Mrs. Dueck & Mr. Harrison go to Queen's Park

Stuart Harrison and I are just back from a whirlwind 9 hour Advocacy Day at Queen's Park. It was a day of meetings with senior government officials on selected policy issues, a panel discussion on the benefits of advocacy with Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Public Service, town halls with four cabinet ministers, and a reception with all three party leaders.   

The most important takeaway for me was that the work of the Chamber Network at Queen’s Park through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and in our home communities does not go unnoticed by our elected and senior government officials.   The ministers, senior government officials and party leaders all made a point of saying that the thoughtful, solutions-based reports and campaigns by the business community are key information pieces in setting policy.   

“The Chamber is very well respected at Queens Park,” said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “There was a lot of ground covered on behalf of Peterborough Chamber members, and business across Ontario.”

The Chamber Network has seen many successes over the years with this approach including recent advocacy wins with the delay of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) by one year and the removal of the debt retirement charge on commercial electricity bills nine months early.

In 2015, the Chamber Network’s Emerging Stronger: Ontario’s Path from Recovery to Growth document detailed a “Red Tape Challenge” program out of the United Kingdom.  Just last week, the Government of Ontario launched its own program based on the UK example. Businesses please take advantage of the opportunity as the program rolls out over the next two years. More information can be found here:

Stuart Harrison also took the opportunity to remind Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development that a part of red tape is not necessarily the regulation itself, but how a regulation is enforced that can have a negative impact on economic competitiveness. The Minister agreed and went on to tell the story of a hauling company from his riding that was fined, along with its driver, for a form with one field filled out incorrectly by their client. The Minister recognized that the time and money it would take the hauling company to fight or pay that ticket would have a negative economic impact on their business. 

The morning sessions with senior government officials took me through the tunnel linking the legislature with ministry offices to a boardroom on the third floor of one of the ministry “blocks”.  Four of us, including representatives from Kingston and Barrie Chambers of Commerce met with Sheldon Levy, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.  Our discussions focused on challenges with apprenticeship ratios and the urban/rural divide.  The continued importance of an effective pathway for skilled trades opportunities will only grow as provinces and the federal government move toward meeting their infrastructure mandates.  The group also discussed the tools and pathways for employers to access skilled talent, and maximizing connectivity between education institutions and their host communities.  Overall, the conversation was positive and recognized that the issue of skills has ties to a number of other ministries, such as immigration and economic development.

Stuart represented members of the Peterborough Chamber in a meeting with the Deputy Minister for Transportation Stephen Rhodes where the group encouraged the government to use the Chamber Network to disseminate information about projects with economic impacts for the business community. The group also talked about the need for a plan that explores intermodal connectivity (that’s essentially trains, planes and automobiles) and the balance between money for the GTHA ($16 billion) and the rest of the province ($15 billion).  The group stressed there is a difference between transit and transportation infrastructure which includes roads, bridges and broadband.  

The event wrapped up with a reception and words from all three party leaders. I had the opportunity to speak directly with the Premier about transportation and agriculture needs for the Peterborough area before her remarks to the group.

So what is advocacy? It’s about listening to our members and learning their needs and then building relationships with all parties and government officials, having an understanding of the issues, and then being able to effectively communicate the issues through various platforms to those that need to hear the message.

Our Peterborough business community is poised for great things in a variety of sectors.  Celebrating our successes, recognizing the positive elements of the framework put in place at all levels of governments and presenting solutions to inform government about the needs of the business community is a worthwhile exercise that leads to success, change, and prosperity.



Peterborough Airport (CYPQ): Outlook for Growth 

By: Trent Gervais, CMMIII, EMP, CEO, Loomex Group, Manager, Peterborough Airport

It is estimated that in 2021, Lester B.  Pearson Airport (GTAA) will reach capacity. A year ago Howard Eng, President and CEO, kicked off a regional working group that will define how Regional Airports in Central Ontario can relieve the growing pressures GTAA will be faced with in the future. Eng’s ongoing challenge includes the balance of competing on the World stage to be a top player as an international hub, with meeting the needs of regional travel and cargo business. 

Peterborough Airport (CYPQ) staff have been at the table with other regional airports to identify opportunities for Peterborough.  After engaging with other airports in the region it became very evident that Airports in Central Ontario working together as a “system of airports”, would not only assist the GTAA but would make Central Ontario’s Airports an attractive possibility for aerospace companies looking for a home. 

The group of participating airports includes; Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo, Niagara, Hamilton, GTAA, Oshawa, Kingston, Billy Bishop and Peterborough. Takeaways from the workshop included the decision to:

  • Summarize and share facts about the future of aviation for Southern Ontario
  • Hear from each airport about their aspirations for growth in the next 10 years
  • Identify emerging themes, “quick win” actions, emerging challenges, and approaches to realize opportunities
  • Discuss and align on a set of criteria to evaluate options to handle forecasted long-term growth as a region
  • Agree on next steps 

Included in the discussion has been the need for a ground transportation system that will meet the needs of Airport growth. The 407 extension is a positive for CYPQ, as it helps improve travel time to the GTA area, and also allows doors to open to attract clients from the GTA and Durham areas, to Peterborough. 

