Category Advocacy

While commending Lambton County for its largely fiscally responsible draft budget document, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce says a long-term problem, a looming infrastructure deficit, flat demographic growth, and the uncertainty of future government grants, has not been fully addressed.

In a letter signed by 2017-18 Chamber chair Michael John Kooy and CEO Shirley de Silva this week, the Chamber expressed its concerns as part of a consultation process.

“Your visible commitment to keeping taxes manageable is appreciated,” said the letter ( Chamber County Budget Response 2018 )

The approach, however, is concerning for the future, with the Chamber offering a cautionary note.

“It does not reduce the County’s exposure to still deeper financial and operational exposures from causes that are already visible on the horizon,” said the Chamber’s letter.

Those include further government funding cuts and service downloads, interest rate fluctuations, inflationary cost increases and capital asset replacement requirements.

“The Chamber believes that these risks warrant an approach that moves beyond the point of line-by-line budget reviews to a focus on non-levy-based revenue generation,” said the letter to the County. “Renewed investment in the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership, strategic exploration of new economic development opportunities and responsible debt for key infrastructure projects are worthwhile investments that can result in new sources of revenue.”

The letter closes by encouraging County Council to continue working with the Chamber.

“The Chamber sees great potential in strengthening our collaborative approach. By applying our collective, local resources to a common purpose, we believe that Lambton County will continue to be a great—and economical—place in which to live, work and run a business.”



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This week’s introduction of the federal government’s budget is one that counts on a strong economy to fund its programs, adding almost $80 billion over the next five years to the total public debt.

That could be a major problem if the government’s assumptions fail to materialize, says the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in its analysis of the budget document.

Concerns that an increase in interest rates, an economic slowdown, or trade negotiations (or all of the above) could disrupt the government’s plans.

Still, where the budget is largely absent initiatives designed to help businesses as a whole, there are some positive new measures to help women entrepreneurs and small businesses who want to innovate.

Highlights of the budget include:

—Private corporations will still be able to maintain passive investments, but only up to $50,000 per year. The way in which they are taxed after $50,000 is simplified.

—A new Apprenticeship Grant for women and Pre-Apprenticeship Program to encourage under-represented groups to explore careers in the skilled trades.

—$100 million to develop the next generation of rural broadband, particularly the use of low Earth orbit satellites

—$573 million to implement a Digital Infrastructure Strategy

—$140 million for collaborative projects between business and colleges

—$105 million for regional development agencies to promote women-led businesses

—$1.2 billion to establish a new EI Parental Sharing Benefit

—Creation of an Advisory Council to develop plans for a National Pharmacare Program

—$8 million to modernize VIA Rail passenger service to continue assessing VIA’s high-frequency rail proposal

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Monica Shepley, left, the Chamber’s manager of Advocacy and Policy Development; and Shirley de Silva, Chamber CEO (right); met with Charles Ballard, Ontario’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change earlier this week as part of Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park.

Putting forward clear and distinct messages for what policies work for business (and what don’t) is part of the ongoing role that the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, along with members of the province-wide Chamber Network, take seriously.

The latest step in that strategy took place on Monday, Feb. 26, as Chamber representatives took part in Advocacy Day, an annual event organized by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

In a full day initiative involving a wide range of government ministries, Chambers from across the province met with representatives in a “team” format that served to bring the Chamber’s “Vote Prosperity” messages to Queen’s Park.

Before meeting with government representatives, Chamber officials were briefed on winning strategies for their advocacy efforts by expert advisors brought in by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

A series of meetings then took place throughout the afternoon.

Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, and Monica Shepley, the Chamber’s manager of Advocacy and Policy Development, were part of a group that connected with representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Education.

This was a very worthwhile example of how Chambers from across the province continue to leverage their strengths in advocating on issues of critical importance to the Ontario business community.  Bringing the message to decision makers at Queen’s Park and doing so in a way that demonstrates unity of purpose has proven to be effective in the long run.


