At the City of Peterborough Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this week, councillors approved a report proposing a new Geomatics/Mapping GIS Open Data policy. The report will now go to Council for final approval. Further, Mayor Bennett made a motion asking staff to bring back a corporate-wide Open Data initiative. This motion was passed.
While these policies might not seem grand in nature, they are proposals that have the potential to allow for innovative economic opportunities for current and new businesses in the Peterborough area. Open Data is defined as data sets generated by government entities that do not disclose any information that threatens privacy or public security. Open Data policies allow for the provision of those data sets to the public in a common computer format, without restrictions of copyright, patent or other control mechanisms, and free of charge (Report PLGMD 15-002 GIS Open Data Initiative).
The Chamber Network has been advocating for Open Data policies at the various levels of government for almost four years, so the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is pleased to see the City of Peterborough taking this step.
We have been asking for:
The program is strong in the United Kingdom and United States, and the City of Peterborough report says, “Since 2008, more than 50 Canadian jurisdictions have joined the Open Data movement and are freely providing municipal data via the web.” Additionally, a look at a U.S. website shows 40 U.S. states, 48 U.S. Cities and Counties, 52 International Countries, and 164 International regions involved in Open Data programs.
The City report identifies five drivers behind the Open Data movement, including Open Data as an Economic Driver of Growth. Public Sector Information (PSI) constitutes the raw material for a variety of products and services in applications across a wide range of industries, and
analysis has concluded that it is an important economic asset. The report goes on to say that geographic data has one of the greatest economic potentials and in its use, so far, has had positive impacts on employment and growth.
Throughout the Chamber Network in Ontario, we have heard of enterprising companies and entrepreneurs who have used public data to create new apps to help the citizens of their community (e.g., improving garbage schedule awareness; a parking app that can lead you back to your vehicle, or an app that communicates bus locations in real time).
The Ontario government has also started opening up data under a new directive that was approved late last fall. In fact, at the time of this printing, the provincial government will have about 75 per cent of its data inventory published with the full inventory published online by the end of October.
The provincial database will include whether a data set is currently open, in progress to become open, under review, or restricted from being open. The provincial program includes 529 data sets in a number of areas from the environment and energy to business and the economy to education and training. The provincial government also recognizes that these data sets can have a positive economic impact as “researchers, app developers, non-profit organizations and others are using our [provincial] data to come up with innovative applications, programs and solutions to help Ontarians”.
We at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce hope the City of Peterborough continues to open the door to open data.
The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce was given two awards on the weekend at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada, held in Regina Saskatchewan.
On Friday night Chamber Policy Analyst and Communication Specialist Sandra Dueck was awarded the Employee of the Year award. The award is presented annually at the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada awards dinner. Sandra was recognized for the work she has done to help the Peterborough Chamber amplify issues of importance to business at all three levels of Government. Sandra generates a newspaper column and a three minute television feature every week, covering business issues. The content is then shared widely via the Chambers social media channels. Sandra is also the Co-Chair of the Ontario Caucus, and thus helps lead the policy debate at the AGM, which establishes the advocacy priorities for the Canadian Chamber network for the next year.
Chamber President and CEO Stu Harrison said “Sandra is part of a high performance team at the Peterborough Chamber and we are very proud of her accomplishment!” Sandra Dueck said “All staff members at the Chamber are important contributors to the fundamental work we do, which is strengthening the business community”.
On Saturday Stuart Harrison and Manager of Membership Services Karen August made a presentation to a packed room of Chamber staff and volunteers from across the Country as one of three finalists in the annual Chamber Competition. The Calgary Chamber was awarded Gold, Peterborough Silver, and Burnaby Bronze.
Harrison explained “Each year the Canadian Chamber chooses a different theme for this competition. This year the theme was “Membership in the age of Google” and we were chosen for the strategy and techniques we employ to communicate the business message to both our members and the public at large”. Harrison and August delivered a seven minute presentation which showcased how the Peterborough Chamber has rebranded with the focus on Strengthening Business and increased its efforts to help its members grow.
