We're just coming out of a great mayoral candidate breakfast where we had the chance to hear how they intend to shape the future of Belleville and today was the first in our series of events designed to education the public on their electoral choices.
While the chamber is not the only organization to host candidates during an election season, we do appreciate when candidates attend our events. There is a candidate in Kingston who is opting out of any organization coordinated event that represents an opinion towards candidates performance that might be considered biased.
He claims not to know or can’t be told the mandate of the Chamber- so let it be clear now for our members. The Belleville Chamber of Commerce seeks to serve its members by helping them prosper. We do this by helping you connect and share with each other (as we did this morning) and by collecting your opinions in order to present the "Voice of Business". I also firmly believe a prosperous business community equals a thriving community and every one wins.
I’ve had some interesting conversations with both candidates and members of other organizations who have been surprised by who is behind the voice the chamber represents - and no, it isn’t me - but we have over 500 members. Did you know...
Nearly 300 represent businesses with less than 5 employees.
We have 4 members that have more than 200 employees
We have 111 representing business & professional services
nearly 70 contractors/construction members
57 non-profit organizations
36 representing retail
34 representing healthcare
and 27 representing manufacturing
We are not just the voice for big business though our membership with the OCC and CCC help connect those members to the issues of greater importance to them such as cap and trade and energy costs (while they matter to all of us, consumption for a manufacturer truly impacts their competitiveness in a global way).
So when our members tell us the downtown, housing and safety and economic development are their priorities - I would argue the voice of business is also the voice of our community. This is why the questions we will ask in a debate are important- not because we expect a certain answer but because a candidate's answer will be meaningful to many. It is why the debates and meet and greet events are open to the public as well. Perhaps it is our arrogance in being an organization older than Canada itself that gives us the right to be at the centre of the largest public forum to connect candidates to their voters but it is a responsibility chambers across the country have taken very seriously for over a hundred years.
At the provincial and federal level, the issues are often more skewed to profitability but at the municipal level, the voter has much more power to determine the future direction of what happens where they live and their tax dollars by the people they elect. Businesses contribute to a third of tax revenue; if you consider that many of the people who contribute as homeowners work for local businesses- I hope you will appreciate a candidate who supports the needs of business to grow and prosper does it not just to line the pockets of business owners but to the benefit of the community at large.
I hope you'll join us at our upcoming debate and candidate meet & greets. In an election year that will guarantee change, your choice will really matter. Getting to know candidates from both wards will be important as you attempt to predict what the next council will look like and how they will work together.