It was refreshing to see three local mayors having an open and candid discussion on local issues last Friday at the Chamber’s Three Mayor’s Breakfast at Lakefield College School.
The Chamber hosted the mayors of the townships of North Kawartha, Selwyn, and Douro-Dummer for a moderated discussion on local business and community issues. As part of the discussion our audience submitted a steady flow of great questions that pushed the conversation ahead on key topics.
Finding common ground
Most of us can agree on some key local business and community issues. We know our region needs more housing and at a price our local workforce can afford to rent and buy. Businesses in almost every industry are struggling to attract the skills and experience they need from the workforce and we need to get innovative with technology and how we attract and support talent. We need to cut our carbon footprint and preserve the natural environment we love about Peterborough and the Kawarthas.
The layers of government
One thing the township mayors made clear is that though they may punch above their weight, their size comes with limitations. It’s going to take all levels of government and their affiliated agencies working together to have the most effective and efficient growth.
We have a quite a few layers of government locally. We have Townships, which are part of the County, which surrounds the City – both of which are overseen by the Province. We have the federal government, multiple First Nations governments, and school boards. Together, we have close to 70 elected representatives in our region.
Just in terms of improving our transportation infrastructure, we have township roads, county roads, and provincial highways.
We can’t have governments working in isolation on important and multifaceted issues. There are a variety of housing needs and different challenges across Peterborough and the Kawarthas, but we need our governments to work together to find efficiencies in the process, attract investment to our region, and collectively deal with some of the barriers.
Healthcare is largely provincial in mandate, but we have municipalities actively working to create healthcare facilities and attract medical professionals because our communities need these services to meet the needs of local residents.
There is growing discussion about regional bus service through Peterborough and the Kawarthas. We have a pilot project called The Link, which is an example of a successful partnership between the Province, Selwyn Township, Curve Lake First Nation, Community Care Peterborough, and the City of Peterborough. Hopefully this service can be expanded further to help more people get to work and appointments.
Employment lands have been an ongoing issue for a while. We are missing out on opportunities because we don’t have enough designated and serviced employment ready to go for prospective businesses to consider for large industry opportunities. It’s unrealistic that any one local municipality is going to be able to satisfy this need on their own. We need to move ahead on this together with a regional mindset.
Many of these issues are themselves intertwined. When we have attainable housing, access to healthcare, and a car-free way to get to work, we can attract more people to our workforce.
Our communities are growing. How we grow takes leadership, intentional investment, and cooperation with all levels of government.
The workforce crunch has many employers looking at whatever opportunities they can to do more with less, from automation and technology to retraining and upskilling.
One area we can invest is in the mental health of our teams. The last few years have left a lot of people in a situation where they aren’t at their best. The workplace has come a long way in terms of how we talk about mental health and support workers through their journey, but there’s more progress to be made.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and Medavie recently announced a new research project aimed at accelerating health and economic solutions to tackle the surge in mental health challenges since the onset of COVID-19, known as the mental health “echo pandemic.” The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce, the OCC, and many other business-focused organizations across the province are committed to supporting investment in the health and well-being of Ontarians, adding to the overall resilience of the economy.
As per the OCC:
With mental health challenges and illnesses increasingly impacting individuals and communities, the OCC recognizes the urgent need for comprehensive solutions. Through this policy project, the OCC will delve into the socioeconomic impacts of the mental health crisis, from rising health care costs to lost productivity, absenteeism, and presenteeism. The goal is to generate actionable insights and policy recommendations that can guide policymakers, businesses, and the health sector in addressing Ontario’s mental health challenges.
“Mental health is a critical component of overall health, with significant implications for individuals, businesses, and the economy,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “By conducting research and collaborating with experts, we aim to identify effective strategies that support mental health, promote health system resilience, and drive economic prosperity in Ontario.”
Building on our previous work to tackle the mental health action gap, the OCC is proud to have the support of Medavie, a leading health solutions partner, in this vital project. Over the next several months, the OCC will lead a series of consultations with members and mental health stakeholders to identify specific obstacles, initiatives, and policy recommendations to address mental health and addictions challenges. A policy brief will be published in Fall 2023 as part of our Policy Primer Series, with key takeaways and recommendations for government and industry.
“We’ve seen the lasting impacts the pandemic has had on the mental health of individuals and communities,” said Matthew Crossman, Vice President, Operations, Medavie Health Services. “As part of our mission to improve the wellbeing of Canadians, we focus on increasing awareness of mental health and addictions supports and services while aiming to ensure people have access to the care they need, when and where they need it.” We are proud to partner with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on this initiative in support of the people, businesses and communities we serve.”
