The Sarnia‐Lambton Economic Partnership will again be providing a Digital Service Squad (DSS) to help businesses across the region to utilize digital technologies to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The DSS will be funded with a $60,000 grant from Digital Main Street Ontario and provided by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

“Building on a successful four months with the Digital Service Squad program in 2019, through collaboration with community partners, we are thrilled to expand our reach to assist businesses across the Sarnia‐Lambton area in 2020/2021,” said Sarnia‐Lambton Economic Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Thompson. “Local businesses are critical to our communities, and this program will help ensure they continue to thrive by leveraging digital technologies and online best practices.

Established in 2018, Digital Main Street Ontario had recently extended thanks to an investment of $42.5 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and $7.45 million from the Ontario Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT). The nearly $50‐million investment will help small businesses across Ontario to pivot their operations to include online business models, regain lost revenue and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers. The Ontario BIA Association administers the DMS grant program to Ontario’s main street small businesses.

“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the keystone of our economic recovery. That is why we have invested in Digital Main Street to help these enterprises adapt to doing business in a digital world, and take advantage of the record number of people shopping online. Congratulations to Sarnia‐Lambton on the launch of your Digital Service Squad,” said the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “The work you’re doing with small businesses in your community will help keep our main streets vibrant, support good, local jobs and help our economy come back strong.”

Digital Service Squads are fundamental to Digital Main Street’s design and success, with trained specialists who meet with small businesses, at no cost, to help them improve their online presence. The squads assist with a number of activities, including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence and providing support for basic website and e‐commerce set‐up. Squads will also assist qualified small businesses through the application process for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant, which includes an online assessment, online training modules and the development of a Digital Transformation Plan (DTP).

“The COVID‐19 pandemic hit Ontario’s main streets hard, so Digital Main Street is needed more than ever,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of OBIAA. “We know that businesses that participated in Digital Main Street last year were better able to cope when the pandemic hit, and we’re excited that FedDev Ontario and Ontario are providing the funding to extend this important program to help businesses in communities across Sarnia‐Lambton.”

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Sarnia-Lambton Rebound is thrilled to announce that a $15,001.00 donation from the Canada Post Community Foundation in support of their Rebound Rocks | Musical Therapeutic Youth Program.

Rebound expanded programming in January 2018 to provide youth with more access to the Expressive Arts, which included the introduction of a music therapy program called Rebound Rocks. It’s designed for youth, ages 12 to 18, to learn music, life skills, increase their self-confidence and respect while being engaged in their community. Rebound designed this program to foster resilience, encourage self-confidence and provide the creative outlet through which youth can experience the therapeutic benefit of music.

“In light of the restraints and changes that COVID-19 has inflicted on everyone this year, Rebound is delighted to be the recipient of this generous gift, it’s absolutely amazing!” stated Stephanie Hyde, Rebound Rocks Program Coordinator.

Throughout 2019, Rebound Rocks performed at nearly 20 events across Sarnia-Lambton including: Rebound’s Hearts for Youth Gala and AGM, Brigden Fair, Do It For Sarnia with the Trews, Battle of the Bands, Bluewater Borderfest, Rainbow Crosswalk fundraiser, Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Awards and the GetOut of the Garage Concert Series. All of this experience and exposure has resulted in significant increase in the confidence level of the youth, sense of pride for all involved, as well as rapid growth of the program.

“This grant donation is a major boost to a program that receives no government funding,” stated Carrie McEachran, Executive Director. McEacharan added, “The money will be utilized to purchase equipment, program materials, advertising and promotion, as well as food and beverage and team building.”

Rebound’s Mission is ‘to be a caring partner in the successful development of youth’ and has positively supported and served over 40,000 youth throughout Sarnia-Lambton since 1984. We currently operate 21 different programs and serve youth between the ages of 8 to 24 with rural offices in Forest and Petrolia. Sarnia Lambton Rebound is nationally accredited and recognized for its programming, and has been awarded an unprecedented 12 Donner Canadian Foundation Awards for excellence in the delivery of Social Services.

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In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Public Health Measures Table, the Ontario government is taking immediate action to respond to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and is updating the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, by lowering the thresholds for each level within the framework. These necessary updates will help limit the spread of COVID-19 while keeping schools open, maintaining health system capacity, protecting the province’s most vulnerable, and avoiding broader lockdowns.

Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“Our number one priority right now is getting the numbers down and keeping people safe. That’s why, on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, we’re updating the framework with new thresholds so we can slow the spread of this virus,” said Premier Ford. “These adjustments are necessary to respond to the latest evidence we’re seeing and we are prepared to make further adjustments as the health experts continue to review the current public health restrictions. We must do whatever it takes to stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed and protect our most vulnerable.”

