Chambers of commerce across the province put local businesses front-and-centre to the Government of Ontario last week.
Advocacy Day morphed into Advocacy Week this year with the event going online. This annual event, organized by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, gets leaders from chambers and boards of trade a chance to put their questions and issues directly to party leaders, ministers, and opposition critics. Having discussions face-to-face over video chat between business and political leaders is an effective way to drive home the challenges facing many small and medium-sized enterprises across Ontario.
It’s evident the priority for all elected officials right now is vaccine rollout and the general health of the people of Ontario as we try to move out of this pandemic. We’ve been fighting COVID-19 for a year now and the end is in sight, but Members of Provincial Parliament from all parties recognize the need to keep our guard up until we’re in the clear.
The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has been working with the Brampton Board of Trade, Barrie Chamber of Commerce, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Milton Chamber of Commerce, 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of
Commerce, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Ottawa Board of Trade to push the Province to adopt the proposed Responsible Business Protocol.
We’ve submitted a resolution for the Ontario Chamber of
Commerce to add to its provincial lobby efforts and we’ve sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford asking for its implementation.
The Responsible Business
Protocol calls on the Province to create a set of health and safety rules for all business sectors. If a business follows the proper safety rules, they can remain open, with the colour-coded restriction zones indicating capacity limits for all
public-facing businesses. The rules need to be applied equitably and fairly to all businesses, not based on a perception of essentiality.
Advocacy Week has been a chance to further push this proposal with provincial leaders of all political stripes — and the message was well received.
Minister of Health Christine Elliott was open to the proposal, noting they have continued to modify restrictions. She stressed the importance of rapid testing to address safety and staffing issues for some business sectors and noted that people who can’t work from home — including the hospitality industry — will be given priority for vaccines.
The issue of workforce training and skills was also brought to the attention of Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano. Many businesses continue to struggle to find workers with the right skills and qualifications. Minister Romano plans to address these issues partly through micro-credentials.
Chambers and boards of trade pushed important issues for businesses, including greater access to high-speed internet, access to capital, and investments in infrastructure.
Advocacy Week is a helpful time to focus on specific issues, but your chamber of commerce will continue to be the voice of business in Peterborough through advocacy to all levels of government, all year long.