Saturday July 20, 2019
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Birds of a Featherstone

by Kevin Vallier

How do you go from owning a specialty food store in Guelph to owning one of the most successful craft wineries in the province? It’s not as much of a stretch as you might think. But like any successful business story the road is paved with hard work, a bit of luck and good timing. Such is the case for Louise Engel and David Johnson co-owners of Featherstone Winery located in Vineland.
At the age of 21 Louise and husband David started a specialty food store in the 1980s. At that time red meat was taboo. So the young couple specialized in selling poultry. “If it had feathers, we sold it,” said Engel. They both grew up on farms and David’s education is in agriculture. Engel’s is in business. “The more we got interested in food the more we got interested in wine.”

In my article concerning clearing the air on cannabis use in the workplace I outlined in general terms the limits on employers’ duty to accommodate employees’ medical use of cannabis relative to the workplace as being the duty to accommodate “to the point of undue hardship”. This duty is established by the Human Rights Code under the protected ground of disability.
What does this duty of accommodation entail? How do employers establish where the planes of “accommodation” and “the point of undue hardship” intersect? Further, how does this duty intersect with Ontario employers’ general duty to provide to each of their employees a safe work environment free from all recognized hazards under the Occupational Health and Safety Act?

Mr. D – From sandwiches to skyscrapers

by Niagara Independent Staff

He’s known affectionately by his staff as Mr. D.
Vincenzo DiCosimo arrived in Canada on July 12, 1955 to join his older brother who was already in Niagara Falls. He was just 19 years-old, had no money and didn’t speak a word of English. “I thought it was the biggest mistake I ever made. I wanted to go back right away.” History would show that it’s a good thing he stayed.

How taxation can fuel Canada’s intangibles economy

by Trevin Stratton PhD

A recent report by the Public Policy Forum finds that intangible assets like technology, intellectual property, branding, and design comprise 91% of the S&P 500’s total value.
Canadian businesses, from large tech firms to family farms, are adapting their business models to the drivers of long-term success in this increasingly intangible economy.

The making of a business leader

by Kevin Vallier

Starting next week The Niagara Independent will be running a new series taking an in-depth look at Niagara’s most successful business leaders. In one-on-one interviews with the most successful entrepreneurs in the region we will go back in time and explore their stories from the very beginnings and map out their journey to success.

While Niagara may not be home to the global headquarters of Fortune 500 companies it is home to some of the most fascinating and inspiring business success stories in the country. Stories about people taking massive risks, working extremely hard, catching a few breaks and in the end providing good paying jobs and benefits to thousands of Niagara residents. They also contribute millions to local charities.

Inside the True North conference

by Craig Haney

Kitchener Waterloo is known as the hub of innovation in Canada. Recently the region held their renowned True North conference. This year’s theme, “Bridges, not Walls” brought together 2,800 people from across Canada, and around the world, to hear some of the brightest and most interesting minds in business, technology, journalism, and the public sector provide stories and examples of both bridges and walls.

As someone who has attended both True North events, and many of the Tech Leadership Conferences (which predated True North), I thought I would share some of my experiences and lessons from this tremendously important conference.

Hamilton economy continues to grow with planned L3 HQ

by Niagara Independent Staff

L3 WESCAM announced this week at an official groundbreaking ceremony the construction of a brand-new, state-of-the-art headquarters facility, which will include 330,000 square feet of research and development, engineering, assembly and office space in Hamilton. By the expected move-in date in 2021, the new facility will be home to 1,200 employees.
“We are pleased to announce that L3 will continue to be a part of this region’s economic renaissance and has selected a location that embodies our mission to be the very best of the best in our industry,” said Jacques Comtois, Vice President and General Manager of L3 WESCAM. “Hamilton has a rich business legacy of transforming ideas into high-technology products and offers a skilled talent base with a deep knowledge of advanced manufacturing and applied research. We are thrilled to establish our new operations in Hamilton and continue moving forward with our growth plans.”

In Ontario employers who either fail to take allegations of violence and harassment seriously or deal with them in good faith, expose themselves to significant legal liability given their multifaceted obligations to employees under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”), the Ontario Human Rights Code and the common law.
Essentially this means that employers who fail to adequately respond to, investigate, prevent or remedy harassment face increasing damage awards and statutory fines on top of exposure to negative PR and brand damage.

Trudeau approves pipeline

by Kevin Orland and Robert Tuttle

The oil pipeline that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government approved on Tuesday is slated to start shipping crude as early as 2022 and cost more than C$7.4 billion after legal delays hampered the construction process.
The Trans Mountain expansion, which would carry 590,000 more barrels of crude from Alberta’s oil sands to a port in Vancouver, was delayed for eight months as the federal government conducted additional environmental reviews and consultations with indigenous groups. That setback added more than a year to the project’s timeline as windows for sensitive steps such as work around fisheries were missed, Trans Mountain Chief Executive Officer Ian Anderson said on a conference call.“We all know that time is money and delays are going to push up costs,” Anderson said, without providing more specific estimates. The 2022 target assumes that “all goes well” on the regulatory and construction fronts and that work begins in September of this year, Anderson said.

