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Charting our Advocacy Priorities: 2014-2015

September 2, 2014

That time of year is fast approaching; the time when the chamber will be prioritising its advocacy initiatives for our new fiscal year.

At the chamber, advocacy is paramount and we take careful time and consideration when it comes to making the decisions on where to pool our resources. We analyse and consider issues our members face on a daily basis and we break those down carefully into goals and outcomes where we can have an impact. From our yearly public policy survey we can properly research the information we need to effectively advocate on behalf of our members. More so, we look at the issues our members face alongside the trends in the local economy to make the most of our efforts to influence change.

Through our advocacy initiatives, our chamber aims to create an open-for-business environment in the city, reduce red tape, improve the economic well-being of the city and business community and ensure the voice of business is heard at all political levels.

The chamber has been active on a number of issues this past year including the deregulation of store hours, city council structure, development charges, casino, municipal bylaws and road infrastructure.

Last week we hosted our annual Board Retreat to review the results of our public policy survey, to identify the priorities we will be addressing, and establish task forces to tackle each. The new task forces will be Maley Drive, Community Projects, Ring of Fire, and Downtown Growth. You will be able to read the proposed mandates of each of these task forces in the September issue of IMPACT.

In the meantime, you can read the chamber’s new Municipal Policy Document. This report outlines past and present municipal policy priorities and how we addressed each of those issues.

You can access the Municipal Policy Document here: http://sudburychamber.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Municipal-Policy-Document-web.pdf.

Thoughts on the chamber’s advocacy initiatives? If you have a business issue or ideas on what the chamber should be working on contact our policy team at policy@sudburychamber.ca.

Until next time, all the best. Debbi

The CCC is searching for champions to speak up

July 16, 2014

Most Canadians aren’t fully aware of the untapped potential of Canada’s natural resources.  Natural resources continue to drive our economic prosperity.  Industries involved in the production, processing and shipping of Canadian natural resources contribute $336 billion a year, or 21% of Canada’s GDP.  Despite the importance of these sectors, many widespread misperceptions remain.
Over the last year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has been hard-pressed to highlight the prominent role natural resources play in the Canadian economy and in international trade.  The CCC continues to advance public policy solutions to address the competitiveness issues facing these sectors.
Specifically, the CCC is working on a pan-sectoral partnership: the Partnership for Resource Trade to remind people who live far from mines, oil fields, farms and forests, that they too are directly affected by the industries using those resources; as well as the opportunities available to Canada should they be seized.

Canada’s natural resource sectors are vast. The CCC has already published three reports on the electricity, mining and oil and gas sectors.
It is important to ensure Canadians engage in this discussion to make the federal government fully aware of the importance the natural resource sectors have on communities across Canada. The CCC will be asking for business leaders from every region and industry to champion this cause and speak out in their communities on the economic role natural resources have on exports.

The Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce is committed to facilitating this partnership and will be looking for leaders in our community to come forth and speak for their sectors.

Progress will continue and the discussion around Canada’s natural resources needs to be explored. With large topics like the Ring of Fire being on many people’s minds as an opportunity we don’t want to pass us by, we need to make it clear to the government that we as Canadians are educating ourselves on the importance of our natural resources and the part they will play in our future to come.

For more information, please visit PowerofCanada.ca.

Debbi

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Examining the merits of a minimum wage increase

August 21, 2013

You may have heard that the Province of Ontario has appointed a Minimum Wage Advisory Panel, chaired by Anil Verma, Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, to help ensure a process that is fair for workers, predictable for business, and creates opportunities for all Ontarians.

Through consultations with business and labour groups, workers, anti-poverty advocates and academics, the panel will examine the province’s current minimum wage policy and provide advice on how Ontario should determine the minimum wage in the future. The panel will also recommend a process to set the minimum wage that is both fair to workers and predictable for businesses.

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The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has brought together businesses and sector organizations from across the province to participate in its own task force to examine options for determining the minimum wage. I serve on this working group. The feedback received from the task force combined, with research from the OCC, will provide the foundation for the OCC’s submission to the government’s advisory panel. The submission, to be released this fall, will identify business’ preferred manner for determining the minimum wage.

The current Ontario general minimum wage is $10.25 per hour. Poverty groups throughout the province have been lobbying to see this rate increased immediately to $14 per hour.

