Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

A stroll down the red carpet provided a glamorous welcome to local business and community leaders entering the grand foyer at Tapestry Hall for our recent Business Excellence Awards.

 

The in-person awards event, held virtually the past two years due to the pandemic, brought out approximately 300 people the evening of May 26 to celebrate the achievements and resiliency of the Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries business community.

 

“After the last two years, having the chance to gather together and acknowledge the hard work of our businesses meant a great deal to many people,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “And hosting our awards event at such an impressive venue as Tapestry Hall just added to the night.”

 

Below the spectacular glory of Meander – Tapestry Hall’s ‘living’ sculpture – guests were provided with time to mingle prior to a delicious meal and the awards ceremony, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.

 

Local radio personality Mike Farwell, host of The Mike Farwell Show on CityNewsKitchener, was the perfect emcee for the evening which kicked off with a $2,000 donation from the Chamber to his Farwell4Hire campaign that raises money for cystic fibrosis research.

 

This was followed by a special presentation from Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO Rocco Rossi, who handed that organization’s prestigious Chair’s Award for Innovation Program and Service to Greg and Ian McLean, President and CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, for creating the rapid screening kit program. The pilot program began here in April of 2021 and was quickly adopted by Chambers provincewide. To date, more than one million kits have been provided free of charge to Waterloo Region businesses and more than 60,000 given to businesses across Ontario through the Chamber network.

 

“The continued success of the program is just another example of how the Chamber network can make a difference when businesses need us the most,” says Greg.

 

Here’s a look at the award recipients:

 

Chair’s Award: Eclipse Automation

Eclipse Automation has become an international company with a global reach employing more than 750 people. But despite that success, it has never lost sight of its ties to Cambridge by remaining a true community supporter. This was very apparent when the pandemic hit and this company, which builds automation systems for some of the largest manufacturers in the world, turned its operation completely around to assist in the battle against the COVID-19 virus by creating face masks and N95-style respirators to address Canada’s critical PPE shortage. This important donation empowered hundreds of these small businesses after the lockdowns and helped prevent even further economic hardship.

 

Community Impact award: Scott Higgins (Hip Developments)

Born and raised in Cambridge, Scott has spent a career truly making our community the best it possibly can be through his passion for not only helping others but trying to make a positive difference that will affect the lives of generations to come. Fearlessly, he has stood by his vision and dream of adapting old buildings into viable realities full of attractive amenities. But he’s more than just a ‘condo’ builder - he’s a community builder who champions the creative entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Waterloo Region. He not only coined the catchphrase the ‘Creative Capital of Canada’ but recently expanded on it through the creation of the Youth Creativity Fund. Working with the Business & Education Partnership of Waterloo Region, this new initiative aims to nurture and share the creative ideas of Grades 5 to 12 students in Waterloo Region – setting the stage for the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

 

WoW Cambridge: Bankim Patel (Baba Bazar)

The kindness continuously shown by Bankim Patel has not gone unnoticed by the loyal customers of his well-known Asian grocery store. Customers to his store have known for a very long time they can count on the owner when needed – even if it that includes driving a customer home because she felt unwell and staying with her until she felt better.

 

Spirit of Cambridge: SM Marketing & Management

When it came to assisting other businesses during the pandemic, SM Marketing & Management didn’t hesitate to reach out and help businesses develop eye-catching social media content to promote themselves. As well, this company also managed to raise money for essential workers who did not receive any bonuses during these tough times through the creation of the ‘In This Together’ campaign. This campaign saw a variety of apparel, including hoodies and t-shirts, featuring logos of local businesses sold with 100% of the proceeds going to those essential workers in need.

 

New Venture of the Year: Drayton Entertainment – The Backstage Pass Program

While the expression ‘pivot’ quickly became commonplace for business leaders everywhere, Drayton Entertainment took this concept to a new level. Recognizing that a ‘return to normal’ would be a multi-year process, it began offering a specialized online subscription service to ensure its patrons would continue to be well taken care of and partnered with hospitality businesses to offer these loyal clients not only a more unique experience, but much-needed support to others in a time of great turmoil.