Environment and business can make a great team

by Julie Kwiecinski

Last week, the federal government announced that it will “ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021 (such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks) where supported by scientific evidence and warranted.” What’s missing from this announcement is a commitment to provide economic evidence of the impact of such a speedy ban on small businesses.

The plastics ban looks good on paper. Who wouldn’t support it in principle? But in practice, it will take much more than words to make it work. When Raptors’ basketball coach Nick Nurse draws up a play on his clipboard, every player is given a role, and getting everyone in on the action early is paramount.

As part of the team needed to put this policy in play effectively, small businesses have to be part of the discussion. Depending on their trade, business owners will be forced to change their product lines or find alternative products.

Business Watch

by Samuel Potter and Sid Verma (Bloomberg)

U.S. President Donald Trump decided not to impose a five per cent charge on all Mexican imports, accepting the country’s offer of tougher immigration enforcement. The breakthrough clears a path for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement to move forward, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Sunday. Markets predictably welcomed the news and the peso had its biggest gain in almost a year. In the meantime, while the developments appear to remove one obstacle for Congress to approve the North American deal, the White House still has work to do to get it over the line.

Airbus Flying high in Fort Erie and around the world

by Kevin Vallier

Just a few months ago the first Airbus H145 helicopter to be delivered in Canada arrived at the RCMP’s base at Langley airport in Metro Vancouver. Why is that news in Niagara? Well because the state-of-the-art helicopter that allows the RCMP to support day and night operations over land and water, and conduct fast roping and hoisting, medical evacuations and search and rescue operations was manufactured, assembled and painted in Fort Erie.
While Airbus is a global company with offices in almost every country around the world most people in Niagara don’t realize that the Canadian headquarters is located in Fort Erie, employs nearly 300 people and is celebrating 35 years of operations.

Are Your Employment Policies Employment Standards Act Savvy?

by Sheryl Johnson

As of late, one of the most varied pieces of employment legislation in Ontario is the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”). Such ongoing changes have led to a lot of confusion for employers on what their legal obligations are and what their policies and practices should be. This is particularly the case in relation to “Personal Emergency Leave” (PEL) days and the fact that the 2019 amendments to the ESA have reduced rather than increased employee statutory entitlements.

South Niagara Chambers of Commerce Welcome CannTrust CEO, Peter Aceto

by Niagara Independent Staff

On June 4 at Cardinal Lakes Golf Course in Welland, the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce will be hosting a breakfast seminar featuring Peter Aceto, CEO of CannTrust, a federally licensed and regulated global cannabis market leader. For Aceto, a noted speaker, this will be his inaugural speaking engagement in Niagara.
CannTrust is a publicly traded company that operates its approximately 450,000 square foot Niagara Perpetual Harvest Facility in Pelham and has been approved to construct an additional 390,000 square feet. of cannabis cultivation space. The company has garnered success as the 2018 Licensed Producer of the Year. The award criteria include commitment to customer service, positive feedback from employees and high standards of production.

In a previous series, I went through all the essential stages of Design Thinking. Through this important process, people and companies are able to gain important insights into what customer’s need and are looking for, most importantly, what they are willing to pay for. This stage of new product development is important. You are making small bets, with the hope that you will learn enough to make a big bet.

The big bet is a lot harder to make than the small bets. Let’s look at why.

Clearing the Air on Use of Marijuana in the Workplace

by Sheryl Johnson

Notwithstanding that recreational marijuana has been legal in Canada for seven months now and medical cannabis, alcohol and other intoxicants a lot longer, employers still have many fears and misconceptions about how its employees’ use of marijuana both at work and at home may negatively impact their workplaces. This article addresses many of these concerns so as to clear the air on employees use of marijuana as it relates to the workplace as an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.

Senate committee approves dozens of amendments to C-69

by The Canadian Press

A Senate committee has approved dozens of amendments — primarily aimed at mollifying the energy industry — to the Liberal government’s controversial environmental assessment legislation.
Bill C-69 is supposed to improve the way the environmental impact of major energy and transportation projects are evaluated, making the assessments more stringent so that they are less likely to fail court challenges.
But the oil industry, backed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, has launched ferocious opposition to the bill, which it claims will sow uncertainty and prevent major projects, such as pipelines, from ever getting built.

Onex makes bid to buy WestJet

by Niagara Independent Staff

Onex Corp. has signed a friendly deal to buy WestJet Airlines Ltd. in a transaction that’s being valued at $5 billion, including assumed debt.
Under the agreement announced this past Monday, Onex will pay $31 per share for WestJet, which will continue to operate as a privately held company.
Shares in the airline jumped from $18.52 last Friday to $30.03 after the announcement.

Niagara’s industry is ‘alive and well’

by Elena De Luigi

Niagara has experienced an industrial boom over the past few years, and the region has attracted approximately $500 million in investment in industrial building construction, according to statistics from Niagara Economic Development.

Blake Landry, Manager of Economic Research & Analysis at Niagara Economic Development, sent a statement to The Niagara Independent on the current climate of the region’s industry.

In an email, Landry said that there are 16,500 direct jobs in manufacturing and that it supports an additional 50,000 jobs in other industries.

Finance Minister speaks to South Niagara business leaders

by Kevin Vallier

It was a packed house at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse last night as many of Niagara’s business leaders and elected officials were on hand to hear provincial Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli discuss the province’s recent budget.

