Our Weekly Green Mail Newsletter

The Chamber’s latest weekly on-line & email newsletter is here and filled with events and info about and for local businesses and their employees. Click here for the December 1 edition. Get info on our next BIG Business After 5 December 2. It features an incredible $600, 2-wheeled prize that scoots! And did we mention all the gift certificates and cards we’re giving away? Or the 20 new start-up local businesses we’ve invited to go on display? Read-on for more details on the MOL’s inspection visits targeting small manufacturers.  And, if your business has links to tourism, check the new stats from the province on inbound and outbound visitor traffic. Green Mail is released by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce every Tuesday and posted here on the Chamber website and through links on our social media including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Come and get it here, or get your own email subscription. It’s free. To subscribe, just click on the link in the column on the left side of this page.

COP21 – The Canadian Chamber Perspective


The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is participating in the COP21 Climate Conference, which is running from November 30 to December 11. Canadian Chamber staff will be producing periodic briefing notes to keep our Members apprised of the proceedings and the potential impact for Canadian business. The St. Thomas & District Chamber will post updates as the event proceeds.

COP21: DAY ONE (NOVEMBER 30, 2015)

A Global Climate Change Agreement: Mission Possible?

The first official day of the COP21 conference began with a leader’s event meant to set the tone for the upcoming negotiations. France’s President Holland and UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon opening speeches all highlighted the urgent need for strong global climate agreement, arguing that the current political climate had created a unique opportunity for the global community to move strongly to control emissions.
Nevertheless, on the ground views were mixed. While there is a sense that some kind of agreement will be reached, there is skepticism that one of a number of stumbling block might prevent these lofty rhetorical ambitions from reaching fruition.

What are these potential pitfalls? One is creating an agreement for the post 2020 period that would be “legally binding” on all parties. What legally binding actually means has not been determined. Will it apply to all of the agreement (known as ADP Workstream 1 in UN speak) or just a part? The United States is anxious to avoid any agreement that would put carbon reductions in from of Congress, limiting the scope of what can be achieved.
A second is whether developed and developing countries will have similar obligations under the agreement. Some of the draft text options suggest that developed countries will commit to absolute emissions reductions, giving developing countries more flexibility. Other draft text makes no differentiation between countries, calling on all of them to create their own national plans.

The agreement will likely require each country to revise its plans to reduce emissions (known as National Determined Contributions) periodically and ‘progress’ to stronger and stronger measures. It is unclear however how the UNFCCC process will deal with countries that fail to meet these commitments. Currently economic sanctions for climate laggards appear off the table. Instead, the approach is use the international equivalent of ‘peer pressure’ to enforce the agreement.

Given that the new federal government has clearly signaled its intention of being a leader on the climate file, the agreement reached at COP21 will likely influence the Canadian government’s approach to domestic climate policy going forward. Already the Minister and PM have announced or reiterated a several billion dollars going towards developing countries for renewable energy, adaptation and mitigation.

COF getting cozy at COP

Ontario’s Premier Wynne assembled a group of her Council of the Federation (COF) counterparts, including Alberta’s Rachel Notley and BC’s Christy Clark, to address a small group of Canadian negotiators and observers in an impromptu session. All three premiers stressed the degree to which they saw a ‘coming together’ of the provincial and federal government on climate policy, with Wynne in particular stressing that she sees great potential in working with the new government.

It was clear that the premiers were happy with the change in the federal government, at least when it came to climate policy, with Premier Notley stating that the Conservative government’s environmental policy had hurt Alberta. The premiers in attendance where eager to give the impression that there was momentum towards a national agreement on climate for Canada.

Premier Clark’s address was the only one to touch on the need to balance economic growth with climate policies. She acknowledged that it would be tricky to balance measures like the proposal to increase the BC Carbon tax by $10 a year after 2018 with maintaining strong investment in the province. She also made the pitch for BC Natural gas as being the cleanest in the world, with great potential to reduce emissions by substituting for coal power.

5 Minutes for Business


Where the Rubber Hits the Road: Tough Decisions Ahead
In this edition of 5 Minutes for Business, Hendrik Brakel, our Senior Director, Economic, Financial and Tax Policy, looks at the tough economic decisions the new federal government will have to make and the impact those choices could have on our economy.
Canada’s new government is off to a great start! People are cheering the new Cabinet and the return of the long-form census. But, there are tough decisions ahead. For instance, the Parliamentary Budget Office now projects larger deficits, $3 billion next year and almost $5 billion in 2017. How will the government deal with this situation while still making good on its promises? What does this mean for personal taxes? For business?

