Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 The municipal election this past fall resulted in some new and familiar faces around local council tables, each prepared to represent the needs of their constituents and communities to the best of their ability during their next four years in office.

 

In the winter edition of our Insight magazine, to be released this month, we reached out to the municipal leaders for the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries, along with Cambridge’s two regional councillors, to get a sense of what issues and concerns they believe are facing the business community and to provide potential solutions to make things even better to conduct business locally.

 

Each were asked the same series of questions in hopes of providing our business community with a snapshot of what approaches our municipal leaders will be taking over the next four years.

 

Here’s a portion of their responses to a few of the questions:

 

1. How do we make Cambridge/Township of North Dumfries even better places to do business?

 

Cambridge

 

Mayor Jan Liggett: “Connecting equity to transit-oriented development can mitigate traffic and pollution, generate demand for transit, catalyze the development of affordable housing, and bring new businesses and quality jobs to our community.”

 

Donna Reid, Ward One: “Council needs to support development because more people will generate more business and needs to consult our businesses as to their needs to ensure we will be providing the services that will assist them.”

 

Mike Devine, Ward Two: “Our tax base is an issue, and we must see that it’s set in a reasonable manner for businesses, especially since we have moved into more higher-tech manufacturing than we’ve previously seen in Cambridge in the first 30 years.”

 

Corey Kimpson, Ward Three: “We have to look at the processes we have in place and really look at having a collaborative approach between the levels of government, the community and business community.”

 

Ross Earnshaw, Ward Four: “For Cambridge to be perceived as an attractive place to do business, our downtowns must be seen as safe, comfortable, and truly fun, public places.”

 

Sheri Roberts, Ward Five: “Having the appropriate infrastructure in place such as safe roads, well planned parking, and other supports and services for employees and customers, will make it as easy as possible for companies to focus on the running of their business.”

 

Adam Cooper, Ward Six: “I would like to see improved road networks to get large this truck traffic out of our downtown areas and major roads such as Hespeler Road and King Street.”

 

Scott Hamilton, Ward Seven: “It’s important that we increase density in our cores to support businesses and large-scale infrastructural projects such as the LRT.”

 

Nicholas Ermeta, Ward Eight: “We need to constantly review and improve customer service levels at City Hall. We need to always strive to provide timely service and assistance when needed.”

 

Township of North Dumfries

 

Mayor Sue Foxton: “We must link quality of life attributes of the community and countryside with the business opportunities of the area and continue with the current program underway to facilitate the installation of fibre to the address across North Dumfries.”

 

Rod Rolleman, Ward One: “We need to market North Dumfries as the rural escape for city residents to the north and east of us.”

 

Derrick Ostner, Ward Two: “We can make North Dumfries a better place to do business by being more engaging with prospective businesses.”

 

Alida Wilms, Ward Three: “I love being part of a rural community and think there are incredible business opportunities here for any aspiring entrepreneur.”

 

Scott Tilley, Ward Four: “By encouraging and supporting businesses to set up in North Dumfries it will be a win/win for both the residents and business, as they will both support each other.”

 

Region of Waterloo

 

Doug Craig, Regional Councillor: “Rapid transit options must proceed, safety in our downtowns must be safeguarded and everything from recreational facilities to health services must continue to be improved.”

 

Pam Wolf, Regional Councillor: “To attract business to Cambridge we need to make it attractive to their employees. They want good schools, safe neighbourhoods, recreation facilities and arts and culture.”

 

 

2. What do you think are the biggest concerns facing businesses in Cambridge/North Dumfries and how will you address them?

 

Cambridge

 

Mayor Jan Liggett: “Labour shortage is a North American problem. We have universities, colleges and training facilities close by which graduate high quality staffing for companies. I will continue to work with them to encourage the growth of these educational facilities.”

 

Donna Reid, Ward One: “Our core areas struggle with the homeless, addicted and those with mental health issues. Our council needs to provide more services to address the needs of these vulnerable people.”

 

Mike Devine, Ward Two: “The tax base is clearly an issue for businesses and the cost of city services, such as snow plowing, are also an issue.”

 

Corey Kimpson, Ward Three: “Having things ready to move as quickly as possible is paramount, because when a business is ready to do something, they’re ready to go and can’t be waiting, especially in this economy. Is there a way we can fast track and expedite things?”