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The province of Ontario is continuing with its ongoing “Red Tape Challenge” and has reached out to members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce for help in finding ways to eliminate duplication, shorten response times and make it easier for business to interact with government.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, hearing about examples of how bureaucracy has negatively impacted productivity is part of the overall strategy.

But the government is tackling seven specific sectors between 2016 and 2019 in order to make sure the business community, including those connected with the local Chamber, has an opportunity to advise which rules should stay, which need an update, and which should be eliminated.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is taking a leadership role in helping to promote the Red Tape Challenge and the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is part of that initiative through its membership in the Chamber Network.

The latest sector the government is focused on is Tourism, with the comment period running now through March 31, 2018.

Four of the seven sectors have already been completed as part of the Red Tape Challenge. They include:

—Auto parts manufacturing;
—Food processing;
—Financial services; and

Work in identifying Red Tape in the Chemical Manufacturing sector is still ongoing.

With Tourism underway, the final sector to be examined will be Forestry, the review of which is expected to take place in Spring 2019.

Feedback on the Red Tape Challenge is encouraged. The link, where businesses can participate can be found HERE.


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The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has released its 2018 election platform, making 18 recommendations intended to bolster the province’s long-term economic outlook.

“The upcoming provincial election provides our business community with an opportunity to ensure that our businesses are being heard by our future elected officials,” said de Silva. “Vote Prosperity provides political parties with tangible solutions to address the challenges businesses are currently facing and to ensure that Ontario is building a prosperous economy that supports local business in our community and across the province.”

Over the next 12 weeks, the Ontario Chamber will be advocating around four fundamental pillars to support a strong economy in Ontario: strengthening business competitiveness, fostering job creation, building healthy communities and improving government accountability.

“We are calling on all political leaders to read Vote Prosperity and consider our recommendations as we aim to make Ontario the best place to start and grow a business,” said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “It’s simple: when you choose prosperity, Ontario wins.”

The OCC released Vote Prosperity in October 2017, ahead of the development of platforms for most of the major political parties’. Some of the recommendations from Vote Prosperity include:

  • Allow Ontario businesses to purchase surplus electricity at rates equal to or better than the exported price to other jurisdictions;
  • Allocate resources to focus support on high growth firms and those with high growth potential, by delaying taxation on corporate income growth to overcome Ontario’s scale-up challenge;
  • Focus on strategic growth policies by ensuring that land use planning and development regulations are aligned, to increase density and create more housing stock;
  • Create a meaningful plan to tackle the debt and move towards balanced or surplus budgets.






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Industry in Ontario is feeling the impact of the rising minimum wage and significant labour reforms, increasing global and U.S. competition, consistent over-regulation, rising input costs and challenges to accessing talent.

All these insights come from the second annual Ontario Economic Report, issued by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

Access to talent remains the largest impact on competitiveness for some 77 percent of Ontario businesses, according to the Report, which contains original economic analysis.

Highlights of the Report:

—Nearly half of businesses are losing confidence in Ontario’s economy;
—Nearly two-thirds of businesses cite input costs for their lack of confidence;
—One in every four small businesses in Ontario projects declining revenue in 2018;
—Contribution of non-financial businesses to Ontario’s Gross Domestic Product is deteriorating; and
—Ontario’s historically low unemployment rate is misleading since more people remove themselves from the workforce or siply give up the search.

Confidence in the broader Ontario economy is at an all-time low of 23 percent.

Economic policy from government was cited as the number one reason businesses lacked confidence in the economy, followed by the high price of input costs, high business tax rates, and a high level of provincial debt.

In the Business Prosperity Index section of the Report, Ontario businesses are said to be relatively more prosperous than compared to historical levels.

While on the surface this is positive, as businesses have more resources available to them to respond to changing business conditions, there is a deterioration in the contribution of non-financial businesses to Ontario’s GDP.

The Report summarizes that a hesitation by business to grow or invest in the face of growing financial resources indicates that Ontario possesses a higher risk operating environment.



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“Red Tape”—loosely defined as the needless “piling on” of rules and regulations—is an ongoing challenge for businesses across the province and right here in Sarnia-Lambton.

