This Week’s Green Mail…

Click here for our latest weekly issue of Green Mail.  Inside: Our biggest annual celebration of Free Enterprise, some community opportunities, and a big day coming tomorrow for local MPP Jeff Yurek. … all just one click away. 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.

Ontario’s Budget 2015 – Analysis & Comments

Is the Province doing things for us – or to us?

Ontario’s 2015 Budget has been released and the staff at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have prepared a summary of issues that impact the business community.

Click here to see more.

Free Enterprise Awards – A Celebration of Local Excellence


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.

Event tickets are on sale now. $30 per person.  To order, contact the Chamber office. Watch this space – and our Events listings on the right side of this page – for more details on our event, our 2015 Free Enterprise Award winners, and the sponsors who have made this celebration a success since it began in 1974.

Our View on the Federal Budget – Analysis Without Political Rhetoric


Unlike the politicians, the Chamber of Commerce network prides itself on having the capacity for detailed analysis and commentary on the federal budget without rhetoric and grandstanding.  Our goal is to share information that is useful and valuable to the people and communities we serve .

This is an election year, and this is undoubtedly an election budget. There is a strong emphasis on tax cuts for the (hardworking) Canadian families that will receive the bulk of federal largesse this year. Just the income splitting and the expanded universal child care benefit will cost $7.8 billion in 2015 and $4.5 billion per year thereafter. From innovation to infrastructure to the environment, this budget has something for everyone.

In fact, we at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce were pleasantly surprised by a number of the business-friendly tax adjustments and spending commitments. Back in the summer of 2014, the government was forecasting a $1.9 billion surplus on top of a $3 billion contingency fund. Then oil prices collapsed from $100 to $45 by the beginning of January and the Parliamentary Budget Officer expected that the resulting $5.5 billion hit to the federal treasury would leave a deficit of $400 million. Minister Oliver delayed the budget by a couple of months citing “economic uncertainty.”

Since then oil prices have recovered slightly, to around $56 this morning, and we expect them to be back in the $65 by year-end. The government also enjoyed a $3.4 billion windfall from the sale of GM shares. As a result, there is room for some helpful measures to support Canadian business, a few things that will make life easier for business, a couple of gimmicks and a nice healthy surplus of $1.4 billion.

Click here to read or download analysis prepared by the Canadian Chamber’s Chief Economist, Hendrik Brakel.

5 Minutes for Business


In this edition of 5 Minutes for Business, Hendrik Brakel, our Senior Director, Economic, Financial and Tax Policy, examines what’s driving income inequality in Canada and what can be done.

The gap between rich and poor has been widening in most OECD countries. In Canada the top 1% earns about 12% of all income, up from 8% in the early 1980s. In the U.S., the top 1% earns 23% of income, up from 15% in the 1980s. What’s more troubling is that income growth for the average family has been fairly flat.
We believe that this is driven by technology, trade, and much tougher global competition. These are causing fierce competition for highly skilled knowledge workers while reducing the demand for low-skilled jobs.
What can we do about income inequality? If we know employers will pay more for skills, then part of the response is improved education and training. But the other part of the response is to foster more innovative firms that develop the new technologies and productivity to compete and win. The firms that succeed in the global economy will happily pay higher wages, hire more people and create prosperity for Canadians.

Read 5 Minutes for Business.
For more information, please contact Hendrik Brakel.

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!

Pension Reform?

An Employer Perspective on Fixing Ontario’s Pension Problem

One of the provincial Chamber’s latest research projects deals with Ontario’s pension proposals. This report 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…



Beneath The Surface

Our latest report reveals that Ontario’s Ring of Fire, the mineral resource-rich region in the James Bay Lowlands, will generate up to $9.4 billion in new economic activity over the first 10 years of operation and sustain 5,500 jobs annually in Ontario.The report, Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire, makes it clear that the short-and long-term economic impacts of the Ring of Fire will be shared across the province.

According to our study, the mining development could generate more than $25 billion across numerous sectors in Ontario by 2047, including $2.7 billion in revenues for the financial services sector and $1.2 billion for the wholesale and retail trade sectors.

Based on extensive analysis and consultation, our report also outlines the key challenges that stand in the way of the development of the Ring of Fire and a 13-step action plan to overcome them.