 

Ross Earnshaw, Ward Four: “Business owners do not feel like their voices are being heard by municipal leaders. It is important that we give local businesses a voice at City Hall.”

 

Sheri Roberts, Ward Five: “The cost of doing business goes up every year.  One way that municipalities can help with this is by streamlining the processes around opening a new business.”

 

Adam Cooper, Ward Six: “We need to lobby the provincial government for long-term detox and rehab facilities while also reconsidering the services offered downtown to prevent our core from becoming the dangerous playground for untreated addiction that it has become.”

 

Scott Hamilton, Ward Seven: “We all need to work to ensure that we have a skilled workforce, that conditions are ripe for quickly and efficiently importing supplies and materials as well as exporting our products to market.”

 

Nicholas Ermeta, Ward Eight: “Affordability or lack thereof are big concerns for businesses. I want to minimize future tax increases by reviewing the budget to find greater efficiencies and to find new funding models that rely less on property taxes.”

 

Township of North Dumfries

 

Mayor Sue Foxton: “Concerns include the cost attributed to the purchase of land for employment purposes, the timelines and cost for “approvals” to bring a development proposal forward to the marketplace, plus the ability to attract and retain employees for new or growing businesses and access transit to facilitate this. Council in June 2022 adopted a position to streamline the review and approvals process associated with site plan approvals. This measure should witness a reduction in the timelines to secure a decision.”

 

Rod Rolleman, Ward One: “The three biggest concerns facing businesses in North Dumfries are labour shortages, poor quality internet, and lack of commercially zoned properties. The Township needs to partner with the private sector and bring high-speed internet to our business parks.”

 

Derrick Ostner, Ward Two: “Biggest concerns are having the available land, and proper internet.”

 

Alida Wilms, Ward Three: “As more people move into the area, there’s greater pressure on our rural and natural areas because of the increased housing needs.

 

Scott Tilley, Ward Four: “Planning for future parking and dealing with current parking issues by working with the community residents and businesses to get their feedback, I will assist in making it easier for businesses to be accessed by listening to the people who are in the area regularly.”

 

Region of Waterloo

 

Doug Craig, Regional Councillor: “Safety in our community on the streets, in our parks and in our downtowns must be improved to have a safe, liveable community.”

 

Pam Wolf, Regional Councillor: “One of the biggest challenges to business is attracting and retaining staff. To help with this we need to build more housing including affordable housing to house staff.”

 

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The issues and possibilities facing Cambridge will be the focus when City Manager David Calder and Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher sit down for a one-on-one discussion at our ‘Good Morning Cambridge’ Breakfast on Nov. 1 at the Galt Country Club.

 

To get a small sense of what participants can expect, we reached out to Mr. Calder to ask a few questions. (To register for this in-person event, visit https://bit.ly/3D2omlh.)

 

 

Q. What are some of the challenges the City of Cambridge will be facing in the next several few years?

 

A.  The City of Cambridge is expected to grow by 70,000 people by the year 2050.  With more people living in the community, we will also see a growth in local business as well as a need to expand the facilities and services that we currently offer.  With growth comes the challenge of how to accommodate. 

The old solution of growing outward isn’t sustainable, and creates a need for public input into the current policies for denser communities.  Although people understand and support development, it becomes more challenging when developments are closer to home.  This creates a balancing of the needs of neighbourhoods with the needs of the community, both those currently living here and those that will be calling Cambridge home in the future.

 

 

Q.  How has the pandemic changed the way many cities, such as Cambridge, operate?

 

A. The focus of our City staff during the pandemic was to continue to deliver programs and services in a variety of ways that met the needs of our community all while ensuring safety for everyone. In the process, staff have found more efficient, open, transparent and accountable ways to deliver many of our services. As we transition back to in-person and the “new normal” staff are applying their pandemic learnings to offer more options for the public to access us.

 

 

Q.  What is one key lesson the City of Cambridge learned from the pandemic?

 

A. The experience of delivering services during the pandemic taught us how committed City staff are to serving the public in innovative ways. From offering services remotely, transitioning to hybrid and returning to in-person situations, staff rose to each occasion with renewed enthusiasm.