The event, organized by the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce, was, not surprisingly, very well attended as it’s not often business owners get to hear directly from the person in charge of the province’s finances.

Can we predict the future?

by Craig Haney

It is what people have been trying to do for as long as humans have existed. Trying to figure out what’s next. As hunters and gatherers, we tried to predict where herds will migrate to, what the weather will be, or where the next dangerous animal will attack from. Eventually we figured out ways to store our food so we didn’t have to rely as much on predicting the future.

As farmers, we predicted weather, seasons, and pests but we tried to find ways to store and process the foods we grew. We tried to use systems and technology so we wouldn’t have to predict the future as much. With the industrial age it allowed us even more freedom to not have to predict the future. We could produce thousands of widgets and wait for customers to come. As long as we continually produced them cheaper, more efficiently, and with minor improvements, the customers kept coming and the business kept growing. With the fourth industrial revolution upon us, the connected age, our world, our customers, and our markets are changing so fast we are back to having to try to predict the future again.

Gretzky adds beer to wine and whisky products

by Niagara Independent Staff

Wayne Gretzky Estates announced the launch of No. 99 Rye Lager, its first craft beer. The brew will be for sale across Ontario beginning this month at LCBO stores, Wayne Gretzky Estates, as well as select Ontario restaurants. The lager will be available more broadly across Ontario this fall.
“Our goal at the outset was to give hockey fans and beer fans something new to cheer about,” said John Peller. “As the name promises, No. 99 Rye Lager, brewed with rye grain delivers the crisp, clean taste of a classic lager with an extra layer of depth, zest and freshness. There’s nothing like it on the market.”
“It feels awesome to be back in the craft beer business” said Peller. Although the Peller family may be most known for their Canadian wines, Company founder Andrew Peller got his start in the beer industry. “My grandpa started his career in the 1930’s as a brewmaster at E.P. Taylor Canadian brewing, which led him to open his own brewery, Peller Brewing Company in 1947, in Hamilton, Ontario,” Peller explained.

Toyota plans to produce luxury SUV in Ontario

by Niagara Independent Staff

It was a good news announcement for Ontario’s auto sector yesterday. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) announced they will begin producing their luxury SUV at its Cambridge plant moving production from Japan to Ontario. The plant will supply all of the North American market.
“Building on our recent Toyota RAV4 announcement and our recent facility modernization investments, we are excited to announce that TMMC has been selected to produce the popular Lexus NX and Lexus NX Hybrid models for the entire North American market,” TMMC President Fred Volf told Team Members and dignitaries.

Ford Motor to put $500 million into electric vehicle startup Rivian

by Supantha Mukherjee and Joe White

Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it will invest $500 million in U.S. electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive LLC, joining Amazon.com Inc in backing the potential rival to Silicon Valley’s Tesla Inc.
Ford said it will use Rivian’s “skateboard” – a chassis that bundles electric motor, batteries and controls – to build a new vehicle for North America. It did not provide details on what type of vehicle, and where or when it would be built.
Michigan-based Rivian, founded in 2009, has raised more than $1.5 billion from investors. A company spokesman declined to provide a valuation for the company, but investor website Dealroom.com estimates Rivian’s value at $5 billion to $7 billion.

Random drug testing in the workplace

by Nicholas Tibollo

Do you agree with the following statement?

For workers in high-risk roles, employers should be permitted by law to conduct random drug testing in order to confirm sobriety and ensure the present and future safety of the workplace.

If you answered “yes”, you’re in the majority.

According to a recent corporate study, 4 in 5 Ontarians believe that employers should be granted protection under law to randomly test workers in safety-sensitive positions; such as, for example, crane operators or airline pilots.

World business this week

by Lorcan Roche Kelly (Bloomberg)

Oh Canada
Canada’s main stock index traded at an all-time high yesterday.
At 9:43 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index edged up to 16,587.12 points.
Its previous intra-day record was 16,586.46, which it hit on July 13, 2018. The TSX also surpassed its closing record of 16,567.42 on Thursday.

Divergent vs Convergent Mindsets

by Craig Haney

In the 1960’s J.P. Guilfold published a number of research papers on the concept of Divergent and Convergent thinking. He was able to clearly articulate the differences between convergent thinking and divergent thinking. This can relate to innovation and why existing companies and managers often have a difficult time connecting new innovations to successful business objectives.

A convergent mindset is represented, simply stated, in a person who is able to take a number of options and distill it into one right answer. In many cases, this is a very valuable approach. Do you want an engineer to not be focused on the best answer when she is designing a bridge? Companies want the engineer that can make the best choice, with all the information in front of her, do the math and come up with the right answer.

World Business this Week

by Lorcan Roche Kelly (Bloomberg)

Brexit extension
The EU has granted the U.K. more time to find a way of leaving the bloc, with the deadline moved to Oct. 31. While the can-kicking is better than a disorderly Brexit in the short term, it does nothing to resolve the uncertainty over what Brexit will look like. The delay also means that Prime Minister Theresa May’s position will come under further pressure as members of her party will see the risk of no Brexit at all increasing. U.K. markets and the pound did not react much to the news.
Oil warning
Much of the 42 percent surge in crude this year has been driven by supply concerns, with OPEC’s production cuts, Iran sanctions and fighting in Libya all clouding the outlook for production. Earlier this week the International Energy Agency warned in its monthly report that falling demand could become a bigger issue for the rest of the year, saying the “risks to demand are to the downside” as it sees threats to global growth.