 

Business of the Year 1-10: Air Power Products Limited

This company always made a conscious effort to not only provide support to many charitable organizations but have strongly done all they can to promote energy conversation and environmental sustainability when organizing their manufacturing processes. For more than 40 years, they have constantly been upgrading to ensure they can offer their clients the best solutions possible. This continued in 2020 when they added Nitrogen and Oxygen generation systems to their portfolio, an innovation that has provided much-needed assistance during the pandemic. This work has kept their employees very busy throughout the pandemic as the company experienced double-digit growth.

 

Business of the Year 11-49: Unified Flex Packaging Technologies

This company has a very specific goal in mind as a good corporate citizen, and that is to produce higher standards of living and quality of life for the communities that surround it while still maintaining profitability. Not only do they hire locally, but they also buy locally through the procurement of components from area vendors contributing to the local business ecosystem. As well, Unified Flex Packaging has used technology through the creation of an easy-to-use customer service portal to ensure they are providing their clients with the best service possible.

 

Business of the Year (Over 50 employees): Collaborative Structures Limited

Besides supporting numerous charitable organizations, Collaborative Structures Limited also continuously strengthens its social responsibility by encouraging and supporting its employees to improve their own socially responsible endeavours and community awareness. They know how employee retention promotes the health and success of the company and are quick to celebrate the hard work and dedication of their staff. As well, since its inception this company has provided exceptional and innovative services to its clients and has been committed to exploring new avenues of business and better building practices that sets it apart in the industry.

 

Outstanding Workplace: BWXT Canada Ltd.

People and innovation form the foundation of the recruitment strategy for BWXT Canada Ltd. Working diligently to attract a diverse and skilled workforce that is reflective of the community that surrounds them has been key to its success. BWXT has created several committees to foster a more welcoming and respectful work environment when it comes to issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. The recruitment strategy at BWXT is both internally and externally focused and is accompanied by ongoing training and development to encourage employee growth and leadership potential. This company believes in its employees and has created a bonus program based on its financial and safety performance

 

Young Entrepreneur: Elisia Neves (Fabrik Architects Inc.)

Talent and devotion to the success of the community are two qualities that are synonymous when describing Elisia Neves. Establishing her business in 2017 through design collaboration and with more than 20 years of industry experience, she is the perfect example of how one young professional with an entrepreneurial spirit can make a difference. She has taken the lead on many successful projects throughout Waterloo Region and Ontario, while at the same time acting as a mentor to other young female professionals and giving back to the community. She has also become a leader in Pandemic Responsive Building Design through research and practice and is a shining example for young girls, new immigrants, students, and young business leaders of today and tomorrow to look up to.

 

Marketing Excellence: Red Bicycle Paper Co.

When the first lockdown hit, Red Bicycle Paper Co. implemented a ‘promise to re-print at no cost’ program for clients which stayed in place until the company’s last client was finally able to wed in February of this year. Using Instagram to its fullest potential as well as investing in a new and a very streamlined website using a local web designer, helped Red Bicycle Paper Co. remain in the minds of couples looking to tie the knot. The company also managed to move to a new studio space that reflected a warm and welcoming space for clients to be inspired and feel excited again, promoting it via an email marketing campaign.

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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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It’s not easy to operate or manage a business, even during the best of times.

 

But add in a worldwide pandemic, and the stresses many employers and employees face quickly become magnified.

 

“I have found over the past two years the one thing that is negatively impacting leaders is the societal expectations that they have all the answers,” says Lynn Charlton, proprietor of Lynn Charlton Business Solutions in Kitchener, noting COVID-19 did not come with a ‘playbook’ for businesses. “There is no historical data available that is comparable to our current circumstances.”

 

Lynn, along with Jim Moss, Executive Director of YMCA Workwell, will provide expert insight at our virtual event May 3 entitled A Difficult Conversation. Let’s #GetReal About Mental Health regarding the stresses employers and employees are now facing in the workplace.

 

“I think during the pandemic we’ve become a little shortsighted about the human experience,” says Lynn, noting that many employers are also employees themselves. “We forget about that part and that they are going through this just like everybody else. Everyone has been negatively impacted in circumstances unique to them, regardless of how we may present ourselves at work.”