An accompanying video, compiled by Chamber staff over the last few weeks served as a background for a fast-paced presentation highlighting everything from:
- The new Power Hour event, featuring all four locally elected leaders
- The new Business Summit, focussed on professional development
- The award-winning monthly Peterborough Business Exchange – PBX
- The creation of the Holistic Group
To the Chambers advocacy efforts including:
- The Voice of Business newspaper column
- The Business911 television feature
- Curated content from the Ontario and Canadian Chamber Policy staff
- Political round tables
- The Government Affairs Committee and the Policy Committee
- The #TeamPtbo brand
To the multi platform techniques the Chamber uses to communicate with its members
- Chamber Website
- Main stream media
- Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram
- Member Milestones, The Business Beat, New Member Profiles, Walkie Talkie Teleki videos
- Re-posting and sharing rich content from our members
Harrison said “We are trying to be intentional with everything we do. All of our efforts should have a direct benefit for our members.” Karen August added “The opportunity to present to our peers from coast to coast was also an opportunity for us to clarify our own goals as a key member of the Peterborough business community.”
Jim Hill, incoming Chair of the Chamber Board of Directors is attending his first Canadian Chamber AGM. He said “You couldn’t have explained this to me... The creation of an annual advocacy agenda is extremely robust and includes input from across the Country. To be here and witness the high regard in which the Peterborough Chamber and Staff is held is very gratifying. The Peterborough business community is being well served by our Chamber.”
Stu Harrison, President and CEO
Peterborough Chamber says energy relief a start, but fundamentals of energy system still need fixing
The provincial government hit the reboot button with a speech from the throne earlier this week.
The Ontario Government again identified jobs and growth as their top priority. They also confirmed that next year’s budget will be balanced, delivering on the Government’s promise to eliminate the deficit by 2017-18. Previously announced investments in childcare, tuition reduction, skills training, and healthcare, were echoed, as were investments in the Business Growth Initiative, Jobs and Prosperity Fund, and the Climate Change Action Plan.
However, the area that received the most attention was electricity pricing and lowering bills. This is good news for businesses in two categories:
The government explains that the Industrial Conservation Initiative will be expanded so that any company that consumes more than 1MW will be eligible. Presently, 300 companies are enrolled in the program which has saved the grid 800MWs through conservation – relatively the size of two gas plants.
With the announcement earlier this week, another 1000 companies will be eligible. By simply enrolling in the program, those 1000 companies could each save 14% on their bill. Depending on their ability to reduce peak electricity consumption, they could save up to 34% when the program is fully implemented, which could be 2018.
This expanded program is in line with what we heard from a number of businesses at a roundtable event earlier this year with the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, the OCC and Peterborough Distribution Inc, where they expressed concern over the lack of incentives in the electricity realm for Class B users.
“Electricity pricing is the number one issue we hear about from our members, so we are thrilled to see the advocacy of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the OCC make a difference,” says Jason Becker, Chair of the Board of the Directors, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “We hope to see our member businesses use the expanded program to save money on their electricity bills.”
The small businesses on time-of-use pricing will see some relief as well. Throughout summer consultations on the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign, the Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers of Commerce heard about the negative impact of rising electricity prices and security of the electricity network. Under the provincial government’s plan announced in the throne speech those customers, from retailers to restaurants, will receive the eight per cent savings – an amount equal to the provincial portion of HST. If passed, this legislation will take
effect January 2017.
Transparency is the reason the Peterborough Chamber and Ontario Chamber Network are still asking for a clearer picture around the makeup of electricity bills.
The following recommendations were passed earlier this year as lobby points to government:
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is calling on the province to consider a private-sector, licensing-based, and locally-oriented approach to distributing recreational marijuana.
The call is in response to a policy resolution put forth at the OCC’s AGM this past May and the federal government’s commitment to move forward on this file.
A robust consultative process aimed at developing a regulatory framework for distribution of this product is key, as all involved have a social responsibility to ensure there are no added pressures on community health and safety.