‘Brand Canada’ is taking a beating, according to the heads of the nation’s two biggest banks.
Toronto-Dominion Bank Chief Executive Officer Bharat Masrani and Royal Bank of Canada CEO David McKay flagged Canadian weaknesses during their respective annual investors meetings — including competitiveness, stalled infrastructure, lack of housing supply, trade barriers and red tape. While Canada also has strengths — Masrani cited innovation and technology — the bank heads said there are clearly problems to fix.

Four decades of building Niagara

by Scott Leslie

Mark Basciano has seen a lot of changes in the construction industry over the past 40 years. But there’s been one constant in his life.

He’s seen the Mountainview Group – the family-owned building company – grow from a modest homebuilder into a multi-faceted firm producing everything from condominiums and low-rise family homes to commercial spaces, retirement and nursing homes to tenant improvements, and hospitality projects and renovations.

“We’re proud to be celebrating our fourth decade in business,” says the president of the Mountainview Group. “But we’re still guided by the same philosophies we always have. We strive to make a difference in our community and deliver superior customer service.”

Getting caught in an avalanche

by Craig Haney

Considering the snow that most of Ontario got over the weekend, this week’s article had to be renamed. The content is the same, but now you get a snow-related title. You’re welcome.

Diane Vaughan is a professor of Sociology at Columbia University. She is most famous for her work on explaining how the ‘normalization of deviance’ created the situation where standards were reduced over time because of the absence of a negative event. This means that inspectors, engineers, scientists, etc saw the absence of a negative event as confirmation that their expansion of parameters were within the limits of acceptable risk…until it wasn’t. That’s the problem with catastrophic instances…they happen with no warning, yet the organization has been pushing the limits of acceptable risks, until it’s too late.

Grimsby company acquired by Horizon North

by Niagara Independent Staff

Horizon North Logistics Inc. (TSX: HNL.TO) recently announced that they have entered into a binding purchase and sale agreement with respect to the acquisition of NRB Inc. (Canada), a full-service modular construction provider based in Grimsby.
Horizon North has agreed to purchase all of the outstanding shares of NRB Canada for $16.5 million, payable in a mix of common shares of Horizon North and cash. The Binding Purchase Agreement is subject to certain conditions, including the receipt of all necessary and required consents, including those from the Toronto Stock Exchange. The transaction is scheduled to close in early April 2019.

Sometimes good companies will do a post-mortem of a product launch or innovation project, and they will take a look at the feedback they are getting from customers, find out where the negative feedback is and fix it. Seems like a natural and smart thing to do. It is. But for those companies that want to build a system for innovation, not just a series of projects, they need to take it up a few notches. Companies need to build a system-thinking approach to innovation.

So often organizations get focused on simple measurements of success. Not necessarily because they are good ones that measure the actual success, but because they are easy to measure. The most adaptable organizations are the ones that look at the system behind the outcomes, and measure impactful, and difficult to find, metrics that look at the system as a whole, not just one phase. How can companies build this thinking into an organization’s culture and management process? Here’s an example and how it can apply to any business.

Wineries press for more retail options

by Kevin Vallier

With the current provincial government set to make significant changes on how alcohol is sold in Ontario, The Niagara Independent is examining the challenges and opportunities facing Ontario’s wine industry and what type of impact the potential changes could have on this province’s wine makers.
Ontario’s craft wineries are excited about the province’s promise to expand retail options for wine sales in Ontario. It seems like a natural win-win but depending on how the proposed expansion ends up being structured it could be boon or bust for Ontario’s small and medium sized wineries. For decades now the craft wineries in Niagara and across the province have advocated to expand wine retailing to privately owned and operated businesses.

Stop focusing on the outcome

by Craig Haney

In innovation circles, success is usually measured in home runs.  How many new products make it to the store shelves?  How many millions of dollars did these new products generate?  Sometimes, innovation teams have great stories to share, and sometimes they don’t.  Does that mean that the teams that don’t have those successes aren’t doing […]

Taxing times for Ontario’s wine industry

by Kevin Vallier

They don’t want special treatment. They just want fair treatment.

That’s the message the Ontario Craft Wineries are hammering home to the Ford government as the province explores ways to expand the sale of alcohol across Ontario. Yes, the association that represents small and medium sized VQA wineries throughout the province have ideas and recommendations about alcohol sale expansion but the more pressing concern is the archaic tax system under which they are forced to operate. It’s a system that when explained to people outside of the industry it usually elicits a jaw dropping, eyes widening response of, “that’s ridiculous!”

Essentially there are two different models of taxation that Ontario wineries face; one for when they sell product into the U.S. market and one for Ontario sales. The U.S. system is a three-tier distribution system where Ontario wineries must use a U.S. importer at which point they face a 35% markup (tax), then the product goes through a U.S. distributor where the wine faces another 35% markup and finally it ends up in a retail space where it gets slapped with another 35% tax for a total of a 100% markup.