 

 

Q.  Should Cambridge residents be hopeful for what lies ahead for this community?

 

A.  Cambridge will be celebrating its 50th in 2023 and we have a lot to be proud of as a community. We’ve seen tremendous growth and development across Cambridge and a commitment to improving our distinct cores in a way that creates places and spaces for people to gather. The City has committed close to $150 million to three large recreational projects which will come to fruition in the next few years.  A Parks Master Plan as well as an Arts & Culture Master plan are also underway along with an Older Adult Strategy.

These plans will help us to map our recreational and creative activities in a way that the future community can enjoy.  Next year, a Recreational Master plan is scheduled to begin reviewing what other Recreational activities would be needed to help accommodate the anticipated growth and change in our community.

Our Transportation Master Plan has many recommendations as to how best to move people from place to place, including better linked multi-use trails and making public transit more attractive. This will help us to prepare for the growth in population and ensure they have choice in how they move around the city.

 

 

Q. What is the best part of your work for the City of Cambridge?

 

A. The people. The past few years have been challenging for everyone. I am extremely proud of what we were able to achieve through our foundational commitment to excellence in customer service, while tapping into what makes Cambridge unique. This commitment and openness to new opportunities has not only encouraged growth in our community but also created opportunities for future prosperity.

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The cumulative energy of Chambers nationwide took the spotlight at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s recent CCEC Conference and AGM in Ottawa.

 

More than 400 delegates representing Chambers from across Canada gathered Oct. 12-15 in our nation’s capital to brainstorm and attend presentations pertaining to a variety of issues to help these organizations assist businesses. These included everything from generating revenue ideas and the importance of digital transformation, to promoting advocacy and promoting staff growth to create more impact in helping to recruit Chamber Members. As well, the AGM featured several interesting panel discussions and guest speakers, among them U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen who outlined the importance of business relations between the two countries and potential hurdles, as well as John Graham, President and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

 

 

 

“The calibre of the discussion at the CCEC (Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada) and AGM is always top-notch and provides the Chamber network with new ideas that can go a long way in helping our Members succeed,” says Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, who received a special nod of recognition from Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty during his opening remarks at the AGM for his work in creating the pilot rapid antigen screening kit program for businesses. To date, Mr. Beatty said the program has resulted in the distribution of more than 10 million kits to businesses nationwide.

 

During his address, Mr. Beatty touched on current labour and supply chain concerns facing communities nationwide and the importance of the Chamber network in developing growth minded policies to assist the economy to flourish.

 

“Growth doesn’t just happen spontaneously, it takes planning,” he said, noting the value and strength contained within the Chamber network to implement change. “Nationwide, Canadian Chambers are fighting for Canadian businesses.”

 

Policies helping businesses

 

This year, 61 policy resolutions were up for debate in a variety of categories including agriculture, international affairs, human resources, transportation, natural resources and environment, and finance and taxation.

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce's policy calling for the creation of a more equitable tax distribution plan to assist Canadian municipalities was among 53 approved by delegates. Our policy calls for the review of current funding mechanisms to ensure municipalities can fund their needs, including physical and social infrastructure to set the stage for economic recovery in communities, which in turn is good for local businesses. Besides carrying the lion’s share of Canada’s public infrastructure funding, municipalities have continued to face additional pressures surrounding a myriad of issues including housing, public transit, public safety, the opioid crisis, telecommunications and broadband, to name just a few.

 

“Our policy calls for all levels of government to sit down at the same table to work out a fairer tax distribution plan to meet the needs of Canadians and formulate local solutions that will help businesses succeed,” says Greg. “Having the backing of the Canadian Chamber network can go a long way to create positive results in the right direction.”

 

The approved policies now become part of the Canadian Chamber’s policy ‘playbook’ in its efforts to advocate for change.

 

To learn more about our advocacy and policy work, visit https://bit.ly/3ez63vZ.

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The race is on to determine who will represent Cambridge residents for the next term at City Hall.

 

Although the municipal election will be held Oct. 24, advanced voting begins Oct. 6 providing many of those seeking a seat on City Council a limited amount of time to garner support in their quest to make a difference in how our community remains a great place to live and do business.

 

“I think every level of government is important to business,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “There are federal, provincial, and municipal regulations that mitigate the growth of business and business owners need to pay very close attention to every level of government and participate by voting or campaigning, or supporting, or whatever they need to do to stabilize their business within the confines of Canadian democracy.”

