The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, is looking ahead now that the Trump administration in the U.S. has notified Congress that it plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In a “5 Minutes for Business” brief to members, Hendrik Brakel, the senior director, Economic, Financial and Tax Policy at the Canadian Chamber, has outlined what might be expected now that this 90-day “heads up” period has been initiated by the U.S.

“Every special interest and aggrieved Wisconsin dairy producer will have a chance to provide input during the consultation period,” writes Brakel. “Then whatever new agreement is negotiated must pass the (U.S.) House and the Senate.”

Brakel notes that “all three governments—Canada, the U.S. and Mexico—want NAFTA 2.0 wrapped up ASAP. Canada wants to end the uncertainty that is hurting investment, and for our partners it is even more urgent.”

Pointing out that the original Free Trade Agreement involving Canada and the U.S. took 18 months to negotiate (“and our governments were the closest of friends during this period—May 1986 to October 4, 1987”), Brakel questions whether it is even possible to renegotiate NAFTA as soon as some politicians would hope.

“There may be another way,” writes Brakel of the OCC. “The USTR (U.S. Trade Representative) referred to NAFTA modernization as opposed to renegotiation. In the past, NAFTA has been amended extensively without going back to Congress. We could add a chapter on e-commerce, fix the rules of origin and sign a bunch of side letters that could give the Americans the win they need.”

Brakel closes his “5 Minutes for Business” letter with a word of optimism: “Let’s hope they take what they can get. Otherwise, NAFTA 2.0 is doomed.”

The complete edition of this “5 Minutes for Business” (a downloadable PDF) can be seen HERE.


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The City of Sarnia is now inviting local businesses to apply for a grant to install a charge station at their location, the purpose being to provide free power for mobility devices.

A news release from Dale Mosely, accessibility coordinator for the City, said the “Charge n’ Go” initiative follows an initiative that took place last year where the City partnered with the County of Lambton for mobility device charging stations at 13 public buildings and spaces, including parks, libraries, City Hall, Lambton Shared Services and Lambton Public Health.

The “Charge n’ Go” initiative includes a grant of up to $500 to install charging stations and a starter kit that includes a sign and information on where to install the charging station.

By adding charging stations, businesses can:

  • Open their doors to more people;
  • Have a reputation of being socially responsible businesses;
  • Market the business in a unique way;
  • Be part of an inclusive movement in the City of Sarnia; and
  • Take advantage of further marketing opportunities.

The cost to businesses is said to be 17 to 25 cents per charge.

To apply for the grant, businesses can CLICK HERE to download and complete the online application or can contact Mosely at (519) 332-0330 ext. 3307 or by email:

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Ticket sales are going strong with less than 30 days remaining until the Chamber’s 2017 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala lights up downtown Sarnia and the Imperial Theatre on June 16.

You won’t want to miss out as the date gets closer, says Sharon Sielky, who chairs the volunteer committee organizing the event.

“We know that it’s often said that our community tends to be ‘last minute’ when it comes to securing tickets,” notes Sielky. “But maximizing their choice of seats is also important to some people, so now’s the time to go online at or call the box office at (519) 344-7469.”

The June 16 event promises to be, as it is every year, one of the greatest events on the Chamber calendar, an opportunity to celebrate outstanding individuals and businesses who have been nominated and cheer them on.

Thanks go out to all the 2017 OBAA supporters, including lead event sponsor Libro Credit Union.






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Marc Alton, co-owner of Alton Farms Estate Winery, with Claudio Montanaro, who is working at the winery, located on Aberarder Line since 2005.

It was either good planning or a lucky break for chamber attendees at Wednesday’s Business After 5 event hosted by  Tourism Sarnia-Lambton, with the “Beach Party” theme merging nicely with one of the warmest days (so far) of the year.

Attendees loved  the unique flip flop networking game and the food was abundant and super.  The event also included  wines by Alton Farms Estate Winery, a proud Chamber member and nominee in the Agri-Business category in this year’s Outstanding Business Achievement Awards, to be held Friday, June 16 at the Imperial Theatre.  Pictures of the event are available here.

Thanks to all who made this event a tremendous success!


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Changes could discourage investment, eliminate jobs and diminish economic opportunities in Ontario, especially among small business owners

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne recommending that an economic analysis take place before changes are made to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including the introduction of a $15 minimum wage. The letter is cautioning that these reforms may have unintended consequences impacting job creation and competitiveness, as well discouraging investment in the province.

The potential reforms are coming at a time when costs for consumers and the cost of doing business is high and putting Ontario at a competitive disadvantage. Ontario has experienced slower growth in GDP and job creation than in the past, and drastic reforms to labour and employment run the risk of causing serious damage to the future prosperity of the province.

“These sweeping changes have the potential to slow job creation and impact the health of our local economy,” said Shirley de Silva, President and CEO, Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce. “The Government of Ontario should fully understand and make public how the proposed changes would impact investment, jobs and economic growth.”

The letter reminds the Premier that Ontario’s employer community is doing its part to create better jobs and working conditions in the province. Budget 2017 points out that 98% of all new jobs created since the recession have been full time, and 78% have been above average wage for their respective industries.

Statistics Canada data shows that part-time work has risen 22 percent since 2003, down from the 36 percent increase in the previous 12-year period. Studies also show that 76 percent of part-time workers voluntarily choose part-time work to better accommodate schooling or personal life.

