This Week’s Green Mail…

Click here for our latest weekly issue of Green Mail.  The St. Thomas & District Chamber produces and distributes this business news and community info newsletter each week.  You can subscribe to it and get an email copy via the link on the left side of this page, or view it here on our website, or see it via the Chamber’s social media posts to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

5 Minutes for Business


In this edition of 5 Minutes for Business, Hendrik Brakel, our Senior Director, Economic, Financial and Tax Policy, looks at the state of the Canadian economy and whether or not Canada is headed for recession.Canada’s fourth-quarter GDP growth came in at a brisk 2.4%, but considering most of that growth came from inventories, there is cause for concern. A sharp rise in inventory can be caused by businesses stocking up in anticipation of stronger sales in the future or, alternatively, if a sharp deterioration in demand leaves unwanted stock. We fear the latter.There are three reasons we’re expecting a significant slowdown in Canada: (1) the big declines in the energy sector’s capital expenditures have not yet been seen in the broader economy; (2) consumption looks soft as retail sales fell by 1.7% in January; and (3) while there is good news in manufacturing, it’s not enough to offset the oil and gas sector, which accounts for 24% of Canadian exports and has seen prices fall by half.Overall GDP growth should come in around 1.8% this year, and Canadian businesses will have to focus more than ever on exports if they want to continue to grow.

Read 5 Minutes for Business.

For more information, please contact Hendrik Brakel.

What Does Business Want?

2015PreBudgetCoverOur 2015 Pre-Budget Submission outlines seven key recommendations that we believe the Government of Ontario must adopt in its 2015 Budget in order to return to fiscal balance and spur growth in our economy.

Our submission outlines our increasing concern with how new provincial programs and policies are impacting Ontario’s competitiveness and job creation. Over the past year, the Government of Ontario has implemented or announced several new initiatives that have a direct impact on business, including increases to the minimum wage, a new Waste Diversion Act, a review of the Labour Relations Act, the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), and a potential carbon pricing regime. The government needs to seriously consider the cumulative impact of these initiatives on business.

Addressing the fiscal situation should also continue to be top priority for the government. Eliminating the deficit is an important step the government can take to improve Ontario’s competitiveness and create jobs in the province.

Free Enterprise Awards Nominations Open Now


If you know of a business or individual enjoying local business success, we want to know too!  Until March 31, the Chamber welcomes nominations for the 2015 Free Enterprise Awards. There are 3 nomination categories focusing on long-term and short-term success in business and community service.  For details on nominating a business, organization or individual just click here to view or download the nomination guidelines.

The 2015 Free Enterprise Awards will be presented in the Free Enterprise Reception on Wednesday May 13 at St. Anne’s Centre in St. Thomas, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Annual MP & MPP Luncheon


The date and place are set.  In a format similar to our luncheon with local Mayors on February 18, the Chamber will host federal Member of Parliament Joe Preston and our Member of Provincial Parliament, Jeff Yurek, in an event at St. Anne’s Centre on Thursday April 9, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  
Tickets may be ordered from the Chamber office.  Advance sale only.  $32 per person includes a buffet lunch served 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.  Our speakers open the business part of our agenda with remarks, followed by an open question & answer session.
Preferred, reserved seating is offered on single orders of four tickets or more.  Call the Chamber office and speak with any staff member to order – 519-631-1981.

This event is made possible through the sponsorship of Catering by James Meadows; Dowler-Karn Ltd. and Phil Mauer & Associates, Inc.



Our MP/MPP Luncheon will also include the official launch of the new St. Thomas Proud promotion.

The Chamber is very pleased to support the St. Thomas Economic Development Corp. in the delivery of this new celebration of all the good and great things in the place we’re proud to call home!



The Benefits Our Members Can Get… a quick look

Information overload is something we all share and, here at the Chamber, we understand. And that’s why we’ve assembled a quick checklist for Members to see and consider the growing number of benefits, discounts and services that come with Chamber membership.

The information below is a quick summary. By all means, if you see a program or product you’d like more information on, the Chamber staff are eager and able to respond from our office or to put you in-touch with program agents and reps.

First, let’s be clear on who can participate in Chamber programs and services, or take advantage of significant price advantages we offer across the entire Chamber network.

It’s easy:  Once a business or organization joins the Chamber, all of the personnel in that business or organization can get involved, attend or participate. In some cases, as explained below, our opportunities extend to retirees and immediate family members. You can check another section here on our website for additional details, too.  Go to  the “Membership” tab above this article and below our logo here on our main page. Under that tab is a section called “Membership Benefits”.

Fuel discounts – Our national program with Esso (and Exxon / Mobil in the US) earns you savings of 3.5 cents per litre at any of over 1,000 Esso outlets anywhere in Canada and 18,000 Exxon or Mobil stations in the states.  It’s free to enroll.  Register as an organization for multiple vehicles in a fleet or as an individual. Contact Esso sales at 1-888-330-2419 or to apply.