 

 

In Cambridge, three new councillors will be seated at the table with the potential for several others if the incumbents fail to retain their positions. But whether the prospect of massive change around the council table is enough to sway more residents to vote remains uncertain since traditionally, municipal elections garner a lower voter turnout than provincial or federal races. In the last municipal race in 2018, voter turnout in Cambridge was 32.4% compared to the provincial average of 38.30%. Compare this to the recent provincial election which experienced a voter turnout of about 43.5%, one of the lowest in decades.

 

“Media tend to focus on national or provincial elections, and of course those are organized by political parties who are able to mobilize an enormous amount of activity and intention because they can spend a great deal of money and voters can easily identify who the political operatives are,” explains Dr. Dennis Pilon, Associate Professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies – Department of Political Science at York University. “When you look at it from the point of view from the voters, the challenge they face is that it’s very difficult to get informed about what’s really at stake. For voters to work out what each individual (municipal) candidate represents without a party label is somewhat challenging.”

 

As well, Dr. Pilon is candid when he talks about the legislative controls at the municipal level, noting even their ability to determine land uses can be circumvented by developers through the Ontario Municipal Board process.

 

“When we look at how the founders of our country and current federal and provincial politicians look at local government, they deliberately made it the weakest level of government,” he says. “It has very little independent power and has almost no fundraising capacity and is completely controlled by the provincial governments.”

 

Despite that, Greg notes the fact municipal governments are responsible for many elements –waste collection, police, fire service, roads, water and sewer, snow removal – that provide business owners with the ability to operate their businesses.

 

“They make the community safe and habitable, so the people you need to run your business want to live in your community,” he says. “I think businesses should encourage their employees to get out and vote because local government is the one level of government that truly affects their everyday lives.”

 

But inspiring people to vote in a municipal election can be difficult.

 

“It’s not that people don’t care and are not passionate,” says Dr. Pilon. “But often it takes a huge issue to catalyze the public and give them a focus for their concerns.”

 

For example, he says the proposed construction of the controversial Spadina Expressway in Toronto in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and more recently the amalgamation plans outlined in former Ontario premier Mike Harris’ ‘Common Sense Revolution’ in 1995 mobilized an enormous amount of people.

 

“You have to have a big issue that’s going to affect the majority of people, and thankfully, we don’t have those big issues,” says Greg, adding even the approval of the LRT didn’t garner as much concern as expected. “When there are those neighbourhood issues, they generally don’t drive people to the polls.”

 

Dr. Pilon agrees and notes that even the current housing and homelessness issues facing most communities is likely not enough to inspire more people to vote.

 

“Historically, when we look over the 20th century, the market has had an uneven ability to respond to housing needs again and again. It’s not a new problem and not one that municipalities have the finances to deal with so there you’ve got this mismatch,” he says, adding it’s a difficult issue for local candidates to succeed with at the ballot box. “There will be no accountability on the issue because there’s very little that municipalities can do.”

 

Dr. Pilon says ‘dramatic events’ that rise above the ‘noise’ are needed to mobilize voters at the local level, which is difficult due in part to media cutbacks.

 

“A lot of local newspapers have taken a hit over the past decade, so people aren’t receiving as much local council coverage and that makes it difficult for them to find out what’s going on,” he says.

 

To encourage more voter participation, Dr. Pilon recommends several potential changes including allowing the formation of ‘slate’ parties in Ontario, similar in nature to what is allowed Vancouver, B.C., as well as reforming campaign finance laws to prevent developers from having too much ‘pull’.

 

“Another reform that would make a big difference is stop reducing the size of councils,” he says, referring to Premier Doug Ford’s reduction of wards in Toronto. “What kind of impact is that going to have on representation?”

 

In terms of representation, Greg says a party system is not the answer at the municipal level.

 

“People are there representing their neighbourhoods and community, their friends and family and the businesses they shop in,” he says, adding a party system doesn’t lend itself to this type of scenario and that leaving their own political ‘baggage at the door’ is key for a successful council candidate.

 

“You’re not looking for someone with a platform of ideas as much as someone who has leadership and communication skills and can deliver on the interest of the neighbourhood. You want an individual who is compassionate and understanding and can also communicate well to upper levels of government to make sure that the community’s broader needs that may relate to provincial or federal issues are understood and addressed as best they possibly can.”