“We are urging Premier Wynne to complete an economic impact analysis of the proposed reforms to limit potential consequences that could seriously jeopardize our future growth,” said Richard Koroscil, Interim-President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We support reform where and when it is needed, but we caution against change for change’s sake.”

The letter notes that the goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive. The OCC believes that what supports the competitiveness of Ontario’s economy can also help enhance quality of work. Increased education and enforcement may assist with compliance to Government regulations and can improve worker environments. Regulatory reform that raises costs for business, only to reduce the ability of business to invest in and grow the labour force is counterproductive.

Read the OCC’s letter to Premier Wynne.

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A team of staff and amazing volunteers from the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is ready to roll out the welcome carpet for delegates to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce 2017 Annual General Meeting, which begins this Thursday, May 4 and runs through Saturday, May 6.

In addition to various presentations and discussions taking up much of Friday at the Holiday Inn in Point Edward, delegates are being treated to social events and dinners arranged by the local chamber to highlight what Sarnia-Lambton has to offer, including a First Friday experience and the Beer Show.

Saturday features the Ontario Policy Advocacy Report, a debate of 37 policy resolutions put forward by the individual chambers, and a discussion with Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

Sarnia Lambton Chamber members are encouraged to come out to the Beer Show at First Friday in downtown Sarnia if they would like to meet the delegates.  Members are also encouraged to attend a Meet and Greet with Andrea Horwath.


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Ontario’s political parties will be making a point to reach out to the business community as the next general election, scheduled for no later than June 7, 2018, approaches.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, in its role as the definitive voice of business in the area, is committed to helping facilitate that dialogue, says President & CEO Shirley de Silva.

“We understand how important it is to begin the dialogue on issues of importance to business and we’ll be doing everything possible to help the various political parties engage with our community,” she said.

One example of that dialogue beginning, but by no means the only one, is a website being hosted by the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, which serves as the Opposition at Queen’s Park.

The site——is seeking input from business as well as other constituencies.

“We do expect other opportunities to engage with political parties and candidates will come our way and we’ll pass on those to our members and do our part to facilitate those conversations,” said de Silva.

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A committee of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is ready to help businesses with questions related to exporting. The Global Business Opportunities Committee (GBOC), which has been building a community of exporters since its launch last October, is offering its expertise to mentor and advise businesses of all sizes, sectors and experience who are selling (or just thinking of selling) their products outside of Canada.

If you are wondering how to access global markets, contact GBOC Chair, John Wood. He can be reached by email at

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Chamber questions where business growth will come from

Yesterday, the Ontario Government presented the first balanced budget since the 2008 recession. The Sarnia Lambton Chamber commends the Province for this achievement, but is concerned that new funding will place a tremendous fiscal burden on future generations and considerable pressure on future economic planning. Budget 2017 projects no deficits over the next three years, nor does it project any surpluses, or commit to paying down the $302 billion that Ontario owes in public debt.

The budget expects business investment to grow by 3.1% annually to 2020, and yet business investment has slowed and business confidence has fallen, as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce reported in its Ontario Economic Report. This is due to increasing input costs like electricity and Cap and Trade, as well as economic uncertainty around US trade policies.

Another concern is that a balanced budget was possible because of short terms gains – like selling Hydro One – and projected earnings from Cap and Trade. Assets can only be sold once, so this revenue isn’t sustainable, and Ontarians must wait and see how future rounds of carbon auctions pan out.

“The Chamber is pleased to see an additional $30 million per year for the Connecting Links fund, as this will help generate economic activity and help our local communities repair roads and bridges,” says Shirley de Silva, President & CEO.  “The Business Growth Initiative will be expanded by $650 million over five years to help small businesses scale into medium- and large-sized businesses. The government provided some clarity on how it plans to spend Cap and Trade revenues and reiterated its support for injecting financial literacy into the secondary school curriculum.


  • Ontario will not return to planned Corporate Income Tax cuts, jeopardizing tens of billions of dollars in potential capital investment and hundreds of thousands of news jobs.
  • There is no deficit over the planning period nor any plan for surplus. Ontario’s debt will rise by 21% in the next three years as a result of interest charges, with no plans to begin debt repayment.
  • 98% of all new jobs since the recession in Ontario have been full time, and 78% of those were in above-average wage industries. This positive economic activity by Ontario’s private sector demonstrates a clear commitment to good jobs.
  • Private sector investment is predicted to grow by 3.1% annually, to 2020, an amount that would outpace growth in real GDP and household spending.
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For Chamber President & CEO Shirley de Silva and Monica Shepley, the Chamber’s manager of advocacy and policy development, participating in a full day of panel discussions and talks about various issues of importance to members was an important exercise for a number of key reasons.

The second annual Advocacy Day, held on March 27 and organized by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (of which your local Chamber is a member), included a look ahead to the 2018 provincial election as well as discussion around issues destined to be of local and provincial interest.

Those included cap and trade, electricity prices, red tape, and innovation, all issues that are acknowledged to have ongoing effects on the effectiveness and sustainability of business.

Shirley de Silva was able to meet with representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, expressing concerns voiced by members over the impact the province’s plans around cap and trade are likely to have on local business.

Monica Shepley met with representatives of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Ministry of Transportation, with discussions largely focused on infrastructure funding. Among the topics discussed were the oversized load corridor and last year’s work on the Indian Road/Highway 402 overpass.

“We take advantage of every opportunity to keep our position on these issues in front of legislators and regulators,” notes de Silva. “The ongoing work is key to making sure those who develop policy know and understand what’s important to the future of our business community.”

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