When the leader has to get outside the building

by Craig Haney

I recently ran a workshop with a local small business. They were looking for ways to identify significant friction points in their customer journey. At what points did the customer feel extreme frustration and where in the journey did the company deliver on delightful experiences.

The future of Ontario’s wine industry

by Kevin Vallier

The future of Ontario’s wine industry is at a crossroads. Changes are coming and depending on what those changes are, small and medium sized wineries in Ontario (the vast majority of which are in Niagara) could either flourish or potentially flounder.
The Niagara Independent will examine what’s at stake for the province’s wine industry over a series of articles that will examine the current tax structure on wine, location of product sales, the importing of foreign wines and comparing the regulatory burden on the wine industry versus the cannabis industry.
In the Niagara peninsula alone, the wine industry has a nearly $4 billion economic impact according to the latest studies. There are nearly 100 wineries just in Niagara and the number of wine related tourists that visit Niagara is over two million a year. Province-wide the wine industry is responsible for about 18,000 jobs totalling $870 million in wages. It’s big business.

Who leads innovation?

by Craig Haney

Who leads innovation? This is a question that is asked on a regular basis. Who should lead the efforts on innovation, new product development, cultural changes, etc? There are many good choices, and a few bad ones, and none of them require a certain position. But there a few requirements that will help an innovation leader succeed.

The recent Deloitte study focused on innovation pointed out that few Canadian companies were prepared for future disruption. In fact, 35% of Canadian companies self-reported they were totally unprepared for a future disruption, and a further 29% have no plan and are tentative about what to do next. This is significant as almost every industry is going through some level of disruption, and most of these are driven by technology. Others might argue there are other causes, but most of these are rooted in significant technological advances which ultimately drive new consumer behaviours, cost reductions, globalization, etc.

Energy Crisis Myths

by Chad Ford

The Canadian energy sector is under attack like never before and it is threatening the unity of Canada. The one positive from this situation is that the challenges faced by the energy sector are almost exclusively politically imposed. There are no outside market forces causing the pain in Western Canada. In fact, with the exception of jurisdictions which also suffer from terrible government decisions such as Venezuela, other oil and gas jurisdictions such as the US are booming. This is good news because it means it is within the power of our governments to fix them.
Unfortunately, the challenges in restoring this country’s energy sector have been obscured by misinformation by development opponents and due to the complexity of the issues which have been misunderstood and communicated by many in the media. Here are the top five myths which need to be addressed in order to fix the current Canadian energy crisis.

What exactly are innovation teams responsible for?

by Craig Haney

The past five articles talked about how innovation teams can use first hand research and customer feedback to find new opportunities for growth. They use Design Thinking to constantly empathize with the user and find where there are gaps and build better solutions. This seems great and important work, and also a heck of a lot of fun. Great for the innovation team, but what about the teams grinding away in operations, putting out fires, and dealing with customer complaints for products already on the market?

Companies need to come up with ways that hold innovation teams accountable for delivering value to the organization. Sales teams, operations teams and admin teams all have accountabilities that are directly related to business objectives. However, innovation teams aren’t always directly connected to these business objectives. Here are a few issues that can arise when creating accountabilities for innovation teams.

Creating spirits of today with a nod to the past

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara Falls Craft Distillers is banking on a very successful future. Part of that success is built on their recognition of the areas rich past. It’s a history the company ties into each product be it vodka, whiskey, rum or gin.
Established in 2017 under the leadership and vision of local businessman and Niagara native Chris Jeffries, the distillery has had some good success in a short time period. Niagara, once known solely for its wineries and vineyards, is now making a name for itself in the craft beer and spirits markets as well. Jeffries, who owns the Syndicate restaurant in Niagara Falls where he has been brewing craft beer for over a decade, decided to take the leap into the spirits market.

Why the fuss about red tape?

by Julie Kwiecinski

No one goes into business to get stuck in red tape, but that’s what inevitably happens. From the get-go, the entrepreneur becomes a prisoner to paperwork, struggling their way through endless excessive, unnecessary and redundant government-imposed rules.

The fuss about red tape is justified for many reasons. Red tape costs businesses time and money that could be better spent on creating jobs and improving competitiveness. Small businesses in the province spend as much as 177 hours and $6,776 per employee every year to comply with regulations from all levels of government.

Is your idea actually a good one?

by Craig Haney

If you’ve gotten this far in the Design Thinking series, then you’ve bought into the concept that being customer centric matters. Great, and welcome to this side of the tracks. It’s a humbling place to be, but it does inspire you to create things customers actually want to buy.

You’ve just finished reading “There’s a proper way to brainstorm” and we’ve taken you through a structured way to find explore some new ideas. Constantly diverging and converging. Now we need to test those ideas to see if they are any good. The goal of this phase is to prototype the idea, feature, concept as quickly as we can and get it in front of potential customers to gather feedback.

Canadian National Railway Co beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit on Tuesday, as it transported higher volumes of petroleum crude and Canadian grain.
A lack of pipelines to the United States and oversupply have led Canadian energy producers to look for alternatives such as railroads to ship crude.
As a result, Canada’s largest railway operator said total carloads, the amount of freight loaded into cars, rose about 5 percent in the final quarter of 2018.

