By Collin Gallant on September 12, 2018.
Business owners are most concerned about the cumulative effect of government regulations on their operations, according to the new president of the Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce.
Sarah Mackenzie says her group will concentrate with already ongoing lobbying efforts in the next 12 months, which will feature a new four-year city budget, several long-term development plans and a provincial election.
As well, the group hopes to launch a campaign to promote the benefits of patronizing local businesses, and get involved in school curriculum discussions and work with local group Thrive on a poverty reduction strategy.
“Continued engagement with the business community is important,” she said. “The largest issue is something that we’ve worked on this (past) year, and will continue to work on, is employment standards (update). There’s a list of changes, and overall the labour portfolio, including minimum wage increases, continues to be a challenge.”
Those changes, including a boost to $15 on Oct. 1, highlight new demands placed on business owners in local, provincial and federal governments, said Mackenzie, who began her one-year term on Sept. 1.
Coming back into fall, the agenda is full already in the municipal sphere.
The city budget is due in early January, and will aim to reduce costs and raise revenue to offset tax increases. Also due is a decision on an off-site levy assistance program that defrays some costs to developers of infrastructure work. It expires at the end of the year. Also a general update to the city’s long-term municipal development plan is underway.
As well, the city, Cypress County and Redcliff will renew their Intermunicipal Development plan, and hash out a new Intermunicipal collaboration plan. That is required under recent updates to the provincial Municipal Government Act, which include the ability to charge new offsites for shared infrastructure, or such items as emergency services or recreation facilities.
The Chamber’s position in the past has been in support of the development levy and against additional levy categories.
During provincial election, expected between March and May 2019, the Chamber will likely again hold local candidate forums, and will also likely take part in a province-wide campaign, similar to the Ontario Chamber recently did, to highlight economic issues.
A federal election won’t likely take place until late 2019.
“There always seems to be increased cost to business whenever government makes changes,” said Mackenzie. “That’s what the chamber watches, and provides advocacy.”
Along with minimum wage increases, Alberta’s first update to employment standards since the 1980s spelled out overtime procedures, standardized stat and holiday pay for workers and ordered some job security in cases of compassionate care and maternity leave.
The Alberta government lowered the small business tax rate as an offset of carbon levy implementation and is paying for it with levy revenue.
Mackenzie is joined on the 2018-2019 chamber board by first vice-president Tracy Noullett, of Meyers Norris Penny, and second vice-president Marcus Campbell, of renewable energy installation firm Terralta Inc.
Also on the chamber’s board of directors for the coming year are treasurer Brett Pudwell, of Ensminger Beck and Thompson, past president Perry Deering, of Deerview Meats.
Directors for the September to August term are lawyer Sarah Bowman, Sarah Franchetto (RBC Royal Bank), Guy Schotanus (ProComm Technology), Irlanda Price (Medicine Hat College), Tammy Sweeney (Canalta Centre), and Reagan Weeks (Prairie Rose School Division).
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