June 22, 2020 was National Indigenous Peoples Day. But this recognition should not be limited to one day. As Greg Rickford, Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs stated, “It’s a day to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Peoples to our province and the need to continue working together as partners based on mutual respect and the recognition of rights.”
A recent report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) titled “Small Business, Big Impact” examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ontario’s small businesses. Not only did the findings show that small business was more adversely impacted by the pandemic, but that the impact on rural and northern communities including First Nations was even more acute.
Both provincial and federal governments have made commitments to help these businesses.
On June 19th, the government of Ontario announced up to $10 million for Indigenous-owned small and medium sized businesses to help them with much needed capital as the province begins to safely and
gradually reopen the economy. The announcement said, “loans of up to $50,000 will be available to businesses that are either ineligible for, or unable to access, existing federal and provincial COVID-19 response initiatives for small businesses.”
As part of its COVID-19 response, the federal government announced $306.8 million on April 18th to help small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses impacted by the pandemic. The funding provides short term, interest-free loans and non-repayable contributions through 59 Aboriginal financial institutions, which offer financing and business support services to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis businesses. The federal
government’s announcement was expected to help 6,000 Indigenous-owned businesses.
This was important states the report because accessing capital has been a longstanding barrier to expansion for First Nations firms. The report goes on to say that “In 2015, only 19 percent of First Nations
businesses obtained financing from traditional financial institutions. Instead, many rely on retained earnings or personal savings to start/operate their business. Poor or non-existent broadband connectivity is also common in northern communities. Further, eligibility criteria for recent federal loan and wage subsidy programs have been problematic for some businesses, including seasonal tourism businesses in the north. Taken together, the lack of finances to cover fixed costs, difficulties accessing government resources online and establishing e-commerce, and ineligibility for some federal programs present real risks for First Nations
businesses, northern Ontario’s economy, and the broader SME community.”
The OCC report pulls together the following information about First Nations Businesses:
Before the pandemic, according to a survey by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), First Nations Firms stated they had the following challenges:
Since the start of the pandemic in March, 90% of First Nations businesses are very or somewhat concerned the pandemic will affect business operations. 78% experienced a moderate to high negative impact on business activity and 35% say it would take between 1 and 3 months to restore normal business operations after COVID-19 subsides.
While the concern is real, there has also been opportunity within the crisis and in some cases,
according to the author of the OCC report, it is possible new offerings may become permanent.
There are three First Nation communities in the Peterborough area, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and
Alderville First Nations. Thank you to Chief Emily Whetung, Chief Laurie Carr, Chief Dave Mowat and their councils for their leadership.
Last week in the Voice of Business we talked about the business case for inclusion and diversity (I&D). Essentially, the business case answers the “why” a business should consider introducing principles and policies on I&D into their business culture. The
business case was based on research by the McKinsey Institute and identified five opportunities that businesses open themselves up to when I&D are considered.
The authors of the McKinsey article found that, “When companies invest in diversity and inclusion, they are in a better position to create more adaptive, effective teams and more likely to recognize diversity as a competitive advantage.”
But understanding the “why” is not enough. What has to follow is action. Answering “how” inclusion and diversity principles can become part of a business’ culture is one way to start down the path.
Currently, there are legislated actions that require businesses to place a lens on accessibility, along with hiring practices that are non-discriminatory. In Ontario these are the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Employment
Standards Act (ESA). The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms lays out a set of Equality rights that ensures all Canadians are treated without discrimination and allows provinces to develop acts such as the AODA and ESA and make them law, but even still more can be done within an organization.
We reached out to Angela Connors with the Community Race Relations Committee of Peterborough (CRRC) to ask her how businesses can start to institute policies that
promote inclusion and diversity as part of their operating culture.
Connors suggested that businesses can start with the following:
Develop an anti-racism/anti-oppression (ARAO) policy and communicate it broadly
“This work is hard, individual to each business and has to be an ongoing process within an organization,” says Angela Connors, Executive Director, Community Race Relations Committee of Peterborough. “At CRRC, we are available for consultation and
executive training to help organizations and businesses learn.”