Read the report

Read coverage in the Toronto Star

“A stronger economy and more jobs…”

The new federal budget presents the continuity of a plan for economic growth that builds on Canada’s economic and fiscal advantages. The measures announced by the government will help Canadian businesses prosper and compete.

“We have urged the government to focus on where Canada needs to be in five or 10 years, even if it means making tough decisions now. The government has acted on some of the key elements of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Top 10 initiative for restoring Canada’s competitiveness. The result will be a stronger economy and more jobs,” said Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty.

The Canadian Chamber particularly welcomes the money for major infrastructure projects: “Nobody cuts a ribbon when a new sewer pipe is installed. It’s just not a dramatic moment,” said Perrin Beatty. “But thousands of Canadians idling in their cars because of traffic congestion or bridge delays can tell us what investments in infrastructure can mean to our quality of life and productivity.”

There is a strong link between the investment in core public infrastructure, such as roads, transit and utilities, and the productivity performance of all sectors of the Canadian economy. Equally clear are the consequences of underinvestment. “The success and competitiveness of Canadian business depends on modern and efficient infrastructure,” said Beatty.

Measures to better match young workers with the skills needs of business are also a step in the right direction. The Canadian Chamber has made skills its top priority for the last three years and will continue to work closely with the government and the entire business community. In this regard, the Canadian Chamber also welcomes the government’s initiative on First Nations education, announced prior to the budget.

The Canadian Chamber has been advocating the important role remote communities can play in our economy. The money allocated to bringing internet access to more Canadians is a positive step forward for northern businesses.

Finally, the Canadian Chamber encourages the government to maintain its policy of allowing market forces to set services and prices for Canadian consumers. Unnecessary government intervention, however well intended, has a long record of damage and unintended consequences in Canada.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the vital connection between business and the federal government. It helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing some 200,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions. News and information are available at or follow us on Twitter @CdnChamberofCom.

Regional Economic Review

The economic outlook for the London / St. Thomas region is cautiously optimistic, as it continues to experience slow growth and adjusts to considerable challenges in its manufacturing base, according to a new economic forecast released by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce and the Credit Unions of Ontario.
Economic growth will remain slightly below the provincial average through 2014 and into 2015, held down by weak gains in consumer spending, personal income and residential investment as well as declining government investment and spending.
Total employment in the region is well above its 2009 recession low, and is expected to grow modestly over the next two years, from 327,500 in 2013 to 333,100 in 2015. Most jobs will be created in health-social services, retail-wholesale trade and various other service industries. Manufacturing employment is expected to hold at current levels.
The unemployment rate is forecasted to decline to 7.6 percent in 2015, from 8.1 percent in 2013.
Housing prices in London continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013.  St. Thomas will continue to offer exceptionally good value in housing compared to other municipalities in the region, thanks to very competitive and aggressive pricing on land, taxes and construction.  Private sector investment in non-residential building construction, mostly stores and offices, is also expected to increase.
“The economic picture for our region isn’t perfect, but it is definitely showing improvement and promise over the long-term”, says Bob Hammersley, President & CEO of the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.
The London economic region covers Oxford, Elgin and Middlesex counties and is home to over 660,000 residents. The region’s economic base is relatively more concentrated in manufacturing and agriculture, its primary export industries, and has a fairly broad service industry base. Its principal centre is the London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) which contains most of the region’s manufacturing base .

Key Facts and Highlights in our review:
● Housing prices across the entire London & tri-county area will continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013.

● Net migration to the London region is expected to rebound modestly after a dip in 2013. Over 5,000 people are expected to move to the region by 2015.
● The unemployment rate in the region will fall gradually to 7.6 percent by 2015, still above the projected provincial average of 6.8 percent.

● Those industries contributing most to economic growth through 2015 will be manufacturing, professional services, financial services, and retail-wholesale trade.

● Public sector investment continues to shrink in the short term, reversing the post-recession fiscal stimulus. No major investment projects are confirmed across the region in the near term, yet several potentials remain under active consideration and negotiation.  The value and employment considerations of the acquisition announced in St. Thomas January 13 by Sle-Co Plastics Inc. is unknown to date. General Motors Canada has announced that it will invest $250 million at its Ingersoll plant.

Download or view the full economic outlook at this link.  To see our entire Ontario Summary Report click here.

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