We are inviting businesses, organizations, and people passionate about mental health to support this new research project. We are looking to create change in the workplace and promote a supportive policy environment that prioritizes mental wellness. To learn more or get involved, contact Sara Beyer, Senior Policy Analyst with the OCC, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outside of this OCC initiative, we have numerous resources in our community for people and businesses to work with to address our mental health challenges. People who are getting the support they need will be happier, more reliable, and more efficient. It’s better for our communities and families while helping local businesses thrive.
When you think about starting a business, you likely consider many of the same factors as every other business owner; What are your goals, where should you locate, what will you offer, who will you hire? Most importantly though, you will think, how will I fund this?
It’s a question every business owner asks when planning their business. Many entrepreneurs don’t think twice about applying for grants, loans, and other sources of business funding to get started. For those who identify as LGBTQ2+ or BIPOC, however, things aren’t quite so clear. There is a problem in our business world that is systematically creating barriers for business owners that are visual minorities or openly queer; funding is just one of these barriers.
According to a study done by the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Deloitte, 20% of the members of the LGBTQ2+ community face business scaling challenges with financing as one of the top items on their list of barriers. In the same survey, 62% of respondents stated that they would not disclose their LGBTQ2+ identity in official materials or to stakeholders.
For those who are BIPOC, there is even less opportunity to hide your identity and therefore even more barriers to business. Another study conducted by The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce found that 35% of respondents never take advantage of funding programs presented, with eligibility (36%), lack of time/resources (16%), and less than 10 staff members (14%) listed as the main reasons they never apply.
Combined, the LGBTQ2+ and BIPOC communities account for roughly 25% of the Canadian population. Together, they are huge contributors to our economic, social, and cultural societies. Preventing LGBTQ2+ and BIPOC businesses from opening or operating at their full potential impacts the community as a whole. These individuals offer so many talents, perspectives, and experiences that are not shared or experienced due to business barriers. When these groups suffer, we all do.
In order to address systemic discrimination, there are many things that need to occur. Two main objectives could be:
What can small business owners do?
June is Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month in Canada. Now is the perfect time to unite with members of the LGBTQ2+ or BIPOC groups and declare yourself an active ally. We encourage you to take the next few weeks to learn, grow, and install a plan in your business to become more inclusive.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce held its annual Business Summit last month. Organizations of all shapes and sizes came together to discuss ways they can grow and prosper in the future. Businesses in the community seem to be all facing one common problem: staffing. Businesses are finding it nearly impossible to attract and retain employees.
There may be an untapped resource that businesses may have overlooked: the New Canadians Centre (NCC).
Andy Cragg, Executive Director of the NCC, was a panelist at the Summit’s discussion on workforce. Cragg pointed out that many new residents come to Canada willing and able to join the workforce.
On top of providing newcomers assistance to settle and integrate locally, the New Canadian Centre also offers employment support. This includes providing information about the local work environment, information on the accreditation and credential evaluation process, and a connection to other support programs and services.
“We have approximately 15 adult clients and 15 youth clients, but this number is always fluctuating as new people arrive in our community. Even if someone is not necessarily actively looking, if a good opportunity for them arises, our counselors will still reach out to them; for newcomers especially, it can take some time to make the connections in Canada to secure work that is in line with their previous training and experience,” stated Michelle Nguyen Peterborough Immigration Partnership (PIP) Officer of the New Canadians Centre.
Information on Labour and Immigration Statistics:
· Employers and governments are increasingly relying on immigrants to fill labour shortages as more Canadians are reaching retirement age
· Peterborough faces labour shortages in the healthcare industry, skilled trades, and business and finance sectors
· Over 1.3 million new immigrants were admitted to Canada from 2016 to 2021, more than the last five-year period
· Immigrants aged 25 to 54 account for 36.3% of all core-aged employment in accommodation and food services; 37.8% in transportation and warehousing, 34.1% in professional, scientific and technical services, and 20.1% in construction
· The Workforce Development Board predicts that, between 2019 and 2026, 22.5% of all new workers are expected to come from immigration
Nguyen also stated the NCC helps newcomers navigate the process on training into the industries in Canada. Nguyen also stated that the NCC helps newcomers navigate the process of acquiring the training needed to work in specific industries in Canada.
“We can help clients pursue recertification or attain new certification through programs we run (CPR/First Aid, Smart Serve, Heights Training). In addition, we've been working to address language barriers for essential/ministry-mandated training with a local health & safety training provider (HRS Group Inc.). Fleming Employment has run promising programs like Pathways to Prosperity but language level is an issue for some newcomers to participate successfully.
More generally, we conduct language assessments and refer people, when relevant, to language courses, depending on clients' needs,” Nguyen explained.
As well, the Federal Government has introduced the Economic Mobilities Pathway Pilot program. This program would match, “skilled refugees and other displaced people” with businesses to fill “in-demand jobs in Canada”. More information on this program can be found at this link.
If you are interested in learning more about the programs offered by the New Canadians Centre, check out their website nccpeterborough.ca