The opportunities for anti-racism and anti-oppression frameworks also exist for municipalities. In December 2019, the City of Peterborough became the 22nd municipality in Ontario to join the Canadian Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities. This
designation means the City is committed to working on a municipal-specific anti-racism action plan. It’s expected that more on this plan and its budget implications will be made available in the next few months.
The Community Race Relations Committee has been operating in
Peterborough since 1983 when it was formed as a committee of city council in response to racist attacks in 1981 on international students at Trent University and Fleming College.
Learn more about the committee and the programs and resources they offer: https://racerelationspeterborough.org/
PETERBOROUGH, June 11, 2020:
The Board of Directors of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Sandra Dueck has been appointed to the new role of Vice President.
The new position established will be:
Vice President and Director of Government Relations & Communications
Sandra will maintain her responsibilities as the Chamber’s Government Relations lead and overseeing the Chamber’s communications. Her added responsibilities will include a decision-making role in the absence of the President and CEO, assisting with the development of annual strategic plans and work plans, and representing the organization at conferences, meetings, committees and round tables.
Sandra joined the Peterborough Chamber in 2013, after a career in radio news and journalism. She quickly established herself as an authority on Government policy, becoming a respected advocate for business at the Municipal, Provincial and Federal levels.
Sandra is currently Chair of Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, a Board Member of The Mount Community Centre, Co-Chair of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Policy Committee, and Co-Chair of the Ontario Caucus for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. She serves on multiple committees and has been a guest speaker and panelist within the Chamber network. She was awarded Staff Person of the Year from the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada in 2016.
Quote from Dawn Hennessey, Chair of the Board
“We are very pleased to appoint Sandra to this role. Her work on behalf of the entire business community is exemplary. She represents the Greater Peterborough region well across multiple levels of Government and various organizations. The Board recognizes the tremendous work done by Sandra and all the staff at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.”
Quote from Stuart Harrison, President and CEO
“Sandra is recognized for unfailing professionalism and her objective approach to everything she does. She is a trusted voice, known for both her knowledge, and her ability to inspire. This new position is a recognition of the leadership role she plays in our community.”
Recently, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in helping to pen a letter to the Minister of Finance on the red tape around patio liquor licences.
Earlier this week we learned about the reopening of restaurants to outdoor dining experiences which included a message that the Attorney General has implemented regulatory changes that give the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) the discretion to allow licensed establishments to temporarily add or increase the size of their patios once they are permitted to reopen.
Inclusion and diversity (I&D) in our workplaces is key to a successful economy. A recent McKinsey Institute article titled “Diversity still matters” and encourages that I&D are not lost in the midst of the current crisis – the COVID-19 Pandemic. In fact, the argument for forging ahead and being even bolder in this regard is aptly made with the following statement below and above:
When companies invest in diversity and inclusion, they are in a better position to create more adaptive, effective teams and more likely to recognize diversity as a competitive advantage.
The authors believe that “I&D frequently makes a significant difference to an
organization’s performance.” Here is a snapshot of those benefits:
Opportunity 1: Winning the war for talent.
Organizations can ensure that they hold onto their top talent by monitoring the demographic profile of their changing workforce and ensuring that diverse talent isn’t lost. The wholesale shift to remote working is also opening up access to a whole new array of talent that may not have been available to companies previously: working parents, dual-career couples, and single parents are all better suited to a flexible
workplace and remote working.
Opportunity 2: Improving the quality of decision making. Our research has demonstrated that organizations investing in diversity and inclusion are strongly positioned in this regard, in part because diversity brings multiple perspectives to bear on problems, thereby boosting the odds of more creative solutions. Diverse companies are also more likely to have employees who feel they can be themselves at work and are empowered to participate and contribute.
Opportunity 3: Increasing customer insight and innovation. For example, one study found that over a two-year period, companies with more women were more likely to introduce radical new innovations into the market. A separate study found that businesses run by culturally diverse leadership teams were more likely to develop new products than those with homogenous leadership.