 

To learn more about the 2022 Municipal Election, visit the City of Cambridge.

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The pain at the pumps consumers continue to feel as prices climb above $2 a litre won’t be dissipating anytime soon, warns Dan McTeague, President of Canadians for Affordable Energy.

 

“The problem is a shortage of oil,” says the former Liberal MP and long-time energy ‘watchdog’.

 

He says Russian President Vladimir Putin knows the world is vulnerable right now and has made it geopolitical and weaponized oil supplies in Europe through the invasion of the Ukraine, which has only magnified the issues already facing the other two major energy links in the world – namely Canada and the U.S. and OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).

 

“We’ve completely destroyed the Canada/U.S. relationship,” says Dan, referring to the political decision to ‘kill’ proposed pipelines in North America and notes that OPEC, which cut oil production to keep prices at a certain level, is looking towards Asia and markets of the future.

 

As well, factor in a slowdown of world economies during the two years of the pandemic which resulted in a decrease in the demand for oil, resulting in oil companies putting a stop on drilling for new supplies or slowed, or even stopped, some refineries. Now, these same companies continue to have a tough time ramping up production to keep pace with demand.

 

It’s a dire situation, which Dan says he discussed in the fall of 2021 in an interview with Driving.ca, long before Russia launched its Ukrainian invasion. In the article, one of the things he points to is the introduction of the Trudeau government’s Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) which he bluntly referred to as ‘another tax dressed up as a clean-air credit’ that is going to cost average Canadians even more at the pumps. The CFS is set to be introduced Dec. 1 of 2022.

 

Taxes, of course, remain one of the largest components of fuel prices in Canada accounting for at least 34% of the average pump price.

 

Breakdown of gas taxes in Ontario:

  • Federal excise tax - 10 cents/ per litre
  • Federal carbon tax - 11.1 cents/ per litre
  • Ontario tax - 14.7 cents/ per litre
  • GST/HST - 22.9 cents/ per litre.

This translates into a total amount of 58.6 cents/per litre worth of taxes in Ontario, on top of the base price of which near the end of May was 139.6 cents/ per litre. On average, this is in line with many provinces, except for Alberta which is 29 cents/per litre and Manitoba at 43.8 cents/per litre. Overall, Canadians are paying an average of 51.2 cents/per litre of taxes.

 

But is there a solution? Ideally, supply and demand would have to become more balanced which could be accomplished in several ways:

  • The war in Ukraine ends and countries begin buying Russian oil again;
  • OPEC ramps up oil production;
  • Other oil producers increase production;
  • People start driving less;
  • Society as a whole embraces greener energy solutions that don’t involve oil.

 

Dan believes the world is still a few decades away from turning fully away from oil and natural gas.

 

“We’ve got to get real about building pipelines again,” he says, adding we need to be more realistic when it comes to our current energy needs.

 

He says as it stands, there is not much business operators can do as they continue to deal with disrupted supply chains and expenses, especially around transportation costs.

 

“I think food costs are the next shoe to drop because of course fuel affordability is gone, and with it now comes everything else,” says Dan.

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On April 11, 2022, Bill 88 – Ontario’s Working for Workers Act, 2022 – received Royal Assent and became law.  We reviewed this new legislative change with local legal experts, Hina Ghaus and Tushar Anandasagar, of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP.

 

“We discussed the proposed legislation, with a specific focus on workplace electronic monitoring policies, in a previous blog post.  At that stage, the legislation was still in draft form.  For the final version, we wanted to provide the members with an up-to-date overview of what actually applies,” says Tushar.

 

Here are the key takeaways:

 

Employers: “Electronic Monitoring Policy”

 

Bill 88 introduced new provisions into the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), which require all employers who employ 25 or more employees to have a written policy in place on electronic monitoring of employees.

 

The electronic monitoring policy must include:

  • information on whether the employer electronically monitors employees and if so,
  • a description of how and in what circumstances the employer may electronically monitor employees,
  • the purposes for which information obtained through electronic monitoring may be used by the employer;
  • the date the policy was prepared and the date any changes were made to the policy; as well as
  • any other information as may be prescribed by law in the future.

