While I have been a Peterborough Chamber of Commerce member for over a decade, my Chamber World has, until now, remained limited to the workings of the Chamber within our city. Much like a schoolchild who sees his teacher outside of school for the first time, my Chamber life was instantly blown wide open at the 2018 Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Hamilton from April 26 to 30. Following that weekend, I am left with three key impressions that have further solidified my belief that being a member of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is integral to my business.
Firstly, there are, obviously, Chambers of Commerce in cities and towns, large and small, throughout our province. How these individual Chambers work together at the OCC AGM, a result of their cooperation leading up to and following this annual event, is a microcosm of how businesses from across this province exist as integral parts of a whole. This cooperation was not always a result of seeing eye to eye, but it was achieved with respect and led to a common goal.
Secondly, policy is EXCITING! I never thought I’d say that. While I have long been involved with the Peterborough Chamber, I have never been one to get deeply involved with, nor energized by, The "P" Word. Oh, how wrong I have been. I did know that policy is perhaps the most important work in which the Peterborough Chamber engages, but I was not able to understand just how powerful and absolutely necessary this work is. Policy is the very essence of what it means for the Chamber to be “The Voice of Business”. Seeing over one hundred delegates from Chambers across the Province come together in a room to debate sixty policy resolutions that directly affect the lives of every business owner and their employees was fascinating and energizing. These resolutions will now be taken to Queen’s Park, with the force of thousands of Chamber members behind them, to give a rudder to our Provincial Government. It is difficult to get across here the energy this gives me. What I will say is that, if you ever feel that being a Chamber member has little or no value, remember this: Without the policy and advocacy work our Chamber does, in concert with Chambers across the Province, we as business owners would be listless and alone at sea, trying to make our own way against a Government tide unaware of what we want or need. Get wonky, people.
Finally, we as Peterborough Chamber of Commerce members are lucky. I was honoured to see the respect that our President, Stuart Harrison, and our Policy Analyst, Sandra Dueck, receive from Chamber representatives from across the Province. If you’ve ever hung out with rock stars for a few days, you’ll know how I felt. Keeping a Chamber headed in a positive and continually fresh direction can’t be easy. Stuart has always strived to do this and attending the OCC AGM is a place where new ideas are shared and explored. More than a few delegates turned to Stuart for advice and opinions. Seeing Sandra hustle around the floor of the policy debates was a marvel. Again, your Chamber staff member was a go-to resource. Sandra was often sought out for her expert knowledge on issues and policy that ultimately formed the Provincial voice of business. As business owners we must find the best bang for our buck. You cannot do better with your hard earned money than making sure these talented people, and all of the staff at our Chamber, continue taking our local voice to join that of the larger business community.
The OCC AGM reinforced for me that “Strengthening Business” is not simply a catchy phrase. It is the essence of the work our Chamber does, and they do it extremely well. Be a member, you cannot afford not to be.
Approved Policy Resolutions by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce at the 2018 OCC AGM