There’s a proper way to Brainstorm

by Craig Haney

In my last article, Ideas are the easy part, we focused on empathizing with your users and customers, and defining a problem from their point of view. Too often we spend our time defining the problems from the company point of view and expect our customers to follow…and because of more choice and more information available, customers aren’t following like they used to.

I received some feedback from the last post, and most of the questions were around how to do ideation and brainstorming effectively. Let’s spend a few minutes diving deeper into that process. Last post we spent a little time on ideation and talked about the need to not brainstorm too quickly, before we’ve validated that the problem is a real problem for the user; one that they are willing to pay to have solved.

Ideas are the easy part

by Craig Haney

In my travels around the world working and advising leaders and companies on innovation activities, I hear a similar challenge:

“We ran this idea challenge, and it was great. We got a lot of ideas but nothing ever came after that.”

Employees are full of great ideas, and some bad ones too. Customers often have really practical ideas to solve their problems. Vendors you work with may have wonderful ideas that they have seen work in different areas, competitors, etc. So many great ideas. The challenge is, ideation, or brainstorming, is actually the middle step in a 5 step process built to generate new ideas, but also new products (and revenue) from those ideas.

Against the backdrop of an election year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing increasing pressure amid calls to move faster and more forcefully to complete a new oil pipeline in this country.

That pressure is underscored in new public opinion data from the Angus Reid Institute that shows six-in-ten Canadians say the lack of new pipeline capacity constitutes a “crisis”, while half say the Trudeau government has done “too little” to ensure new capacity is built.

Big companies moving fast in new areas

by Craig Haney

As a kid we want to go fast. Faster on a bike. Faster in a car. Faster on a ski hill. The repercussions of going fast weren’t as impactful as the immediate fun we were having with the wind blowing through our hair or the thrill of living on the edge. The reward was high, the cost was low. So we did it.

As we became teenagers, our teachers, parents, police officers, and others told us to slow down. Be careful. Take your time. You don’t have to rush. These were drilled in us and the consequences of the mistakes of going too fast seemed to get bigger. Or so we were told.

The accelerating pace of change

by Trevin Stratton PhD

When we say the pace of change is accelerating, we mean that in many sectors, critical foundations of industry structure—the economic fundamentals, the borders of industries, the value of different assets, even the types of competitors—are rapidly shifting.
Every December, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce predicts the issues, opportunities and outlook for the year ahead in our Crystal Ball Report. We gather insights from the people on the ground who are running businesses, creating jobs and wealth, but also living through Canada’s economic challenges.

What to Watch in Commodities in 2019: Winners and Losers Line-Up

by Jeremy Hill, Ranjeetha Pakiam, Jake Lloyd-Smith

Commodities took a kicking in 2018 — with deep losses in everything from oil and copper to coffee and sugar — so what’s in store for the 12 months to come? The inaugural What to Watch of the year offers a selective run through of prospects and pitfalls for some of the top raw materials, and it’s a reasonably positive picture that emerges.
That road map comes ahead of a busy period. The U.S.-China trade fight will be in the news next week, with a U.S. delegation in Beijing for talks from Monday. In addition, there’ll be more pointers on the macroeconomic outlook, with the World Bank updating its Global Economic Prospects report on Tuesday and a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday. Before that — and following a turbulent few days — Powell speaks in Atlanta later Friday.

Innovate like a fighter pilot

by Craig Haney

John Boyd is widely regarded as the person who pioneered the design of modern military jet fighters in the 20th century. His theories led to the Lightweight Fighter program (LWF), based on his Energy-Manoeuvrability (E-M) Theory, which states that excessive weight would have debilitating consequences for manoeuvrability of an aircraft. At the time it was controversial as the pilot would have to sacrifice key elements, such as speed and weaponry, to optimize agility.
The other significant framework Boyd developed was the Observe Orient Decide Act (OODA) Loop. This is the process by which an entity (an individual or an organization) reacts to an event. According to this idea, the key to victory is to be able to create situations in which one can make appropriate decisions more quickly than one’s opponent.

New Year, New Focus on Corporate Innovation

by Craig Haney

As we head into 2019, it’s a great opportunity to evaluate the past year (or more) and look to the new year with an eye to improvement, change, and focus. With that, we’d like to introduce you to the concept of a Nimble Hippo.
The Nimble Hippo is a representation of what an agile, nimble, and innovative organization looks like. Nimble Hippos are big, they are smart, they are curious and they ask great questions. They partner where they can. And, finally, they are cool, they are the company that people want to work at, and work with. The most innovative companies in the world express these five traits across their organization and tend to be very successful because of them.
The Nimble Hippo will take you through the process of innovation in large organizations. He has talked about open innovation and how to engage with innovative ecosystems, with companies and people not like you. Nimble Hippos understand that culture, people, and processes that support new ideas and technologies will ultimately determine the sustainability of innovative companies.