Airport leaders are working on how to maximize the potential of working together. Possibilities include joint marketing and identifying the airport capacities, such as available land for development. Airports will also partner to work with various levels of Government on projects such as funding or enhanced Government services to Airports; for example Customs, and CATSA.

It is estimated that 500,000 pilots and over 600,000 aircraft mechanics (AME’s) will retire in the next ten years in North America. Research and Development in Canada is another growing industry. It was reported by the Federal Government that in 2014, R&D contributed $29 billion to the GDP and employed 180,000 people. 

What does all this mean for the future of the Peterborough Airport and the Aerospace sector? 

In 2009, City Council adopted a business plan, which has guided staff on business development. The plan outlined the following areas with high potential:  Education, MRO’s (Maintenance & Overhaul Operators), Research and Development, Aerospace Manufacturing and Engine Overhaul businesses. The overall goal of the Airport is to be an industry leader and economic driver for the region. Major tenants such as the Seneca School of Aviation, Flying Colours, and Kadex not only provide employment but also provide unique services to the Aerospace Sector. 

The Peterborough Airport boasts the longest civil runway between Toronto and Ottawa, competitive serviced land for development, a streamlined construction process, assistance from Peterborough Economic Development, great proximity to Hwy 115 (407), an established aerospace sector in the region, and healthy partnerships with Fleming College and Trent University.  Work/life balance and quality of living are also important factors when companies consider relocating. Peterborough offers great opportunities for employees and their families who choose to locate here. 

The Peterborough Airport has been recognized by its peers for its innovative thinking. Carlson Wagonlit Stewart Travel’s destination charter flights are a great example. Overcoming many obstacles, Stewart Travel is meeting the demands of travellers wanting to fly locally to avoid the drive, higher cost and inconvenience of flying out of Pearson Airport. NextJet’s recent announcement to offer flights to Kitchener, Gatineau (Ottawa) and Montreal will not only help residents of the Peterborough region who travel for leisure or business, but will also be another tool for industry and tourism, to attract visitors to the region.

General Aviation has experienced some substantial growth as well. In the last six years close to thirty private hangars have been built at the Peterborough Airport. General Aviation does not just include small recreation aircraft but also includes twin engine and jet aircraft. 

Over the next few months the Peterborough Airport will continue to work with GTAA and regional airports to determine how it can share in the success of Pearson Airport, as well as how to attract new opportunities to Central Ontario. 

To be successful, the airport will continue on the development path it has been on since the business plan was established. Careful strategic growth that matches industry demand, coupled with strong partnerships, will ensure the success of the Airport. 


OCC call for Red Tape Challenge heard by province

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) recognizes that the Government of Ontario is taking an important step towards addressing the cumulative burden facing Ontario businesses by announcing the implementation of a Red Tape Challenge. 

This online consultation tool will allow businesses across Ontario to identify and help eliminate regulatory duplication, lessen compliance burdens, and make it easier for businesses and citizens to interact with government. This online consultation process will focus on six sectors including: auto parts manufacturing, food processing, financial services, mining, chemical manufacturing and forestry. 

"Last summer, the OCC called on the Province to adopt a crowd-sourced approach to regulatory change, where the public could submit comments and suggest changes to the regulations that impact them. It is encouraging to see the Province making burden reduction a priority," said Allan O'Dette, President and CEO of the OCC.  

This initiative is an example of the OCC's powerful advocacy work being directly reflected in the provincial government's policies.

"The Chamber Network has made the elimination of red tape and burden reduction a priority," said O'Dette. "This commitment is the beginning of a process that will address the red tape burden that Ontario's business community faces. This is an encouraging step towards alleviating unnecessary pressure on businesses, while helping to drive Ontario's economy forward."  


It's a question of balance ... and here are the questions

I’ve been participating in Sustainable Peterborough Climate Change Action Plan discussions as a member of the economic and business subcommittee. Throughout the discussions the challenge has become more evident: how do we strike a balance between the current reality and the desired outcome of the future?  

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has spent the past year looking at our natural resources industry through the lens of Why Resources Matter. An infographic released last summer shows natural resources-based industries contributed almost 17% of Canada’s GDP, 14% of Canada’s jobs and resource-based manufacturing represented 46.2% of Canada’s total manufacturing output.  Those numbers show our economy is quite entrenched in this sector and one of the reasons why climate change action plans like the one currently underway for Peterborough and surrounding communities are so important.  We have to figure out how to sustain our economy through a balanced approach to our natural resources.  Take for example the economic impact from a drop in oil prices. How do we push the conversation beyond fear of, for example, nuclear, oil, pipelines, and resource extraction to one of innovation, leadership, and opportunity? 

