…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
- 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.
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.
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.
It seems like it was just yesterday when it was September. Time certainly does have a way of creeping up on you and then slipping right by.
So here’s what we’ve been up to since I last wrote….
Last month we attended the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM in Hamilton.
The conference featured noteworthy speakers on competitiveness, the economic and political outlook, marketing and prosperity, as well as an address by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney.
The highlight of the conference for delegates is the day-long policy session when the 62 resolutions submitted by community chambers across the country and the policy committees of the CCC were debated. This process is often referred to as the parliament of business – a democratic process where policy positions are openly debated, sometimes amended, and voted upon. Those that are approved become the official position of the Canadian chamber, which incorporates them into their platform and presents them to government.
I am pleased to report that Sudbury’s resolution entitled, “Citizenship and Immigration Canada Regional Settlement”, was approved by the delegates and will now go forward to the government. We’ll keep you posted on how it fairs.
Attendance at these conventions and our work on policy resolutions are necessary steps in our continuing achievement as an accredited with distinction chamber. You can be proud of the profile your chamber has at these meetings and of the respect by which we are viewed by our colleagues from coast to coast to coast.
The Advocacy Agenda
Also in September, our Business Advocacy Survey was distributed to chamber members.
The annual e-survey identified Deregulation, Bylaws, WSIB, Red Tape, the College of Trades, Skills and our community’s image as the chief areas of concern.
To address these issues, we have struck Task Forces for each and are calling on members with expertise and interest in any of them to contact us to participate. The task forces will hold their first meetings next month.
Collaboration and the Network
Way back in May you’ll remember that we convened a roundtable to discuss the issues that were working to create and sustain a skills trade workforce shortage.
Well, since that time, we have been working alongside our provincial and federal chamber colleagues to develop actions. In moving forward with the provincial and national chambers, you can be sure we will pay particular attention to four areas:
1. Upskilling—Upgrade the skills of the existing labour force and better employ under-utilized groups.
2. Immigration—Ensure immigration policy is aligned with local labour markets and employers’ needs.
3. Education—Improve the connections between educators and employers to balance supply with demand for skilled trades and highly skilled occupations.
4. Aboriginal peoples—Focus on education and workforce development.
In the coming months we will lay out a range of actions that we hope can improve the challenges associated with these.
Until next time, all the best.
An economic roundtable will be held to develop solutions for an ailing community/province/country, and they want your opinion. Sound familiar?
While we’ve all had the opportunity to participate in a session like this, it’s often not the case that we are left with a sense that the opinions and ideas shared were going to be carried forward and amount to anything more than lip service.
And yet, sometimes, you happen to be part of one that feels different. Like the Regional Economic Summit Series.
Last week our chamber partnered with our provincial colleagues at Ontario Chamber of Commerce to hold a summit aimed at highlighting areas for the Ontario government to focus on in order to improve community and provincial economics.
Among the nearly forty participants were community leaders, SMEs and international companies from all sectors.
For two hours, we worked toward shaped and defined an economic agenda to drive progress within Greater Sudbury and throughout the province. But more about that later…
First, what made this get together different?
First, the RESS connects community issues and solutions directly with the government and senior bureaucrats. This will happen during the Ontario Economic Summit planned for November 2012. At that meeting, the ideas and areas of concern raised in sessions like the one held in Greater Sudbury (there were eight held across the province) will be presented to the Premier, his cabinet and the senior bureaucrats within the various ministries. They will be asked to take these and put them to use.
Second it provides our chamber with a good slate of issues to pursue at the local level.
So what did Sudbury come up with?
The highest rated business concern was tied to skills and trades. This should be no surprise to anyone.
The solution proposed points to a need to close the gap between educational requirements, government regulations and industry (supply and demand). In addition, the apprenticeship system must be revised to be more reflective of workforce sector shifts.
The second most popular item concerned Sudbury’s image. Participants stated that they felt the city was underselling itself and not doing enough with private sector interests to develop and market a global campaign that provided a whole picture of the city.
The third item concerned infrastructure deficiencies, which, as well all know, the city needs to do a lot of work to make up for a long period of neglect. The substandard condition of our infrastructure and communication networks, when matched alongside with an often insular municipal council and cumbersome municipal regulatory environment was seen as an obstacle.
And yet, it wasn’t all bad news.
The group also came up with some quick wins.
These included the ability of our local council to being more supportive of business by being more assertive and business positive. By trusting business more and looking to them as partners, we can substitute hostility and delay with action and enthusiasm.
They also pointed to our community’s mature demographic as a source of highly skilled and experienced labour. They felt that more should be done to introduce mentorship programs to keep retiring baby boomers involved, particularly in the trades.