 

When it comes to ‘big’ stressors for employers, Lynn says many are faced with turnaround pressure trying to translate the latest directives from a medical perspective and apply them to an employment perspective, explaining the Employment Standards Act has always been a very reactive piece of legislation.

 

“Employers are getting minimum support from the Employment Standards Act on how to interpret this information because we can’t keep up,” she says. “No one is letting anybody down and I think the expectation may be out of line of how quickly these things can be determined.”

 

Another stressor for employers is looking at the larger picture overall of how businesses must quickly learn to adapt.

 

“The pandemic has completely stressed our old norms and redefined expectations from both the leadership side to the employee side,” says Lynn. “The resiliency of our leadership has been dramatically challenged over the past two years and resiliency is not an infinite resource.”

 

She says having empathy in the workplace is key, especially now.

 

“It is important for both leaders and employers that empathy needs to be a two-way street,” says Lynn. “As much as we as leaders need to be empathic, our teams also during times like this need to be empathic towards their leaders.”

 

Jim, who will share the spotlight with her at the webinar, agrees and says employers must be able to read the signs when it comes dealing with their employees’ mental health.

 

“Mental health issues have a tendency to first show up in our behaviours and appearance,” he says. “Leaders with higher emotional intelligence often pick up on these types of signs more quickly as they are both consciously and subconsciously paying attention and prioritizing this kind of data all the time.”

 

To help the situation, he recommends employers be as adaptable and flexible whenever they can.

 

“When you can’t be flexible any further, be honest and upfront with people so they can make the best decisions for themselves,” says Jim. “Replace the golden rule with the platinum rule; treat your employees like they want to be treated not how you want to be treated. If people need to change jobs, talk about it early and make it work as best you can.”

 

At the webinar, he hopes to refer to specific data to give participants an even better understanding of surrounding some of these issues.

 

“Ideally, we hope that people will see themselves in the data that we share,” says Jim. “It will help them understand some of the ways that they might be feeling are the same as some others in the community while also realizing that many others feel similar, but for very different reasons.”

 

Lynn says she hopes participants will come away being able to identify some of the ‘red flags’ surrounding burn out in successful and productive leaders.

 

“We all have stress and it’s OK to have stress,” she says. “But it’s about how do we manage that work stress without negatively impacting our team and the people relying on us to be that ‘solid’ person in trying times.”

 

 

'A Difficult Conversation. Let’s #GetReal About Mental Health' takes place virtually Tuesday, May 3 from 11 a.m. to noon. Sign up at: https://bit.ly/3MjQcwm

 

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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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The full impact COVID-19 continues to have on businesses has yet to be determined as our economy slowly rebuilds.

 

But what is apparent is the realization that many workplaces can no longer operate as they once did as many employers navigate labour shortages and the creation of hybrid work models to accommodate employees who wish to continue working remotely.

“Everyone seems to be looking for this return to normal but if you want any semblance of normality than just keep dreaming,” says Julie Dupont, Principal Strategist at Cambridge-based Reimagining Leadership. “Employee expectations have changed, and the Great Resignation is an indication of that.”

While there are some reports indicating this phenomenon may not be as prevalent in Canada just yet compared to the U.S., there is cause for concern considering the results of a StatsCan Labour Force Survey outlined last month in the Globe & Mail indicate that Canadian employers were recruiting for about 875,000 positions.

 

To offset growing labour gaps and the emotional ‘trauma’ ignited by the pandemic, Julie says the need for employers to utilize their emotional intelligence skills has become paramount.

 

Emotional intelligence centres on understanding and managing your own emotions in positive ways to communicate effectively and empathetically with others to overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

 

Julie, who along with Laura Falby, Senior Director of People and Culture at Waterloo Brewing, will explore this topic further by outlining how meaningful dialogue can help create healthier working environments during our virtual event March 29 entitled ‘Emotional Intelligence: Strengthening Workplace Culture’.