According to Hina, time is of the essence: “There are 3 key dates to keep in mind for the first year.  Employers who had 25 or more employees on January 1, 2022 must have this policy in place by October 11, 2022, and provide a written copy of the policy to existing employees by November 10, 2022.  In subsequent years, any employer who has 25 or more employees on January 1 of any year, must have a policy in place by March 1 of that year.”

 

“There are more requirements to consider regarding ongoing compliance, including when you will need to deliver a copy of the policy (once finalized) to your staff,” says Tushar.  “Employers must provide a written copy of the policy to all employees by no later than 30 days from the day the employer is required to have the policy in place, or for new employees, within 30 days of their joining date.”

 

There are additional wrinkles to consider for those businesses that utilize temporary help agency employees.  “For “assignment employees” (the ESA term for temporary help agency employees), they need to receive a copy of the policy within 24 hours of the start of the assignment, or within 30 days from the day the employer is required to have the policy in place, whichever is later,” says Hina.

 

During our last overview of the draft Bill 88, there was ongoing debate about this legislation and how it would be enforced.

 

According to Tushar, the “enforcement” mechanisms under the ESA are quite limited:  “Yes – the ESA contains several provisions which allow an employee to file a ‘complaint’ about this policy compliance requirement – but the grounds upon which the complaint can be based are very limited.  For instance, the ESA allows an employee to complain about whether a copy of the policy was provided in a timely manner, or not.”

 

Notably, there is no prohibition under the ESA which prevents an employer from engaging in electronic monitoring of one form or another. In fact, it is explicitly stated in the legislation that these requirements do not affect or limit an employer’s ability to use the information obtained through electronic monitoring of employees.

 

“As expected, there is nothing under Bill 88 which restricts an employer’s ability to monitor, or use the information obtained through monitoring, nor does it create a statutory “right to privacy” for employees,” says Hina. “There is no actual definition of ‘electronic monitoring’ under the legislation, although it is still early, and we could see clarification of this aspect of the law as we get closer to October 11, 2022.”

 

Tushar points out that the standard rules may not affect all employers the same way and pointed to the unique context of unionized workplaces.

 

“The ESA is only part of the picture. For many workplaces – notably unionized settings, a notable caveat applies where the parties to a collective agreement have negotiated language that permits or prohibits certain forms of electronic monitoring (in some cases referred to as a ‘surveillance’ clause),” he says.  “There is an extensive body of unionized case law that deals with the “reasonableness” of employee monitoring / surveillance – and that needs to be balanced with this new policy requirement.  We are actively assisting union sector employers with managing this issue.”

 

Finally, Hina notes that Bill 88 was just passed, and more is likely to be forthcoming from the province as we near October 11.

 

“We don’t have any codes of practice, guidelines or regulations (yet) on this new legislative requirement.  As with the ‘Disconnecting from Work’ policy compliance requirement, we may see the province publishing more on this issue over the coming months,” she says.

 

For the time being, Hina, Tushar and the rest of the team at Gowling WLG continue to diligently sift through the latest legislative changes. For further information, please feel free to contact Tushar at [email protected] and/or Hina at [email protected].

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The collective power of the Chamber movement to assist businesses succeed was front and centre at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent AGM and Convention.

 

Approximately 150 delegates, the majority representing Chambers and Board of Trades from across the province, gathered at the Pearson Convention Centre April 28-May 1 in Brampton to network, hear from Ontario political leaders, and debate policy issues to assist them in their advocacy work with government on behalf of businesses.

 

“Ensuring businesses have the legislative backing and supports they need to succeed and prosper plays an important role for all Chambers and Boards of Trade,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, who led a strategy session on delivering Chamber services across a diverse membership base and was joined at the event by in-coming Chamber Board Chair Kristen Danson. “The conference is a great place to share new ideas and connect with other Chamber leaders from around the province.”

 

This was the first in-person AGM the OCC has held since the pandemic and featured appearances by the Ontario leaders of the Liberals (Steven Del Duca), NDP (Andrea Horwath) and Green (Mike Schreiner), as well as the Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board of Ontario. All four spoke about the strength and importance of the business community and what their parties can do to help our economy.

 

Also, Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty was on hand to offer an update on the Chamber network from a national perspective.

 

“It’s great for the Chamber network to hear from all sides of the political spectrum,” says Greg, noting potential policy resolutions are formulated from a wide range of issues and concerns.

