Category Advocacy

A provincial initiative of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, along with local organizations including the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, is being launched to promote employment opportunities for those who might not otherwise be considered in a hiring decision.

The program—Discover Ability—aims to connect job seekers with disabilities to inclusive employment opportunities as part a Southwestern Ontario Hub initiative, says Shirley de Silva, President and CEO.

The Discover Ability Network’s job matching platform is a free-to-use, online tool that matches job seekers with employment opportunities based on their skills, experiences, education and professional interests.

While anyone can use the Discover Ability Network to find employment, users who self-identify as a person with a disability will receive exclusive employment opportunities.

Additional details on how employers and employees alike can benefit from this initiative will be forthcoming in the near future.

In the meantime, details on the Network can be found online by clicking HERE.


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“You have to have a diversity of viewpoints at the table to have an effective team.” – President Barack Obama

If you looked around the room at the Economic Club of Canada’s Future Skills: A Conversation with President Barack Obama event, you’d see a diverse crowd in age, race and gender. From students to young professionals to your own #TeamChamber, Canada’s future leaders gathered to examine what our workforce needs to prosper. The answer? People.

Our workforce needs people who are adaptable. Many argue that in today’s digital age, there’s not much that people do that a machine can’t do better. Our workforce shouldn’t resist this. We need to imagine new uses for human power because automation will never have the ability to contribute innovative ideas or have the capacity to set goals like people do. Those are what we call durable skills: skills that go beyond a specific job that you can take with you anywhere and that will never be obsolete, such as creativity, leadership and good communication. To create an adaptable workforce, it’s crucial that people harness their EQ (emotional quotient) and IQ (intelligence quotient) to find their AQ (adversity quotient) to help them adjust to the rapid changes that are happening to our workforce.

Our workforce needs people who are diverse.

Diversity is imperative for an effective workforce.

Our prosperity depends on ensuring all Canadians – from all sectors, regions and backgrounds – have the opportunity to take part in our society. Research shows that the most successful organizations are creating diversified and inclusive workplaces in which individual differences and the contributions of all employees are valued.

Our society needs to dismantle the barriers countless people face in order to access the talent and potential across the country. That’s why we’re committed to advocating for better mental health, accessibility and diversity in the workplace in order to help businesses take measures towards meaningful action.

Our workforce needs people who are leaders.

Canada’s future lies within its next generation of leaders. We need a culture of openness where young leaders have the ability to bring their ideas and insights forward. We need a culture that’s not risk-adverse, where decisions are information-based yet people are comfortable taking chances. We need a culture that binds together social, business and political communities rather than dividing them. We need a culture that gives future leaders hope.

Ultimately, our workforce is moving towards a culture shift, one tied to a sense of community in the institutions we are a part of. Canada’s next generation of leaders are tired of hearing about the future; they want to shape it, and diversifying our workforce is how we’ll do it.

To learn more about the workforce strategies that we are advocating, click here.

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Some people think a Chamber membership is all about networking and because of that they see it as obsolete. After all, you can just meet other business people online, right? Search on Facebook and a number of business groups will come up, many geared to a certain profession or business size.

Some of these groups are private so you have to apply to get in. A few even require you to answer questions and promise to play nicely with others. Upon acceptance, you can spend all day chatting it up with other like-minded business owners (for free!).

No need to join the Chamber, right?


Saying that joining a Facebook group for business replaces the need for a Chamber membership is like placing a nickel in your piggy bank and claiming to have a retirement account. Sure, the two are kind of similar but you’ll never get the same amount of return from that group as you will from a Chamber membership. Here’s why.

With a Chamber membership you get the following things you won’t get from a Facebook group:

1.   A Connection with the Community and a Marketable Designation

The Chamber is a well-respected community organization. Many people see it as similar to the Better Business Bureau. Your membership plaque or window cling tells customers that you are intending to be part of the community for a long time. Being a member of an online group is not a reputation builder.

2.   Knowledgeable Help

With an online Facebook group, someone will ask a question, others will give their advice. This can be a wonderful experiment in crowd-sourced learning. However, it can also have its downside. While the group administrator may have asked a few questions when someone entered, most groups do not vet members. Anyone can offer advice, skilled/experienced or not. It’s difficult to tell the good from the bad.

Facebook also allows frequent contributors in the group to receive a designation next to their names. Be aware this just means they answer questions often. This does not indicate expertise of any kind just a willingness to jump into conversations and post.

