GTI Chamber of Commerce’s Forward Vision Casting Bright Light on the Future

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by Lorraine Payette, written August 23, 2013

(GANANOQUE, ONTARIO) Gananoque is moving into a brighter future, according to Gananoque 1,000 Islands Chamber of Commerce President Joe Baptista. The Chamber held their annual breakfast, titled “Forward Vision”, at Cousins on King in Gananoque on Friday August 23. The three speakers for the morning’s program were MP Gord Brown, Leeds-Grenville; MPP Steve Clark, also Leeds-Grenville; and Baptista.

“We have a multi-faceted plan for the Chamber,” said Baptista. “One of the things that’s become very evident in this day and age is that the Chambers need to be run more like the businesses that we serve. This means running effective programs that meet the needs of our businesses and of our partners, providing services and leadership in a timely and relevant fashion, but doing so in a fiscally responsible way.”

He said that it was time to study the different segments of the local business community and to devise a plan that takes their differences into consideration, making it possible to tailor opportunities for training, mentorship and advocacy for each of the different segments.

The Chamber has also updated and improved communications with its members, and is looking at improving and better developing the tourism program for the area. The plan is to use technology to provide tourism information not in just a single location, but in many areas throughout the town, as well as throughout the Thousand Islands through the use of both remote kiosks and live assistants to help provide information throughout the main tourist season.

“We are confident that we can develop a tourism program that will rival those in any world class destination,” said Baptista. “With the help of our community partners, we believe we can achieve great things in 2014.”

“I know that the Chamber works very hard to do so many things here in Gananoque,” said MP Brown. “The economy is the federal government’s top priority along with long term prosperity for Canada. It is also a priority for the people in this room.”

He went on to say that the Canadian economy has gone on to create over 1 million net new jobs since the depths of the global economic recession, and that the federal government intends to stay focused on jobs and economic growth. The government is planning to provide up to $15,000 per person in a new job grant to ensure that Canadians have the skills that they need to be successful in today’s economy.

The government will also be investing in infrastructure such as new roads and bridges, and will be providing funding for major projects across the country. The final step for this year is investment in manufacturing to help create more employment in local economic areas.

“We’re extending the existing capital cost allowance to provide $1.4 billion in tax relief to manufacturing companies helping to give them the best in modern machinery and technology,” said MP Brown.

He mentioned the successful completion of the work at the Customs Centre in Johnstown, and the allocation of $60 million for the improvement and expansion of the customs plaza at the Thousand Islands Bridge crossing.

Two of his private member’s bills went through in the past year. The Compassionate Care Bill, allowing parents of critically ill children to received employment insurance benefits, was passed making sure that these families would be able to continue to receive some form of income while looking after their loved ones in need. There was also the change in name of the St. Lawrence Islands National Park to the Thousand Islands National Park, drawing better attention to both the park and the area.

“I think that our little corner of Ontario is the nicest that anyone could live, work or just have a good time in,” said MPP Clark. “Whenever I get up to speak about a bill or an issue in the legislature, I always make sure to use an example right here in Leeds-Grenville.”

MPP Clark spoke about the budget bill and the fact that there have been no bills passed in the legislature since Premier Kathleen Wynne took over as leader of the minority Liberal parliament in Ontario. However, as a PC, MPP Clark is hoping to see more cooperation between the three parties and a chance to have everyone work together for the betterment of the province. As a member of the opposition, he’s looking forward to the Auditor General’s report in September.

“It’s a matter of a billion dollars,” said MPP Clark. “When I look at what that could do for this riding, or any riding, it’s tremendous. It would be a stimulus that would not rival anything we’ve ever seen before.”

He reminded people that there are meetings available with the public every Friday afternoon from 1:00 – 3:00 to allow people to speak with the MP and MPP to make their opinions known. As not everyone can get to Brockville, this makes it easier for those living in the region to have their voices heard.

“People come in regularly during constituency hours to talk about their concerns – the lack of affordable housing, access to health care, physiotherapy issues for seniors, rising taxes, our energy rates,” said MPP Clark. “I then raise those issues with the government, and (as a member of the opposition) the answer I get back is usually ‘we don’t have any money’. This is why things like (exposing) the gas plant scandal are so important, because we need to make sure that we hold any government of any stripe accountable for that type of blunder.”

MPP Clark then spoke about the plans his party has for job creation in Ontario. This is covered in the white papers “Paths to Prosperity.

“One of the things we plan to offer to our children and grandchildren is a return to the prosperous Ontario that I saw when I was a young person,” said MPP Clark. “We were the envy of this county, and I used to say we used to be the economic engine of Canada, and now we’re relegated to the caboose. We need to reset our priorities. We need to create more manufacturing jobs, and focus on the needs of places like Gananoque and Leeds and the Thousand Islands.”

He wants to see that every business can benefit, and to help all of the local residents to benefit as well. He wants to see improvements in education, gearing it more toward the needs of the marketplace, with better tax incentives for manufacturers and other businesses, and to eliminate regulation and legislation in Ontario that stifle rather than stimulate business.

A short question and answer period was held after the presentations. For more on the gas plant scandal, please run a google search ‘ontario canada gas plant scandal’. For the white paper, please go to http://www.ontariopc.com/paths/ . For more on the Chamber of Commerce and their services, please go to http://1000islandsgananoque.com/.

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