Category Advocacy

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, which is leading an initiative to secure Foreign Trade Zone status for the region, received the unanimous support of Lambton County Council earlier this month.

Establishing a Foreign Trade Zone Point designation for the region has long been seen as one of the “bricks” in a foundation that will help bring a new level of economic prosperity to our region.

As one of its core initiatives, a Chamber task force, made up of representatives from the Blue Water Bridge, JDW International, JMS Warehousing, Lambton College, CIBC Commercial Banking and Libro Credit Union, have been meeting regularly to strategize on ways to further encourage companies to develop and implement advanced trade initiatives.

A presentation by Chamber president and CEO Shirley de Silva to members of Lambton County Council resulted in a formal statement of support, which is required under the application process.

“We are grateful to members of Lambton County Council for supporting our application,” said de Silva.

 

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When it comes to changing attitudes around mental health in Canada, one of the key initiatives promises to be one that involves the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and local affiliates such as the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Partnering with Canada’s Members of Parliament—including Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu—a series of events intended to begin the conversation around mental health and wellness began Friday with an event held at the Sarnia Riding Club.

Special guest speaker at Friday’s noon-hour event was Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, an agency funded by Health Canada that leads the development and dissemination of innovative programs and tools to support the mental health and wellness of Canadians.

Bradley, whose background is in nursing and public health administration, spoke to a group of about 40 at the Riding Club, emphasizing not only the importance of mental health awareness but how critical it is to take action.

“We need to turn ‘Let’s Talk’ into ‘Let’s Act,’” she said.

“If someone had a broken leg, we wouldn’t expect them to ignore that physical condition. And if someone has diabetes, we certainly wouldn’t say they just had a lazy pancreas.”

A number of Chamber directors were in attendance at Friday’s event. Pictured are, from left, Chamber third vice chair Kathleen Mundy, Chamber president and CEO Shirley de Silva, Louise Bradley, MP Marilyn Gladu, and Chamber past-chair Charles Fisher.

Bradley, as part of her presentation, challenged those in the room, including Bruce Hein, franchise owner of Express Employment Professionals, who also spoke briefly, about the need to examine what a healthy workplace should look like.

“We need to have expectations that are clearly set, with workloads that are appropriately managed, and an environment where civility and respect are encouraged throughout,” said Bradley.

Referencing her own personal story, one that included growing up in a number of foster homes, Bradley has said publicly that “It was only much later in life that I realized these adverse childhood experiences bred trauma… a word, and a concept, I didn’t know growing up.”

Eventually hospitalized at the time, Bradley found herself under the care of “a wonderful psychiatrist.”

On Friday, she said what was unusual in her experience was that she received any help at all.

Bradley said today she is committed to seeing that level of care for those experiencing mental health issues changed for the better.

“We have a long way to go,” said Bradley, adding that initiatives toward a more healthy workplace, one that’s free of bullying and the stigma that has existed around mental health are making a difference.

In Canada, some half a million people miss work every week due to a mental health problem or illness.

“What’s important to note is that it’s not the same half a million people every week,” said Bradley.

“We need to be reminded that we can all make a difference when it comes to improving mental health. This signature mental health event is meant to remind us that we can all make a difference. Whether it’s an employee having the courage to speak up about workplace bullying or a stretched-too-thin manager rethinking his or her approach, we all stand to benefit when workplace wellness is the rule—not the exception.”

MP Gladu said creating space for positive discussion on mental health issues at work will result in a better workforce and better communities across Canada.

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In this edition of 5 Minutes for Business, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce hops in its time machine and takes us back through all the interprovincial trade inefficiencies and hopelessly outdated promises made by Canada’s Premiers that are obstructing the liberalization of alcohol trade.

With Council of the Federations meeting once again in a few weeks, the Premiers will talk tough or announce a new plan or promise to improve interprovincial trade. Sadly, given their poor record removing these trade barriers, we do not need to take our time machine into the future to know that we are just going to get more of the same.

