Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released the following statement in response to the Government of Ontario’s 2020 Budget “Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover”.

“Ontario’s business community welcomes today’s Budget. It is an impactful response to the current crisis, and demonstrates the beginning of a long-term plan for economic growth,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “This Budget addresses many of the actions we, on behalf of Ontario’s business community, have been asking for. We believe that when business prospers, communities prosper.”

The OCC has long advocated for greater investment in broadband and cellular infrastructure, reforming taxes to enhance business competitiveness, developing new skills training opportunities, and lowering the cost of electricity for industry, all of which are priorities in Budget 2020.

“We are particularly pleased to hear the government talk about addressing ‘profit insensitive’ costs to business; those expenses that remain the same regardless of if a company is bringing in revenue,” noted Rossi. “Outlays such as property taxes and electricity rates have imposed considerable stress on business, especially small business, throughout the pandemic.”

Some key measures in Budget 2020 supported by the Ontario business community include:

  • Reducing commercial and industrial electricity rates will make Ontario businesses more competitive and enable them to invest in recovery and growth. For years, Ontario businesses have paid more for electricity than most other jurisdictions in North America, and the pandemic has only increased electricity system costs.
  • Business Education Tax rates vary throughout Ontario; as a result, businesses in London, Waterloo, Hamilton, Toronto, Windsor/Middlesex, and Kingston are paying higher taxes than those in other regions. The government has announced it will both reduce the BET rate and address regional variance within that rate, both of which the OCC has advocated for in the past.
  • The decision to make the higher Employer Health Tax threshold permanent is a welcome one that will free thousands of businesses from having to pay this tax.
  • The move to allow municipalities to target property tax relief specifically to small businesses is a creative and important tool to grant communities, given that small business has been hardest hit by the pandemic.
  • Broadband is a basic infrastructure requirement in today’s economy, but the ongoing pandemic has made it even more essential to public health and economic resilience. We are very pleased to see the government take this seriously with an additional investment of $680 million (for a total of nearly $1 billion) over six years.

The OCC’s pre-budget submission focused on four areas: fiscal policy; regulation; the future of employment; and innovation and entrepreneurship. The recommendations were developed together with businesses, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade across the province, with the shared interest of making Ontario a more attractive place to live, work, and invest.

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The pitch: two invisible threats simultaneously infiltrate local communities. Unsuspecting residents spread disease as they go about their daily business. Everybody is at risk; nobody is immune.

While this sounds like it could be a horror movie, it’s actually a worst-case scenario if seasonal influenza (flu) converges with COVID-19.

Such a “twindemic” could wreak havoc on our health and our livelihoods, but there’s a bright side, says Wagish Yajaman, WSPS’ Manager, Specialty Services. “If your workplace is following all precautions for COVID-19, you’ll have a better handle on the flu.”

Start by knowing the difference between flu and COVID-19

Although caused by different viruses, these two respiratory illnesses share common symptoms, such as fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and more. These similarities make it difficult to differentiate between COVID-19 and the flu, or screen workers for each illness (for a comparison of symptoms, visit If in doubt, send employees for COVID-19 testing. Because COVID-19 spreads more easily, is contagious for longer, and can cause more serious illness, the consequences for your employees and your business are far more serious. As for the combined impact of having both illnesses, it’s still unclear, but each has been linked to severe heart complications.[1]

Develop a flu plan

A flu plan will enable your workplace to deal with this seasonal illness now and in the future, and with your workplace’s COVID-19 precautions you already have systems in place that you can rely on beyond the pandemic. As Wagish points out, “If you’re controlling one, you are controlling the other.”

These joint control systems include:

  • hygiene protocols for employees (hand washing, social distancing, coughing etiquette, etc.)
  • cleaning and disinfecting the workplace frequently
  • disinfecting tools and surfaces
  • staggered work hours, lunch hours and break periods
  • access to personal protective equipment if necessary
  • protocols for isolating a sick worker, dealing with exposed workers, and follow-up
  • ongoing communication with workers about policies, procedures, and precautions being taken

Encourage all employees to get the flu shot

Vaccinations reduce impacts on employees, the workplace, and the healthcare system. Promote vaccinations by raising awareness of the benefits and challenging the myths (see 10 Flu Myths). Make it easy for employees by allowing time off for vaccinations, or working with public health officials to hold a vaccination clinic on site.