 

“I think emotional intelligence skills have been important for a long time, but I think there is a real necessity for them now because people need to connect in different ways in order to feel like they can be human again,” says Julie, adding the many uncertainties surrounding the pandemic has had a huge impact on workplaces, even those where employees have remained on site. “It’s about how you handle the uncertainties out there, not just as a human being but as a leader, that is really going to make a huge impact on being able to get people performing again.”

 

Julie says ‘pampering’ and ‘babying’ employees is not part of it and that encouraging open conversations is key as employees re-enter the workplace or continue to work remotely. 

 

She admits for many employers, learning to use these types of skills may not come easy.

 

“It’s not something that is going to come naturally to anybody,” says Julie, noting these are hard not soft, skills that can be learned. “It is really a series of learned behaviours and the more you do them, with practice, they become easier because you start to change your mindset when you see the results of these conversations.”

 

She says listening to their employees is the first major step employers can take, not just dictating to them new post-pandemic work protocols. 

 

“The missing piece is the listening and really understanding what do your people need from you? Do they have what they need to be able to do their jobs well and feel supported and valued?” says Julie. “By using your emotional intelligence skills, they (employees) will take care of the bottom line, and they will be become more loyal to you and willing to go that extra mile.”

 

She hopes participants at our virtual event will not only be eager to learn more about emotional intelligence skills but realize how using them effectively can directly impact a business’ bottom line.

 

“If your people are leaving, who is getting the work done? How much does it cost the company every time an employee leaves or has to hire someone and get them up to speed?” says Julie. “What’s the cost savings or cost avoidances around that?”

 

‘Emotional Intelligence: Strengthening the Workplace’ takes place Tuesday, March 29 from 11 a.m. to noon. To register, visit: https://bit.ly/3Jn7lUM

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Proposed provincial legislation requiring employers to tell their employees if, and how, they are being electronically monitored may prove to be both challenging and beneficial for business owners, say local legal experts Hina Ghaus and Tushar Anandasagar, of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP.

 

The proposed legislation – announced February 28, 2022 – would require employers with 25 or more employees, as of January 1 of any given year, to implement a written ‘Electronic Monitoring Policy’ for their employees. Assuming the legislation is passed in its current form, the policy would require an employer to disclose whether it electronically monitors its employees.  If so, the employer would then have to outline how it monitors employees, the purpose(s) of such monitoring, and how the information may be used.

 

“Whether you are a delivery person being followed by GPS, a construction worker using a company phone, or an office worker logging in from home, you deserve to know if and how you are being tracked,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development in a press release. 

 

If approved, Ontario will be the first province to implement this type of policy requirement. The legislation has passed first reading and is currently in front of the Standing Committee on Social Policy as of March 7, 2022.

 

“The draft legislation is built around privacy best practices,” says Hina. 

 

While initial responses to the draft legislation suggested that the proposed laws were decidedly “pro-employee”, Hina says the legislature’s intention appears to be more balanced.

 

“This seems to be about transparency – meeting this policy compliance requirement can help employers with modernizing their privacy best practices,” she says.

 

There are many unanswered questions about the scope of the draft legislation, including types of monitoring strategies or devices that may be affected.

 

For instance, Hina says: “There is ambiguity for employers − the proposed legislation is so broad and does not define the extent of electronic monitoring.  For instance, based on Minister McNaughton’s announcement, it is assumed that cellphone, GPS and computer tracking software will be included – but until the legislation is finalized, we don’t know this for sure.” 

 

 “We also do not know if, and how, the draft legislation will apply to collaboration toolsm,” she says. “Tools such as Slack, Teams and other similar programs, may not be ‘actively’ monitored, but create audit trails that may be accessible to the employer retroactively.  Will these strategies be captured by the proposed legislation?  Does the monitoring need to be ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’?  These are just a handful of the many questions that remain unanswered at this early stage.”

 

Because of these issues, Hina suggests waiting for the legislation to pass before formal first steps are taken.

 

“Employers should look at what systems they may already have in place.  You need to know what practices exist in your workplace before you start developing a policy,” she says.

 

Despite the potential for challenges, both Hina and Tushar agree that this proposed legislation is necessary, particularly in the context of a pandemic when scores of employees have moved to partial, or permanent, WFH. 