Opportunity 4: Driving employee motivation and satisfaction. McKinsey research on Latin America showed that companies perceived as committed to diversity are about 75 percent more likely to report a pro-teamwork leadership culture. Companies can also use society-wide feelings of solidarity, which are growing in the crisis, to build agile, inclusive work cultures going forward. Proponents of I&D should show the leaders and managers of their companies the business benefits of I&D and the critical importance of inclusive leadership to ensure that all employees feel valued and motivated at a time of increased vulnerability.
Opportunity 5: Improving a company’s global image and license to operate.
Companies that maintain, or even increase, their focus on I&D during the downturn are likely to avoid the risk of being penalized in its aftermath—for example, by losing customers, struggling to attract talent, and losing government support and partnerships. Companies that seek to emphasize solidarity and purpose and reach beyond the
organization to support the broader economy and society stand to gain.
In a recent Munk Dialogue interview, Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group commented on the fact that the size of this crisis might be big enough to advance long term institutional change. In that same session, Janice Gross Stein, Founding Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs agreed with that statement. It’s also a position of the authors of the McKinsey article -all supporting the fact that the time is now to move boldly forward on inclusion and diversity.
How we can do this will be explored in articles over the following weeks.
Diversity Still Matters - May 19, 2020
“COVID did not crush the future. It merely brought it forward.” – The comment comes from John Stackhouse who authored a recent report for RBC Economics. The report examines “How COVID will transform the economy and disrupt every business”and goes on to identify eight ways the pandemic will change what was our normal.
Stackhouse’s observation rings very true. Where there was once resistance to digitization there is now a need for it to stay in the game. In an instant work from home became the necessity not the nice-to-offer and broadband needs once again jumped to the forefront. Really, in almost every sector of our economy a re-thinking and re-imagining is underway.
With the eight items presented a lot of questions come to mind and that leads to a lot of issues that will
require deeper thought. How will these changes require governments to adapt? The speed of
government has been tested at every turn with the implementation of emergency programs and measures. How can we encourage flexibility within current processes to help businesses adjust? What is the cost of what is being given up from a human connection aspect? How does Canada adapt
successfully when there is still heavy reliance on other countries for supplies and resources?
Within these broader themes the author offers his thoughts on which sectors will be up and which will be down.
Under “How we work” the up areas include conferencing technology and flexible models for everything from childcare to cleaning to coffee deliveries. It’s interesting to note that one of the down elements is the co-work space that has been the subject of much debate for the past decade.
With many rural downtowns in the county and the downtown and commercial districts within the city of Peterborough, “How we shop” will be a crucial part of future success. There is definitely a commitment to buy local, to layout a community’s own economic safety net. It will be interesting to see how bricks and mortar locations fare through the rise of e-commerce. While COVID-19 may change the model of the mall is there a new adaptation that can work? Will we see the demise of high-density commercial property and if so what is the impact on municipalities and more rural downtowns?
"The reality is that a significant percentage of our economy is based on consumption, and the
pandemic is expected to generate a heightened preference for all things local,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “This will present a tremendous opportunity for everything from food security to the local shop owner."
The concept of “How we share” offers some insight in how we might move forward using data and artificial intelligence (AI). Processing information into consumable bits has the potential to improve reaction times to trends, to potentially be aware of roadblocks and avoid them. The importance of security and the ability for businesses to adapt to ongoing threats is a key issue and one that the
Peterborough Chamber has been advocating for since 2017.
For post-secondary towns like ours, “How we learn” is another crucial piece to determining our economic future. Previously reliant on learning in classrooms and labs, transitioning to online is a monumental shift, as is how international students have access to the courses. The need for adults to upskill and reskill does have the potential to fill virtual classrooms.
There are still many questions and it feels like the pressure is on for businesses to suddenly be the future, but within that there is opportunity.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce acts as a catalyst to enhance business growth, opportunity, innovation, partnerships and a diverse business community.