Time for cross provincial alcohol sales say business leaders

by Kevin Vallier

Canada, and the Niagara Region in particular, is home to a burgeoning wine, beer and spirits industry, but Canadians can’t take full advantage of these products because of trade barriers that prevent the free-flow of beverage alcohol within Canada. The Canadian Global Cities Council (CGCC) and local Chambers of Commerce agree that it’s time to allow alcohol to travel across provincial borders, barrier free (particularly with growing online sales).
Earlier this month the Toronto Region Board of Trade raised the idea that federal and provincial First Ministers should sign an icebreaker deal on alcohol sales, allowing for e-commerce of any locally produced alcoholic beverage across any interprovincial border. The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and the CGCC, along with partners in the beverage alcohol sector, called on the First Ministers to discuss a more robust internal trade.

New manufacturing facility announced for St. Catharines

by Niagara Independent Staff

Another private company has decided to invest in Niagara, this time in St. Catharines. After Welland recently announced that insurance giant, Kanetix Ltd. would be opening a new office and creating up to 100 jobs within a year, Steelcon Fabrication Inc. announced the company plans on opening a new $40 million manufacturing facility in the Garden City. The plant will produce its leading SIN-beam product for the North American market.
A family-owned company based in Brampton, Steelcon uses advanced technologies to produce construction beams that are lighter, use less steel, and have less of an impact on the environment while making construction more efficient.
“The decision on the site was an extremely smooth one. St. Catharines brims with manufacturing facilities and when you can infill a location that fits so well for Steelcon, it makes for a great transaction,” said Ralph Roselli, Partner and Sales Representative at Colliers Niagara.

Ford continues rollback of red tape

by Nicholas Tibollo

Yesterday, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Todd Smith, tabled new legislation that would see further reduction of red tape and regulatory burden across the province.

Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, outlines over 30 actions aimed at making life easier for local job creators.

“The Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act is the second in a series of bills targeted at getting government out of the way of the job creators,” said Smith in a media release. “We’re going to lower business costs to make Ontario more competitive. And we’re going to continue to work hard every day to create and keep good jobs right here in Ontario.”

The act, if passed, will affect numerous industries (agriculture, auto, construction, manufacturing, etc.) and about a dozen ministeries, from Finance to Transportation.

The Motherhood Penalty

by Dr. Sarah Kaplan

Ontario has had the world’s most advanced pay equity legislation for more than 30 years. And yet women in the province still earn significantly less, on average, than men. Why?
We read the papers and see Iceland and the U.K. and other jurisdictions passing new laws focused on equal pay, and our first reaction is to think that Ontario needs to get on the bandwagon. But, in reality, Ontario’s 1987 Pay Equity Act (which is further bolstered by the Human Rights Code and recent changes in the Employment Standards Act) is actually state of the art. Many of the pay transparency provisions emerging in countries around the world are occurring in jurisdictions that did not have the excellent legislation that we already have. And their provisions are not as effective or targeted as those that we have in place. If you review the company reports coming out of the U.K., you will learn, for example, that the large Canadian banks operating there have a 30 to 60 per cent wage gap. But, those reports don’t tell us anything about pay. Instead, they simply show that these companies (and most of the rest of the companies reporting) have few women in top jobs (which pay more than jobs at lower tiers of the organization). It says nothing about whether or not women and men are paid the same for the same jobs.

Social commentator Rex Murphy says it should be illegal for Canadian governments to collect carbon taxes until there are new export pipelines delivering Alberta crude oil to world markets.

A sold-out audience at the Bennett Jones Lake Louise World Cup Business Forum leaped to their feet in a standing ovation as the former CBC commentator ended a fiery speech criticizing environmentalists and federal politicians alike for stalling pipelines.

A lack of pipeline capacity is blamed for a glut of oil in Western Canada that has resulted in Western Canadian Select bitumen-blend crude trading at as much as US$52 per barrel less than New York-traded West Texas Intermediate.

One of the largest foreign holders of Canadian energy stocks says investors are turning away from the country, frustrated over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s failure to get pipelines built to ease a record discount for oil-sands crude.
In a letter to the prime minister, Darren Peers, an analyst and investor at Los Angeles-based Capital Group Cos., warns investors and companies will continue to avoid the Canadian energy sector unless more is done to improve market access.
“Capital Group’s energy investments are increasingly shifting to other jurisdictions and that is likely to continue without strong government action,” Peers wrote in a letter dated Oct. 19. “I hope that your government will be even more proactive in securing market access which will assure the competitiveness of Canadian energy companies.”

The CEO of the Royal Bank says the oil and gas sector is poised to deliver billions of dollars in new revenue to Canadian governments over the next decade by meeting growing global energy demand but it can’t do it without urgently needed support.
Dave McKay, who has previously taken Ottawa to task over Canada’s lagging tax competitiveness with the U.S., says a new RBC study suggests that Canadian governments could earn an extra $195 billion in revenues between now and 2030 with the right kind of energy development.

The obvious (though, seldom discussed) upside to local development

by Nicholas Tibollo

Much ado is made when housing development projects sprout up across the peninsula.

Environmental, historical, and cultural concerns typically top the public’s interest list after any announcement.

On occasion, there is indeed an endangered barn owl population or a First Nations burial ground in a proposed development area. However, frequently the land in question is already disturbed or less environmentally significant than proclaimed.