As such, the OCC encourages policy designed with the following principles in mind:
presenting a report to the federal government in November.
In a press release on the task force, the Canadian government reiterated its commitment to “introducing legislation on the legalization and strict regulation of marijuana in the spring of 2017.”
Read the full letter
We’re back! After a sizzling summer break, the first meeting of the Fall was a right-out-of-the-gate success with great networking and a VERY knowledgeable speaker. Here’s what you missed…
Guest speaker, Ken Pipher of Whatever Media & Solutions Inc., spoke on the topic of Google authority. Born and raised in Peterborough, Ken is a University of Toronto graduate who, for over 20 years, has served Canada’s Top Fortune 500 firms including such brands as Honda, Yamaha, Toyota and Mazda with digital advertising solutions. His company, Whatever Solutions & Media Inc. also created the first ever mobile-friendly website for Canada’s Library of Parliament.
What does Google authority actually mean? It is the way to get your website a higher Google search ranking in a way that goes beyond the usual SEO techniques that many of us are familiar with, such as meta tags, keywords and links.
Google works now on ‘earned authority’ and takes into consideration over 200 factors, including how mobile friendly your site is, what others are saying, how your competitors are ranking, the length of time your website has existed, original content etc.
Ken warned against companies or designers who promise ways to work around Google’s ever changing algorithm. Google works diligently to spot any form of trickery, such as ghost pages, and will move your website down in the rankings if it detects it. In extreme circumstances it can remove your website address (URL) from its search engine feature altogether.
Keeping your web content fresh is a good bet for improving your organic reach and Ken suggests adding current, new content to your site on a regular basis. You can use a blog to do this and set a schedule of posts that you can manage. Original, regular updates are the key.
In the end, do not believe anyone who tells you that they know Google’s algorithm. The best anyone can do is to use their experience and industry knowledge to optimize your site for Google. But don’t get complacent. You can’t just set it and forget it. The algorithm is constantly changing and weighting factors differently. For instance, just two weeks ago Google started de-ranking sites that use takeover screens to capture your contact information; you’ve seen them, they pop up at the beginning of your site visit, usually for a free e-book or a newsletter or article. If your site has one you should remove it immediately.
They say that change is the only constant. It’s never been truer in the world of websites.
Chamber of Commerce questions OEB decision to include cap and trade costs in delivery charges
With all that is going on around the issue of electricity, a recent decision from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has the Peterborough Chamber and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Network shaking their collective heads.
Currently businesses in Peterborough are dealing with price increases that are impacting competitiveness, the impact of a potential merger of PDI into Hydro One, lack of transparency around the items included in the Global Adjustment fee and now the Ontario Energy Board has decided to include cap and trade costs in the delivery charge of utilities.
This move presents a number of concerns including that it seems to be in direct conflict with the Premier’s goal of being the most transparent and accountable government anywhere in Canada.
In response to this decision the Chamber Network through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to the Chair of the OEB and copied Premier Wynne and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault requesting that cap and trade costs be their own line item on energy bills for businesses and consumers.
The letter outlines four areas of explanation as to why a separate line item is required: transparency, efficiency, sectoral applications and exemptions.
Under this area of concern, the letter outlines the need for accurate information to be available to customers so they can make appropriate choices about their energy use including:
A separate charge will enable customers to confirm they have been charged the correct amount and recognize the different treatment of large emitters in relation to the to customer-related obligations and allow for fewer incidents of customer confusion and inquiries.
Large emitters agree the charge should be separate to allow them to ensure they have been charged the correct amount.
Some users of fossil fuels (farmers and First Nations) are currently tax exempt. Will this continue to be the case if the cost is rolled into other delivery charges on the purchase of gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas?
The letter concludes with a call for the decision for cap and trade costs to be included in delivery charges to be reversed to allow for more transparency for businesses and consumers, and to better inform customer behaviour to help achieve the government’s emissions
Policy Analyst/Communications Specialist