Category Advocacy

Tariffs. Trade talks. Pipelines. Electoral change. While the Canadian economy continues to grow (albeit somewhat slowly), these are just some of the factors that might slow it down. As we head into summer, and the mid-point of 2018, now is a good time to take stock of Canada’s economic performance and consider what the latter half of the year might have in store for us.

The economy stumbled into 2018, slogging its way through weak consumer spending and housing markets. Real GDP increased at a pace of 1.3% in the first three months of 2018—the slowest quarterly growth in nearly two years. The Canadian economy grew at less than a 2% rate for the third consecutive quarter, a far cry from the nearly 4% average between July 2016 and June 2017.

The good news is that economic growth seems poised to accelerate. While the cumulative result was disappointing, the quarter finished strong with February GDP up 0.4% month-over-month, followed by a 0.3% increase in March. Exports increased 1.6% in April, a good sign for an economy that will need export markets to make a bigger contribution to growth in place of consumer spending. This encouraging finish has hastened confidence that the economy is improving with stronger momentum going into Q2.

The bad news is that uncertainty about a variety of economic issues is weighing on business investment. Any optimism about the economy taking a turn for the better is tempered by the risk that uncertainty will drive investment away from Canada. Imports declined in April, indicating that business investment and domestic demand were scaled back during the month.

Ongoing insecurity about trade policies continues to cast a shadow over Canada’s outlook. The recent steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the United States—and the Canadian retaliation— are increasing investors’ concerns about the future of NAFTA, and even what a U.S. withdrawal would mean for Canada. With a new government in Ontario, Canada will have its work cut out to maintain a united front in response to further possible retaliatory measures.

Further complicating matters are the extraordinary measures taken by the federal government to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline—a step that never should have been necessary. This is another sign that we need to take a long hard look at our broken regulatory system and ensure Canada remains an attractive place to invest and do business.

These developments have heightened the existing doubts about Canada’s business competitiveness. The Canadian tax system is losing relative competitiveness compared to its peers due to recent tax reform in the United States and France. Significant uncertainty also surrounds how the Canada Revenue Agency will assess the new small business tax changes in the 2018 Budget. These factors are causing business investors to seek other markets or sit on their wallets.

The outlook for business investment is crucial because everything else the Bank of Canada usually considers in monetary policy decisions suggests the economy can handle higher borrowing costs. The central bank has been cautious thus far but recently signalled that higher interest rates will be warranted and that the governing council will take a gradual approach to policy adjustments.

The current data on economic growth supports this. Canadian households may be able to manage rising mortgage and consumer debt, as long as Canada’s economy continues to grow and unemployment remains relatively low. However, the risk that Canada’s economic prospects and investor confidence can be derailed by any number of uncertain issues remains high. The IMF’s recent mission to Canada concluded that our economic outlook is subject to significant risks—including a sharp correction in the housing market and a banking system with heavy exposure to household and corporate debt.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Crystal Ball Report predicted uncertainty for Canada’s economic and political outlook in 2018. Financial and economic imbalances have created a tenuous economic recovery. Rising protectionism has the potential to escalate into a trade war. Markets and business models are being disrupted by new technologies and opportunities. Overall, Canadian businesses are grappling with the speed of change. Adding to this, Canada’s economic performance in the first half of 2018 demonstrates that one of the few certainties in today’s economy is an enduring state of uncertainty.

This “Five Minutes for Business” was provided by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, of which the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is a member.


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Following the application of tariffs and duties by the United States against Canadian producers of steel and aluminum, the Canadian government has issued a “notice of intent to impose countermeasures” action against the United States.

Businesses, including members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, have until June 15, 2018 to provide input to the Canadian government as to the impact any proposed action would have on their business.

Related to this issue, a news release from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has expressed disappointment for the action taken by U.S President Donald Trump.

“We are profoundly disappointed with President Trump’s refusal to work with his G7 colleagues,” said Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “His actions not only threaten the prosperity of America’s trading partners, but they also work directly against the interests of the American people, who are the primary beneficiaries of a growing global economy. We will continue to work for free and open trade.”

A link to the Canadian Department of Finance notice can be seen HERE. It contains instructions on how businesses, including members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, can respond ahead of a June 15, 2018 deadline.

The news release from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce can be seen HERE.



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As the provincial election campaign begins, the Chamber is linking up with the Seaway Kiwanis Club for an all-candidates lunch on Tuesday, May 29 at the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club.

This noon event is a great opportunity for Chamber members to hear from representatives of all parties regarding their stand on key issues.

And because a great majority of those issues will ultimately affect our members, the Chamber is committed to making your pre-election day research as comprehensive as possible.

As you know the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce plays a key role in advocating on behalf of business and we see this is one more example of how we fulfill that mandate.

We hope to see you at noon on Tuesday, May 29 at the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club. Register TODAY online by clicking HERE.


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There are often times when opportunities arise to take the pro-business message of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce beyond our own region and one of those occurred last week when CEO Shirley de Silva visited the Rotary Club of Port Huron.

“It’s always a pleasure to take our message of collaboration and working collectively to make a difference in our community beyond our borders,” said de Silva following her visit to Port Huron.

“In this case, I was able to bring greetings from our own membership and continue a very positive relationship our Chamber has developed over the years.”

Both the Blue Water Chamber of Commerce and the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce have representatives on one another’s board, another example of how this truly international business relationship continues to thrive.