Read 5 Minutes for Business to find out.


Chamber Comment: TPP helps to secure our economic future

Following several days of tough negotiations in Atlanta, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce salutes the successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“This is an exciting moment for Canada,” said the Honourable Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “I want to thank our negotiators for their hard work in securing an agreement that will help create jobs, spur innovation and increase consumer choice across Canada, while positioning us at the forefront of global trade developments.”

Canada’s prosperity is intimately tied to its ability to compete internationally. One out of every three Canadian jobs depends directly or indirectly on trade. The TPP will give Canada preferential access to an economic zone covering 800 million people and 40% of the global economy. Already, TPP countries account for the vast majority of Canadian exports and cross-border investment. “We’re looking at huge gains for Canadian farmers, food processors, and companies in forestry, mining, aerospace, financial services and information technology, among other industries.

“Of course, trade negotiations are a process of give and take and it will be important for the government to take seriously the concerns of any affected sector, and to partner with them to ensure their competitiveness. The measures announced to compensate the sectors most affected are a good starting point,” said Mr. Beatty.

Key highlights for business include:

  • Immediate elimination of import duties on the majority of Canadian exports to TPP markets
  • Access to new markets like Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, where Canada currently does not have trade agreements
  • The potential for high-growth countries like China, Indonesia and the Philippines to join TPP in the future
  • New disciplines on state-owned enterprises to make sure that Canadian companies can compete on a level playing field
  • E-commerce rules that will nurture the growth of cloud computing and other data technologies essential to Canadian business competitiveness
  • Provisions that will make it easier for Canadian services companies to get their people in and out of foreign markets
  • Tools to help small businesses take advantage of the agreement and manage their supply chains
  • Enhanced protections for investment and intellectual property so Canadian companies have the confidence to expand their presence and license products across the Pacific

“Everyone can agree: we can’t let the TPP happen without us. Left out on our own, others would take our place in regional supply chains. And Canada would forfeit a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the rules that will govern trade for the next 10, 20 and 30 years,” concluded Mr. Beatty.

Cap & Trade – And Protecting Ontario’s Economy

The Government of Ontario’s decision to develop and implement a province-wide cap and trade system comes at an important time in the global climate change landscape. After a period of relative inaction, a number of national and sub-national jurisdictions have moved ahead recently with strategies to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the International Carbon Action Partnership, there are currently 17 emissions trading systems in operation worldwide and an additional 15 in various stages of development—a rapid increase from just four in 2010. Ontario’s business community understands the need for action to address climate change. If designed correctly, the government’s proposed cap and trade system could present some significant opportunities for Ontario.

Over the past few months, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has been working with its Members and the broader business community, many of whom have practical experience in other jurisdictions that currently employ carbon pricing policies, to identify their top concerns regarding Ontario’s proposed cap and trade system. The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce is working with, and assisting, our colleagues at the Ontario Chamber and in dozens of Chambers across Ontario in the creation and distribution of a new report we call Clean Profits: Pricing Carbon and Protecting Ontario’s Economy Under Cap and Trade.  In this report, we have translated these concerns into a set of recommendations for government. Underlying these recommendations is a common message: to design an effective cap and trade system, businesses need to be part of the solution. Among our top recommendations are for government the direct the cap and trade proceeds in a way that helps businesses in the transition to a lower-carbon economy, and to ensure that the structural realities of Ontario’s economy are reflected in the design of the system. As of yet, few details of the cap and trade system have been released publicly. Without knowing how the system will impact their bottom line, businesses looking to grow and invest in Ontario face a difficult decision-making environment. The business community understands that the design of a cap and trade system takes time, but it is important that the government make an effort to minimize this uncertainty.

Ontario Pension – What’s Up? Here’s the latest…

The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), and a coalition of major Ontario employers are calling on the provincial government to outline to the employer community the details of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. In a letter addressed to Premier Kathleen Wynne, a coalition of more than 150 organizations laid out five specific questions that reflect the collective concerns of Ontario employers.

“The St. Thomas & District, and Ontario’s entire employer community, know that without greater clarity, the proposed pension plan could have a direct, negative impact on jobs and the economy”, says Bob Hammersley, President & CEO of the St. Thomas & District Chamber. “This is why we continue to advocate for a solution that supports business growth. The concerns summarized in today’s letter illustrate that we have not yet found that solution.”

The primary concern of the employer community remains with the ORPP’s potential economic impact. Businesses in the province face increasing costs from a number of sources – rising electricity rates, a new cap and trade system, and some of the highest workplace safety insurance premiums in the country. There is deep concern that the proposed pension plan will further contribute to this cumulative burden. This joint letter followed the government’s recent revision to the proposed plan’s comparability rules under the ORPP, which now include defined contribution (DC) pension plans with a combined contribution rate of 8 percent and where the employer contributes at least 4 percent.