The latest modelling shows that if the number of new cases continues to grow at its current rate, the province could register up to 6,500 new cases per day by mid-December. Within the next two weeks the province will likely exceed its intensive care threshold of 150 beds, under any potential scenario.]

To read more about the Framework, click here.

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The following information was shared by the Honourable Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. 

“In our increasingly digital world, we need to be connected. This means being able to quickly send an email, check our cell phones for directions or enjoy an online video chat with friends or family.

Students need to be connected to finish homework assignments or take a university course online. Hard-working people need to be able to easily and immediately access digital resources on the go or to work remotely. Families want to stream video to their living rooms, pay bills with the click of a mouse and securely receive medical test results faster. For businesses across all sectors, whether it’s manufacturing, agriculture or e-commerce, they all depend on fast, reliable connections.

It is unacceptable to this government that not everyone in Ontario has access to the broadband or cellular connections they need. In fact, as much as 12% of our population lives in communities – mostly rural, remote or northern areas – that are unserved or underserved. We need to do better.

That’s why we are introducing Ontario’s first-ever broadband and cellular action plan. It outlines why fast and reliable connectivity is critical to delivering on our commitment to make Ontario open for business and jobs. Connected communities attract significant and lasting investments, which boost the local and provincial economy, improving the quality of life for all Ontarians.

We are committed to delivering improved digital government service and supporting access to quality internet connections, so the people of Ontario can access these vital services.

As Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure, I am proud to share our government’s action plan to bring better broadband and cellular service to all parts of our province. The plan outlines action on four key fronts:

  • delivering regional and shovel-ready projects
  • launching a new program to expand access to unserved and underserved communities
  • maximizing existing programs and government assets
  • reducing red tape and removing barriers to infrastructure expansion

We believe the government can be the catalyst for getting reliable, affordable broadband and cellular service across the province. We will bring together private-sector telecommunications partners and other levels of government to find solutions that work. We will leverage taxpayer dollars responsibly for investments in communities that need it most.

Our actions will result in the connection of up to 220,000 households and businesses.

We know this will be an ongoing initiative. We look forward to working with people, businesses and communities to ensure a connected Ontario.” 

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When the pandemic began, many workplaces that were not open to the public applied a simple solution to the issue of visitors: no visitors allowed. But as the pandemic persists, this strategy may no longer be sustainable. For instance, an equipment breakdown or process change may require on-site technical support.Here are five things you should do to ensure visitors are safely brought into your workplace:

1. Establish or update your existing visitor policy

Identify who qualifies as an essential visitor.Typically, this would include people with skills required for the business to continue operating safely and efficiently, such as technical consultants, suppliers and service providers.

Develop or update your current visitor screening process, outlining the safety protocols to be followed by staff and visitors. Limit visitor access to essential visitors only. Clearly identify roles and responsibilities of each workplace party. Establish a team of staff or a designated staff member responsible for triaging, approving and managing visitor access.

Set parameters for which areas of the workplace may be accessible or off limits. Would visitors be allowed to navigate the workplace on their own? Would they be accompanied by staff? Will there be a separate entrance for visitors?

Add the visitor policy to your COVID-19 safety plan. Inform all employees of the policy, and provide clear instructions to anyone who would authorize, receive or interact with a visitor.

2. Establish a screening protocol

As the pandemic progressed, many workplaces began screening employees for symptoms and risk factors of COVID-19. Effective September 26, employers in Ontario must proactively screen all employees and visitors using questions set out in a Ministry of Health screening tool.

Add any questions that would satisfy your workplace’s record keeping and tracking requirements. For more on employee and visitor screening protocols, check out WSPS’ Post-Pandemic Business Playbook.

3. Share key information beforehand

Advise prospective visitors that their visits must be scheduled and that they will be required to complete your visitor screening prior to their arrival – in addition to any screening practices their own employer has in place. Send your screening instructions in advance. Keep a record of each visitor screening and their contact information (refer to step 5 for tips on this).

Inform visitors of on-site preventive measures and protocols, such as

  • physical distancing and use of masks
  • sanitizing practices for hands, tools and equipment brought into the workplace
  • limits on physical contact – no handshakes, no sharing of tools or devices without sanitizing

4. Minimize physical contact with visitors

“Since the pandemic has taught us to minimize any close physical contact,” says Priya, “have visitors complete and submit an online screening form before they arrive.” If this is not possible or practical, consider a phone-in process. Be prepared to accommodate disabilities or language barriers.

To minimize contact on arrival, look at implementing a touchless check-in or sign-in process so that visitors don’t have to touch equipment or surfaces when entering your facility. For example, provide QR codes that allow access to specific areas of your building.

5. Retain visitor details for contact tracing

Collect such information as the person’s name, phone number, and date and time of visit. Store the information and keep it confidential and secure. Share it if requested by a public health authority for reasons such as contact tracing.