Nevertheless, the stakes are too high for us not to continue to fight for more constructive solutions to Canada’s internal trade malaise. The Canadian Chamber, which counts the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce among its members, is calling for a full review of the Canada Free Trade Agreement in its federal election platform, Vote Prosperity.

Read more in this month’s Five Minutes for Business:

Buckle up, let’s hop in the time machine and take a spin back to July 2017. Canadians are celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, and businesses are trying to decipher the new Canadian Free Trade
Agreement (CFTA) that had just been enacted following two years of federal-provincial-territorial negotiations. The result of these negotiations was an agreement that was, in their words, not ours, “a comprehensive set of rules that will help achieve a modern and competitive economic union for all Canadians.”

As the CFTA was coming into force, there were signs this comprehensive set of rules was not all it was cracked up to be. During the CFTA
negotiations, provinces and territories could not agree on opening up Canada’s archaic interprovincial alcohol rules and specifically excluded them from the agreement. Instead, they announced the creation of an alcohol beverages working group to assess options for liberalizing trade in alcohol.

Okay, back in the time machine we go. It is July 2018 in beautiful Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, where premiers are meeting to consider the
recommendations from 12 months of negotiations by the working group. At this time, the provinces are only three months removed from the Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Comeau, which upheld that provinces and territories have broad constitutional authority to enact trade-restricting legislation.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce was an intervener in this case and argued before the Supreme Court for a modern interpretation of our constitution that would guarantee free trade among the provinces and territories. Fresh off the Supreme Court’s ruling preserving internal trade restrictions that the provinces had argued for, surely they would be eager to demonstrate to businesses and consumers that they were ready to take action on their own terms to liberalize alcohol trade, right? Wrong.

During its year of meetings, the alcoholic beverages working group could not agree to ease the rules limiting the amount of alcohol Canadians can bring across provincial borders or to allow for direct-to-consumer alcohol purchases between provinces. Instead, premiers agreed in principle to increase personal exemption limits when crossing provincial/territorial boundaries.

They also “directed ministers to consider options to increase consumer choice and access to alcoholic beverages, and ensure that any proposed changes be done in a socially and fiscally responsible way.” As Canadian Chamber President and CEO Perrin Beatty outlined in an op-ed with the
Canadian Vintners Association afterward, this progress was not a policy breakthrough for consumers or for Canadian wineries.

Next stop in our time machine is December 2018 in Montreal, Québec, where the premiers are meeting yet again to demonstrate “progress” in
reducing interprovincial trade barriers. A meeting only five months after the last must surely mean there was a big breakthrough in alcohol negotiations, right? Wrong. At the meeting, premiers reiterated that provinces and territories were moving to address personal exemption limits for individual transport and announced they were “developing an action plan to enhance trade in alcoholic beverages.” Their
announcement also confidently stated that, “premiers have tasked responsible ministers with overseeing the timely implementation of this
plan.”

Here we go, back in the time machine to a few weeks ago. It is May 2019, and the federal, provincial and territorial internal trade ministers are meeting again to unveil more “progress” on alcohol trade. Surely, this is finally the moment we would get a glimpse of what “timely implementation” of a plan to liberalize alcohol trade would look like, right? Wrong.

Instead, ministers announced that governments had agreed to adopt the “action plan” alluded to in the previous meeting. The action plan includes a potpourri of bold commitments such as “developing an online bilingual information hub” for alcohol manufacturers, provinces and territories working “to make basic information on pricing policies for alcoholic beverages publicly available” and a “technically-focused working
group to assess the feasibility of direct-to-consumer sales.”

For those less familiar with the dialect of internal trade speak, “action plan” translates loosely to “we cannot agree to anything major and will continue to kick this can down the road until our next meeting and next action plan.”