The coalition includes employers of all sizes, in addition to companies across a diverse range of sectors, including construction, insurance, manufacturing, and mining. More than 40 organizations across the Chamber Network have also signed on, in addition to industry and trade associations. Other questions that need to be addressed are:

  • How will the ORPP impact Ontario’s GDP, jobs, and investment?
  • What assumptions has the Government made to arrive at its revised definition of comparability?
  • How will the government ensure that the ORPP is a cost-effective plan?
  • How will Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs) be implemented while preserving their advantages for employers?

“Government is moving ahead with a brisk timeline and some employers will begin making ORPP contributions in less than 18 months,” added O’Dette. “With so much uncertainty around plan components, Ontario businesses are not ready. We are concerned that a lack of clarity means that the Government doesn’t have answers for the very important questions which remain unresolved.”

“The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce and Ontario employers will continue to work with the provincial government to find a solution that will meet the needs of Ontario’s business community while addressing the challenges Ontarians face later in life”, added Hammersley.

For the complete text of our letter to Premier Wynne, click here to connect to the Ontario Chamber’s website.

Changing Labour Laws??

Chambers of Commerce across Ontario, St. Thomas & District included, continue to have major concerns over the growing burden facing businesses and the people in them. Electricity costs, the proposed Ontario pension, cap & trade enviro fees, and now new proposals on labour laws.

The Chamber of Commerce network feels that additional proposals could add to the cumulative burden, impacting jobs and the economy.

The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), has called on the province to avoid proposals that would substantially affect Ontario’s competitiveness, jobs, and the economy.

Timed to coincide with the final consultations of the Ontario government’s Changing Workplaces Review, the OCC, the St. Thomas & District Chamber, and over 30 chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across the province, have publicly released their submission, which expresses concern over previous deputations under consideration by the Review. Many of those recommendations would result in significant changes to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act, and would increase the cost of doing business in Ontario. Click here to view and/or download our submission to the Ontario government.

Time To Get A Grip


Fueled by companies with names such as Uber, Autoshare and Airbnb, the Sharing Economy is a very real force in our economy.  The St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and dozens of other local Chambers across our network, has a new report and research calling upon governments at all levels to move quickly and boldly to adapt and realize the potential. Issues such as gaps in insurance and tax compliance need to be addressed. Our report is titled Harnessing the power of the Sharing Economy and includes several recommendations that could make Ontario the first jurisdiction in the world to take a comprehensive approach to address the growth of the Sharing Economy.

The Sharing Economy is not something that only impacts larger urban areas. For example, a recent local search by the Chamber of the Airbnb website confirms well over 100 local listings in St. Thomas, Port Stanley & Port Burwell.

Power – At What Price??

Chamber Network calls for assurance that partial sale of Hydro One will not impact electricity prices

Generic Hydro

In a letter submitted to Premier Kathleen Wynne today (Thursday August 20), the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and a coalition of 36 Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade requested evidence that the sale of a portion of Hydro One will not directly impact electricity prices in the future.
While we are cautiously optimistic about the sale, there are details that have yet to be determined. The OCC and the Chamber Network are concerned that it could adversely affect the cost of doing business in the province, including adding to the rising price of electricity. As such, we are seeking clarity from government on how the sale will impact electricity prices.
The Ontario Chamber Network is committed to being an active participant in any discussions about the future of Ontario’s electricity system. On July 8, the OCC released the most widely consulted report in the history of the organization and our membership, Empowering Ontario: Constraining Costs and Staying Competitive in the Electricity Market.

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.m. to participate.

Credit Card/Debit Card processing – We’re very proud to offer what we see as the best credit card/debit card program in Canada. It’s easy to enrol, easy to use and easy to understand! 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.  Depending on volume of sales and frequency of use, choose one of two paths – whichever is best for you: a flat rate/per transaction fee that’s simple and predictable for all domestic transactions at 2.60% + 10 cents per transaction; or a more traditional program with a VISA rate of 1.49%, MasterCard at 1.49%, Interac debit at just 5 cents per transaction and the options to accept Amex, Discover and more. New: Mobile Debit for your Smartphone!  Check our website at 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!

EVOLVE Collaboration – this is the latest addition to our Member Benefits Bundle and extends significant savings in online collaboration services including audio and video teleconferencing and production/delivery of webinars. www.evolvecollaboration.com/CCC/

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