Last week we began a series of articles outlining various initiatives the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is engaged in. This week the focus is on improving and revitalizing the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport, which is owned by the City of Sarnia.

After hearing from the business community that flight cancellations were becoming a problem, the Chamber decided that something must be done. The airport is a community asset and an economic building block in need of a development strategy.

With that in mind, the Chamber called a meeting of representatives from the City of Sarnia, the operator of the airport (Scottsdale Aviation) and Tourism Sarnia-Lambton to see what could be done. Since that meeting, several key accomplishments have resulted:

  • The City of Sarnia announced it would develop a master plan to improve the airport facilities and its marketing strategy. The Chamber of Commerce was acknowledged as a lead partner in the initiative.
  • The City, with the Chamber’s support, conducted surveys and consultation sessions over the summer to seek input on the master plan.
  • The City hosted one of our most popular Business After 5 events of the year at the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport. The evening included a behind the scenes tour of the terminal, the opportunity to meet with an Air Canada representative, and a draw for $1,000 Air Canada travel voucher.
  • Air Canada announced it would replace its use of the 18-seat Beechcraft with 37-seat Bombardier Dash-8s.

The Chamber plans to review the airport management plan when it is presented to Sarnia City Council in the coming months.

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We often refer to board members at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. But who are these people? What’s their background and what’s their vision for an organization that has been helping local businesses grow for more than a century?

This week we introduce Ryan Bell, who began his career as a lawyer after graduating from Western Law and joining GMSB—formally known as George, Murray, Shipley & Bell LLP.

Not unsurprisingly, the “Bell” in the firm is his father, D’Arcy Bell. And equally unsurprising is the fact that the firm has been a Chamber member “for longer than anyone can remember,” says Ryan, who became a board member at the Chamber in 2015 and is currently first vice chair.

A “born and raised” Sarnian, Ryan first attended King George Public School, then Northern Collegiate. He then went to McMaster University for his undergraduate degree (in philosophy).

In his youth, he was active in local minor sports, most notably curling, in which he achieved success at the regional and provincial level representing the Sarnia Golf and Curling Club and Northern.

He worked as a summer student for several years at GMSB before joining the firm as an associate upon his call to the Bar in 2014.

Not unlike his father, Ryan is focused in real estate, wills and estates, corporate/commercial, and municipal law, and he looks forward to forging long-lasting relationships with his father’s clients as well as new ones.

Ryan is married to Lila Palychuk, who is an accountant at MPW Chartered Professional Accountants. His younger brother, Graham, is a financial adviser at Barill & Company in Sarnia, and Ryan’s mother, Janis, is a retired nurse.

Outside of work, Ryan is an avid home cook and enjoys many outdoor pursuits. He also has a passion for reading, writing, indie music, and video games. 

In addition to his role as a director on the board of the Chamber, Ryan serves as Chair of the Sarnia Lambton Children’s Aid Society and also sits on the board of the Dow Centre for Youth.

Ryan believes the highest priority of the Chamber is implementing the new strategic plan that was adopted in 2018, one that looks to meet the challenges facing Chambers across Canada by restructuring memberships, engaging youth, embracing technology, and (as always) helping members grow their business in a changing world.

“I believe that we have to be progressive and inclusive in order to foster a vibrant business community moving forward,” he added.

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Applications are now being accepted from members interested in taking an active role on the board of directors of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Past appointees are also invited to seek reappointment by renewing their applications.  Application forms and additional information regarding the board can be obtained by contacting Shirley de Silva, president & CEO.

To assist the Nomination Committee, please provide (in addition to your application) a resume outlining your background and how your experience would benefit the Chamber.  Special consideration may be given to those who are members of underrepresented groups.

Interested members are invited to submit an application with an attached resume by mail to the Chamber’s office at 556 N Christina St, Sarnia, ON  N7T 5W6 or by email at

THE DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION IS 4:00 p.m., January 5th, 2019

Ryan Bell
Chair, Nominations Committee

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Businesses in Sarnia Lambton are being negatively impacted by the lack of a Federal Government strategy around broadband improvements, says the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

That message comes in the wake of an Auditor General of Canada report that asserts the Government of Canada has not effectively monitored and created a long-term strategy to address broadband internet gaps for businesses and Canadians in rural and remote areas.

“It is critical that the Government address their plan to support rural communities so that we’re not disconnected from the global economy and rest of Canada,” said Shirley de Silva, the Chamber’s president and CEO. “Affordable high-speed broadband is holding back farmers, manufacturers, innovators and educators in our area.”

The CRTC, in its Telecommunications and Monitoring Report, 2017, estimates that only 39% of rural businesses and communities had access to high speed (50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload), while 13% were lacking access to minimum download speeds over 5 Mbps.

While recent initiatives like the $500 million investment into the “Connect to Innovate” program have created partnerships and outcomes, the Auditor General concluded that the CRTC did not ultimately implement the program criteria in a way that ensured the maximum expansion in rural and remote communities.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is working with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce network to advocate for several recommendations that will address connectivity through a strategy that supports private internet service providers, supplement infrastructure gaps and encourage new technologies like 5G mobile networks.

The Chamber has also called on the Provincial Government to develop a provincial long-term broadband strategy that includes funding for connectivity to the most rural and remote areas where it is currently cost-prohibitive while setting speed and reliability standards.

Recommendations of the Canadian Chamber network: 

1)    Develop a long-term strategy that identifies required resources and timelines for high-speed internet access in all underserviced communities in Canada, focusing on the deployment of wired broadband in consideration with other promising technologies.