You might not have seen any news coverage of the May 2019 meeting because there was barely any. Why should consumers and businesses pay
any more attention to the perpetual promise machine that is interprovincial alcohol negotiations? Why should we have any confidence in CFTA if, after years of negotiations, our governments still cannot agree to let us order a case of wine or beer from out of province? Because the stakes are too high.

In the face of overwhelming bureaucratic inertia and a lack of political leadership, the business community will continue to propose constructive
solutions to Canada’s internal trade malaise. As part of our 2019 Vote Prosperity election platform, we are calling for a full review of the
CFTA to establish an agreement that allows for
actual free trade in this country.

From July 9 to 11, just a few weeks from now, the Council of the Federation will meet in Saskatoon for its annual meeting. Undoubtedly, premiers will
talk tough or announce a new plan or promise to improve interprovincial trade. Sadly, given their poor record removing these trade barriers, we do not need to take our time machine into the future to know we are just going to get more of the same.

Five Minutes for Business is a regular feature on issues of interest to the business community. The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is a member of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

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On Friday, June 21, Sarnia-Lambton Member of Parliament Marilyn Gladu will host a #338Conversations Sarnia Lambton as part of a “call to action” for parliamentarians and Chambers of Commerce to become mental health champions.

Co-facilitating this 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. event, which will take place at the Sarnia Riding Club, is Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Keynote speaker at the event will be Louise Bradley, president of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, with Bruce Hein, owner of Express Employment Professionals, also speaking about mental health and the workplace.

There will be particular emphasis on ending stigma and workplace bullying.

In Canada, some half a million people miss work every week due to a mental health problem or illness. If employees are bullied, harassed, overworked, poorly managed or otherwise ill-treated, they aren’t at their most productive.

The #338Conversations initiative hopes to build mental health champions and to bring workplaces up to standard.

By taking concrete steps to build a culture of inclusion and empowerment—one that values diversity, encourages independent thought and ties job functions to organizational goals—companies will improve the psychological health of their employees while boosting the bottom line.

This is also happening across Canada’s parliament and the 338 Members from across the nation and the Mental Health Commission of Canada has been showing great leadership on providing invaluable tools to assist in this transformative process, along with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“Creating space for positive discussion on mental health issues at work will result in a better workforce and better communities across Canada,” said MP Marilyn Gladu. “I’m pleased to be joined by Shirley de Silva in providing leadership to assist in helping improve this ongoing dialogue.”

Business leaders from the community are warmly invited to join the discussion on Friday, June 21.

To RSVP, please contact Gail Ann Bondar at the Chamber, by email or by calling (519) 336-2400, extension 2.

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It’s an age-old expression, but when it comes to underscoring the economy in Sarnia-Lambton, there really is strength in numbers.

Even more to the point, those who propose and approve laws and regulations at every level of government know just how effective an organization your Chamber of Commerce is when it comes to representing the interests of business.

And while we live in an era where the pace of change seems to be ever-increasing, at least one thing has remained consistently true and that is the influence that is exerted by a network of Chambers of Commerce, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.

Almost every week, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce receives the kind of contact that represents an implicit acknowledgement of the influence exerted by those who create and maintain elements of our economy.

Either in communication that asks for the support of the business community or seeks the opinion of business ahead of a legislative initiative, it is clear that the Chamber is viewed as a place representing clarity in how those who drive the economy are likely to respond.

Throughout the year, your Chamber takes that role seriously, certainly in our response to invitations to provide input in the form of consultations.

But it’s also why we engage through our participation as a member of the Chamber Network at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which we see as an essential extension of our role in building consensus and—yes—the strength in numbers argument that serves us all so well.

Not long ago, representatives from your Chamber added our local voice to the Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and we’ll do the same when the gathering of members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce takes place in the near future.

What this comes down to is exercising the role of advocacy throughout the year, building on the ongoing initiatives that begin and end with the interests of local business, added to a chorus that represent a clarity of voice from those across the province and the entire country.

None of this happens by accident.

We take our role, of advising on issues that will impact owners of businesses—small, medium or large—very seriously and with good reason.