UPS Courier discount – Our newest addition to our Benefits Bundle connects you with the largest courier and shipping company in the world.  Save 30% on courier shipments to Canada, the US and worldwide destinations. Additional savings on imports, customs brokerage fees & more. 75% savings on heavyweight freight, full load or LTL.  No charge to enroll. No minimums. No maximums.  Call 1-800-MEMBERS (636-2377) M-F, 8 a.m. to 6 or visit

Credit Card/Debit Card processing – Our Chamber Merchant Services program is managed by First Data Canada and not directly connected to any bank so you can choose where your account is locally.  Full range of on-line, mobile and point-of-sale processing equipment.  Monthly account fee just $5.  VISA rate is 1.55%, MasterCard, 1.60%, Interac debit, just 5 cents per transaction. Amex, Discover and other card rates – just ask. New: Mobile Debit for your Smartphone! for more. Follow us on Twitter for the latest deals & news @ChamberMerchant

Insurance – personal Group Plan – The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce has been a strong supporter of our national Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan since it started in 1974.  Life insurance, health, drug, dental, disability, critical illness, travel and more. Ours is the #1 group insurance plan for small business in Canada. Our local licensed agent is Jeff Crossett at ARC Financial. 519-637-0181, Ext. 204, or you can explore our Group Plan through our national website:

Insurance – property & vehicle Group Plan – Cars, trucks, boats, motorbikes, homes, cottages and more.  The savings we achieve by pooling Chamber Members together as a group can be phenomenal.  Novex Group is our insurer.  Our local licensed professional agent is Reith & Associates.  Call 519-631-3862 or go online to and click on the Chamber logo.  Their website will prove our savings and compare our plan with others!

Data Backup & Recovery – the most critical part of any business or organization is the data in your computer systems. Secure cloud-based protection is available to all Members at a 15% discount through Quantum RBS. Hardware failures, theft, flood, fire or any type of disaster could cripple your operation. Quantum RBS takes away the worry and the grief.  Details at 519-633-8903 or email

Moving Forward Together

An Employer Perspective on the Design of Skills Training Programs in Ontario

Our latest report via The Ontario Chamber of Commerce presents the business perspective on the steps the Government of Ontario should take as it evolves the province’s suite of training and employment services.

By encouraging businesses to invest more in their employees, these new employer-driven programs could be an important step toward improving Ontario’s economic competitiveness. But they will only succeed if they are designed with the needs of employers in mind.

Ontario Budget Summary

Spending, deficit, and debt are going up.

This budget increases government spending by $3 billion, from $127 billion in 2013-14 to $130 billion in 2014-15.

The deficit will grow from $11.3 billion to $12.5 billion over the same period. Meanwhile, Ontario’s overall debt will grow to $289.3 billion by end of 2014-15 and $317.2 billion by the end 2016-17. The province’s debt-to-GDP ratio will grow to an alarming 40.3 percent in 2014-15.
Servicing the debt will cost $11 billion in 2014-15, approximately $3 billion more than government spends on colleges and universities.

The budget includes an annual program review savings target of $250 million for 2014-15 and $500 million for each of the subsequent two years.

Our Analysis…

Ontario requires a robust plan to reduce spending and tackle the debt. Controlling spending in an effort to reduce the deficit and debt is a top priority for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network and the number one means by which Ontario can guarantee its long-term prosperity.
This budget falls short on the pace of deficit and debt reduction. The annual program review targets are too modest. For the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s vision for a smarter, more efficient government, see Unlocking the Public Service Economy in Ontario.

Deadline was July 1

Have your workers completed the training? It’s a must for all employers.

You’ve probably heard about the new health and safety awareness training that’s been mandated by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour. You probably have questions about whether or not it applies to your business and, if it does, what you can do to get started.

The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce recently sought a clarification from Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), on behalf of our Members.  According to John Aird, Manager, Industry & Partner Relations at WSPS, “All businesses are expected to comply with the legislation irrespective of size and whether they pay into WSIB or not. There is no exemption. But it doesn’t have to be onerous. The Ministry has created resources that are available on its website to help businesses of all sizes be in compliance.”

The date you’re expected to be in compliance has passed:  July 1, 2014. Employers must ensure that all workers and supervisors have completed a basic occupational health and safety awareness training program that meets the requirements set out in the new regulation.  It’s not a difficult thing to complete, and requires about 45 – 60 minutes to do online, via the link below.

What training has been approved: Employers can develop their own or use existing training, so long as it meets requirements outlined in the regulation, or they can use a suite of tools provided at no cost by the Ministry, available online in multiple formats and multiple languages (see below). The awareness training will help employers meet existing obligations, not impose new ones.

What the Ministry’s suite of products looks like

You’ll find the Ministry’s poster, worker and supervisor workbook, employer guide and e-Learning modules available for download at The worker and employer guides are also available in Chinese, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Print versions are available at no cost by calling Service Ontario at 1 877 202 0008.

Pension Reform?

An Employer Perspective on Fixing Ontario’s Pension Problem

Our latest paper finds Ontario’s employers want a pension system that supports our long-term competitiveness, targets groups that require additional pension support, and builds on the province’s status as a global leader in financial services. Weighed against these and other objectives, employers are firmly in favour of Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs). They are much less supportive of enhancing government-managed pension programs. Learn more…



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