The Ontario minimum wage has increased by 50 percent since 2003, from $6.85 to $10.25 per hour, giving Ontario one of the highest minimum wages in Canada. Only Nunavut ($11/hr), Yukon ($10.54/hr), and Nova Scotia ($10.30/hr) have higher minimum wages than Ontario.

Ontario, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories are the only Canadian provinces that do not have a formal mechanism for calculating or adjusting minimum wage.

Anil Verma, Chair of the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel recently stated, “I am very hopeful that with a balanced approach we can come up with a system that will ensure both job creation and income security for all Ontarians.”

Only time will tell.

All the best,

Debbi

‘Unpaid’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word

August 6, 2013

As we all know, identifying, accessing and matching skilled individuals with employers is proving to be a significant cost to business.

This has a direct effect on our national productivity and our ability to compete with emerging economies.

While there are many aspects affecting and influencing this situation – the bulk departure of baby boomers from the workforce, and an increasingly specialized workplace – there exists another matter that threatens to worsen the situation; current graduates who are not “work ready educated”.

ImageDespite universities, colleges and private post-secondary institutions across the country becoming increasingly aware of the need to better prepare graduates for the workforce beyond the scope of their fields of study, employers and professional societies maintain that not enough is being done to encourage graduates to seek out the workforce during their school year terms.

There is arguably no better way to overcome the so called ‘experience dilemma’ than with an unpaid placement education: it provides students with the skills, confidence and contacts to enter the job market upon graduation. The alternating combination of periods of academic study and work provides an integrated learning experience that enhances both studies and career development.

Of course, youth have historically migrated toward distraction and spontaneity in place of regulation and uniformity during their school terms. However, while employers do not expect as high a level of professionalism in a 22-year old as they would a 50-year old, they nonetheless look for the fundamentals with which they can help new graduates build on. These include teamwork, leadership, initiative, communication (with colleagues and with the client), analytical skills, making sound judgments and applying their technical knowledge outside the classroom, as well as “soft skills” such as being punctual, positive attitude, and a willingness for continued learning.

While the value of an unpaid placement program is ultimately reflected in the quality of placements and the success of the program and the long-term business relationship that is established, the true value rests in its ability to cultivate engagement and understanding of workforce expectations among students.
Currently, students participating in an unpaid placement program receive the same deductions and tax incentives granted to general students. These include moving and childcare expenses as well as a student’s employment amount, public transit, any interest paid on student loans and the tuition, and education and textbook amounts.

While these are important inducements, it is time the federal government provide unpaid placement students with additional incentives; a good first start would be an income deduction for students who secure employment with their unpaid placement following graduation.

Until next time,

Debbi

Start thinking differently about how you can engage young professionals

June 12, 2013

If you are a Gen Xer (1961-1982) or a Millennial (1983-2001) then I’m encouraging you to read this article. If you are a business owner who employs people of these generations, you would benefit from reading this too.

One of the best ways that I know of to gain new experiences, learn new things, take on new responsibilities, earn promotions and raises, grow your network, and feel you are making a difference, is by getting involved in some volunteer opportunity related to your career.

If you want to be upwardly mobile, to rise up the corporate ladder, then what are you doing to set yourself apart from your peers? How are you adding value to your workplace beyond your job role?

Opportunities abound with business associations, community boards, charities, and other civic committees all of which have openings for young professionals to join their ranks. Many of these groups seek out younger worker volunteers to add their fresh perspective to their group dynamics.

From my own experience at the chamber, we have made deliberate efforts to attract Gen Xers and Millennials to our board, committees and task forces with significant success. Nearly 60 percent of my directors meet these criteria and we have at least one young professional serving on each of our committees and task forces. They are a very welcomed addition and contribute greatly to our deliberations. This is a far cry from what the composition of chambers was several decades ago. We’ve come a long way.

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Employers may be reluctant to free up employees during office hours to allow them the time to participate in outside interests. I can assure you, in the long run, the long-term gain far outweighs the short-term pain. These workers often bring back new skills, a broader network of potential clients, valuable information that can help them/the business, a positive attitude, and feelings of accomplishment that lead to greater motivation and productivity. These qualities can add directly to your bottom line. You are helping to pave the way for these younger workers to become the business, corporate, civic and association leaders of tomorrow.

So young professionals, the ball is in your court. If you are serious about being the best you can be and moving your career forward, why not investigate the available opportunities and approach your employer with a well thought out plan of how your volunteering will benefit you both. If your boss says no, don’t give up, there are plenty of prospects you can consider that take place outside of office hours.

