Policy and Advocacy

History & Year-end review for 2017

Since its inception in 1845, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has served as an anchor institution and the definitive voice of the local business community. Throughout its history, the Chamber has played an important role in bringing together business and community leaders to advocate at all levels of government for policies that further enhance the social and economic prosperity of our city.

Our predecessors helped build this city, advocating early for its electrification and “sewerfication”, supporting the development of a vibrant trade and goods movement sector, and leading the efforts to bring McMaster University to Hamilton.

The Chamber’s Advocacy efforts are reflective of the priorities of our membership and wider business community, further developed through professional expertise of volunteers on our Policy and Advocacy Council and Task Forces and finally, implemented by Chamber staff through their day to day engagement with Governments and the wider Chamber of Commerce network in Canada.

2017 has been an especially active and challenging year for our business community with government changes that have had very significant, cumulative and negative impacts. Some of those key issues your Chamber has focused on include, Ontario Bill 148 Fair Workplaces Act which has resulted in dramatic increases in the minimum wage and significant costly changes to the labour laws. As well as high energy costs and the Federal Department of Finance Small Business Tax Changes. All of these actions have hurt our businesses and that is why you’re Chamber and the Policy and Advocacy Council play such an important role as the voice of Hamilton business. We have and must continue to speak out. We have continued to build on the momentum of regional economic development through a successful partnership with the Burlington Chamber of Commerce to produce the Bay Area Economic Summit, and have built durable partnerships with organizations in Toronto and Buffalo.

After completing a strategic review and restructuring of our committee structure in 2016, we initiated a substantial membership engagement and strategy development process in 2017, under the sage leadership of our new Policy & Advocacy Council, comprised of the top Public Affairs professionals in our community.

A comprehensive survey was followed by focus groups and membership interviews, generating an overview of the most pressing policy priorities.  In Summer 2018, we will be launching a multi-year policy and advocacy strategy, providing formal structure and direction to our efforts.

Provincial & Federal Initiatives

In addition to our focus on municipal policy affairs, the Chamber has also worked closely with counterparts at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) to amplify our advocacy efforts supporting local businesses and enhance the economic development opportunities and investments in the region.

Each year the Chamber submits policy resolutions at the Ontario and Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meetings. These resolutions then become part of the advocacy agenda for both organizations. In 2016, the Chamber played a leading role in developing policy submissions related to cumulative regulatory burdens, infrastructure investments, health sector transformation, climate change and electricity prices. This year the Chamber also partnered with the Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie Chambers of Commerce, and the Canadian Steel Producers Association, to produce a comprehensive policy resolution titled “Supporting the Canadian Steel Industry and its Supply Chain Clusters”.  The resolution achieved a strong profile in the media and was well-received by the OCC, CCC and several key federal and provincial ministries.

Over the past year, as part of the Ontario and Canadian Chambers of Commerce networks we locally co-released comprehensive policy reports on the following issues:

Healthcare Transformation Agrifood Sector Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Regulatory Burdens
Electricity Prices Scaling up Small Business Immigration Reform Cap and Trade
Trade Enabling Infrastructure Changing Workplaces Review  Tourism Land Use Planning


Chamber Task Forces & Projects

Light Rail Transit (LRT) Task Force:

Established in 2012, the Chamber’s LRT Task Force is a multi-sectoral group representing diverse interest groups, including the local business community, academic institutions, and the public sector. Since its inception, the LRT Task Force has played an active role in supporting a strong business case for the LRT and building a coalition of support from vested stakeholders. In 2016, the Task Force submitted a letter to the LRT Project Team requesting an LRT stop at Bay Street and began working with Metrolinx and the impacted BIAs to begin developing a program that will help mitigate the impacts to the lower city business community.

As the LRT project now enters the implementation phase, the Task Force’s mandate will continue to evolve, with greater emphasis on the following areas in 2017:

  • Sustained support and engagement, ensuring that the voice of business is heard throughout the LRT project planning and implementation phases;
  • Continued advocacy for thorough project communications and measures that maximize the economic uplift associated with the infrastructure spending; and,
  • Developing and disseminating risk mitigation tools and support networks for impacted businesses and communities.

Talent Development

Over the last few years, the Chamber has increased its efforts with key stakeholders to attract, train and retain qualified labor talent within Hamilton. As part of this work, the Chamber has aligned with some of Hamilton’s leading employers to implement a new, innovative initiative called the “Magnet” job portal. Magnet has partnered with post-secondary institutions, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and numerous other stakeholders to ensure that there is robust demand (jobs) and supply (talent) to put this revolutionary job matching technology to the test. In 2016, through our involvement on the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Workforce Development, the Chamber and key partners presented the Magnet initiative to the assembled stakeholders and received their support to create a single Hamilton jobs portal. The initiative was subsequently endorsed by Hamilton City Council. The Magnet consortium of partners has secured seed funding and is working towards full operational rollout in 2017.

Digital Hamilton Task Force:

In 2016, the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Intelligent Communities was created to position Hamilton as a top “digital community”, as recognized by the Intelligent Communities Forum, by 2020. In support of this bold vision, the Chamber established the Digital Hamilton Task Force as a successor to the Innovation and Technology Committee, to convene top tier telecom organizations with a mandate to develop policy recommendations and establish a coalition of subject-matter experts.  The Task Force comprises stakeholders in multimedia, telecom, and technology. In 2017, the Digital Task Force will focus on the following areas:

  • Digital Infrastructure
  • Digital Economy
  • Digital Health and Education
  • Digital Government
  • Developing a 21st Century Workforce
  • Big Data
  • Analytics
  • Culture Shift

How can members be involved?

Our policy efforts are only made possible through the support and involvement of our membership. Members are actively engaged on our policy issues and in addition to having a direct line to our staff, can also participate in task forces, surveys and special roundtables with government stakeholders. Our Advocacy activities are regularly updated on our blog and crosslinked within our weekly Pipeline newsletter and social media and regularly covered by local, national and international media outlets. Lastly, our formal policy positions can be reviewed in the policy section of our website. For more information please contact our Policy Analyst, Bianca Caramento at b.caramento@hamiltonchamber.ca

Open for Business

The Chamber continues to play an essential role as an advocate of the business community on the City of Hamilton’s “Open For Business Sub-Committee”. The Chamber utilizes its membership on the Sub-Committee to voice ongoing challenges faced by local businesses in navigating City Hall’s regulatory and permissions processes. A new Chamber-appointed Ombudsman has been established to serve as a direct conduit between members and City Hall, and a formal process that will allow members to work with City Hall will be created in 2017.