 

This year, 34 resolutions were up for debate on a variety of topics ranging from improving supports to employers, to the creation of a construction strategy for tiny homes.

 

The Cambridge Chamber’s policy calling for the creation of a ‘backstop’ for the implementation of mandated workplace vaccination policies was among 32 that received approval from delegates. The approved policy calls for the Ministry of Labour to include elements within the articles of the Occupational Health & Safety Act to provide protection against discriminatory legal actions aimed at businesses that wish to implement such a policy.

 

“It’s important that businesses have the protections they need in order to operate in the manner which they feel works best for them,” says Greg.

 

The approved policies now become part of the OCC policy ‘playbook’ in its efforts to advocate for change with provincial and federal levels of government.

 

Besides adopting policies, the conference wrapped up with an awards ceremony to recognize the achievements of Chambers and Boards of Trades.

 

The Cambridge Chamber, in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, was presented with the Chair’s Award for Innovative Program or Service to recognize the success of their rapid screening kits program which has been adopted by Chambers provincewide. Since April of 2021, the program has resulted in the distribution of more than one million kits to more than 7,500 businesses throughout Waterloo Region.

 

“This program has made a huge difference to thousands of businesses in our region, and we couldn’t be more pleased,” says Greg.

 

For more information about the kits, visit https://chambercheck.ca.

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While the recent unveiling of a national child-care deal should come as welcome news to many business owners facing labour issues, child-care experts say there are still some important issues that will need to be addressed pertaining to the new plan.

 

“The intention is really good, but we just have to figure out what this will look like along the way,” says Jaime Jacomen, Leader of Operational Excellence at YMCA of Three Rivers, referring to the deal which aims to have $10-a-day childcare in place by September of 2025.

 

The plan, which affects licensed child-care centres and licensed home care providers only, was solidified at the end of March when the Ontario government became the last to sign on resulting in fees reduced up to 25% to a minimum of $12 a day starting April 1. 

 

Rebates are also to be issued to parents of children aged five and under starting in May retroactively to April 1 and further reductions are on tap leading to the 2025 ‘goal’. The federal government has also invested an additional $2.9 billion for a sixth year of the agreement.

 

“I see this $10-a-day plan as a good starting point in helping working parents, but is it enough?” asks Tina Kharian, owner of Gravity Hair Design in Cambridge. “It’s hard to say as we also need to ensure enough daycare spots are available and qualified providers for all families.”

 

The deal outlines the creation of 86,000 child-care spaces (including more than 15,000 spaces already in place since 2019), representing a mix of for-profit and not-for-profit.

While she welcomes the extra spaces, Jaime admits she wonders where they will be created.

 

“It’s a bigger process,” she says, noting increasing child-care access comes along with new school builds.

 

Also, Jaime says the wage plan set out in the deal – which will see minimum-wage floors for child-care workers of $18 an hour and $20 an hour for supervisors, plus an additional $1 an hour until the floor hits $25 an hour – won’t be enough.


“Many early childhood educators are making over that already, so that’s not any additional incentive,” she says. “The government seems to be wanting to address the affordability issue and access for families. But in order to have all of that access, you need to build that early childhood education workforce.”


However, Jaime remains optimistic and says the YMCA’s provincial body has been engaged with the Province about this issue for some time.


“We do think this is something that needs to happen,” she says.


Tina agrees and says a national child-care system is vital for our economy to fully recover.


“As business owners, we should be welcoming this because having affordable, quality daycare for all families will increase labour force participation, especially in our business (hair salon) since most stylists are women,” she says.


The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 report The She-Covery Project: Confronting the Gendered Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario outlined a series of recommendations to offset both the immediate and longer-term challenges women face. Among these were calls for a short-term child-care strategy to weather the pandemic and longer-term reforms to improve accessibility and affordability.


“We risk turning back the clock on decades of progress if we do not take a hard look at the challenges facing women and plan for recovery with women at the table and a gender and diversity lens on strategies, programs and policies,” said Dr. Wendy Cukier, Diversity Institute Founder and Academic Director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub in the report.

 

Here's what parents can expect in the coming months:

  • As of April 1, 2022, families with children five years old and younger in participating licensed childcare centres, including licensed home care, will see fees reduced up to 25 per cent to a minimum of $12 per day.
  • Rebates, retroactive to April 1, will be issued automatically starting in May. The rebate is in place to account for child-care operators that may need extra time to readjust their fees. 
  • In December 2022, fees will be reduced further to about 50% on average.

