Peterborough Chamber instrumental in setting policy agenda

The parliament of business has wrapped up for another year.  The almost 350 delegates attending the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting (#CCCAGM16) voted on the advocacy needs of the business community.   

Among the 70 resolutions debated were two from the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.   

The first resolution, Advancing Canada's Competitiveness using Short Line Rail, asks for a tax credit program and a separate funding program for capital reinvestment in short line rail.  Increasing the opportunity for short line rail companies to improve their rail track infrastructure helps to open up regional economies and increase the efficiency of rail traffic around Canada.  The Peterborough Chamber was pleased to see that it passed with 98.7% support.   

The second resolution from the Peterborough Chamber was called Restoring Canada's Innovation Competitiveness.  This resolution asks for an innovation stream tax credit to complement the Scientific
Research & Education Development (SR&ED) credits that currently exist.  The resolution also asked the government to simplify any processes and to create an innovation environment that encourages private sector innovation.  

“Thank you to the members of the Peterborough Chamber Policy Committee for helping to advance these two issues that will help our Canadian and Ontario economies grow,” says Jim Hill, member of the policy committee and incoming 2017 Chair of the Board, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.  “It was very exciting to see them receive the approval of the delegates.”

Also passed during the two-day policy debate sessions were resolutions on scaling up, broadband connectivity, marijuana distribution, increasing the efficiency of the regulatory review process around natural resource development, air travel competitiveness, and improving the Express Entry immigration system to recognize the value of graduating international students to our workforce.   

"The annual policy process is quite remarkable. Most of the recommendations to government come from chambers just like ours, from across the country. There is a lot of research that goes in to the typical policy resolution," says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. "The resolutions are then studied by Chamber committees across the country in order to make sure they are accurate and reflect all regions of Canada. The AGM provides a final opportunity for tweaking, wordsmithing, and collaboration, but more importantly for approval by the delegates."

The work of the delegates now becomes the work of the Canadian Chamber. With a strong mandate the CCC will now lobby the appropriate ministries within government.

"An approved policy resolution has the weight of the entire business community behind it and is a very powerful tool when lobbying the government on behalf of our members," adds Harrison.  "This is the core work of the Chamber network." 

For a full look at the policy decisions go to:


Some relief for businesses on energy bills

The provincial government hit the reboot button with a speech from the throne earlier this week.  

The Ontario Government again identified jobs and growth as their top priority. They also confirmed that next year’s budget will be balanced, delivering on the Government’s promise to eliminate the deficit by 2017-18. Previously announced investments in childcare, tuition reduction, skills training, and healthcare, were echoed, as were investments in the Business Growth Initiative, Jobs and Prosperity Fund, and the Climate Change Action Plan.

However, the area that received the most attention was electricity pricing and lowering bills.  This is good news for businesses in two categories: 

  1. Those, mostly in Rate Class B, that were unable to take advantage of the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) because they did not qualify; and
  2. Those businesses on time of use pricing such as retail and restaurants.

The announcement of the expanded ICI is the culmination of significant advocacy from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), including a 2016 provincial policy resolution from the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the 2015 report Empowering Ontario.  It means the government is listening to what the Chamber Network has to say and this week’s announcement indicates that change is coming. 

The government explains that the Industrial Conservation Initiative will be expanded so that any company that consumes more than 1MW will be eligible. Presently, 300 companies are enrolled in the program which has saved the grid 800MWs through conservation – relatively the size of two gas plants.

With the announcement earlier this week, another 1000 companies will be eligible. By simply enrolling in the program, those 1000 companies could each save 14% on their bill. Depending on their ability to reduce peak electricity consumption, they could save up to 34% when the program is fully implemented, which could be 2018. 
This expanded program is in line with what we heard from a number of businesses at a roundtable event earlier this year with the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, the OCC and Peterborough Distribution Inc, where they expressed concern over the lack of incentives in the electricity realm for Class B users.  

“Electricity pricing is the number one issue we hear about from our members, so we are thrilled to see the advocacy of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the OCC make a difference,” says Jason Becker, Chair of the Board of the Directors, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “We hope to see our member businesses use the expanded program to save money on their electricity bills.” 

The small businesses on time-of-use pricing will see some relief as well.  Throughout summer consultations on the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign, the Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers of Commerce heard about the negative impact of rising electricity prices and security of the electricity network.   Under the provincial government’s plan announced in the throne speech those customers, from retailers to restaurants, will receive the eight per cent savings – an amount equal to the provincial portion of HST.  If passed, this legislation will take effect January 2017.  