There is plenty more to share but that will come in the weeks to come as comments and ideas are transcribed and organized. And will be looking to November to hear what our government thinks as we all look to return the province to its natural place as Canada’s economic engine.
All the best,
As many of you take time to enjoy the wonderful summer weather, the chamber has been hard at work getting ready for the fall.
Since I last posted, we elected and sworn-in a new Board.
Your 2012-13 Executive Council includes Chair Mark Weiman; first-vice Chair Ene Querney, second-vice Chair David Boyce and Treasurer Daniel Giroux.
Our directors are highly dedicated and talented individuals who represent all sectors of our vibrant business community and their energy will enhance the chamber’s ability to advance your issues to government and others.
We’ve also been working to secure a Regional Economic Summit (RES) here in our community.
The RES is a year-round, city-select series that engages communities across Ontario to lead and shape the Ontario government’s economic agenda. Information, suggestions and ideas on how to improve the provinces’ fiscal standing are taken and shared at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Summit (OES) – the big, winner-takes-all, fall summit.
At that gathering, the Premier, ministers and bureaucrats cooperate with business leaders and use the ideas and recommendations collected.
The end-game is to develop tangible policy actions according to five priorities: innovation and productivity, a 21st century workforce, fiscal balance, global opportunities and identifying Ontario’s competitive advantages.
I see this as a unique opportunity to influence policymakers and really enact change.
What we discuss at our RES will shape government policy in the years to come and contribute to a stronger, more prosperous Ontario.
Will you help?
Until next time, all the best.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks.
I returned from China last month and it was an opportunity to see historical sites and encounter the culture that defines China and makes it so unique.
Beyond that, I was reminded of the anxiety that can develop as a foreigner in a foreign land and the sense of creeping unease that can hinder one’s ability to fully apply their abilities and talents.
And so it is for recent immigrants here in our community who are trying to adjust to our culture; they are challenged to incorporate themselves into our society.
As businesses, it’s important that we do our part to extend the welcome and lend our time to newcomers who need career mentorship and guidance. You have so much to offer and it can provide so much return; from leadership, management and coach strengthening to access to an emerging talent pool or being recognized as an employer-of-choice in the community and beyond for your commitment to recognizing international education/experience. These are just a few of the many benefits to donating some of your time each month.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM wrapped up in St. Catherine’s last week.
As always, it was a well organized event that not only sets the provincial mandate for discussions with the Ontario government, but also affords us an opportunity to catch up with colleagues from chambers from all corners of the province.
Highlights from the three days were our successful adoption of a policy on WSIB funding and governance and to surprise wins from our colleagues for our work on reducing municipal red tape as well as our organization and hosting our “today/tomorrow” event.
Finally, I was at the announcement last week for the Cliffs Natural Resources processing plant.
While it has been a long and sometimes frustrating process, I am confident that the hard part is behind us and the next chapter for the entire northern region begins now.
I looking forward to the opportunities that all northern communities will have – and there will be opportunities for everyone; we all have businesses, expertise and people who bring unique and needed skills and perspectives to the table.
Until next time, all the best.
In the days since Don Drummond released his much anticipated report on how the Ontario government can reduce the massive $14 billion debt, much has been said about the danger of making knee-jerk decisions.
It goes without saying that fiscal policy is an essential and influential policy mechanism that must be used with intent when it comes to improving the economy and that it should be exercised with careful consent.
However, as we now know, the status of the province’s finances and the near term outlook of the province’s economic future is bleak. In fact, it’s so bleak, that we need to make some serious and long-term structural changes to how the government operates and services the public. And fast.
Take the two scenarios outlined in the report; the Status Quo and Preferred Scenarios.
In the first instance, the report imagines the province’s financial situation worsening if no changes were made to policies, programs and practices. It’s a scary picture.
Growth would continue to be driven by inflation, population, aging medical care and school enrolments. On this projection, the deficit would more than double to $30.2 billion by 2017-18 and net public debt would reach $411.4 billion. This would eat up nearly 51 percent of our entire provincial gross domestic product (the entire value of all Ontario goods and services produced in a year).
To avoid this, the report concludes that we adopt the Preferred Scenario budget path to achieve the 2017 balanced budget target. Among many things, the report states that by 2017-18, the government’s spending level should be 17 percent lower than the current trend. To accomplish this, the report concludes that the government, “benchmark its effectiveness and efficiency against the private sector….it must be prepared to shed old priorities and offend their advocates.”
Ultimately, the 2017-18 target to balance the books is at least three years behind any other province. Let’s hope the government has the will to make the tough, but needed, changes that will get the province back on the path to long term prosperity.
Until next time, all the best.