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Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce Kick-Off Campaign to put a Spotlight on Shop Local in Celebration of Small Business Week 2021.

 

Supporting local has never been more important and is the theme of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) annual ‘Small Business: Too Big to Ignore’ Campaign’ which takes place during Small Business Week which runs October 17-23.

 

Throughout the week, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce – which created the ‘Too Big to Ignore’ movement several years ago - and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with 155+ chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the province, are encouraging Ontarians to support local businesses in their community as well as amplify ongoing advocacy and initiatives to promote and protect small businesses who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

 

“I encourage everyone in Waterloo Region to do what they can to support and celebrate our small businesses by shopping and dining locally, not just during Small Business Week, but all year round,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce CEO & President Greg Durocher. “It’s very clear that small businesses are not only the heart of our communities but the backbone of our economy.”

 

Small and medium-sized businesses contribute significantly to our national and local economies and employ nearly 90% of Canada’s private sector workforce and 88% of Ontario’s, according to a StatsCan survey conducted over three weeks in April of 2020 in partnership with the Canadian and Ontario Chambers of Commerce.

 

However, that same survey showed since the arrival of COVID-19, many of these small businesses have been impacted. In fact, results indicated that 68% saw a 10% decrease in revenue and 22% said they were unable to stay fully or partially open during the pandemic, and that more than 25% feared they couldn’t stay open for more than three additional months.

 

This is why supporting local businesses, especially now as our economic recovery builds momentum, is imperative.

 

“By coming together in support of our small businesses, we can come through this time stronger and more resilient than ever,” says Greg, adding the timing of the #YouGottaShopHereWR initiative is extremely timely in relation to Small Business Week.

 

Created in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce thanks to a federal grant, the initiative is encouraging all local businesses – not just Chamber members - to create a short fun video that can be posted on the YouGottaShopHereWR.ca website and shared via Instagram & TikTok using the hashtag #YouGottaShopHereWR.

 

“Not only do we hope to raise the profile of these local businesses but show everyone why Waterloo Region is such a great community,” says Greg.

 

In addition to encouraging people to shop and support local, the ‘Small Business: Too Big to Ignore’ campaign also puts a spotlight on ongoing Ontario Chamber Network advocacy and initiatives such as:

 

“Small businesses are cornerstones of our local economies and key to thriving communities—creating jobs, driving innovation, and generating wealth for us all,” says Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, OCC.

 

Canadian Small Business Week takes place during the third week of October every year. This year, the celebration will occur October 17-23.

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Darren agrees.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Like many other business leaders, Valet Car Wash’s Mike Black found himself forced to make some hard decisions when COVID-19 struck.

 

“As things started to close down and we started to navigate our way through this as a business, we had to layoff about 100 employees which is something we’ve never done in 30 years,” he says, referring to the business he began building on Eagle Street North back in 1990 which has now grown to include eight additional locations.

 

Luckily, he was able to continue to operate portions of his business with a reduced workforce. However, not all wanted to continue working due to personal reasons, which Mike says was a difficult choice for them to make.

 

 

“We respected and understood that,” he says, adding those who did continue to work would be instrumental in keeping the business going. 

 

Mike decided some action was needed to recognize these employees.

 

“I said to my managers, ‘I will make sure the employees that stuck through this and allowed us to keep our doors open and still have a business when the other employees come back will be compensated and I will figure out away to thank them’,” he says.

It was at this point he says came his ‘aha moment’ and devised a plan.

 

“We used the wage subsidy (CEWS) to pay every employee who worked from March 16 to May 3 and a special COVID compensation ‘bonus’ of $4 per hour on top of their regular hourly rate,” he says, adding he did not reduce their regular wages. “We calculated all their hours worked during that time period x4 and whatever that amount came to, we purchased gift cards of their choosing.”

 

Mike says the employees could select up to three different cards, with the only stipulation being they could not be VISA or MasterCard gift cards.

 

“I wanted to give them something that helped the economy at the same time,” he says. “It really wouldn’t do much good if it just sat in a bank account.”

 

Approximately 50 employees utilized the cards in a variety of ways. For example, Mike says one purchased new beds for her children, another a new couch for her living room, and another who is studying photography bought a new camera. As well, another purchased a variety of foods from Zehrs to create a special meal and treats, something that employee had not done in months since the COVID-19 crisis began.

“It’s been great to hear those stories,” says Mike, adding these purchases are a great way to stimulate the whole economy. “It works the whole supply chain.”

 

He describes it as a ‘win-win’ for everyone.

 

“The employees are happy, and it’s kept us in business,” says Mike. “When you have multiple locations, you really depend on your staff.”

 

Valet Car Wash Cambridge is located at 2396 Eagle St. N. (behind Greg Vann Nissan), or visit washmycar.ca for more information. 

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