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.

 

Read More

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce has an opportunity for a summer student who will work at its offices.

The person selected for the position, which will include eight weeks of work, will help with various projects being undertaken by the Chamber.

Expressions of interest should be directed to Shirley de Silva, president and CEO, by email or by phoning (519) 336-2400.

Read More

The Sarnia Community Foundation has announced the selection of five area women who will be honoured at an event on Thursday, June 20, among them one of our own—Mary Jean O’Donnell, who serves as first vice chair on the board of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Other women selected by the Sarnia Community Foundation include Shauna Carr, Cathy Dobson, April Lepore and Anne McGugan.

“These are women who support one another, who work on common goals, who help other people achieve their dreams, and who share their gifts willingly,” said Jane Anema, executive director of the Sarnia Community Foundation.

The June 20 event will take place at the Sarnia Riding Club. Tickets are $50 and available through the Sarnia Community Foundation office by phoning (519) 332-2588. A portion of proceeds will support the Women’s Interval Home Fund, the Blue Eyes Big Heart Scholarship and Joanne Klauke Labelle Scholarship at the Sarnia Community Foundation.

Read More

It’s been 10 years since one of our community’s more personal organizations officially opened its doors to service and St. Joseph’s Hospice is marking that anniversary throughout the month of May, starting with a Community Open House on Monday, May 6, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is pleased to add its support to St. Joseph’s Hospice Sarnia-Lambton, in recognition of the impact it has had over the first 10 years of its existence, through both its Resource Centre and Residence, located at 475 Christina St. North.

Visitors are welcome to stop in at the Resource Centre to meet the nursing team, staff, fundraisers and volunteers, and to take a tour.

Learning more about the 10-bed residence and various programs and support groups that St. Joseph’s Hospice provides to our community is incredibly worthwhile and the Chamber is pleased to lend its support in drawing attention to one of the organizations that positively impacts the quality of life—through all its phases.

 

Read More

Thanks to this month’s host,  WMA Promotions, May’s Business After 5 will take place on Wednesday, May 15 at the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club.

Members and guests will be treated to a golf-themed event (no surprise given the venue!) and another great opportunity to network in one of the community’s most appealing places to relax and network.

Thanks also to a dedicated volunteer committee that works hard to make each and every Business After 5 gathering the best possible spot to exercise your networking skills.  We look forward to welcoming you on Wednesday, May 15, beginning at 5 p.m. and running through 7 p.m.

See you there!

Read More

While the Human Resources Professionals Association Sarnia and District Chapter is presenting its second annual Sarnia & District Fair next Wednesday, May 7, the organization is still looking for local providers of safety, health and wellness services and information to who may be interested in hosting a booth at the event.

There is no cost to hosting a booth at the Wellness Fair, which takes place from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Malawn Doosh Gumig Community Centre, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, 1972 Virgil Ave., Sarnia.

In addition to the Wellness Fair, there are two sessions—a lunchtime session that takes place from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (How to Conduct an Effective Accident Investigation), and a dinner session that runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Why Do Smart People Do Stupid, Unsafe Things).

Organizations registering for a booth BY MAY 1 will receive two free passes to the lunchtime session. Register to host a booth by emailing chair@hrpasarnia.ca

Registration for the lunchtime or dinner session is $25. You can register and pay for these by visiting www.hrpa.ca/HRPAChapters/sarnia.

 

Read More

The local office of Express Employment Professionals is co-hosting a free online seminar on Diversity and Inclusion as part of its ExpressTalks series on topics of interest from a professional development perspective.

The half-hour presentation takes place this Thursday, May 2 from 11:30 a.m. to noon (Eastern).

The presenter is Patty Smith, vice president of Human Resource and Compliance for Express Employment Professionals. For the past 10 years, Smith has offered extensive leadership and organizational development solutions and is known as a dynamic and strategic innovator with extensive experience in change management, organizational development assessments and transformations, executive coaching, emerging brand strategic planning, succession planning, and knowledge management.

Register online by clicking HERE.

Read More

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is about to begin the lead-up to the annual Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala, which this year takes place on Friday, October 18 at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Sarnia.

On Wednesday, May 8, the official launch of the nomination period takes place at an event to take place at noon at the Imperial Theatre.

Thanks to the generous support of Libro Credit Union, a great partner who is returning as the title sponsor, the Chamber is well poised to make this 30th anniversary event another great one for companies and individuals.