3.   Hands-on Learning Opportunities

The Chamber offers hands-on learning opportunities as well as lunch and learns. For many people, it’s hard to learn by being told what to do. But seeing it or working on it on their own through the instruction of others, can help improve the learning experience. That’s why some Chambers have created learning opportunities that include things like social media help and in-person website attention. Check with your local Chamber to find out what sort of learning sessions it offers.

With Facebook groups, there’s a limit to the amount of information most people are willing to share. In-depth learning will likely occur elsewhere.

4.   Ribbon Cuttings

When you open a new location for your business, hit a milestone anniversary or some other accomplishment, your Facebook group might send you some emoji balloons but the Chamber will be there with a social media mention, perhaps an article, help on a press release, and/or a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate your time in business.

5.   Advocacy

Your Facebook group may be exceptionally supportive and you may even feel like you have a group of online friends, but it’s likely that as supportive as these friends are, they are not lobbying on behalf of your community and business on a local, state, and national level. Your Chamber is. Many businesses forget this valuable part of Chamber work. While most businesses can’t afford their own lobbyist, they can afford Chamber membership.

6.   Trust

I’ve known a lot of people to get “burned” by something they shared on social media. If you need help on a delicate matter within your business, it’s likely you don’t want to splash it across a public forum, even if that forum is a “private group.” If you’re dealing with something sensitive and you need advice on the next steps (like in the case of a termination, business bankruptcy or going-out-of-business situation) you don’t want to share that with the world. At the Chamber, you can get the help you need or a reference to someone who can assist you without sharing it with the world. Chambers handle delicate situations all the time and they do so with discretion.

There’s nothing wrong with joining Facebook groups. They can be extremely helpful in hearing advice from people who may have gone through similar situations. But these memberships will never cover everything your Chamber can do for your business. Still, there’s no reason to choose between one or the other. When it comes to business growth, multiple tools and investments are required, and Chamber membership is an excellent one.

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The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, which has committed to engaging in constructive dialogue around various issues related to policy and advocacy issues, is extending an invitation to members to be part of this process.

“Our board leadership has identified advocacy as a key  initiative to tackle this year and our hope is to broaden the discussion to as many of our members as possible,” said Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber .”This is really an open invitation to begin the kind of quality dialogue that’s needed in our business community,” said de Silva.

Sending a note to de Silva would be a good start to engage in that dialogue. She can be contacted by clicking HERE.



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Even though the holidays have come and gone, it’s still not too late to knuckle down on what’s ahead for 2020, especially if you find yourself in a place in your business where you haven’t yet finished making plans for the future.

This isn’t a trends article or things you need to think about for 2020. This article is aimed at getting you professionally in shape for the challenges ahead. So let’s take a look at the things you can change today in order to have a more successful year ahead.

Becoming a More Skilled Competitor

Do you have fitness goals for the new year?

If you’re like most people, you do. The new year often brings about thoughts of getting healthier. But it’s also time to consider how in shape you are personally as a competitor in your business. What can you do to become leaner and more fit to compete from a business perspective? It’s time to make healthy decisions in your professional life. Here are a few suggestions:

Shift to More Needed, “Skilled” Work

“Skilled” work are those things that only a few of your competitors can do. “Unskilled” work, for the purposes of this article, refers to things anyone can do.

While people need unskilled offerings, they don’t command much money. So if your business is built this way, based on things a lot of companies can do, you’ll have a hard time commanding top dollar for your services. However, if there’s something that you and your business offer that others can’t or won’t, you can charge a lot higher rate.

Think about whether you want to be working more or less for the same amount of money. If you offer unskilled services you may have a lot of work. But you also have to accept a lot more jobs to make what you would offering services that fewer companies do.

Think about what services you can offer that others don’t. You’ll find that if you can offer something that others don’t (or won’t), you can name your price and work fewer jobs because you provide something few do.

Get a Handle on Your Productivity

Becoming more productive can be quite an undertaking. But if you break it down into the basic steps you need to stop killing time and start taking full advantage of the time you do have.

Reduce Wasted Time

To eliminate wasted time, you need to get a good look at how you spend your day. For one day record everything you do as if you were billing a client. Every minute must be accounted for. So if you spend five minutes watching a cat video on YouTube, for instance, write that down. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to see exactly where your biggest time sucks are.