The deal outlines a plan to further slash rates in the coming years. Here's what the longer-term outlook includes:

  • In September 2024 fees will be reduced even further.
  • A final reduction in September 2025 will bring fees down to an average of $10 per day.
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Ontario’s economic outlook remains uncertain for businesses and households as labour shortages, high energy costs, supply chain disruptions, and inflation continue to hit home. Ontario's business community needs a clear and predictable path forward to support economic recovery and growth. 

 

In preparation of the budget’s release, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released the 2022 Ontario budget submission with recommendations to the Government of Ontario to ensure a strong and sustainable recovery. 

 

“In the upcoming budget, we would like to see the government direct sufficient resources towards the hardest-hit sectors, while laying the groundwork for a sustainable and inclusive economy,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The submission notes that the crisis has created new problems and exacerbated pre-existing ones. Government must work to resolve these longstanding issues to ensure Ontario remains an attractive destination to start and grow businesses.”

 

OCC’s 2022 provincial budget submission provides recommendations to the Government of Ontario under the following categories: Economic Recovery; Resilient Communities; and Modernizing Regulation and Fiscal Policy.

 

Some key highlights include proposals to:  

  • Support entrepreneurship and small business growth with targeted business supports and access to public sector procurement.
  • Strengthen Ontario’s workforce by boosting immigration and training programs.
  • Make housing more affordable through increased supply and regulatory reforms.
  • Advance regional transportation and broadband infrastructure projects.
  • Bolster our health care system and address major backlogs in diagnostics and cancer screenings. 
  • Seize Ontario’s opportunity to lead in the global green economy. 
  • Remove barriers to interprovincial trade and labour mobility.

 

“The pandemic has made it clear that we cannot have a strong business community without a resilient health care system. Budget 2022 needs to focus on immediate measures that support business predictability and competitiveness while building health care capacity to withstand current and future challenges,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

The recommendations outlined in the OCC’s budget submission were developed together with businesses, associations, post-secondary institutions, and the Ontario Chamber Network.   

 

Read the submission: https://bit.ly/3usBZa9

 

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Canada is facing a competitiveness problem. Inflation, supply chain constraints, and labour shortages risk undermining a swift and robust economic recovery. Meanwhile, recent domestic and international events have renewed the spotlight on energy security and affordability.  

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has released the 2022 Federal Budget Submission focused on public policies that increase Canada’s economic resilience to ongoing and future threats. 

 

“Businesses across Waterloo Region are continuing to feel the effect of the pandemic,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “Budget 2022 must lay the groundwork for a strong, inclusive recovery with policies that support the sectors and demographics hardest hit by the pandemic, building the infrastructure and workforce of the future, and modernizing regulation to ensure Canada can attract investment and nurture entrepreneurship.” 

 

Some key highlights from the budget submission include recommendations for the Government of Canada to: 

  • Promote Canada’s energy sector on the global stage and recognize nuclear power as a clean and necessary energy resource in the fight against climate change. 
  • Expand immigration and express entry of skilled workers to address labour shortages.  
  • Increase the Canada Health Transfer Payment to meet the current and future pressures facing Ontario’s health-care system.
  • Modernize transportation infrastructure to address bottlenecks along supply chains and facilitate the decarbonization of the transportation sector.
  • Reform the federal tax system to attract foreign direct investment, drive domestic business growth and innovation. 
  • Develop a sustainable path to reduce the federal debt-to-GDP ratio and wind down other pandemic-related supports to ensure long-term fiscal balance and the capacity to address future economic shocks. 

The OCC’s 2022 Ontario Economic Report found that a staggering 62% of sectors face labour shortages in Ontario and expect to continue facing them over the next year. Together with supply chain disruptions, these shortages impact the cost of living, service delivery, and product availability. 

 

“As the indispensable partner of business, we call on the government to resolve long-standing structural issues, including barriers to interprovincial trade and skilled labour shortages, to drive entrepreneurship, investment and long-term economic growth,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC. 

 

The recommendations outlined in the budget submission were developed together with businesses, associations, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade from across the province.  

 

See budget recommendations: http://bit.ly/3uRp9Bl

 

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