SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce will host around 400 representatives from its counterparts across the country, politicians, business leaders, lobbyists and experts in fields like economics and polling during the Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting September 21-23.
“Obviously, it’s election year, so we will have a panel discussion with party representatives and Herb Emery, the acting economics chair at UNB, who will be the moderator,” said Canadian Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Phil Taylor.
“We invited all the parties to come and talk about what their platforms are and how they interact with small business. That’s where our interest lie – how will your policies affect small businesses across the country. So, it’s a chance for biz leaders to ask their questions directly … that’s happening Sunday morning.”
Taylor doesn’t have confirmation on which parties will be sending their candidates for the panel yet.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is scheduled to give a keynote speech on interprovincial trade.
David Colletto, one of the founding partners and CEO of pollster Abacus Data, will also speak in a panel about recent polls, predictions, and what election outcomes may mean for business.
During the weekend at the Saint John Trade and Convention centre, representatives from 300 local chambers of commerce from around Canada will debate resolutions, which may, after a series of voting processes, become the official position of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Taylor says there are about 80 resolutions that mostly fall under three major themes: taxation, regulation and skilled labour.
“Taxation is top of mind – not necessarily lower taxes, but really the taxation process at large needs to change because that’s part of competing with the U.S. and Europe, he said. “At the same time, regulations right across the country at the federal, provincial and even the municipal level. We’re over-regulated compared to our competitors in the U.S.”
The Saint John chamber is backing a resolution related to a review on excise taxes on alcohol, which chamber CEO David Duplisea says is important for microbreweries and larger brewers like Moosehead.
Finding and retaining skilled workers is something that “all businesses are talking about across the country,” Taylor said.
“It’s a hot job market right now. And that’s tied to immigration as well,” he noted.
At least three resolutions submitted or co-sponsored by three New Brunswick chambers (Greater Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John) are related to immigration and skilled labour.
The return of the event to the Port City will coincide with the 200th anniversary of the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce.
Duplisea said the Saint John chamber has been lobbying for the event to come to the Port City since five years ago. But the city was only chosen as host after the chamber won in a bidding process to become host.
The events at the AGM will culminate with the anniversary dinner of the Saint John chamber Sunday night, for which around 500 attendees are expected.
“The reason why we wanted that tie in was because Saint John played host to the very first Canadian Chamber AGM in 1926 at the Admiral Beatty [complex],” he said. “Although we have hosted it since then, we really wanted the Canadian Chamber here by our side when we celebrate our 200th.”
Duplisea said Thomas Simms III, the grandson of former Saint John Board of Trade chair Lewis W. Simms who was instrumental in the creation of the Canadian Chamber and went on to chair it in 1952-53, will open the AGM. Premier Blaine Higgs will also speak at the opening ceremony.
The Saint John chamber of commerce, with its counterparts in Fredericton and Greater Moncton, and the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, are also finalists for the Influence in Action Competition. The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey Board of Trade are also finalists.
Taylor says the competition looked at how the chambers have approached particular issues and how they influence their members.