We have to have a plan and way forward that is sustainable for generations.  The goal of the Climate Change Action Plan is to reduce Peterborough’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  These targets are important because it will foster innovation at all levels of our community.  No one sector, group or level of government can accomplish this goal in isolation. We all have a responsibility.  But do we legislate?  Incentivize?

We also face the challenge of current realities. In the next 25 years the population of the GTHA and the Outer Ring is expected to be around 13.5 million people.  For perspective that’s just slightly below the current population of the entire province (13.8 million approx July 2015).  How will they move around, where will they live, how will we heat their homes, how prepared are our sewage treatment plants? How do we as a province and a municipality prepare?  

The province of Ontario is currently reexamining the legislation around the blue box program.  The current theory is to put the financial responsibility of the program on the producers of materials, with the desired outcome to encourage producers to use more recyclable materials and plan for those products that cannot be. However, I don’t think we can underestimate the responsibility of the consumer as well.  The producer can use a highly recyclable material, but how do we reconcile the issue if the consumer isn’t on board?   

The province announced in the 2016 budget they will be moving toward a Cap and Trade system that is expected to generate $1.9 billion in revenue for the government starting in 2017.  They have also committed to using those revenues to support initiatives to cut GHGs including public transit, clean technology, and making homes and businesses more energy efficient.  Will this sort of incentive legislation work in the business community?  What measures or incentives are there for homeowners?  

In the Peterborough area we are seeing more bike lanes on our streets and more land has been purchased by the City to complete the TransCanada trail.  We are definitely a city and county in tune with our natural environment.  This goes for residents and businesses.   And with a research park around the clean tech sector about spring up at Trent University, it’s quite possible to believe that future companies in this space will help us answer some of the questions above.  However, they need the time, the opportunity, the environment and the support to grow.   The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and GreenUp have the Green Business Peterborough program.  It encourages businesses to formulate goals and a plan of action that will help move them down the path to environmental sustainability.  Check out the program at

Canada’s economy is heavily invested in natural resources from water, to forests to minerals to oil and natural gas.  Moving forward from where we are today is going to take strategy, cooperation and balance. 


Getting it right: A framework for "Scaling Up"

It’s no surprise to us in Peterborough that entrepreneurship is rapidly becoming a focus in our economy.  

A few weeks ago entrepreneurship was included in the Chamber’s Top 10 Opportunities for growth in the Peterborough economy.  We have seen an intentional and concerted effort to build and create a sustainable ecosystem for startups and new businesses.

What do we know about small business in Canada?  It represents 98 percent of all firms and created 77.7 percent of all jobs between 2002-2012 (Industry Canada website).  This situation is expected to continue.  

What has the government committed to on this issue?  In the 2016 budget, through the Business Growth Initiative scaling up was identified as a key pillar.  “While Ontario is home to dynamic entrepreneurs and many cutting-edge companies, the province lags the U.S. and many other advanced economies in its share of medium-sized and large firms that comprise the economy.  This is important because larger firms tend to be more productive, export-oriented and pay higher wages, on average. For this reason, the Province is taking action to help scale up more Ontario firms by enhancing access to capital and establishing new programs that will focus on fostering accelerated growth — concentrating resources on young companies that have demonstrated success and have great potential” (2016 Provincial Budget). 

What do those of us in the business ecosystem need to do?  The goal of the Peterborough Chamber is to help and be the voice of business to the province in creating a framework to ensure small companies can grow and be sustained successfully.  

As part of representing our members, the Peterborough Chamber is on an Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) Taskforce examining the needs of businesses looking to grow.  The OCC Taskforce is looking to support economic growth in the province by creating the conditions for firms to scale up in Ontario, clearly defining the concept of “scaling up"and the current barriers to doing so, providing constructive recommendations to government and the business community, and answering a few questions such as, how do we encourage more firms to scale up in Ontario.  

The OCC identified “scaling up” as one of the major topic discussions coming out of the 2015 Ontario Economic Summit.  According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Canada ranks as a leader, especially in early stage entrepreneurial activity.  The startup ecosystem includes over 140 assistance organizations.  However, the tools must be in place to ensure the entrepreneurial spirit translates into successful business with economic benefits. 

Part of the Taskforce's research process involves asking business owners about the challenges they’ve had with scaling up.  The goal is to gather Ontario specific data from those who have gone through the experience.  Some of the questions include identifying the top barrier to business, whether it is access to financing, talent, mentorship, peer support, new customers, markets or regulation/red tape. Those answering the survey will be asked how the barriers affected the scaling up process and whether there was any thought to leave Ontario.  The survey also asks about the ease of seeking government resources and the role of the private sector.  For those not interested in scaling up, we are asking why it is not a consideration.

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