Tell employees to stay home if they are sick

Employees who come to work sick cost employers twice as much in productivity losses as employees who stay home, according to a study conducted by Queen’s University.[2] Review your sick leave policy to ensure it doesn’t penalize employees who stay home, and set an example by looking after yourself when you’re sick.

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Chamber Issues Statement Today on Workforce Resilience

With finite public resources available, we need to look carefully at the return on investment of government spending. We need to make sure federal spending focuses on quality over quantity. 

Businesses must have access to a workforce willing to step into uncertainty with them, adapting to new realities, building new product lines, and finding new ways to connect with customers. The skills for that transformation are a critical ingredient to recovery. 

Building a culture of adaptability and resilience is an absolute necessity to post-pandemic recovery. No single group has the ability on its own to address this challenge at the scale necessary, but there is no question that it’s priority number 1. 

Read the full statement here


Donna Brazile Comments on 2020 US Presidential Election

The US presidential election is today. COVID-19 numbers are currently rising to unprecedented levels across the border and in every corner of the globe. There has never been a more important time for visionary leaders from the public and private sector to meet to find solutions to rebuild our future and our economy. On November 17, join political strategist and former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, as she analyzes the results of the US presidential election and provides her thoughts on what it means for Canada and the North American economy.


Ontario Releases COVID-19 Response Framework to Help Keep the Province Safe and Open 

In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, the Ontario government has developed the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. It ensures that public health measures are targeted, incremental, and responsive to help limit the spread of COVID-19, while keeping schools and businesses open, maintaining health system  capacity, and protecting vulnerable people, including those in long-term care.

The framework takes a gradual approach that includes introducing preventative measures earlier to help avoid broader closures and allow for additional public health and workplace safety measures to be introduced or removed incrementally. It categorizes public health unit regions into five levels. Each level outlines the types of public health and workplace safety measures for businesses and organizations.

Read the full statement here

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Businesses Using a Personal Banking Account Can Now Apply for CEBA

As first announced by Prime Minister Trudeau at the CCC AGM & Convention on Monday, businesses that use personal bank accounts to operate may now apply for a CEBA loan. Contact your primary financial institution to apply. 

Learn more about it here


Canada Life Business Boost Program to Give 12 Small Businesses Across Canada A One-Time Grant of $10,000 

Recognizing that small businesses are facing adversity during COVID-19 and that many are facing significant challenges and struggling to keep their doors open, this week, Canada Life announced its Business Boost program to provide small businesses with financial support that could help make all the difference. Canada Life is offering 12, one-time grants of $10,000. Applications are due November 12. Learn more about it here


Insurers Stepping Up To Help Small Businesses in Ontario

To help struggling small businesses in Ontario secure insurance during COVID-19, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is announcing the launch of a new Business Insurance Action Team (BIAT) to help to find viable insurance solutions for as many small businesses in Ontario’s hospitality sector as possible. The BIAT will launch in November. In the meantime, IBC encourages small business owners facing challenges to visit or call its Business Insurance Helpline at 1-844-2-ask-IBC.

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To assist our local employers, the Sarnia-Lambton COVID-19 Business/Economic Task Force is running a follow-up Business Impact Survey. The survey is designed to better understand the specific challenges businesses are facing. Additionally to discover how the community and government can best support local employers. 


The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete and is available here.

