It’s a really neat experience when you hear from the people that you are lobbying, in our case the provincial government and two other main political parties, that your work is effective, relevant and important. 

I attended the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM held in Oakville April 28 – May 1, 2016. And that is exactly what I and around 300 other delegates heard in keynote speeches from Premier Wynne, Progressive Conservative Patrick Brown as the leader of the opposition, and NDP leader Andrea Horwath, as well as, the current Minister of Labour.

Their positive response to Chamber advocacy reports, letters, and conversations was a very affirming moment for those of us working at a Chamber and more importantly for the members of our chambers of commerce and boards of trade across Ontario.  The belief from the business community in the Chamber Network has given the Chamber Network the ability to speak as one voice for business.  As a network, we offer solutions-based recommendations that provide elected officials with invaluable insight into the needs of business.  In their words, our political leaders told us how they view the Chamber movement as relevant to business and the broader community.  They all asked us to continue to bring ideas forward. To that end we there are a number of recent wins including pushing the ORPP start date out by one year and the Red Tape Challenge which is currently underway.

In all, 37 policy resolutions were debated, with four defeated.  Your Peterborough Chamber put forward two resolutions that were approved, asking the provincial government to:

  • Provide an apples-to-apples jurisdictional comparison for Class B and time of use pricing for small business – as they are doing for Class A electricity users
  • Run a pilot program to allow employers in small urban and rural communities to apply for an apprenticeship ratio increase to help alleviate the apprenticeship bottleneck and encouraging more people to stay in communities like the city and county of Peterborough

Out of the AGM also came the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign.  The goal of the program is to start a conversation about the underlying challenges that are weighing on small businesses and stifling job creation. 

We know that small businesses in Ontario employ nearly 3 million Ontarians and our membership boasts a significant number of small businesses working hard for their communities.  To that end, the Peterborough Chamber along with the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, launched the campaign earlier this week.  We will be holding consultations over the next few months and report on the findings will be released during Small Business Week in October.

My final thought on this year's AGM experience was a speaker who said that “chambers of commerce and boards of trade, and their members are not only leaders in their communities; they are collaborators for bettering communities.” I couldn’t agree more.  #TeamPtbo