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From the Desk of the CEO Jill Raycroft

We enjoyed a great breakfast this morning with our incoming City Council as our guest speakers hosted by our sponsors, OLG & Shorelines Casino.  While the incoming councilors shared a bit of their vision and intent on their personal motivation, it was also great to see the camaraderie among this new group following just a few weeks of meetings and training...  Mayor-Elect Mitch Panciuk shares a special history with the Chamber as well as a past-president and he knows our job is to be your voice at all levels of government.  In some cases, this may be to call the City to action but it may also be to represent our community further up at the provincial and federal levels.  As we come away from two significant advocacy announcements last week - the point is well taken and we look forward to keeping the lines of communication open to support the business and community initiatives critical to the prosperity of our community.

To start that off - we asked those who attended to help us engage our new council in conversation about the things that matter to you. We want to develop our advocacy support and “your voice” with your input and what we heard today was affordable housing is critical.  Regional transit and support for families and individuals to help them help themselves (access to childcare, supported employment) along with support for economic development, health care services and of course, high speed internet.

I also shared how it's important for you to know your membership here has supported a great deal of work that has been acknowledged and has had an impact on both provincial and federal announcements. You may remember the many conversations, statements and media releases that surrounded Bill 148. Following the election, the Chamber network was optimistic the incoming administration would open doors that were firmly shut to any of our concerns about moving too fast and the unintended consequences. Last week, Bill 47 achieved royal assent and effectively repealed most of the controversial elements of Bill 148 – what everyone is talking about is that the minimum wage won't increase to $15/hour in January. Wages will continue to increase but at a more manageable rate – more importantly, it allows employers who are paying higher wages to increase them proportionately. The other big news of course, is the reduction to ratios with regard to the College of Trades. I remember when Mike Harris privatized the Ministry of Consumer & Commercial Relations – and it became the TSSA – and then the Ontario College of Trades emerged about 9 years ago – the Ford Administrations commitment to dismantling it and swift movement is something I did not anticipate. It is very good news for small shops struggling to bring in new talent.

The Federal government has also commended the Canadian Chamber for their work highlighting the regulatory burdens to small business. And while the Fall Economic statement didn't offer any insight to tax reform – the proposed reforms of last fall have faded away – protecting the passive investment opportunities for small business owners.  They have also changed the requirements around depreciation and amortization for capital expenses.  In a world where technology is out of date before it's implemented, having to stretch the cost of that expense over years limits a businesses ability to keep up.  This should help significantly as an incentive for businesses to invest in themselves.

Advocacy work and lobbying can't always penetrate the multiple variables that go into defining policy or politics but we do know that ongoing relationships, solid research and solution based requests do help with the outcomes.  Your support makes this possible.

I've also included a link below to the application for City committees and Boards. Over the past four years I've served on 3 separate committees and would strongly encourage anyone interested in getting more involved with the City to put their name forward. There are multiple committees and I'm sure you'll find one that your knowledge and expertise will be a great support. These applications are due by December 7th. Any questions, feel free to ask me about the process.

Finally, as a quick update on the Board elections – we had what equates to a technical glitch with the nomination forms. As a result, we received 3 nominations for the 4 open positions – which will now be acclaimed. The incoming Board is expected to appoint two additional members to the one-year terms following their meeting next week. This will give us a nearly complete Board with 15 of 16 maximum positions filled. We continue to move through the Accreditation process and are just now finalizing the terms of reference for our membership and government affairs committee. There are openings on each – if you're interested, reach out to me – or Sarah Hannah, Chair of Membership or Greg Sudds, Chair of Government Affairs. We are also looking for people interested in being involved with the finance committee/treasurer role – obviously this requires a special interest and background but we are actively seeking people from the membership to get involved!

Hope to see you at an upcoming event - at very least, our mingle on December 17 at Shorelines Casino.