of 65%.

 

Also, a top-up CERS subsidy of 25% will be available for companies that are temporarily shut down or “significantly limited” by a mandatory public health order. 

Applications will be made directly to the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) for this subsidy, not through the landlord.

 

Expenses that are eligible for the CERS include commercial rent, property taxes and property insurance (capped at $75,000 per month).  This formula is applicable until Dec. 19, 2020 and retroactive to Sept. 27, 2020. 

 

More details outlining the program between Dec. 20, 2020 and June 2021 are expected to be released towards the end of this year.

 

The CRA is expected to announce shortly when businesses can begin to apply for the CERS.

 

For further details, visit:

www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/11/canada-emergency-rent-subsidy.html

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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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Canadians, and their local restaurants and pubs, already pay some of the highest alcohol taxes anywhere in the world.

 

Next April 1, the government is going to want even more money from cash-strapped Canadians and desperate small business owners.

 

The timing could not be any worse as the global pandemic continues to crater the Canadian economy. Just as households are struggling to make ends meet and local restaurants are disappearing, the federal government continues to apply an automatic tax increase on beer, wine and spirits.

 

But the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its network, which includes the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, is hoping to help ease some of that burden after launching the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign. It calls on the federal government to put an end to the unfair alcohol escalator tax in the next federal budget and give Canadians a much-deserved break.

 

This automatic yearly increase was introduced by the federal government in Budget 2017 without consultation or economic analysis of its impact on consumers, the food service industry, producers and their agricultural suppliers.

 

“To have something that’s automatically increasing is problematic for sure,” says Matthew Rolleman, co-owner of Thirteen Food & Beverage in downtown Cambridge, explaining how any increase will eventually filter down to the customer. “We have to be a viable business and it’s got to come from somewhere.”

 

Alin Dinu, owner of The Easy Pour Wine Bar in Blair agrees, noting the cost of wine he serves often must be adjusted.

 

“I don’t always keep the same prices for guests, unfortunately, but they understand,” he says, adding even a temporary tax freeze would help customers.

 

Helping small business owners and giving consumers even a small break is the goal of the campaign says Canadian Chamber of Commerce CEO Perrin Beatty.

 

 “Surely, amid a global pandemic and a once-a-century economic downturn, there is cause to stop an automatic tax increase to ensure we help everyday Canadians to cope with the impacts of COVID-19,” he says.

 

And although he doesn’t have a problem with the tax in principle during times of prosperity, Matthew says putting a hold on the tax would be a welcomed goodwill gesture during this uncertain economic time.

 

“Anybody in the restaurant business will tell you we definitely need all the help we can get, there’s no question,” he says. “It would be a good time now because we need all hands-on deck.”

 

Matthew says although his patio was busy throughout the summer, he’s not sure what the coming months will bring. Alin concurs and says Easy Pour’s new patio, which seats about 20 under current COVID-19 restrictions, has been very busy. However, he is unsure how long it can remain open.

 

“People aren’t super excited about coming inside right now,” says Matthew. “There is such uncertainty.”

 

To help drive the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Beer Canada, Spirits Canada and various Canadian hospitality industry.

 

“Hotels, restaurants and bars having been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with over a million jobs lost and thousands of restaurants closed permanently. Keeping the escalator tax in place does nothing but cause harm to businesses and the thousands of Canadians they employ,” says Luke Chapman, Interim President of Beer Canada.

 

This sentiment is echoed by Jim Wescott, president of Spirits Canada.

 

“Canadians wouldn’t stand for automatic tax increases on their take home pay, and they shouldn’t stand for it on their favourite Canadian whisky or cocktail that they enjoy as they socialize or celebrate key life moments with family and friends,” he says. “Canadians elect parliamentarians to scrutinize how money is collected as well as spent, and taxes going up without such scrutiny is completely undemocratic.”

 

The campaign is supported by:

 

Arterra Wines Canada

Barley Council of Canada

Beer Canada

Big Rig

Boston Pizza

CWB Franchise Finance

Firkin Group of Pubs

Foodtastic

Grain Growers of Canada

Northland Restaurant Group

Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Restaurants Canada

Service Inspired Restaurants (SIR Corp)

Spirits Canada

St. Louis Bar and Grill Restaurants

The Beer Store

 

For more information on the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign, visit: www.freezethealcoholtax.ca

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Major takeaways from the report include:

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

 

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

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