Occasionally, at Chamber related functions, we will mention the word advocacy and watch everyone’s eyes glaze over.
People are used to having us talk about tourism and visitor guides and flashy new websites – the shiny exterior coat of what we do here.
Advocacy is one of the important, but much less sexy, activities that we get involved in.
Not so exciting, but just as likely to affect our local businesses.
Why is advocacy important?
It’s important because business owners have valuable information to contribute to the legislative debate.
Without the benefit of their insight and expertise, elected officials could make uninformed decisions that could have a detrimental impact on the business community.
So one of the services that we regularly perform for the businesses of Summerland is to advocate on their behalf with policy and decision makers – sometimes even before the businesses know that they have needs that must be addressed.
Sometimes we work on local issues, either alone or with another party.
An example in the past year was our joint presentation with the Penticton Chamber of Commerce to raise concerns about the electoral boundary changes.
Often there are other organizations in the region or the province who are similarly impacted by policies so we work together to approach decision makers.
Recently we have worked with other chambers throughout the province, and through the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, to reach provincial politicians on a variety of issues.
One example is the Ministry of the Environment, where Chambers have connected with the Minister to request a review of the amended recycling legislation.
This legislation will require all small businesses who print advertising materials (such as a brochure) that is directed at consumers to register and pay fees for recycling.
Multi-materials B.C., the administrator of the recycling program has now agreed to establish a small business policy and has implemented an interim threshold for participation.
Another example is the phase out of the school tax credit for light industry.
This affects Class 5 Light Industry properties – we have 41 in Summerland.
One of these businesses has estimated that it will cost them thousands in increased property taxes each year.
Again, chambers are getting involved to seek answers from the appropriate departments.
If you’re a business owner reading this, you may be thinking you haven’t heard of any of these issues.
Sometimes these new programs, rules and fees aren’t widely publicized.
As well, you’re understandably very busy running your business.
That’s why the chamber is here – to ask the questions when you don’t have time to. It’s part of our job.
There’s a new opportunity to have our voices heard early in October and we’d appreciate your input.
The chamber has been asked to present to the provincial standing committee on finance and government services.
We will bring forward our members’ priorities and financial concerns for the next provincial budget.
Last time consultations occurred the message was ‘balanced budgets’. What is the message this time?
Please connect with us to share your thoughts.
We always appreciate your feedback. Please contact me email@example.com or Christine Petkau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arlene Fenrich is President of the Summerland Chamber of Economic Development and Tourism. All of the members of the board of directors serve as volunteers.