Transparency is the reason the Peterborough Chamber and Ontario Chamber Network are still asking for a clearer picture around the makeup of electricity bills.  

The following recommendations were passed earlier this year as lobby points to government:

  1. Make public the full breakdown of the cost-drivers behind electricity distribution and generation and how investment decisions since 2003 have impacted electricity cost. 
  2. Complete and make public a jurisdictional comparison, along with Class A, Class B and Time of Use Pricing for small businesses, that can be used to better understand how Ontario stacks up to its neighbours and competitors for business investment.  

“While the measures announced in the throne speech are certainly welcome relief for business, there remains a fundamental problem with the structure of Ontario’s energy system,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “Perhaps it’s time for a look at the future strategy.”


Transparency needed on cap and trade costs

With all that is going on around the issue of electricity, a recent decision from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has the Peterborough Chamber and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Network shaking their collective heads.

Currently businesses in Peterborough are dealing with price increases that are impacting competitiveness, the impact of a potential merger of PDI into Hydro One, lack of transparency around the items included in the Global Adjustment fee and now the Ontario Energy Board has decided to include cap and trade costs in the delivery charge of utilities.   

This move presents a number of concerns including that it seems to be in direct conflict with the Premier’s goal of being the most transparent and accountable government anywhere in Canada.  

In response to this decision the Chamber Network through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to the Chair of the OEB and copied Premier Wynne and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault requesting that cap and trade costs be their own line item on energy bills for businesses and consumers. 

The letter outlines four areas of explanation as to why a separate line item is required: transparency, efficiency, sectoral applications and exemptions.


Under this area of concern, the letter outlines the need for accurate information to be available to customers so they can make appropriate choices about their energy use including: 

  • understanding how month-to-month emissions costs will help emphasize the value of reducing usage
  • allowing Ontario businesses to properly manage and reduce their usage of fossil fuels
  • offering more information than tariff sheets on a utility’s website
  • creating a direct signal to customers to use less gas and invest in energy efficiency measures
  • educating and influencing customer behaviour


A separate charge will enable customers to confirm they have been charged the correct amount and recognize the different treatment of large emitters in relation to the to customer-related obligations and allow for fewer incidents of customer confusion and inquiries.

Sectoral Applications

Large emitters agree the charge should be separate to allow them to ensure they have been charged the correct amount.


Some users of fossil fuels (farmers and First Nations) are currently tax exempt.  Will this continue to be the case if the cost is rolled into other delivery charges on the purchase of gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas?

The letter concludes with a call for the decision for cap and trade costs to be included in delivery charges to be reversed to allow for more transparency for businesses and consumers, and to better inform customer behaviour to help achieve the government’s emissions reduction objectives.  

Read the full letter on our website:


#TeamPTBO ... What is it anyway?

A few months ago I wrote an article here that coined the phrase #TeamPTBO. Since then the Chamber has seen multiple references to the term, and indeed we’ve used it on a number of occasions, both in conversation and as a hashtag on social media. But what does it actually mean? Who’s on the team?

Read the original article

Let me say up front that I hesitate to attempt to define #TeamPTBO for fear of limiting a concept that should have no limits, but Sandra is on holidays and I need 500 words....

Let’s look at what is a significant local economic development infrastructure.  At the top of the heap is the Peterborough Economic Development (PED). PED is funded by both the City and County of Peterborough. They are the lead agency for economic development. Their areas of focus include tourism, agriculture, start-ups and entrepreneurs, the attraction and retention of businesses in general, the airport, the Trent Research and Innovation Park, Startup
Peterborough, the Business Advisory Centre, and more. They employ professional staff who work closely with clients who are trying to start a business or grow a business.

The list of other agencies that play either a supporting or unique role is very long, including: 