We intend to keep the pressure on the government to reduce Red Tape by sharing your stories about how these types of regulation have impacted your business.

With our links to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and its annual Business Confidence Survey, we’ll be helping to spread the word.

Please send us your story today. You can email us HERE.



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The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is collaborating with other Chambers near the U.S. border in delivering a message to the Canadian Federal Government—keep the limit on the minimum level at which taxation would kick in for goods being shipped to Canada from the U.S.

Our Chamber is part of a coalition including Windsor-Essex, Greater Niagara, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay, all of which want to ensure a level playing field.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP forecasts a loss of up to 300,000 jobs should a $20 limit on what is known as the “de minimus threshold” (or DMT) be raised to $800 (as the U.S. has proposed).

This would allow big American online vendors to unfairly compete on Canadian soil, with up to $9.2 billion being lost in labour income, according to the PwC study.

In May 2017, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce at its Annual General Meeting (held in Sarnia) passed a resolution supporting maintaining of the DMT.

Now the Chambers are urging the Federal Government to stay firm on the $20 limit, thus preventing the granting of an unfair advantage to foreign retail sellers operating in the Canadian marketplace.

“This issue is important, not only to our local retailers, but in the ripple effects that will threaten businesses for years to come,” said Shirley de Silva. “As negotiations on NAFTA take place, it’s vital that the interests of our business community are upheld.”


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The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of its members, participated in the Ontario government’s pre-budget consultation process with a submission last week in Windsor where the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs held its hearings.

Both Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber, and Monica Shepley, manager of Advocacy and Policy Development, were at the hearing.

Stability and certainty are key to businesses in our area, said de Silva in her presentation.

Entrepreneurs are used to taking on risk and sound businesses have the power to develop strategies that deal with such changes, however, success depends on having enough time, stability and a supportive government to implement changes.

The major concerns of its members, including the 71% hike in electricity costs that have occurred between 2008 and 2016 were highlighted along with the minimum wage increase of 31.6%, carbon pricing which is estimated to increase extra costs, and a combination of higher provincial and federal income taxes.

We are advocating for an analysis that would show the real costs of doing business in the province.

The government should also:

—lower of the Corporate Income Tax rate that would help businesses in Ontario compete with those in Michigan and New York;
—allow Ontario businesses to purchase surplus electricity at rates equal to or better than the exported price;
—recognize companies that have already adopted the most advanced carbon reduction technologies prior to the introduction of Cap and Trade; and
—dedicate carbon tax revenues to R&D where such technologies are non-existent in traditional Energy-Intensive, Trade-Exposed sectors.

We are also advocating for IMMEDIATE action on supporting additional investment for infrastructure, including funds that would support “last kilometre” connections to homes and businesses for natural gas and fibre internet.

Investment in other infrastructure renewal was brought forward at the hearing along with a provincial framework in support of Sarnia-Lambton’s emerging bioeconomy.

“Our members would like to see more equitable, stable and formula-based funding for municipalities that are linked to asset management plans,” said de Silva in her presentation. “This would allow communities to plan ahead and decide on their own projects, based on local, non-political priorities.”



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Representatives of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce are preparing to make a presentation to the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs as part of annual pre-budget consultations, but individual members still have time to bring forward any concerns on key issues.

Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber, will be among those travelling to Windsor for the Friday, January 19 hearing.

“We have been specifically invited to present our views on several important subjects, including the impact Bill 148 is expected to have on our economy and the impact the Government’s Cap & Trade strategy will have on our members,” said de Silva. “We know from experience that Governments at all levels have an obligation to take the pulse of the public on important issues, including budgets. Taking the time to exercise that right and responsibility is something we take seriously but it begins with action.”

Members can contact the Chamber office with any questions and the Government has set a deadline for public comments ahead of the budget. The deadline for written submissions is Friday, Jan. 19 at 5 p.m.

Written submissions should be addressed to Clerk Eric Rennie ( or by mail to:
99 Wellesley St. West
Toronto, ON M7A 1A2




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