From the Desk of Chamber CEO Jill Raycroft | Chamber News

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From the Desk of Chamber CEO Jill Raycroft

The summer continues to fly by and we are doing our best to stay ahead of key issues to our members.

This morning, our Bay of Quinte region chambers hosted a round table discussion with the Minster of Energy, Hon. Glenn Thibeault.  Those who attended and spoke did challenge him to justify the costs of energy, particularly as it affects our manufacturing sector.  The hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid for the Global Adjustment fee make conservation efforts seem meaningless – and in many cases, when one part of the bill declines, the other rises.  We are all speculating on the sustainability of business when there is no end in sight to the energy cost issue.

Ultimately, this government is telling us we are paying for the much needed investment in power generation that had been ignored for many years by the previous administrations unwilling to raise prices in order to build infrastructure.  It’s not really an unfamiliar story – we’ve heard the same about our Downtown core and the number of projects listed within the Build Belleville project.  And, the Fair Hydro plan that reduces costs now by 25% just spreads out the payments required to cover the costs.

There is healthy debate around what those costs really are and the Minister did agree transparency on a hydro bill explaining where the GA money is allocated might help.  It won’t change the price, but it might help explain.  And when conservation efforts don’t reduce the costs – he encouraged businesses to continue for conservation efforts reduce the need to build more infrastructure.  There are also many programs designed to help though the businesses in the room don’t feel they’ve been effective in reducing costs – which is the real issue. 

That said, if you haven’t heard of the energy initiatives geared to help small business – do contact us and we can share what we know.  Our thanks to Veridian & Williams Hotels for hosting the event – Mayor Christopher and MPP Todd Smith for attending along with MPP Lou Rinaldi and our chamber member guests.

At the same time, the stories around the Minimum Wage increase continue and this week we spent some time with Cloud Bookkeeping Services on Wednesday. They offered a brief presentation on how employees will be affected by the increases based on their knowledge of income tax returns.  Noting that scenarios are infinite, a basic review of three different situations identified the actual dollars in pocket at the end of a year would be minimal if not negative.  If the goal is to improve the prosperity of our community, this does not seem on the right track to achieve that. When we hear the compounding effect of what the costs will do to businesses trying to manage the idea of a 32% hike in less than two years, we do need more time to evaluate what an effective solution will be… 

Perhaps we maintain a starting wage at the current rate, but phase increases to the desired rate based on tenure or months/years of service – much like the vacation iniative requires 5 years with one employer before the 3 weeks is mandated.  One of the greatest issues our local employers face now is retention – could this be an alternative approach?

At a quick meeting with MPP Todd Smith yesterday, we discussed the stories we are getting from businesses regarding the impact.  If you have a story, please share this – with me or with Todd’s office and we are going to compare notes and then start sharing them with the OCC, MPP Rinaldi and any one else we think might have an ear with the Minister of Labour.

Thank you for reading…