Two Job Opportunities


If you love St. Thomas & District, love business, and love working with people, then you could love working with us!

The Chamber has two full-time positions open. Our new Member Services Representative – Internal is a position focused on operation of our internal data systems, contact management software, website and social media/communications products. Click the link above for the full position description. Our Member Services Representative – External position is for a sales and marketing professional, and involves building and maintaining relationships with the businesses that are Members of the Chamber plus generation of non-dues revenue to support our operation. Click on the position name for the full job description.

Applications will be accepted for both positions until 4:00 p.m. February 25.

Green Mail – Our Latest News

February 17… Are you coming as we host lunch with the local Mayors? Details on tomorrow’s Business After 5, news to be #StThomasProud of … that and much more can be found in the Chamber’s latest weekly on-line & email newsletter, Green Mail. Click here for the February 9 edition.  We’re in touch so you can be in touch! Green Mail is the Chamber’s weekly news and information publication and is released every Tuesday morning.

5 Minutes for Business


5 Minutes for Business: Rise of the Trumps – Why Populism Is All the Rage

In this edition of 5 Minutes for Business, Hendrik Brakel, our Senior Director, Economic, Financial and Tax Policy, looks at why populism is on the rise all over the world.
In the U.S., Donald Trump is leading all the polls nationwide in the Republican primaries, and in the Democratic Party, support is surging for a 74-year-old self-avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, who wants a “political revolution.” In the U.K., the British Labour Party has nominated Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to nationalize energy companies and the banks while introducing a maximum wage for CEOs. Where are these extremists coming from? Why are they rising all over the world?
Could this complete, utter rejection of the establishment and the status quo have economic roots? Are people angry enough with the state of the economy that they could be seeking out change at any cost?
Read 5 Minutes for Business to find out.
For more information, please contact Hendrik Brakel.

State of the Municipalities Luncheon Feb. 17


The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce invites you to join us for lunch on Wednesday February 17 as we host St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson, Central Elgin Mayor Dave Marr, and Southwold Mayor Grant Jones for our 6th annual “State of the Municipalities” luncheon at  St. Anne’s Centre in St. Thomas. Tickets are $32 per person and the event includes a hot/cold buffet luncheon. Doors open at 11:15 a.m. The event will conclude by 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now through the Chamber of Commerce office.  Advance sale only. For additional details, see the event listing in the column on the right.

The State of the Municipalities luncheon is made possible through the generous support of our sponsor, the Workforce Planning and Development Board.

We’re Going Back to China This Fall!

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The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce is hosting our fourth trip to China – an incredible 11-day adventure departing St. Thomas on Wednesday October 5, returning Saturday October 15. Prices have dropped. Our Member price is just $2499 CANADIAN and the tour this year will include Xi’an and the Terra-Cotta Warriors. In 2013 and 2014, this trip was excellent value at $2499 US DOLLARS and the Xi’an tour was an option for an extra $500 (US). This year, our all-in price is the best value yet.

Interest in this tour is the strongest ever. At our first trip information session on February 2 we had to add seating to accommodate all attending and bookings have begun.

To view or download our full itinerary and see additional information, just click here. Elgin Travel & Cruises is our exclusive local travel agent and Ineke Palmer in their office is our group specialist. She welcomes your calls anytime at 519-633-6300.

Emerging Stronger 2016

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the St. Thomas & District Chamber, in partnership with the Mowat Centre, have released the fifth and final iteration of Emerging Stronger. A detailed economic agenda for Ontario, Emerging Stronger 2016 identifies the immediate steps that government and the private sector must take to enhance Ontario’s economic competitiveness and spur job creation in the province.

Ontario businesses are increasingly unsure about the direction of the provincial economy, according to a new survey from the OCC and Leger. The annual Ontario Business Confidence Index, featured in Emerging Stronger 2016, shows that business confidence in the Ontario economy is at a five-year low.

Choice Wine? Here Are Our Choices…

As is our custom after our annual St. Thomas Uncorked events, we offer the entire list of wine choices used in our event to everyone attending. And, thanks to our website, everyone else can see them. Click here for our list from Saturday January 23. And enjoy!

Our Latest Report: Immigration for a Competitive Canada

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Our newest report prepared by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is here: Immigration for a Competitive Canada: Why Highly Skilled International Talent Is at Risk.This report looks at our current immigration regime and how Canada risks losing its competitive advantage when it comes to attracting highly skilled international talent. For instance, the Express Entry system is not aligned with business success, and the restrictions of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are hurting many high-value sectors across the economy.

The report also proposes solutions to ensure policies and processes aren’t standing in the way of talented people coming to Canada and contributing to our economic growth. Highly-skilled workers don’t take opportunities away from Canadians, they help us create them. Our economy depends on talented immigrants to help boost our innovation performance, which is currently lagging behind many other developed countries. We can’t afford not to have the best processes in place. As this report emphasizes, changes are necessary.

