Green Mail – December 16 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.

Ontario Pension Update

Leading the Conversation About Pension Reform in Ontario

Earlier this month, the Government of Ontario introduced legislation that will pave the way for a new public pension scheme for the province. The ORPP, which aims to supplement the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), will require employers to match employee pension contributions, increasing the cost of doing business.

We know that you share our concern over the ORPP. That’s why we responded to this announcement with a communications strategy that urges the government to defer legislation and answer outstanding questions about the impact the plan could have on the province’s economic competitiveness.

Learn more about the results of our efforts by reading our media release and checking out some of the coverage we received in the Toronto Star, Canadian Press, Ottawa Citizen, and Financial Post.

The province was scheduled to release a “consultative paper” by December 17. The St. Thomas & District Chamber will work with the Ontario Chamber as they lead the development of a joint submission from the entire Chamber Network. Further, we will be working to schedule consultations with the Minister throughout Ontario. Stay tuned in the New Year for more information.

Ireland, Spring 2015



Our next group tour opportunity is an incredible 9-day tour of southern Ireland departing Wednesday May 13, 2015.

As with our previous tour groups to China, this trip is offered jointly by the St. Thomas & District Chamber and the Strathroy & District Chamber. The tour is open to anyone and can be used for business or pleasure. Chamber Members (plus retirees, immediate family, & volunteers) get a discount of $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.

Click here for a link to our complete itinerary and tour guide.

Elgin Travel & Cruises is our exclusive local Chamber travel agent for this tour.  Call or visit their Elgin Mall office at 519-633-6300 for all details and bookings. 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!


5 Minutes for Business



CLICK HERE to read the latest in our continuing “5 Minutes for Business” series. In this edition, Hendrik Brakel, our Senior Director, Economic, Financial and Tax Policy, explains why we are seeing lower oil prices and what it will mean for the Canadian economy.

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.  Coming this fall – 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.

2015 Federal Budget


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

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.

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.

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