Next, go down your list of how you spent your day and label everything either “OG” for on goal or AG for anti-goal. All the OG designations should be businessworthy uses of your time. For example, if you are on social media and you were connecting with a potential customer that’s an OG use of your time. However, if you are on social media trying to figure out what you’re eating for dinner tonight that’s an AG use of your time from a business perspective.

Now that you know how you spend your day, you can eliminate drains on your time that don’t bring you closer to your business or professional goals. Hopefully, being more aware of them means the next time you’re doing one of those AG activities you will stop yourself as it’s not contributing to your professional or business development.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks. But you should be aware of when you’re on break versus when you’re on task. If you want to take a break for five minutes and look at non-work social media that’s fine. But if you’re sitting down to strengthen your presence on social media for your business, you shouldn’t be watching cute baby videos, unless you plan to share them with your audience.

Make Better Use of Your Time

After you know what your time drains are, it’s important to get a handle on the time you do have. That means setting goals and tasks for each day. How you do this is a personal preference.

Some people like to sit down every Sunday night and chart out their week. Other people prefer to do it on a day-by-day basis.

You also don’t have to have complete silence and a closed-door to figure out what you have to get done each week. Instead, look for stolen moment time that you can use. For instance, if you prefer to wind down every night in front of the television, there is no reason why you can’t also look at your calendar and create a to-do list. Maybe you find yourself at one of your children’s games every weekend or chauffeuring them to a birthday party, playdate, or to hang out with their friends. Chauffeur time is an excellent time to plan ahead.

There are a lot of apps that can help you manage your time and give insights into your calendar. If you choose to keep your calendar electronically you also have the benefit of having the information you need with you wherever you are. So when you have that spare moment you can do a little planning. You can also use a to-do list app that helps keep you on track. If you take the time to chart your day and then leave your to-do list at home, that’s not very productive. But if your to-do list is portable you can turn to it whenever you have a spare moment.

Touch Base with Staff

When things are busy it’s easy for us to ignore our hard workers. We don’t hear from them and we assume they’re fine. This is not always the case.

Make it a point to speak with your staff members. Find out if they have any challenges that you can help with. Make sure they have what they need to do their jobs efficiently. Also, find out what they’re passionate about and what they want to do in the future. Knowing what they like best about their job and understanding their future plans give you the opportunity to make them happier at work. For instance, if you find out a member of your team loves to write, you may have a new blog writer. Or maybe there’s someone on staff who loves taking pictures. Now you have the opportunity to add some really amazing images to your blog and website. You’ve given them job responsibilities they’re passionate about and you also get something in return.

Now is the perfect time to start getting in shape professionally. Look for ways to become more productive, to stand out in the marketplace, and to touch base with the people who make up your business. Doing these things will put you in a much more successful place in the new year.


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Canada’s economy is shifting into a lower gear. It’s losing steam as our growth engines sputter in the face of global uncertainty and competitive challenges. As we head into a new year and a new decade, now is a good time to take stock of Canada’s economic performance and consider what the future might have in store for us.

2019 wasn’t a great year for the Canadian economy. Our projected growth is 1.5-1.6% this year—not bad compared to some of our G7 peers—but a downgrade from the 2% growth we thought was our potential at the beginning of the year. And a far cry from the 3% growth we saw only two years ago.

‘The resiliency of Canada’s economy will be increasingly tested as trade conflicts and uncertainty persists. We are not an island. We are in a good position to cope with whatever comes our way.’ –Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada

The economy is still growing, but the growth rate itself is somewhat lackluster. Canadian growth has been pulled down by an outright decline in business investment the past few years, and this year is no different. Our 2019 growth drivers are consumption (0.9 percentage points), government spending (0.4) and net exports (0.6), while business investment is projected to be a net -0.4 percentage point drag on the economy this year.

The Canadian economy is stumbling out of the second half of 2019 and into the new year. After a hot second quarter where the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.7%, our growth was cut back down to size in Q3 at 1.3%. November saw a broad-based loss of over 70,000 jobs, the largest monthly decline since the financial crisis. Despite business investment having rebounded, none of the 37 executives of American subsidiaries in Canada said the Canadian economy will strengthen over the next six months, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. A downturn is entirely possible if our politicians remain unable or unwilling to address issues, like a cumbersome regulatory system, an uncompetitive tax system and barriers to interprovincial trade, to get us back on the path to prosperity. Most economists believe sluggish growth will continue into 2020, but the downside risks of this projection being derailed are still high.