You have a lot to offer: I encourage you to get engaged.

Happy New Year

January 2, 2013

…and just like that, another year is over.

As we all settle into 2013, I want to say thank you for your continued support and participation. We’ve accomplished a great deal over the last year and have set ourselves up for more challenges and successes this year.

Here’s just a few of the issues that we were involved in in 2012:

  • Downtown Master Plan 
  • Laurentian Architecture
  • Highway signage on 11 & 69 
  • Deregulation of store hours
  • Portable sign bylaw 
  • Immigration 
  • Infrastructure funding
  • Municipal red tape

In a few months, we’ll be issuing a mid-year report that will highlight and update some of these; you’ll see that some will continue this year while others will be closed. In any case, be sure to watch for it.

As always, if you have any questions or issues you think we should pursue, get in touch.

All the best in 2013.

Debbi

 

 

Mark your calendars…..

December 6, 2012

As you are likely now aware, council has decided to add three questions to the next municipal election. The questions are aimed at letting citizens decide whether the current environment of regulated hours for businesses should be maintained or eliminated. Image

It has been a long time to get to this stage.

The chamber has long supported the deregulation of the bylaw prescribing when stores can open and has, over the last two decades or so, worked to convince successive councils of the need to do away with this unnecessary and unfair law.

While we would have preferred that council simply dealt with this matter and eliminated the bylaw as part of their regular council responsibilities, the referendum now provides us with a finish line to this issue.

So how did we get here and what happens next?

Well, in October, council discussed the wording of the three referendum questions planned for the 2014 electoral ballot. That came on the heels of the passage on September 11, 2012, of a resolution to add referendum questions to the municipal election ballot.

The questions recommended for the referendum are:

1. Are you in favour of retail business establishments opening on December 26th?
2. Are you in favour of retail business establishments opening on the Civic Holiday on the first Monday in August?
3. Are you in favour of allowing retail business establishments to set their opening hours?

The information received will be presented at the regular meeting of council on December 11, 2012, where the bylaw will be presented for consideration and a vote. 

The chamber is suggesting changes to each of the proposed questions:

1. Are you in favour of allowing retail business establishments to set their own opening hours?

Our suggested amendment is:
Are you in favour of allowing retail business establishments to choose their hours of operation?

We believe the city’s proposed question #1 is misleading in that it could be interpreted that retail establishments be allowed to set their opening hours but not their closing hours. We believe that our proposed wording is neutral and removes any confusion about the intent of the question.

2. Are you in favour of retail business establishments opening on December 26th?

Our suggested amendment is:
Are you in favour of allowing retail business establishments the choice to open on December 26th?

We feel the city’s proposed wording could be confusing to the voter and them interpreting the question as retailers having to be open on December 26th rather than retailers having the option to do so or not.

3. Are you in favour of retail business establishments opening on the Civic Holiday on the first Monday in August?

Our suggested amendment:
Are you in favour of allowing retail business establishments the choice to open on the Civic Holiday on the first Monday in August?

Again, the chamber believes the proposed wording may be confusing to voters and they may assume from the question that retailers have to open on the Civic Holiday rather than having the option to do so or not.

The chamber feels that any ambiguity must be removed from all questions. We believe that our amendments address the requirement for neutrally-worded questions that can be answered by a yes or no response.

Finally, we asked that the questions be listed on the ballot in the order shown above. This ordering places the original and longstanding issue of deregulation at the top of the list.

Following the passage of the bylaw (which we anticipate), a 20 day appeal period will begin. This is an opportunity to petition the Chief Election Officer of Ontario on the validity of the questions. However, you must be speaking to evidence that the questions are not clear, concise and neutral, or that the questions are not capable of being answered with a simple yes or no. 

The last day for filing an appeal will be December 31, 2012.

If there are no successful appeals, the questions are then formally added to the ballot and you vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when you select the next mayor and council on October 27, 2014.

Depending on the voter turnout, the results of the questions above would be binding on the municipality if at least 50 percent of the eligible electors vote on the question and if more than 50 per cent of the votes on the question are in favour of those results.

So there you have it.

The process has begun in earnest and you can be certain that in the lead up to the municipal vote, we will be explaining and highlighting the reasons why you should vote yes to deregulation.

I hope you take the time to listen.

Until next time, all the best.
Debbi

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