Wednesday evening was a busy one as the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce held its Annual General Meeting, with six new members confirmed by election to the board of directors and incoming Chair Charles Fisher taking the reins of a revitalized organization.

Along with the customary reports from CEO Shirley de Silva and outgoing Chair Michael John Kooy (who presented his by video), the Chamber had two special guest speakers, Dr. Katherine Albion, executive director of the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, and James Temple, chief corporate responsibility officer at PwC Canada.

It was a great evening, with networking taking place before the formalities began shortly after 7 p.m. and Justice Deborah Austin swearing in the executive, which included Chair Charles Fisher (Mainstreet Credit Union), First Vice Chair Ryan Bell (George, Murray, Shipley, Bell LLP), Second Vice Chair Mary Jean O’Donnell (MJ Waste Solutions), and Third Vice Chair Mike Service (Certified Windows & Doors).

Kathleen Mundy (Little Caesars) is the Chamber’s Hon. Secretary/Treasurer and Michael John Kooy takes on the role of Past Chair on the board.

Directors this year also include Jon McEachran, entrepreneur; Kurtis Gray, Lambton College; Karen Fischer, RK Fischer & Associates; Tammy Maure, London Road Pharmacy (Pharmasave), Judy McKeegan, JDW International; Jean Xu, Imperial; Andrew Merrick, Rose Paving; and Laura Hanlon, MPW Chartered Professional Accountants.

Ex-officio members are: Shirley de Silva, Chamber CEO and president; Karen Sanders, Lambton Federation of Agriculture; Joyce Doyle, Blue Water Chamber of Commerce (Port Huron); and Stephen Thompson, Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership.

Charles Fisher issued an impassioned vision of what’s ahead for the Chamber this year:

 

 

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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
—Mining

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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You can feel it in the air—Spring is right around the corner.

While the threat of a late Winter may not be totally behind us, one thing is for certain: the Chamber’s March Business After 5 is sure to warm some hearts and help us usher in Spring, if only for one night.

We’re talking about Wednesday, March 21, and the place to be will be Smoke & Spice, located at 1399 Exmouth St, Sarnia, for an event hosted by Sun Life.

Be sure to limber up your networking muscles and get ready to make new connections, renew relationships that may have been hibernating the past few months, and bring on a sense of promise that only a gathering like Business After 5 can generate.

These are some of the greatest opportunities to create momentum that could last a lifetime, so don’t miss it.

We’ll see you there, at Smoke & Spice on Wednesday, March 21. The fun starts at 5 p.m. and runs through 7 p.m. Admission for Chamber members is complimentary. All others $10.

Don’t you dare miss it!

 

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A limited number of sponsorships remain for an upcoming coffee table book designed to highlight our area in a visually dramatic fashion.

The book, titled “Sarnia Lambton Simply Sensational,” is being produced by Richard Bain, a renowned Canadian landscape photographer, in partnership with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. The foreword to “Simply Sensational” is being authored by now-retired astronaut Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to command a mission at the International Space Station and who was born and raised in the area.

We expect demand for the book to exceed supply, with Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and Lambton County Warden Bill Weber having offered their enthusiastic support for the project, which will be completed in the second half of 2018.

Richard Bain’s work has included a number of similar projects, completed successfully in partnership with several regional groups, including Chambers in Stratford, Niagara, London, Guelph, and Kitchener-Waterloo. Without exception, those with whom he has worked have seen positive results from those projects.

Sponsors—which may include businesses, organizations seeking visibility in the area, and local municipalities—will have several copies of Simply Sensational which can be distributed to clients, employees and others. Additional copies will be made available through Ontario bookstores or directly from the Chamber.

If your organization would like to ensure your spot on the list of sponsors, contact Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber, directly at (519) 336-2400, ext. 1, or by email: sdesilva@slchamber.ca.

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It’s almost time—for the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting.

In addition to the swearing in of our Board, we have two special guest speakers at this year’s event, which takes place Wednesday, February 28, 2018, in the Gateway Room of the St. Clair Corporate Centre, 265 Front St N., Sarnia.

Networking will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the call to order and formalities, including various reports, begins at 7 p.m.

Attendees are asked to REGISTER NOW for the event, a courtesy that will help Chamber staff plan for seating and refreshments.

The two special guest speakers at this year’s AGM are Dr. Katherine Albion, the newly appointed executive director of the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, and James Temple, chief corporate responsibility officer at PwC Canada.

It will be a great time to find out all that’s happening at the Chamber and the exciting times ahead. We hope to see you there!

 

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The Hon. Andrew Scheer, leader of the federal Conservative Party of Canada, will be a special guest at the Chamber’s Business After 5 event that takes place Wednesday, February 21, 2018.

Scheer, who was elected as leader last May, is Leader of the Official Opposition. He is a former Speaker of the House of Commons (he was the youngest to ever be elected to that position, serving from June 2, 2011 – December 3, 2015). He has served as a Member of Parliament for Regina-Qu’Appelle since 2004.

The Chamber’s Business After 5 event takes place at the Sarnia Riding Club and runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Admittance is complimentary for Chamber members. Others can attend for a $10 fee.

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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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Lambton County is proposing an elimination of the Commercial Vacancy Rebate (CVR) and wants to know what you think about it. The County, which is responsible for administering commercial property taxation in Sarnia-Lambton has been given authority by the Province to eliminate the rebate, if they first inform and consult local ratepayers.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is issuing this short survey to see if there is support for the proposal that will go before Lambton County Council on March 7, 2018.

Prior to 1998, commercial property owners and tenants were taxed separately. Then the Ontario government rolled those taxes together into one and the property owner was responsible for paying taxes on the property. If the property was vacant for a period of time, the owner could apply for a CVR. At that time, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) valued properties as though they were 100% occupied.  Over time, however, MPAC changed its assessment formula to recognize that a portion of any commercial property would likely be vacant.  MPAC now estimates a relatively lower value on the property (which determines how much taxes they pay) to account for vacancies.

These policy changes have led to cases where property owners can receive two reductions for the same vacancy: a CVR and a vacancy adjustment on their MPAC assessment.

Do you think the removal of the CVR is fair? What will it mean for your business?

Chamber members are asked to fill out a short survey (CLICK HERE), the results of which will be included in a summary report to Lambton County ahead of its March 7, 2018 meeting.

For more details, read this Briefing Note by the County of Lambton.

 

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