The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of its members, is urging Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault to take advantage of the “wealth of experience and knowledge” represented by those in the local energy sector.

In a letter sent December 14, 2016, Chamber CEO Shirley de Silva and Mark Lumley, current Chair of the Board of Directors, responded to Thibeault’s invitation to consult on proposals for a 2017 Long Term Energy Plan.

The letter highlights the capabilities of Sarnia-Lambton businesses engaged in energy-related activities as well as the decision by companies such as Ubiquity Solar and Comet Biorefining to further invest in the future of energy transformation.

Click to read the letter

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Chamber delegation with the Hon. Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Infrastructure

A delegation of representatives from the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce met earlier this week with officials from three Ontario government ministries—Environment and Climate Change, Energy, and Infrastructure— as part of an ongoing advocacy strategy to bring issues of importance to local business to decision makers at Queen’s Park.

Those issues included the impact of rules and regulations around reduction of carbon and the high cost of electricity as it relates to competitiveness. Chamber representatives also took time to highlight work being done in Sarnia-Lambton to further innovate beyond the traditional petrochemical base.

Two staff members of the Chamber—President and CEO Shirley de Silva and Monica Shepley, Manager of Advocacy and Policy Development—joined Peter Smith, Co-chair of the Chamber’s Energy Committee, and Michael Kooy, First Vice Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, on Monday’s one-day visit to Queen’s Park.

“We were able to bring a number of key messages to the attention of senior officials,” said de Silva. “With the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, for example, we discussed the impact of the government’s policy on carbon reduction, especially as it relates to local industry.”

The Chamber delegation also met with the Ministry of Energy, to discuss electricity costs on behalf of its members as well as Sarnia-Lambton initiatives, including LAMP 21, a proposed  innovation hub that would develop advanced materials from bitumen and biogenic feedstocks, an alternative to the burning  bitumen as fuel.

Finally, the delegation met with the Hon. Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Infrastructure, emphasizing the importance of a proposed Oversized Load Corridor that would improve the competitiveness of fabricators in Sarnia Lambton. Companies currently spend as much as 20 percent of their total shipping costs just getting the load to the Sarnia Harbor, much of it related to temporarily moving utility lines on roads. The Oversized Load Corridor project is seen as a big step forward for this community and has already received significant local support.

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Mark Lumley, chair of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, called on the Sarnia City Council to continue improving the city’s financial viability while focusing more on economic development during a presentation on the 2017 budget.

Lumley emphasized the historical role the Chamber continues to play in representing local businesses and commented on the Chamber’s support for debt reduction and the competitive industrial class tax structure.

“We are appreciative of initiatives that include the Asset Management Plan, the identification of various vacant properties and the review of customer service provided by the Planning and Building Department,” said Lumley.

“We also think there is an opportunity for what we consider to be a strategic pivot in addressing the issue of infrastructure, something that has been raised fairly recently in a staff report to Council,” he added.
“We find it alarming to see that of the City’s nearly $2 billion in linear assets, a significant amount of money—$235 million—is needed to replace assets that are so outdated that they can no longer be rehabilitated.”
Lumley said the Chamber is encouraged that some $37 million in capital spending is proposed for high priority projects.

“We are, however, very concerned that that infrastructure backlog remains unaddressed. Indeed, based on what we see before us, a good part of the capital that is being proposed comes from reserve funds, which essentially means that we are drawing from savings rather than injecting new funds that are badly needed for infrastructure,” Lumley told Council.

While Lumley conveyed the position of the Chamber, that the city should not take on new debt as a means of covering general operations, “City Council ought to consider options for addressing the infrastructure problem in a way that paves the way … if you pardon the pun … for true progress in this critical area.”

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Members of the Energy Committee at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce met this week with two members of the Canadian Senate’s Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

The opportunity came as part of the Senate’s mandate to consult with business around “Canada’s transition to a lower carbon economy,” the overall goal being to understand the scope of the issues, identification of key questions and considerations and to explore policy recommendations that would be proposed to the federal government.

The Senate delegation, which included Senator Richard Neufeld (chair), Senator Glen Patterson and support staff  heard from members of the importance of having the government understand the full economic, social and environmental impacts of its policies before making changes.

Those being consulted also urged the government to look at what other countries have done, with an objective being to learn from both mistakes and successes.

“We are grateful that the Senate Committee is doing this consultation,” said Chamber CEO Shirley de Silva. “The idea of conducting a life-cycle analysis that takes into account the impact any proposed legislation may have on trade-exposed industries is key to any future legislation. For example, the manufacturing of fertilizers creates carbon, but it also significantly increases crop yields, an activity that captures and reduces carbon that would otherwise go to the atmosphere.”

Other key points included in the message to Senators:

—Assist innovators with upfront costs and reduce burdensome funding processes, which are delaying the transition to a low carbon economy.

—Provide innovators with more time and support for their efforts.

—Get ahead of the game by identifying, enabling and marketing Canada’s niche. Canada is known for its innovation, engineering, and health and safety expertise. We can become world leaders in the low carbon energy industry and by doing so we can generate economic growth. Other jurisdictions are moving this way, so we need to be ahead of the game and find our niche.

—Support the traditional oil-and-gas industry through this transition. Traditional oil and gas and renewable energy industries should not be seen as competitors. There are other, smarter and more beneficial uses for oil and gas (manufacturing, clothes, medicines) than burning it.

—Transition to smarter, value-added, use of our carbon-based resources.
Government will be asking Chamber members for ways to reduce red tape

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