While we are explicitly non-partisan in our approach to advocacy, we do stand up for the interests of members who see us as being able to effectively represent their interests on a consistent basis with sound economic arguments.

The Chamber is often one of the first places that society as a whole will turn to when formal debates over policy—especially in the context of an election. That in itself is something that has occurred on a consistent basis for decades now.

Clearly, there is a need for engagement throughout the year and with those who have a role in building a society where rules and regulations are part of life.

It’s part of a democratic process that ultimately makes a stronger society.

Our message is that our role, one that includes a strong sense of advocacy when it comes to the interests of business, is as relevant today as it has ever been.

My encouragement is that you join us in making our efforts even more effective in the months and years ahead.

Join us in bringing even more value for our society.

 

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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the national business organization that includes the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce as a member, is gearing up for this October’s Federal election with an initiative intended to put forward its core policy statements.

Much of what the Canadian Chamber is advocating appears on its VoteProsperity election policy website that puts forward the needs of Canadian businesses to all parties.

In an open letter signed by the Hon. Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, all party leaders and caucuses are asked to embrace the organization’s seven priorities.

Those priorities include:

  • A regulatory system that works for everyone, including business;
  • A tax system that is fair, efficient and modern;
  • Greater access to new markets around the world, and the breaking down of domestic trade barriers;
  • Helping SMEs in a way that’s meaningful to them so that they can grow and succeed at home and abroad;
  • Helping Canada seize the power of the digital age, while also investing in more traditional trade-enabling infrastructure;
  • Helping grow the 21st-century workforce with the skills, education, and training required to prosper; and
  • An affordable approach to filling the gaps in pharmacare without disrupting today’s employment provided plans.

The open letter “challenges (all of Canada’s federal party leaders) to give our 200,000 business owners what they must have: a fighting chance to compete and grow,” said Beatty. “Canada’s businesses have every right to expect a level playing field with the countries they compete against. We call on all party leaders to build their business policy proposals around the Vote Prosperity checklist, which outlines what Canada’s job creators themselves have identified as mission critical.”

The entire open letter can be seen HERE.

Locally,  a unified strategy to bring forward the interests of business is one of the most important initiatives available, especially in an election year. “When a business succeeds, Canada succeeds. Our businesses need the next government to be a forward-looking partner that helps them build a stronger and more innovative Canada for all,” said Beatty.

The Canadian Chamber’s platform was developed in partnership with Canada’s provincial and territorial Chambers of Commerce, an entire network of 450 organizations that will be working together throughout the election period to keep Canada’s political leaders focused on taking bold steps to protect and strengthen Canada’s competitive position.

 

 

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Delegates to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting and Convention gathered last weekend to consider several resolutions, including two that were presented by the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Both Board Chair Ryan Bell and President and CEO Shirley de Silva were in attendance at the event, which was held in Muskoka starting last Friday and concluding on Sunday.

One of the resolutions sponsored by the Chamber urged the Provincial Government to improve the quality of roads in Ontario by implementing higher standards for asphalt used in paving and measuring the subsequent performance of the material.

Another, which was co-authored with the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, urges the Government to introduce a compulsory course on business and commerce principles. Such a course, which would be required in order to receive an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, would be based on existing business and family economics curriculum.

”The real value of coming together with Chambers and Boards of Trade from every part of Ontario is being able to come to united positions on various issues of importance to our members,” said de Silva.

”Representatives of the Government not only listen to what a unified Chamber Network has to say on key issues, but they seek out the opinions of business, as represented by our members. Plus, we have evidence that the collective input of the business community does influence the details of proposed legislation,” she added.

 

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Following last month’s federal budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau defended Canada’s corporate tax regime and cited regulatory issues as a priority for dealing with Canada’s competitiveness problems.