Ontario Economic Update 2016: Inside the London/St. Thomas Region

Strong Manufacturing Gains to Boost London CMA Region Economy:

The most wide-reaching provincial economic forecast of the year, the Ontario Economic Update 2016, has been released by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Credit Unions of Ontario, with support from the London Chamber of Commerce and the St. Thomas District Chamber of Commerce.

The London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) economy, which includes London, St. Thomas, and surrounding towns, grew at a rapid rate in 2015 on the strength of gains in the manufacturing sector. The report finds that employment in the London CMA grew by nearly 4 percent in 2015, putting total employment very close to the 2007 pre-recession high. Contributing to the gains is a surge in manufacturing employment in the London CMA, up 20 percent so far in 2015, though part of this upshift could be due to sample variability in the Labour Force Survey.

The London CMA also experienced a gain in construction employment in 2015, supported by a more active housing market, the result of more residential and non-residential investment as evidenced by building permits and housing starts activity.

The employment outlook for the London CMA is equally encouraging. Through 2017, the London CMA will experience moderate growth in employment, while the unemployment rate is projected to fall to under 6 percent by 2017, after falling to a projected 6.8 percent in 2015. This is a marked decrease from London’s 10 percent unemployment rate in 2009.

The outlook is positive for further gains in the housing market against the backdrop of low mortgage rates and some improvement in economic and income growth in 2016 and 2017. Housing sales via the Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) are forecast to rise 10.3 percent in 2016 and 4.7 percent in 2017, following estimated growth of 10.8 percent in 2015. The average MLS® sale price is forecast to rise 6.4 percent in 2016 and 7.1 percent in 2017, following an estimated gain of 3.3 percent in 2015.

According to the province-wide data, most areas of Ontario will enjoy improving economic conditions in the coming year. Growth will be driven in part by an uptick in exports, the result of a stronger U.S. economy and a low Canadian dollar. Government fiscal policy will also be a key driver, as federal and provincial infrastructure commitments will stimulate growth across a variety of sectors.

“These are very encouraging numbers and a significant departure from where we were in 2008-2010. I am confident that while we still have a few pockets of uncertainty in our economic region, the overall findings in this report bode very well for our future and those of our neighbours.” said Gerry Macartney, CEO of the London Chamber. “With more focus on new global markets and determining how best to take advantage of new Canadian Foreign Trade deals such as CETA and the TPP our region is poised for significant growth over the next ten years”.

St. Thomas & District Chamber President & CEO Bob Hammersley adds comments from the southern portion of the region saying “With respect to the St. Thomas & District market, we have observed modest gains in housing starts and institutional construction however, in the near term, prospects for job growth remain modest and a concern for the Chamber. We remain optimistic that we will see return to more robust growth in the future thanks to the ideal positioning of advanced manufacturing and agri-business here.”

Allan O’Dette, President & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce: “Ontario businesses are helping Ontario emerge stronger from the downturn. However, our economy still faces significant challenges. In order to generate sustained economic growth, government must invest in infrastructure, close the skills gap, and ensure that input costs do not stifle investment or job creation.”

Helmut Pastrick, Chief Economist, Central 1 Credit Union: “Ontario and its regional economies will grow at a moderate but faster pace through 2017 aided by favourable external factors such as the low dollar and interest rates and an improving U.S. economy. Most regions will participate and contribute to Ontario’s improved economic prospects though differences exist among regions. Resource-based regions will be weighed down by poor metal markets.”

Key Facts and Highlights:

  • The London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) is comprised of the cities of London and St. Thomas and a number of neighbouring urban jurisdictions. It is home to approximately 506,000 people.
  • 2015 Employment growth in the London CMA (3.7 percent) compares favourably to Ontario’s overall employment growth which is projected at 0.8 percent.
  • London CMA’s unemployment rate of 6.8 percent is just below Ontario’s projected 2015 unemployment rate of 6.9 percent.
  • Population in the London CMA is forecast to grow at 0.8 percent in 2016 and 0.9 percent in 2017, on par with estimated growth of 0.8 percent in 2015. Net in-migration, mostly from other parts of Ontario, will pick up and account for more than half of total growth.

View and download the full economic outlook here.


COP21 – The Canadian Chamber Perspective



The Canadian Chamber participated in the COP21 Climate Conference, which ran from November 30 to December 11. Canadian Chamber staff produced periodic briefing notes to keep our membership apprised of the proceedings and the potential impact for Canadian business. For more information, click here.