The key for those who are nominated is to put their best foot forward in showing the entire community what it means to set new standards of achievement in the 16 categories of the OBAAs.

In a spirit of continuous improvement, an operating philosophy that many organizations have embraced over many years—even decades—the Chamber is working to make it easier for companies and individuals to be nominated.

There was a day, not so very long ago, when mounds of paper were the norm, starting with paper-based nomination forms, plus the submissions of those nominated for an Outstanding Business Achievement Award.

During last year’s event, the Chamber took big steps toward slimming down the paperwork. This year staff and volunteers hope to do even better, not just by continuing with the online nomination form but with improvements to the workflow that will make tracking each nominee through acceptance, submission and judging more efficient.

It’s a task that Chamber president and CEO Shirley de Silva hopes will improve the entire process, even as she expresses gratitude for those who lend their expertise to the process.

“Three decades of focusing on the achievement of so many companies has become a big part of the narrtive that those who attend the OBAA event are able to share throughout the year,” said de Silva.

“It’s events like the Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala that help push us forward, even as we look to our peers for encouragement and congratulations on the kind of accomplishments that we can all celebrate together.”

Look to the Chamber website (and this newsletter) for upcoming news on the 2019 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala, including a link to the digital nomination form.

 

Read More

Cybersecurity is a pretty big deal if you own a business.

It’s no big revelation that strong cybersecurity measures are a necessity, for a lot of reasons. We’re all familiar with hackers and viruses and high-profile attacks generally speaking. But we also assume “Hey, of course they’re going to target the CIA or a massive billion-dollar enterprise. But why would they bother targeting my coffee shop in Cornwall?” Here’s the real deal though: companies with fewer than 250 employees comprise almost a third of those targeted by cyber attacks. Attackers go for the targets who have the weakest defenses, so they look at smaller businesses, knowing they might not be taking security as seriously as they should. Which means your business needs to be prepared. And the best way to start preparing is to actually understand the types of threats out there.

So, to help you get started, let’s do a rundown of common threats small and medium businesses frequently come up against, as well as the weaknesses that attackers tend to exploit with businesses like yours.

Be malware aware

Let’s start by looking at the term “malware”: it’s a broad term, used to refer to any piece of software or firmware that is used to harm a device or system. Here’s a closer look at some of the more specific kinds of malware your business might have to face.

Virus

What is it? No doubt, you’re familiar with this term. Simply put, this category of malware is a piece of code that inserts itself into a program. The affects can range from minor annoyances—like a program slowing down or freezing up—to major security breaches.

What does this mean for my business? While any virus can affect the day-to-day operations of your business’s computer systems and programs, there’s a specific type of virus that is especially significant if your business runs on a network of computers, known as a Worm: a self-replicating virus. They don’t just affect one computer because they’re capable of making their way through an entire network, which means your whole business can slow to a halt if the virus is damaging enough.

Memory scraper/dumper

What is it? Here’s the deal with scrapers and dumpers: they essentially access a device’s memory and copy it over to the attacker, giving them access to any information stored on it.

What does this mean for my business? Scrapers and dumpers are major players in a lot of cyber attacks against businesses. Every business has sensitive information. Even if you’re thinking “hey, I’m not a law office or a financial institution, what ‘sensitive information’ could possibly draw an attacker to me?” Well, for identity theft, your employee’s personal information, for instance. And if you’re a retailer, your point-of-sale terminal is pretty appealing, filled with valuable credit card information stored in them. Which means your customers are also put at risk if you don’t have proper (and frequently updated) firewalls set up on your POS system. This is a huge liability for your business that could result in legal consequences for you as the owner.

Spyware/RATs

What is it? You would think that anything with the word “spy” in it would at least be a little bit cool. Turns out, great film genre, but a terrible malware problem to encounter. An attacker uses spyware to monitor activity on a device or network, so they can see everything from your online activity, to log-in credentials, and even keystrokes. There are also remote administrative tools, or RATs2. While spyware lets attackers monitor your system, RATs fully hand over control of the device to the attacker, as if they were sitting right at your desk.

What does this mean for my business? It’s easy to brush off spyware by thinking “who would want to spy on little ol’ me and my business? It’s not THAT interesting.” The reality is, whether or not you think your business is “worth” hacking is beside the point. (P.S.: of course your business is interesting! And we don’t just mean to hackers!).