While there is no credible defence for our hopelessly outdated tax system, he was correct that Canada’s regulatory systems have put Canada at a competitive disadvantage. As we outlined in a report a few months ago, Canada absolutely needs a comprehensive review of our uncompetitive, cumbersome and inefficient tax system. Given the Minister’s post-budget assertion, it is an opportune time to take a quick walk through the good, the bad and the ugly of federal efforts to address Canada’s regulatory competitiveness problem.

The good: In its November 2018 Fall Economic Statement, the federal government proposed an ambitious regulatory reform agenda, largely based off our recommendations in our May 2018 report, Death by 130,000 Cuts: Improving Canada’s Regulatory Competitiveness.

The bad: Budget 2019 had little to no progress to report on fulfilling those Fall Economic Statement commitments.

The good: Both the Fall Economic Statement and the Budget stated the federal government will consider legislative changes to make regulatory efficiency and economic growth a permanent part of regulatory mandates. This is a key recommendation of ours and is one of the most important changes needed in the federal regulatory environment. Many regulators are currently not giving appropriate consideration to economic growth and competitiveness impacts in their decision making because they are not required to.

The bad: There is very little time left in the parliamentary calendar before the federal election for the government to actually introduce and pass new legislation.

The good: The Budget introduced the concept of ‘regulatory roadmaps’ and provided $220 million in funding for three regulators (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and Transport Canada) to make their regulatory systems more user friendly, to use novel or experimental regulatory approaches and facilitate greater regulatory cooperation and less duplication.

The bad: If the activities listed as part of these ‘roadmaps’ sound like something all regulators should already be doing, it is because they should be. While the roadmap process will lead to regulatory improvements in these areas, businesses are looking for more than three regulators being given $200 million in funding to do the work they are already supposed to be doing, according to the government’s own regulatory management policies.

The ugly: The job of leading federal regulatory reform falls to the President of Treasury Board, and the federal government started in 2019 by shuffling three different Ministers in and out of the role in three months (apparently it’s all Scott Brison’s fault). No, it is not Scott Brison’s fault. In fact, we owe him thanks for proposing the federal government’s regulatory reform agenda. However, the instability at Treasury Board raises serious questions about the department and the federal government’s ability to live up to its regulatory commitments.

What should Canadian businesses take from all this?

The good is that the federal government recognizes the regulatory problems confronting Canadian companies and has made a series of promises to start resolving them.

The bad is that most of these promises have not been fulfilled. Canada’s regulatory problems continue to be a serious problem for our economy, and there is little time left before this fall’s federal election to make substantive progress.

The hopeful is that all political parties put systemic regulatory reform at the centre of their election platforms. This will position the federal government to start working with the business community on the first day after the federal election to continue working to eliminate these systemic, incessant, self-imposed barriers to economic growth.

This “5 Minutes for Business” was authored by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, one of whose members is the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

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With a recent Ontario government announcement of new legislation intended to cut unwanted regulations, also known as “red tape,” the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is open to hearing from members with specific stories about how they are impacted by needless bureaucracy.

As part of our ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of all members and at all levels of government, we’ll be making sure those stories are heard.

”The fact is, governments at every level have had a habit of adding needless regulation over the years, with complexity translating into extra work but not a lot of value for the business,” said Chamber president and CEO Shirley de Silva. “More often than not, those regulations simply add cost, which makes not only businesses less competitive but makes the price of goods and services more expensive.”

Share your story by email (CLICK HERE) or reach out anytime to the Chamber office: (519) 336-2400. We’re listening!

 

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News of a Provincial Government initiative that would see the creation of a Central Procurement system for the public sector has some members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce concerned about the effects such a strategy would have on small and medium-sized businesses that currently supply goods and services.

Whether it be hospitals, school boards, or other bodies that might fall under such a system, questions about how a Centralized Procurement System would help small businesses outside the Greater Toronto Area are being raised.

We want to hear from our members and local public sector organizations so that we can take your concerns to the OCC and to the Ontario Government.

Plans are beginning for a roundtable discussion on Centralized Procurement.

Stay tuned as these plans begin to take shape.

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