The World Agrees at Last

On Saturday December 12, history was made as the world adopted the first-ever universal agreement on climate change. The Paris Agreement differs from all previous COP agreements in the sense that it provides a framework for a bottom-up approach to fighting climate change, whereby each country submits its own voluntary plan of action (its INDC). Previous agreements had attempted to implement top-down approaches (e.g., emissions reductions targets by certain years) that placed a heavy burden on developed countries while placing relatively little responsibility on developing nations, as seen in the Kyoto Protocol. The Paris Agreement is legally binding in the sense that nations are required to report on their progress in meeting their pledges every five years. However, nations are not obliged to meet their targets, and the punishment for not reporting is essentially limited to reputational damage.
As the parties sat down in the final plenary to adopt the agreement, there was a last-minute point of contention regarding Article 4.4. The U.S. insisted that the word “shall” be replaced by “should” in the line now stating “Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets.” The article then states “Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigations efforts…” This change of wording is more than a minor edit and speaks to the idea of differentiation, which has been at the heart of these negotiations—the division in responsibility between developed and developing nations in tackling climate change and reducing emissions. Underpinning this idea is the right for developing countries to power their development, if need be, by using the same fossil fuels that propelled developed countries to their current high standards of living. The chatter in the halls was that the U.S. delegation wanted to be able to tell its domestic audience that the U.S. and China are held to the same standards in the agreement, since the latter is still considered a ‘developing’ nation.

Canada Represents

“Canada is back” was the slogan uttered by Prime Minister Trudeau during his speech at the conference, and the international community is generally pleased about this. Also keeping true to his promise to be back, Arnold Schwarzenegger made an appearance at COP last week to encourage sub-national governments to take an active lead in fighting climate change.
Despite Canada bolstering its environmental agenda since the federal election, Climate Action Network International presented Canada with two fossil-of-the-day awards, along with other developed nations, for preventing increasing ambition in the text and for supporting the exclusion of compensation and liability in the loss and damage section (referring to financial and other assistance to nations, mainly vulnerable states such as small islands, which are damaged due to the impacts of climate change).
Almost all the premiers were active at COP, in addition to opposition leaders and provincial ministers. But behind the glitz and glamour, Canada’s bureaucrats worked tirelessly from morning to night negotiating the gritty details of the text and deserve to be commended for their tireless efforts.

The Canadian Chamber Active on the Ground

The Chairs of our Natural Resources and Environment Committee and our International Strategic Advisory Committee were on the ground last week, following negotiations. We were one of the few business and industry NGOs (BINGOs) at COP, which in the final days of negotiations met with Minister Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy and the chief of the French delegation, and Special Envoy Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, in order to convey the business community’s thoughts on the draft text. The group expressed its desire to see the following in the final agreement: 1) explicit reference to the private sector as a key stakeholder; and 2) reference to international emissions trading and carbon pricing.
Where the Text Landed

  • Ambition – Parties have agreed to keep the global temperature increase to “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”Canada was one of the first developed countries to support moving toward the 1.5 °C target. However, countries’ submitted commitments (the INDCs) are estimated at best to keep the temperature increase to 2.7 °C. Therefore, to meet the 2 °C target, countries will need to either exceed their current commitments or increase them in the coming years. Also of note, the agreement indicates that in the second half of the century, man-made emissions should be reduced to a level that forests and oceans can absorb.
  • Finance – Developed countries will raise $100 billion a year by 2020, through public and private means, to assist developing countries. This figure will be considered a floor level from 2025 onward. Only part of this sum will pass through the Green Climate Fund, which was set up by the U.N. in 2010 to assist with climate finance.
  • Review mechanism – Each country’s progress in meeting its targets will be reviewed every 5 years, starting in 2023, using a common accounting framework.
  • Loss and damage – Although referenced in the agreement, there is no liability for financial compensation to be paid to developing nations that suffer damage from the adverse effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events.
  • The role of business – Business was not explicitly referenced in the preamble of the agreement. However, the preamble does refer to “various actors,” which can be interpreted to include business. The private sector is specifically referenced in parts of the decision text and in article 6 of the agreement, which deals with markets. In article 6, international emissions trading is referenced through the phrase “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes.”

What are the Implications for Canadian Business?
One of the main purposes of the Paris Agreement was to send a strong signal to markets that the world is shifting away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and, thereby, encourage financial flows to move more in that direction. To some extent, the agreement accomplishes this goal. With a target of $100 billion a year by 2020 to assist developing nations (the OECD calculates over $60 billion flowed in 2014), there will be opportunities for Canadian business in the clean technology field to access this money for projects in developing countries.
It is important to recognize that despite the increasing appetite for renewable energy, the fossil fuel industry will continue to form a critical component of the energy mix moving forward. As the federal government offers ongoing support to boost renewable industries, so too will it be necessary to work with fossil fuel industries to reduce their carbon footprint through technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

What Now?
The Paris Agreement will come into effect once it is ratified by a least 55 countries representing more than 55% of global GHG emissions. It should be noted that any party can withdraw from the agreement following a year after giving notice, highlighting its voluntary nature.
On the domestic front, Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to convene a first ministers meeting within 90 days to identify national emissions reduction targets and develop a pan-Canadian framework for addressing climate change. Minister McKenna has indicated that the target Canada submitted at Paris (a 30% reduction in GHGs from 2005 levels by 2030) would be a floor from which to work from. Mr. Trudeau indicated that provinces and territories would be able to develop their own plans and systems for meeting this target, but many questions remain.
Other key pieces on the horizon include federal intentions to: review the environmental assessment process, develop a North American clean energy and environmental agreement with the U.S. and Mexico and develop a Canadian energy strategy. We will keep you informed as these issues progress.

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