In any given year through the weekly Voice of Business article the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce pens or publishes some 26,000 words on advocacy-related business issues. 2019 was no exception. This year was dominated by budgets at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government, election platforms, policy resolutions, updates on policy councils of the Ontario and Canadian Chambers of Commerce, and more.
“The core value of the Chamber of Commerce lies in the strength of our voice,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “As a member-based organization we speak for over 900 local businesses who all share a common mission, the creation and maintenance of a strong business eco-system. From hyper-local to national issues, we pride ourselves on the evidence-based, solution-focused advocacy work we do on behalf of our members.”
We are going to take this week and next to recap some of the highlights from 2019 and provide any updates.
High Frequency Rail (HFR) Project – VIA Rail
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has been a strong proponent for the HFR project for over a decade. We were pleased to host Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef and VIA Rail in June of 2019 to announce the next steps in the project. The federal government committed $71 million to create a project team that would complete several important engineering and design studies required before any construction could start. In late November, VIA Rail launched a dedicated HFR website identifying the project as one of three major pillars of their future planning. It was also announced that the project team lead had been hired and was starting to set up the office and build the team. In mid-December, the new federal mandate letters were released and the Transportation Minister has been tasked with working “with the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to create high frequency rail for the Toronto-Quebec City Corridor”.
We have been consistent in our messaging about the importance of the HFR project to the
Peterborough region. In our 2019 pre-budget letter to our MP, this project remains a top priority for several reasons: the economic benefits it will bring during construction and beyond, the ability to more efficiently connect our residents to the world and the world to us, along with the inherent environmental benefits of the project, such as reducing car trips.
Recently we celebrated full opening of the 407 to the 35/115. This opening was the result of multiple governments at multiple levels. At the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, we played a part in this achievement for if there was ever a story that explained the advocacy process this would be it:
From Chamber President & CEO Stuart Harrison: "16 years ago (2004), I attended my first Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM in Thunder Bay. One of the Policy Resolutions up for approval was from the Oshawa Chamber, recommending that the provincial government extend Hwy 407 to Harmony Road. We (Stuart and then-Board Chair Dan Stanford) introduced an amendment to the motion changing the wording from Harmony Road to Hwy 35/115. Over the subsequent years we never missed a chance to slide that policy resolution (PR) across the desk of every Transportation Minister, every MPP, everyone we could. Because it was an approved PR, it carried the weight of the entire business community across the province. Full credit to Jeff Leal, who championed the full extension of the Highway his entire time in office, a succession of city and county councillors, mayors, and more."
This road link is a piece of infrastructure that will help open up our economy and our region to new opportunities. It is not the only solution, but one of many to help us move our goods and people to and from Peterborough.
Investing in Building Community
Community building was very much a top of mind topic this past year and there was a great deal of dialogue on how that can be done. When it comes to getting projects built there can be a variety of challenges, especially for not-for-profit organizations. With that in mind and an idea from Chamber Member Paul
Bennett of Ashburnham Realty we authored a policy resolution that was approved by the Canadian business community in September at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Saint John, New Brunswick.
The policy resolution titled “Investing in Building Community” presents the following recommendations to our federal government:
All of these topics and issues are directly related to our vision statement, which is strengthening business. And the best part is that by strengthening business we are also able to help strengthen our community.