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Ontario is home to some of the world’s greatest manufacturers, representing 750,000 workers. Ontario Made is a celebration of Ontario Manufacturing led by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. Manufacturers are encouraged to register their Ontario Made products to this searchable consumer database and receive a digital Ontario Made logo as we promote the very best that this province has to offer. Read more about it here

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Applications Now Open for Canada United Small Business Relief Fund

Small businesses can now apply online for the second round of funding through the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund. On October 20th, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, announced that the Government of Canada has invested $12 million in the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund.  With the increased investment from the Federal Government, this second round of funding will help thousands of small businesses across the country. Canada United is a national fundraising campaign created by the Royal Bank of Canada in collaboration with private sector partners and Chambers of Commerce. The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, which is managed by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, is supporting Canadian small businesses with grants of up to $5,000.

Visit for more details.


2020 Ontario Economic Report – Deadline Extended to November 3rd 

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce are looking for your insight on what matters to business amidst this pandemic. The interactive results from the first round are LIVE!

This survey will take a deeper dive on business confidence as well as other pressing issues. Tell us how confident you are in Ontario’s economy and recovery, and what your organization’s outlook is for 2021. Share your views by taking a short three-minute survey here:


Canada Emergency Business Account Now Open to Businesses Using Personal Bank Accounts 

On Monday, during his remarks at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM and Conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that effective immediately, businesses currently operating through a personal bank account will now be able to access the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). To be eligible, businesses must have been operating as a business as of March 1, 2020, must successfully open a business account at a Canadian financial institution that is participating in CEBA, and meet the other existing CEBA eligibility criteria. The deadline to apply for CEBA is December 31, 2020.

Read the full news release here.


Time-of-Use or Tiered Electricity Prices? You Now Have A Choice! If you’re a residential or small business customer that pays Time-of-Use (TOU) electricity prices, you now have a choice. You can contact your electricity utility and opt-out of TOU and pay Tiered prices instead, choosing the price plan that’s right for how you consume electricity. With TOU, the price you pay depends on when you use electricity whereas with tiered prices, you use a certain amount of electricity each month at a fixed price anytime of the day. Once you exceed that limit, a higher price applies.

If you want to continue paying TOU prices, no action is required. If you’re considering a switch to Tiered prices, get a price comparison using the OEB’s online bill calculator at

For more information on choosing the price plan that is right for you, visit

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The 1st Annual Give Up A Meal Fundraising Event has launched in support of great local charities, featuring Sarnia’s Favourite Restaurant Bracket! 


Give-Up A Meal was designed so that everyone, including restaurants, charities and participants, can win! The name comes from

the idea that if you were to make a donation to a local charity based on what you would normally spend on a meal, you

would make an impact on our community. We encourage all participants to support local restaurants as often as their

budget allows, and hope this event exposes people to a new favourite dining option.


Participants will team up with their family and friends for this peer-to-peer fundraiser to collect donations for their

charity of choice. Each team member can also choose to promote a different restaurant. The more they fundraise, the

better their chances of winning gift cards to some of their favourite Sarnia restaurants!


Since COVID-19 has all but eliminated in-person events, fundraising efforts have been paired with Sarnia’s Favourite

Restaurant Bracket as a way for community members and restaurants to have fun and rave about their favourite meals.


Using a single-elimination knock-out tournament bracket (think March Madness), 32 restaurants have been matched-up

and patrons will decide who is the favourite of each pairing. When voting, patrons may have to reflect on who they been

ordering from the most through COVID, who serves the tastiest meal, or if it’s a real nail biter – they may just have to

order from both places to decide!


At the end of each round, the restaurant with the most votes moves on, until only one restaurant remains – Sarnia’s

Favourite Restaurant.


The bracket is meant to be a fun way to promote and support some of Sarnia’s favourite restaurants. While the bracket

will feature 32 restaurants that signed up to participate, there are still many other amazing places to grab a bite – so

don’t forget about them either!


Like so many people, we’ve participated in the Supporting Sarnia Business through COVID Facebook group and from that

came up with the idea for Give-Up A Meal. Thanks to Rodney and Kendra for creating the space for people to highlight

all the amazing local businesses. A special thank you goes out to On the Dot for being a sponsor and helping deliver all

the marketing materials to restaurants.

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Partners and Sponsors