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The Ontario Government recently announced it was backing off a portion of Bill 148, the Fairer Workplaces, Better Jobs Act that would have seen part-time workers, even if they worked only occasionally during the month a public holiday occurred, receive a full eight-hours pay.

Seeing the unintended consequences of the proposed calculation for public holiday pay under the Employment Standards Act, the Ontario Chamber Network (which includes the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce) advocated for a return to the prior calculation to avoid a system that would be unfair to some workers.

The government announced that, after hearing from stakeholders, it will undertake a review of the public holiday system of the Employment Standards Act later this year. As an interim measure, the government will reinstate the previous holiday pay calculation, coming into effect on July 1.


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Government policy is critical to the competitiveness of Ontario’s business community. That’s why the Chamber would like to know where you stand on a number of important economic issues.

A two-minute survey (CLICK HERE) will provide the feedback to help us inform 2018 Provincial Election candidates what matters to the business community.

If you have any problems accessing or completing the survey, contact Monica Shepley, manager of Advocacy and Policy Development, at (519) 336-2400.


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Delegates to last weekend’s Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce approved the three resolutions that were put forward by the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. Delegates to the event, hosted by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, also approved three additional resolutions that our Chamber co-sponsored.

Our three resolutions urged the government to create a provincial broadband strategy, advance Ontario’s bioeconomy, and protect the viability of companies that have reduced carbon emissions in Ontario.

We also co-sponsored resolutions submitted by the Windsor-Essex and Newmarket chambers of commerce.  These resolutions called for delaying Bill 148 scheduling provisions,  address urban blight, and cut red tape for motor vehicle dealers.  These resolutions can be found here.

Advocating on behalf of our members is key to the ongoing success of the Chamber and its affiliates throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada, said CEO Shirley de Silva.

“When the business community presents a united front on issues of importance to business, it helps move our economy in a positive direction,” she said. “We are very pleased to work within the chamber network and see our proposals accepted.  We expect to see those ideas gain traction as a result.”


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Representatives of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce will be at the upcoming Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting (April 26-29, 2018) in Hamilton with three resolutions that speak to issues of concern to local members, including improvements to broadband, advancing the bioeconomy, and protecting the viability of companies that have reduced carbon emissions in the province.

View all of the resolutions that will be debated here.

Develop a provincial long-term broadband strategy

With high-speed broadband internet now considered to be an essential telecom service by both the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Government of Ontario, the province has a responsibility of ensuring that all Ontarians have equitable access to reliable, affordable and quality service in order to fully participate in the digital economy.

The broadband resolution is being supported by the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, the Ajax Pickering Board of Trade, the Whitby Chamber of Commerce, and the Richmond Hill Board of Trade.

Advance Ontario’s Bioeconomy

Industry is on the cusp of transformation: traditional petroleum-derived chemicals and products will be increasingly substituted or blended with more sustainable resources derived from biomass. Ontario can leverage its strengths in advanced manufacturing and resource development to lead the way on provincial and national bioeconomy strategies. A comprehensive bioeconomy framework will create new businesses, high quality long term jobs and stable growth while reducing carbon emissions.

The bioeconomy resolution is being supported by the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the South Grenville Chamber of Commerce, and the Brockville Chamber of Commerce.

Protect the viability of companies that have reduced carbon emissions in Ontario

Ontario’s Cap and Trade system effectively penalizes companies that are early adopters of technologies that reduce, recycle and capture carbon emissions. By recognizing and rewarding these efforts, there would be greater incentive for companies to invest in new technologies as available that reduce carbon emissions on a continual basis. In addition, gaps in programming under the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, 2016 and the Climate Change Action Plan similarly punish early adopters and encourage a “wait-and-see” approach to investments aimed at reducing GHGs. Companies need an assurance that funds invested in Ontario’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account will ultimately provide benefit in the form of accessible programming, regardless of the compliance period in which the funds were invested.

The carbon emissions resolution is being supported by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber, the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.



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The Ontario government says it is making it easier and less expensive for companies to do business with the government by eliminating the fees that businesses have to pay to access procurement contracts.

Jeff Leal, the Minister Responsible for Small Business, made the announcement at the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council’s Diversity Procurement Fair in Toronto.

Businesses can now submit bids for free on the Ontario Tenders Portal, waiving the previous requirement of a $300 submission fee per bid or $750 annual fee for an unlimited bid for procurement opportunities with the government. Businesses will now also have free access to the Registration, Appraisal and Qualification System used by the Ministry of Transportation for road maintenance procurements, which previously required businesses to pay a $525 annual fee to access that system.

The government says elimination of these fees is part of a plan to make it easier for businesses to submit bids for government contracts, which also includes the designation of 33% of procurement spending to small and medium-sized businesses by 2020.

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Things are heating up and we’re definitely not talking about the Spring weather.

The Chamber has a well-deserved reputation for helping businesses connect with candidates at every level of government and with the provincial election on the calendar for June 7, 2018, plans are coming together for a number of activities leading up to that day.

Chamber staff will be reaching out to candidates beginning April 23, with formal requests for information that will be uploaded to our website.

In early May, the Chamber will be posting election information and various dates related to the campaign. We’ll also be meeting with candidates and their teams, all with the intention of bringing Chamber members the most up-to-date information regarding their policies ahead of the election.

On  May 10, the Chamber will be sending out surveys to members.

On Friday, May 18, there will be an all-candidates breakfast meeting for Chamber members. Details on this event will be forthcoming.

The Chamber will be updating pre-election information on our website and in our newsletter.

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