What it really comes back to is what we mentioned before: you probably have more sensitive information stored in your business’s network than you realize that spyware could access: employee information, customer payment details, your financial information and more.

Ransomware

What is it? Like the name implies, ransomware is like a hostage situation. An attacker encrypts their target’s files so they are unable to be accessed until a ransom is paid—usually some form of cryptocurrency sent to an untraceable account. These have been in the news a lot recently, like when the city of Atlanta had to pay over $2.6 million in response to ransomware attacks that infected the city’s municipal systems3. To look at the big picture here, one study actually showed that the downtime from ransomware alone could be costing businesses more than $8,500 per hour4.

What does this mean for my business? This is a little more direct of a threat than someone trying to get a hold of your sensitive information. It skips the middleman, basically, and gets straight to turning a profit for the attacker, who can block a business’s access to files—such as your customer list, projects you’re working on, etc.—programs like crucial software or email services, or networks until their demands are met. So, whether you’re a multi-billion-dollar company or our old friends at that coffee shop in Cornwall, you could be a target.

How’d you get in there?

We know what kinds of attacks are commonly used against small and medium businesses now, but how do they even get into our systems in the first place? Let’s take a look at some of the techniques hackers use to give you an idea of what you need to be cautious of.

Downloader

What is it? You’ve probably heard these referred to as Trojans, like the big ol’ wooden horse in the story. Same idea here: hide something dangerous in something that looks totally harmless.

How could my business be targeted? Malware is hidden within folders that might contain actual files you do need, making them appear perfectly safe. For example, folders containing programs, apps, media or documents you found online that seem like they could be useful. That’s why you should always make sure you trust the source that you’re downloading folders from, and always make sure your antivirus software is regularly updated to scan for these kinds of hidden files.

Phishing

What is it? Phishing is becoming one of the most common techniques used against businesses, because on the surface, it can seem like a perfectly legitimate business inquiry or—even more anxiety-inducing—an urgent notice. And that’s where the bait-and-switch happens: a link or download contained in the email contains malware.

How could my business be targeted? Some attackers go beyond just the typical random email that seems, well, phishy. More and more, attackers are using a technique known as “social engineering” to increase the likelihood of success, gathering information off of company websites, or even over the phone to get employee names, job titles, and other relevant information to make the eventual phishing email, text or call seem more legitimate. No matter how much you trust your employees and know you’ve hired smart and cautious people, good phishing schemes can be hard to identify when they get to this point. That’s why company-wide training in security is so important. You and your employees should all be armed with knowledge that can help you identify suspicious calls from unknown people looking for company information that attackers will later use for a phishing scheme.

DDoS

What is it? A distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) targets a company’s website, overwhelming the site from multiple attack hosts to the point of blocking any other visitors to access the site.

How could my business be targeted? Say you have a potential customer who’s looking for whatever product or service you offer. Or maybe their neighbour recommended your shop or restaurant. Where’s the first place they’re likely to go to find out more? You guessed it: your website. But that’s only if they can access it. Without proper up-to-date network and web application firewalls, your site could get attacked. And here’s the thing: DDoS attacks are cheap on the black market for attackers to acquire, so it’s an easy way for them to get to you. While they have your site locked up, you could lose potential customers or clients to a competitor whose site is working. Hackers believe you’ll pay to avoid that kind of potential loss of business.

Exploiting personnel oversights

What is it? You may have the greatest employees in the world. But… when it comes to digital security, people are always going to be one of the weakest links. Only 1 in 5 businesses use regular employee training as a method of preventing online security breaches.

How could my business be targeted? Let’s go the opposite direction this time and ask: How can your business avoid being targeted? Company-wide policies, processes, and training can be the difference between an attack being stopped before it even begins, and a huge security breach. You can give yourself a huge advantage by keeping everyone in your organization on the ball. Everything from educating employees on having strong passwords, implementing policies to flag suspicious calls or emails, or setting procedures for what to do if a device containing company information is lost or stolen. They say that teamwork makes the dream work, but it can also prevent a security nightmare.

You’re off to a great start by keeping yourself informed on the types of cyber threats your business might face. Spreading this knowledge to your team and letting it inform how you handle your business’s cybersecurity procedures is the next step to ensuring that you, your staff, and even your customers can be confident that your private information is safe.

This article appeared on businessblog.cogeco.ca and was reprinted with permission.

Read More

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.

Read More

Partners and Sponsors