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Advocacy in Action: Our meeting with Senator Doug Black, Q.C.

The Chamber of Commerce was pleased to meet with Senator Doug Black on September 30th to provide insight and perspective of the impacts of Covid-19 on our business community.

We were able to commend the Government for the much needed funding and supports for business and the willingness to adjust and change the programs to make sure they meet the needs and fill the gaps identified by businesses during Covid-19, but also highlight the challenges and complexities of the programs. For example, we mentioned the challenges with the Canada Emergency Business Account and businesses who are still unable to access this program as a result of having operated under a personal account versus a business account. With the funds fully subscribed through the regional relief and recovery fund, these businesses are still left without that support if they had not submitted their application soon enough. In addition, we were able to highlight the complexities and challenges related to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and how difficult it is for businesses to understand and apply. While we are pleased to see this program in place and the extension through to the end of next summer, we still hope that the overall process will be further simplified and easier to understand.

The Chamber emphasized the importance of student work placements and the benefit of having students supporting businesses in various projects, particularly in helping businesses get online and the need for funding in that area – further enhancing programs already in place. Senator Black committed to advocating on this issue with the federal government.

We also expressed the challenges with the Canada Emergency Commerce Rent Assistance program and that while the intention is beneficial, there are still many tenants left out of this program as there are landlords who are not interested in applying, so these tenants have difficulty accessing that kind of support. In addition, with the rent assistance program coming to a close, it is not meeting the continued needs of these businesses who are still having financial challenges and concerns meeting their rent, as they still have health guidelines restrictions which limit their ability to bring in the needed revenue to sustain their operations.

The Senator was very interested in learning about agriculture in our region and impacts on things like trade, transportation and opportunities within the sector. We highlighted the need to promote our ag industry, to simplify and rework risk management programs and to enhance work on trade agreements and the impacts these agreements have on industry. We also discussed immigration, particularly as it relates to agriculture and more specifically our greenhouse industry.

The discussion highlighted the impacts of transportation as it pertained to ports of entry and rail. The Senator was also very interested in the work and research we have done on our border crossings, particularly in light of the fact that Alberta is the only province in Canada with one 24 hour border crossing. Senator Black agreed to look further into the issue and follow it up.

Broadband was another topic of interest and of course highlighting the throne speech and the commitment to invest in rural broadband. We highlighted the gaps and challenges of rural connectivity and even connectivity within our municipality for businesses. We also emphasized that this was a particular challenge with the increased need for connectivity to meet the needs of online learning for students.

We were pleased to share our thoughts and information with Senator Black, represented by Scott Lehr, Reagan Weeks, Steven Pudwell and Lisa Kowalchuk and look forward to furthering these conversations in the future.

For more information on the business issues that we're working on visit Our Voice.

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