Green Mail – October 28 edition

Click here for our latest weekly business and community news update, Green Mail.  Our weekly publication is distributed by the Chamber via email, this website, on Twitter and on the Chamber’s Facebook page and Facebook group.


Got 5 Minutes?

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We are pleased to provide you with a new Chamber policy/advocacy product: 5 Minutes for Business. These short economic updates are authored by Hendrik Brakel, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’ Senior Director, Economic, Financial and Tax Policy.  Look for a fresh post under this banner every 2 weeks.
Our first edition looks at the decline of the loonie. The loonie has fallen below 89 cents, a sharp decline for a currency that was stubbornly stuck around parity for almost three years. Is this a temporary tumble or is the loonie going south for a prolonged period of time? Here at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we think the dollar is headed lower, likely to average 85 cents in 2015 and it could fall even below that because of three reasons:

  • Weaker oil prices because of surging U.S. production
  • The U.S. economy is booming, so American interest rates will rise sooner
  • Markets are nervous about Canadian vulnerabilities

Read 5 Minutes for Business.


China Group Tour 2014

 

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Our latest tour group to China departed St. Thomas last week and is pictured here at the famed Lingering Garden in Suzhou, in southern China.  The Lingering Garden is an incredibly beautiful place that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Our 2014 tour group numbers 28 people who started their tour with 4 days visiting Beijing, then flew south to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou to round out our 11-day trip. They’re in for great weather with Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhow temperatures at 27 – 29 degrees under sunny/partly cloudy skies all week.

At last Wednesday’s annual Business Sample Show, the St. Thomas & District Chamber announced that our next group tour will be a Spring trip to Ireland, departing May 13 for 9 days.  The tour is open to anyone and can be used for business or pleasure. Chamber Members (plus retirees, immediate family, & volunteers) save $200 per person thanks to their Chamber membership.  $2945 is the Member price, including all taxes, 4 & 5-star hotels (plus a night at Dromoland Castle!), return air, shuttle to/from St. Thomas to Toronto, several meals, a cruise on the river Shannon, admission to attractions, and much more.  Our 2015 Ireland tour will visit 4 areas around Dublin, Limerick, Kilkenny and Galway. Elgin Travel & Cruises is our exclusive local agent for the Chamber’s Ireland tour.  Call or visit their Elgin Mall office at 519-633-6300 for details, brochures and the tour itinerary. A $400 deposit secures your seat.  Payment in full must be complete 90 days prior to departure.  Irish spring… could be an exceptional Christmas gift!

 


Province Launches College of Trades Review

The Government of Ontario announced the appointment of Tony Dean, former Secretary of Cabinet and Head of Ontario Public Service, to lead an independent review of the Ontario College of Trades and other key areas of Ontario’s skilled trades system.

Included under the purview of the review will be issues related to the scope of practice performed by a tradesperson, as well as the process for the classification of compulsory versus voluntary trades. Findings will be presented to both the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities and the College of Trades in October 2015.

The Government of Ontario also announced that all trade classification reviews will be paused during the duration of Mr. Dean’s review. Currently, the College is mandated to consider applications that seek to change the certification of trades from voluntary to compulsory. A compulsory trade is one in which workers must acquire a certificate of qualification from a government-accredited school in order to perform work in that trade. Workers in trades classified as compulsory must pay the College an annual membership fee of $120.

This review comes at a pivotal time. In its current form, the College is poorly positioned to deliver on many of the core elements of its mandate, which includes oversight of journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios, ensuring industry compliance and certification, and addressing labour market shortages by promoting careers in the skilled trades.

Today’s announcement is a first step towards supporting the success of the skilled trades in the province. Over the last year, concerns have mounted over the College’s compulsory membership structure, as well as bias in the College’s trade classification review process. However, the review does not touch upon other key areas of the College’s mandate, including Ontario’s high journeyperson-to-apprentice ratios and low apprenticeship completion rates, as well as the low number of youth entering the skilled trades as a career.

Since the College’s creation in 2009, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Network have led the conversation about reforming the College of Trades. In October of 2013, the OCC released the report, Caution: Work Ahead, which highlights several serious issues facing the College and provides six recommendations that will make the College more responsive to employers’ needs.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce will participate vigorously in the review and continue to advocate for changes in the ratio review process.


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 EssoSales@fleetlink.com 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 p.mn. or visit www.membersbenefitprogram.com/stdcc

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.  Coming this fall – Mobile Debit for your Smartphone!  www.ChamberMerchantServices.ca 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: www.chamberplan.ca

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 www.ReithandAssociates.com 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 sales@qrbs.ca


Pension Progress?

Chamber of Commerce representatives have met with Mitzie Hunter, Associate Minister of Finance, to present her with a letter that calls on the government to consider how the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) will affect the province’s business competitiveness.

Chamber research across Ontario confirms that business is concerned that a new mandatory Ontario pension plan will hurt job creation and the province’s overall competitiveness. Though there are many undetermined details, the ORPP, as we understand it today, would require workers and employers to each contribute 1.9 percent of earnings, up to $90,000, annually to the pension plan.

Signed by over 50 leaders from Ontario’s Chamber Network, the letter we have submitted to the Associate Minister calls on the Government of Ontario to provide employers with answers to six crucial outstanding questions:

  1. What will be the impact of a fully-implemented ORPP?
  2. How will the government treat businesses who cannot afford to match mandatory contributions under the ORPP?
  3. What types of workplace pension plans will be considered “comparable” to the ORPP?
  4. Will the government consider broadening the diversity of sources of retirement income to mitigate risk?
  5. How will the government address worker mobility issues?
  6. How will the ORPP impact the self-employed?

To view the full text of our letter, click here.


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.


2015 Federal Budget

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In August, the Chamber of Commerce network responded to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance’s invitation to participate in its pre-budget consultation process by submitting our priorities for the 2015 federal budget. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce collected input and ideas/concerns from across the country and submitted 9 key elements for consideration by the committee.

We are pleased to provide you with the executive summary of our submission. You may view the complete submission, by clicking here.


Chamber In New Resource Trade Initiative

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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has announced a new initiative, the Partnership for Resource Trade, which seeks to engage Canadians in the important national discussion about the key role that natural resources play in our success as a country. The Partnership believes that the responsible use of Canada’s abundant natural resources is an important source of pride, opportunity and social and economic benefit to Canada. The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce is supportive of this initiative and we encourage our Members to inform themselves and support the initiative as well.

The Partnership began a public advocacy campaign earlier this year. To learn more and to show your support for this initiative, please visit the Partnership for Resource Trade website.


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.


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