January 18th, 2019

Business Beat: Driving change in the new year

By Medicine Hat News on December 26, 2018.

As the new year approaches, many individuals may be thinking about their New Year’s resolution. We set certain goals at this time of year to accomplish something that we believe will improve our life. For our Chamber, it’s not just about a New Year’s resolution, but rather resolutions we set throughout the year in order to connect our members, to support our business community and to influence change in order to make a difference or to improve the economic landscape for business.

Many of the resolutions we make as a Chamber are focused on decisions at a municipal level because the choices made locally often have the most direct impact.

However, we have found that over the course of the last four years, there have been major policy decisions at a provincial and federal level that have had adverse consequences for businesses at a local level. These concerns stem from issues such as regulatory costs, labour costs, climate change policies, tax and fiscal policies and trade agendas (both internal and external). These impacts have a direct effect on the bottom line for most, if not all businesses.

We know that businesses across the country are still concerned about our economy and the ability to rebound. They are also concerned about the ability to be responsive to the unprecedented pace of change, whether due to the political landscape or the pace of technological advancements.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to navigate the political environment, to address the dramatic need for acceleration in technology, to keep up with the overwhelming regulatory and cost burdens and to still remain competitive.

With the ongoing uncertainty in the economic landscape, this upcoming year presents an ideal timeframe for us to be an advocate for change in a very politically charged landscape. With having both a provincial and federal election on the horizon, there will be many challenges that need to be addressed through all party platforms. As a non-partisan organization, we have an opportunity to engage in dialogue with all parties and help influence the platforms and agendas in 2019.

Candidates running in both the provincial and federal election should be in a position to listen. Rather than setting the agenda, they should be looking to all of the constituents within their riding to hear the concerns and become informed about the issues that are having the greatest impact. This means having open dialogue with people of all different viewpoints, not just those that support a platform or position and engaging organizations with influence, such as Chambers of Commerce.

As the largest and most influential business network locally, provincially and federally, our resolution at all levels is to engage in and encourage dialogue; to entice people to join the conversation, to encourage individuals to ask the tough questions, to inspire the electorate to present effective solutions and to become informed about the outcomes that political decisions make on our prosperity for the future.

We need to push for governments to outline their fiscal strategies, as failure to bring the government’s books into balance will mean that business tax dollars will go toward servicing debt for years to come instead of creating a more competitive tax and business environment and providing for the service delivery needs of the entire population.

We need to ensure that our elected representatives understand the need for reduced regulatory cost burdens and constant uncertainty for business. Each candidate in every riding should have a solid comprehension of the layered economic impacts of policy decisions that are made. They should have a commitment to ensure that policy measures, infrastructure projects and investment decisions that are made moving forward have a positive impact on growing trade, business and investment opportunities.

Both the Alberta Chambers of Commerce and Canadian Chambers of Commerce are committed to this process and we have committed to #VoteProsperity in 2019 as well. We encourage our community to get engaged in the conversations and in the decisions that will impact our future.

In 2019 we encourage you to join us and set your resolution to get involved in the conversation, become informed about the decisions that will impact you and help shape the agenda and decisions in the 2019 elections in order to drive change.

For more information on the provincial and federal platforms, visit https://www.voteprosperityab.com/; http://www.chamber.ca/advocacy/10-ways-2018/

Be sure to connect with us in 2019 at http://www.medicinehatchamber.com, visit us at 413 6th Ave SE, Medicine Hat or call our office at 403-527-5214.

Lisa Kowalchuk is the executive director of the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce. For more information on this column or the Chamber, contact 403-527-5214.

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