2)    Accelerate the deployment of 5G technology by removing barriers to 3.5GHz spectrum allocation and access to 5G compatible devices by incenting users to upgrade legacy mobile and IoT devices; i.e. through an initiative similar to the Energy Star Program.

3)    Ensure that any strategies should rely on market forces to the maximum extent possible, and that government should provide subsidies and investments only when market forces alone are unlikely to achieve economic and social objectives.

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In what will be the first in a series of articles designed to “spread the word” about what the Chamber is working on to help build key business sectors, this week we are focusing on one project: enhancing Sarnia-Lambton’s international gateway and trade sector.

The Chamber aims to increase trade and develop the transportation, distribution and warehousing sectors by designating Sarnia-Lambton as a “Foreign Trade Zone Point,” much like in other border communities such as Windsor-Essex and Niagara. The FTZ status would effectively result in a one-window service helping businesses access tariff and tax exemptions on goods that are imported, stored, manufactured, assembled and then exported again.

“Such materials and goods can generally be stored, processed or assembled in the FTZ for re-export (in which case taxes and duties generally would not apply) or for entry into the domestic market (in which case taxes and duties would be deferred until the time of entry),” according to the Finance Department’s website.

A Trade Corridor Task Force was formed to help the Chamber apply for the FTZ designation and look at other ways to develop these sectors. Other initiatives they are working on include designing educational and training programs and taking steps to attract a distribution centre. Ultimately, the Chamber would like to see the development of a multi-modal port in Sarnia-Lambton to facilitate global trade.

Sarnia-Lambton is already a significant gateway to trade due to its location on NAFTA Superhighway and being the second busiest border crossing for commercial traffic in North America.

Look for more details in future issues of the newsletter on how the Chamber is working to improve the local business climate.

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Photo courtesy Sarnia Journal.

December’s Business After 5 event—as is customary—will take place a week earlier than usual, with this popular networking event taking place next Wednesday, December 12 at Jackpot City, located at 825 Upper Canada Dr in Sarnia.

Chamber members and guests can look forward to the excitement that comes with such a venue—entry to age 19 and over.

Members of the Business After 5 committee are well on their way to making sure this season’s “special” event delivers the kind of memories we can all savour throughout the rest of the holiday period.

Join us, won’t you? You won’t be disappointed!




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Thanks to organizers with JA (formerly Junior Achievement), a  recent “World of Choices” event held November 21 at the Dante Club delivered an important message of opportunity to local female students in grades 10 and 11.

The event, which had representation from the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce (President and CEO Shirley de Silva along with board member Laura Hanlon of MPW Chartered Professional Accountants—both pictured) as mentors at the event, was an inspiring moment for those attending.

As organizers explain on the “World of Choices” website: “It’s basically like speed dating for careers!”

The day also included opportunities to network, light breakfast, lunch and a keynote speaker.

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This week we’re looking ahead to one of the happiest . . . some would call it JOYOUS seasons of the year.

With our neighbours across the Blue Water Bridge enjoying their Thanksgiving festivities, we’re entering . . .  by tradition . . .  the point where shoppers begin scrambling for the best deals available, and children start making sure their parents have their list of what they expect Santa will be bringing on Christmas Day.

But this is also a season when we can focus on what really matters . . . and we’re not talking about gifts or even your favourite holiday foods.

It’s the building of relationships, the renewing of friendships, and seeking out opportunities to show kindness and generosity that count the most.

Those who have come to know and respect the Chamber for its role in advancing good in Sarnia-Lambton already understand what I’m talking about.

Generosity and kindness will ultimately create the kind of sustained value we can all benefit from, not just in this season but all year round.

Let us get an early start on the season—demonstrating kindness and generosity beginning today.

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The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce Trade Corridor Task Force is working on an initiative to grow Sarnia-Lambton’s trade, distribution & warehousing sectors, and to promote this area as an international gateway and trade corridor that contributes significantly to global trade and to Canada’s economy.

Our first goal is to become a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) Point to make it easier for businesses to access duties and tax relief programs. Qualifying businesses are those that import goods for use in manufacturing, processing or storage and then export again.

We want to know if such a service would benefit your company and others in Sarnia-Lambton. We invite you to answer these quick questions to help us with our research. For a brief description of FTZ programs, click here.

If you have any problems accessing or completing this survey, please contact Monica Shepley at the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce at or (519) 336-2400.

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Last week the Ontario government presented the Fall Economic Statement, 2018 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review. The Chamber applauds the government for the steps it is taking to build a more prosperous Ontario with a strong focus on fiscal accountability and cutting cumulative red tape.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber Network have long called on the government to reform Ontario’s tax system, reduce red tape, and restore fiscal sustainability to the Ontario taxpayer.

We agree that the Government of Ontario will not proceed with the prior government’s initiative that would have taxed the so-called “passive” income for thousands of businesses across the province. This would have greatly increased taxes for thousands of employers in Ontario.

We also applaud the government for increasing the amount of payroll that is exempt from the Employer Health Tax. This is a reasonable step in the right direction. Our members are also supportive of some of the government’s other key priorities, such as their commitment to:

  • Cutting red tape by 25 percent by 2022;
  • Implementing tax reforms for small businesses;
  • Expanding broadband to rural and underserved communities across Ontario;
  • Reviewing electricity costs for industrial users; and
  • Investing in both the Ring of Fire and transportation infrastructure in Northern Ontario.

Combined, these are fundamental steps towards a more competitive and prosperous economy. Ontario is strongest when industry and government work together and we look forward to working with the government in support of businesses of all sizes, in every corner of the province.

For more information, read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Rapid Policy Update:

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