  • The Chamber of Commerce. Our list of services would fill this column, but our core work is captured in our vision statement – “Strengthening Business” through advocacy, mission-based events, strategic marketing opportunities, and business protection and savings programs. There is also the Kawartha Chamber and Tourism, the Millbrook Chamber, Havelock Chamber, and township business development committees of many shapes and sizes.
  • The Innovation Cluster. Carving out a unique space in technology- based, innovation-focused, entrepreneur-led business start-ups and growth.
  • The Kawartha Manufacturers Association. Supported by PED, the KMA is a volunteer-led group of manufacturers focussed on helping each other achieve world- class manufacturing.
  • The DBIA. Governed by geography, the DBIA is still focused on start-ups and growth for businesses within their jurisdiction, serving an events and marketing function as well as a lobby group for the Downtown core. Like the Chamber, there are several similar organizations in smaller communities in the Kawarthas.
  • Startup Peterborough. An entrepreneur-led organization designed to support budding and seasoned entrepreneurs, also supported by PED.
  • The list of agencies continues: Community Futures Peterborough, The Women’s Business Network, The Homebuilders Association, FastStart, The Federation of Agriculture and multiple commodity groups, The New Canadians Centre, the Peterborough Immigrant Partnership, Sustainable Peterborough, The Workforce Development Board, and more...
  • All levels of Government deserve special mention. City and County Councils contribute $1.6 million directly to PED and indirectly to many other agencies and initiatives, The Provincial and Federal Governments also contribute to much of the work being done. And it’s not just handing out cheques. 
  • Contributions from Government include everything from the Mayor sitting on a committee, to the municipal staff working with local business, to MP Monsef’s Peterborough Advisory Council on Jobs, to the very rules and regulations that govern how, where, and if, we do business. As Councillor Dan McWilliams said at PED’s Annual General Meeting earlier this year, “We are more than just funders”.


I assume you know where this is going... Obviously all of the above are the foundation of #TeamPTBO. Let’s not try too hard to define it. Let’s not use it to exclude anyone. Let’s use it as it was intended – a rallying cry for business retention and growth.

Where do you fit in? If you are still reading, then you are on #TeamPTBO too...



Grabbing the ear of government in 2016

Two days and 70 policy resolutions to debate; this is the task ahead of delegates at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Annual General Meeting next month.  It is through adopting, defeating or referring resolutions to the Board of Directors that the Chamber Network sets the policy agenda for the CCC.  

What is a policy resolution?  A policy resolution is a discussion paper that identifies an issue impacting the business community, presents the case for how the issue could be resolved and concludes by providing recommendations to government.  

The policy debates highlight the issues on the collective mind of businesses across the country and the end result is a script that the Canadian Chamber can use in its dialogue with the federal government. 

There are eight main areas of focus: finance and taxation, special issues, natural resources and environment, transportation and infrastructure, industry, international affairs, social policy, and human resources.   

For the most part these resolutions are written by chambers just like the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.  This year, our policy committee and board of directors submitted two policy resolutions: Advancing Canadian Competitiveness Using Shortline Rail (Transportation and Infrastructure) and Restoring Canada’s Innovation Competitiveness (Industry).  

In the rail resolution, the federal government is being asked to create a dedicated shortline capital funding program that is accessible to all shortline companies, and to establish a tax credit program to assist
shortline rail companies in making capital investments.    

The innovation resolution is asking the federal government to: 

  • Rename the SR&ED tax credit the Innovation Tax Credit and start it at 20% of eligible expenses
  • Simplify the process of the Innovation Tax Credit application, using the following as a base: improving the pre-claim project review service, simplifying the base on which the credits are calculated, and introducing incentives that encourage SME growth – so that Canadian companies of all sizes and across all industries can move forward with confidence to bring their innovation to market
  • Create an innovation environment that encourages private sector investment in R&D and technology across all industries focusing on the following factors for success: ease of use for businesses, consultation with the business community to ensure programs are in line with the real time needs of business, achieved and sustainable growth of participating businesses, export readiness, and help with operational scale-up.

Other resolutions of note include Addressing Barriers to Indigenous Participation in Canada’s Economy, Canada as a Global Leader in Venture Capital Financing, the Risks of Cyber Crime, Expanding Canada’s Export Capacity through Harmonizing Agri-Food Cross-Border Trade Regulations, and Improving the Express Entry System for 

International Student Graduates.   

Broader issues from pension reform to marijuana to infrastructure asset management to broadband to scaling up to recruiting talent will also be discussed.  

The goal of the delegates in debating and refining these recommendations is to provide clear direction to the Canadian Chamber as to the thoughts and needs of the Canadian business community, through the membership of chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the country.

You can find the proposed 2016 resolutions on our website

Ontario Chamber Network role in policy process

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce policy debates are often lively as delegates debate issues that have different impacts across the country. 

In an effort to ensure that the Ontario perspective is not lost, a group of chambers and boards of trade review all of the resolutions to be discussed.  This allows the group to have a good understanding of the issues and to pass that information on to their volunteers attending the event.  It also allows for local Chambers to receive feedback on resolutions from members and present the case for support of their resolution to the group.  What we bring to the AGM is an informed group of delegates focussed on ensuring Ontario's voice is heard at the national level. 

This year's co-chairs of the caucus are Sandra Dueck from the Peterborough Chamber and Joyce Mankarios of the Sudbury Chamber.