 

 “Yes, assuming this legislation passes, companies will have to audit their systems, and this will create work,” says Tushar. “But they may very well discover gaps or vulnerabilities in their security protocols.  I view this as a significant opportunity − knowing about security and privacy vulnerabilities is a critical first step towards avoiding potential ransomware or privacy breach issues.  You can’t mitigate risks that you are not aware of.”

 

 “This is going to be a hot button employee relations issue, and employees will be looking for honesty, transparency and accountability from management,” says Hina. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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As pandemic restrictions continue to lift in Ontario, the urge to get away is growing stronger.

 

To encourage Ontarians to explore their own ‘backyards’, the Province unveiled its Staycation Tax Credit for 2022 earlier this year in hopes of inspiring residents to not only travel but provide some much-needed boost to the hospitality sector.

 

“Attractions, hotels and restaurants have been extremely hit hard these past two years and could truly appreciate any support,” says Joe Hall, General Manager of Hospitality at Cambridge Hotel & Conference Centre. “This initiative is a great way for families to look within the province for stay packages and get 20% back at the end of the year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The credit – which covers accommodation expenses for hotels, motels, resorts, lodges, bed-and-breakfasts, cottages, and campgrounds – does not cover tourist attractions or restaurants.

 

However, Vanessa Stevenson, General Manager of Homewood Suites by Hilton Cambridge/Waterloo, says most hotels in Waterloo Region offer stay packages that provide spinoff to other hospitality-based businesses.

 

“If you’re going to take advantage of the credit you can always lean toward a hotel that offers these packages,” she says, referring to places that can provide theatre tickets, or restaurant deals. “So at least you’re benefitting businesses beyond just that hotel and hopefully helping the community and the tourism industry to get back on its feet.”

 

Vanessa says her industry lobbied hard for the credit and was pleased the Government of Ontario introduced its as of December 31, 2022. She says it would have been even more helpful if the tax credit could have been targeted to boost destination areas specifically outside the more obvious ones, like Toronto, Niagara Falls, Muskoka, and Ottawa.

 

“But I understand from a processing perspective it wouldn’t be feasible,” she says, noting tourist regions like ours will still benefit from tourists travelling from these popular spots.

 

The credit itself – which does not apply to business travel or leisure stays longer than a month in Ontario - can only be claimed by one member per family and of the eligible accommodation expenses, 20% (which translates into $200 per individual or double that as a family) can be claimed. As well, eligible expenses of up to $1,000 as an individual or $2,000 if you have a spouse, common-law partner or eligible children can be claimed.

 

To process any claims, detailed receipts of any eligible expenses are required. These include: the location of the accommodation; the amount of that can reasonably considered to be for the accommodation of a stay; GST/HST paid; date of stay; and name of payor.

 

Jessica Reuel, Senior Accountant with RLB Chartered Professional Accountants, says the amount of detailed information required may be the reason the tax credit was not extended to other hospitality businesses.

 

“At a hotel you receive a full listing of information and an email confirmation,” she says, adding it’s unclear if the tax credit will be extended beyond 2022. “I think it all depends on how many people will take advantage of it this year. Everybody needs a break.”

 

Vanessa agrees and says encouraging people to travel, especially in April and May, may be difficult. 

 

“It’s been very difficult to market travel within our province when we haven’t been open due to restrictions,” she says, explaining summer travel is easier for people to support since COVID-19 numbers dropped the last two summers. “I think people are aware of the tax credit but have not connected the dots in terms of the practical sense of using it.”

 

However, Joe says he’s optimistic things are starting to improve for his sector and hopes the new credit will help.

 

“Since the recent announcement in January, we have seen business starting to pick up and we are confident with the lift of the vaccine passports (March 1) we will continue to see an uprise in business getting us back to 2019 numbers,” he says, noting the struggle his sector has faced. “We are confident 2022 will be the year of rebound.”

 

Vanessa says it would be great to see the tax credit expanded to become a federal initiative, which would be a boost to the travel industry nationwide.

 

“At some point, as much as we want people to spend their money here in Ontario, the need to leave is going to be strong,” she says.

 

To learn more about the Staycation Tax Credit, visit: https://bit.ly/3uWgqzs

 

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