Because Canada is part of a broader worldwide slowdown amid heightened trade tensions that have made low growth the new normal of advanced industrialized economies. This is what the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has called a “synchronized slowdown.” Germany is close to a recession. Italy is looking at zero growth this year. Even emerging economies have seen their robust growth rates taken down a notch. In particular, manufacturing sectors have been affected.

And so the concern is that if the world sneezes, Canada will catch a cold. The idea that Canada is a stable oasis in a deteriorating global economic environment can be put to rest. The global slowdown is catching up to us, and we need to get our house in order.

This edition of ‘Five Minutes for Business” was provided by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the national business advocacy organization which counts the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce among its members.



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The Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board, the organization dedicated to helping employers and prospective employees better connect with a view to closing the supply/demand gap that exists in our community, will be actively promoting its EmployerOne Survey come the new year.

Laura Greaves, the organization’s executive director, will be working with staff to distribute the survey throughout the community.

One of the partners of this initiative is the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

“We are in full support of the objectives of this important initiative,’ said Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber. “By better understanding the needs of not only our members but the entire community, we can work on a strategic level to become even better at what we offer businesses and those they employ.”

The EmployerOne survey collects data on workforce and industry needs based on responses from local businesses and organizations. The feedback SLWDB receives from this survey allows it to assist local business owners, job seekers and other stakeholders with workforce and career planning.

The survey (which can be accessed by CLICKING HERE) is open until January 31, 2020. Participation is confidential. The survey will take 5-15 minutes for most businesses to complete.

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

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A recent announcement by the Ontario Government that lawmakers have passed its “Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019” is evidence that ongoing advocacy efforts by Chambers of Commerce, including the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, are producing positive results.

The Act is said to be part of the government’s signature package to address red tape and modernize regulations to make life easier for people and businesses, according to government officials.

“Many regulations are in place for good reasons,” said MPP Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, associate minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction for the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “But at the same time, decades of government regulation have resulted in rules that are duplicative, outdated or unclear, causing businesses to spend time and money complying with rules that simply could be better. We’re ensuring that Ontario’s regulations are effective, targeted, clear and focused—while maintaining Ontario’s high standards.”

Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, said the government’s legislative initiative follows substantial and consistent advocacy efforts on behalf of local Chamber members over the last few months and which will continue throughout 2020.

“We know how important it is to keep the principles of free enterprise in full view of those who create the framework under which businesses of every size must operate,” said de Silva. “When governments respond, as they have done with this reduction of red tape strategy, it shows that we’re on the right track.’

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For a membership centred organization like the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, taking the pulse of those who call the organization “home” represents an ongoing opportunity to advance its mission and no one knows that better than President & CEO Shirley de Silva.

“It’s really part of our DNA,” said de Silva, with particular reference to a timely pair of surveys that the organization is currently undertaking.

One is around a specific reference to issues that members see of interest around Advocacy issues relevant to their business.

“The Chamber has earned, over the years, a reputation for being the prime connection that leaders at every level of government turn to first to gauge the interest of those who create policy,” said de Silva. “With that in mind, it makes even more sense for us to turn to our members to make sure we’re covering the issues that affect our members more than any others.”

With Advocacy continuing to represent one of the key responsibilities of the Chamber, the ability to engage with policymakers and others ahead of any changes that may follow is a key Chamber strategy, added de Silva.

“The relationship between government and business is one where there is mutual respect when it comes to the impact on the business when it comes to regulation, and the Chamber plays a leading role in making sure the interests of business are considered, ideally before any changes are made,” she said.

The online Advocacy survey, which can be accessed HERE, will assist Chamber leadership as it maps out policy initiatives designed to stay on top of issues that matter to members.

In addition,  the Chamber has a keen interest in understanding issues of key importance to its members, excluding advocacy, which is why we’ve prepared a second survey—which can be accessed HERE—as a tool to help plan out future events and initiatives. 





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As the voice of business in the area, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to seeing our economy grow and prosper.

One of the key opportunities for that to happen is right now, as the traditional shopping season begins.

As people look for amazing gifts and items, we encourage everyone to look right here at home.   This is what growing your community is all about and shopping local means investing in our future in one of the most meaningful ways possible.

Your Chamber of Commerce believes in the future of Sarnia-Lambton and our members are here to serve your interests throughout the year, so think about them as you begin your shopping list.

Have fun. Be safe. And support the local enterprises right here at home. It’s worth it!


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