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Submitted by Bruce Hein, Owner at Express Employment Professionals.

2020 has been a tough year. COVID-19, social unrest, political drama, and natural disasters can all cause stress and mental fatigue. Add in less sunlight and a colder climate, and this winter might be rough for many workers. According to the CDC, in the second quarter of 2020, “the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019.” Additionally, roughly 5% of people deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or seasonal depression. In an interview with USA Today, professor of psychology Dr. Lata McGinn noted:

“There’s less activity, there’s less socialization, there are less mastery activities, there are less pleasurable activities, so in general there is an increase in depression, not to mention job losses and losses of people. A combination of all those things, I think, would put us more at risk this winter.”

Essentially, even if you don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, workers must prioritize their mental health this season. Following are methods to cope.

Take Exercise Breaks

With colder weather setting in and many gyms still closed across the country, getting proper exercise is incredibly important. When the stress gets to you, consider taking a few minutes to go on a quick walk or take a meditation break. Your body and mind are connected, and getting your body moving can reduce mental fatigue.

Organize Your Routine

One major cause of stress is lack of control. With everything happening in the world, it can feel like there isn’t anything you can do to make real change.

An ideal way to combat this feeling of helplessness is with organization. Keep track of your to-do’s and accomplishments in a computer document or journal. Actually seeing what you’ve done and still have to do can reduce stress and keep you on track.

Keep in Contact with Others

Self-isolation is difficult. It can be hard to focus on your work when you’re cut off from seeing anyone else. Even if you’re back at work, odds are, social distancing measures are strictly in place. If you find yourself missing human contact, ask your manager if it would be possible to add more video meetings into the schedule.

Contact a Mental Health Professional

If the stress gets to be too much, and you notice it starting to affect your work, it might be time to schedule a visit with a mental health professional. Your health care provider should be able to set you up with someone that can help you work through your stress and recommend treatment.

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The Lambton Cattlemen’s Association is donating all the ground beef for the dinners, and Earth Fresh Farms in Grand Bend is donating the potatoes for the meals as well,” Ducharme said. “A number of local grocery stores have pitched in, including Bright’s Grove Foodland and Metro in Sarnia. The United Way has partnered with the Dante Club to offer a deep-dish shepherd’s pie and deep-dish lasagna in two sizes and will be available for pick up on Friday, Nov. 20, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. To order your meals, or for more information, please call the United Way at 519-336-5452, or email jessica@theunitedway.on.ca.

The United Way of Sarnia-Lambton campaign will run until the end of the year and provides funding to over 36 programs and services. To donate, call 519 336-5452 or log on to www.theunitedway.on.ca.

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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce Senior Director of Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth, Leah Nord, issued the following statement regarding Labour Force Survey numbers released on November 6. .

“Today’s labour force numbers demonstrated that Canada’s recovery is petering out as new restrictions reversed gains in the accommodation and food services sectors and our economy operates below capacity.

Recent legislation to support many of these businesses through rent and wage subsidies will be instrumental in recuperating some of the job losses in the hardest hit sectors. However, today’s numbers also demonstrate that there are more prolonged effects to our labour force as long-term unemployment – individuals unemployed for 27 weeks or longer – has seen the sharpest increase in recorded history.

For all the uncertainty about what to do, we know one thing for sure: the true measure of every recovery is job growth, and everyone recovers when business recovers. Achieving this will require widespread business openings and re-openings as the latest data shows that we are still down 50,000 active businesses from pre-pandemic levels.

It will also require governments to create significant reskilling and upskilling programs for those long-term unemployed Canadians who do not have jobs to go back to. To support career pivots, local and sector level labour market data will be important to determine new, high-demand and sustained employment and skills.

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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is making public a letter sent to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on October 30.

The letter, from Hon. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is co-signed by 261 other businesses and associations. The letter urges the federal government to freeze its planned Excise Tax increase on beverage alcohol, currently scheduled for April 1.

The excise tax on beverage alcohol increases automatically each year as a result of measures included in the 2017 budget. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, along with many other business associations, have expressed concern over the automatic nature of the tax increases since that time.

“The situation in which we now find ourselves, with an automatic tax hike set to come into effect mid-pandemic, demonstrates why this tax increase is so damaging,” commented Beatty on the release of the letter. “So many businesses in the food service industry find themselves in a crisis in ways that could not have been imagined in 2017.

“As the Prime Minister recently commented, now is clearly not the time to increase taxes on Canadians. This is doubly true for an Excise Tax rise that targets one of the hardest-hit industries in the middle of a global pandemic,” continued Beatty. “We have written this letter in the hope that reason and a spirit of collaboration will prevail, and the government will freeze this planned tax increase.”

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