Raised in Grimsby, Mary Hays left the west Niagara community and became a teacher in the GTA. Her career lead her into the workforce placement sector where she worked with digital education platforms and decided what she was doing in education could be brought into the business world and potentially help solve the skills gap.
Hays developed a platform called Workbay which helps connect employers and employees but also provides a lot more tools to both. A customized version has been developed for Niagara, called Opportunity Niagara. A cross section of employers and academics got a firsthand look at what the platform’s capabilities are this week at SPARK Niagara, a local tech incubator. Those in attendance included representatives from Niagara College, Brock University, the tourism industry as well as economic development officers from the Region and Niagara Falls.

Rethinking the Bottom Line

by Brock Dickinson

Last week, I had the opportunity to deliver the keynote presentation at the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC) annual conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The EDAC conference is an annual gathering of hundreds of professionals interested in local development, including economists, developers, investment attraction specialists, and site selectors. This year, they asked me to speak about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs – a set of 17 ambitious development goals that every government on the planet has committed to achieve by 2030.
The 17 SDGs make for a pretty diverse agenda, targeting everything from the need for “decent work and economic growth” (which is SDG #8) to “responsible consumption and production” (SDG #12) to “clean water and sanitation” (SDG #6). While the goals themselves are fairly broad and high-level, they are underpinned by 169 action plans that are much more specific, tangible and precise.

OLG announces new Niagara casino operator

by Kevin Vallier

In what is being hailed as a win for Niagara’s casinos, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has selected Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) as the service provider for the Niagara Gaming Bundle, following a competitive procurement process.

The Niagara Gaming Bundle includes Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. MGE will also operate the future 5,000-seat Niagara Falls Entertainment Centre being built at the Hilton Fallsview, located adjacent to the Fallsview Casino.

OLG expects MGE will take over day-to-day operations in the summer of 2019. The agreement is for 21 years.

Meal-kits are eating up market share

by Kevin Vallier

It’s a relatively new industry but it’s one that continues to grow and shows no signs of being simply a trend. With many households in Canada having two working parents or, with the high divorce rate, single parent homes where that parent is also working full time, there’s no wonder the meal-kit industry is on the rise.

Meal-kit usage is growing at an explosive rate in Canada. According to a recent report by The NPD Group, the meal-kit business is among the fastest growing food segments in the Canadian marketplace. Data shows that the industry has roughly doubled since 2014, and is expected to exceed $400 million over the next year.

Agri-business: Niagara’s Little Known Growing Economy

by Kevin Vallier

While many people in Niagara are generally aware of the fact that the region produces quality fruit like grapes and peaches as well as being home to several green houses, most have no clue as to the massive economic impact the agri-business has on Niagara’s economy.
In fact, Niagara produces 80 per cent of the country’s grapes and wine. But the agri-business here in Niagara extends far beyond the wineries and the local fruit stands. The region has always offered some of North America’s best growing conditions, but today, with the help of advances in technology, research and new approaches, the face of farming is changing in a most profitable way.

Niagara is fortunate to have such generous business leaders

by Kevin Vallier

After having the pleasure of interviewing a number of Niagara’s business leaders on the topic of philanthropy, it’s become quite clear that this region is very fortunate to have a business community whose generosity knows no bounds.
Business owners of companies of all sizes continue to support Niagara’s charities, post-secondary schools and healthcare facilities. On a daily basis these businesses are inundated with requests for funding from hundreds of not-for-profits, sports teams and service clubs. From major gifts in support of large capital campaigns to sponsoring a hole at a charity golf tournament to providing food and clothing to organizations like Community Care, these individuals aren’t just business leaders; they are community leaders.

Ontario Power Generation signs agreement to purchase Eagle Creek Renewable Energy

by Niagara Independent Staff

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has signed a purchase and sale agreement to acquire 100 per cent of the equity of Eagle Creek Renewable Energy LLC in the U.S.
The purchase price is US$298 million, subject to customary working capital and other adjustments on closing, OPG said.
OPG has stated that no taxpayer dollars will be used to fund this acquisition. Instead, the investment will be financed through OPG’s corporate public debt program or other available credit facilities.

Building up Niagara – The Business of Philanthropy 3

by Kevin Vallier

It’s difficult to go anywhere in Niagara without seeing a sign recognizing their contributions. The owners of these three companies have sat on boards, volunteered their time and donated millions to a variety of hospitals, schools and other charities. They don’t do it for recognition – to get their name on a building or to be honoured at a ribbon cutting. When you talk to them it’s clear that they are business owners with a strong social conscious.

Rankin Construction, Mountainview Homes and Walker Industries are three companies that literally and figuratively have helped build Niagara. There’s a theatre, cancer centre, YMCA, Technology Centre and other buildings that bear the name of either these companies or the men or families that own them. But there is so much more to what they contribute to this society. Much of it goes unnoticed by the general public but certainly not be the charities and families they’ve helped along the way.

Rising Up and Giving Back

by Kevin Vallier

It was a prime example of how business leaders come together to support Niagara charities and those less fortunate. In 2009, ten men from Niagara Falls lived together in a tent for five days. By the end of those five days they had managed to help raise $302,000 for Project SHARE.
Most of the same crew was back in 2010 for 10 Men in a Tent 2.0. An all women version called 12 Women Who Care was held in 2011 and 2012.
The concept was the brainchild of Niagara Falls businessman and regional councillor, Bob Gale. He was joined by former Niagara Falls Review publisher Dave Martineau, Niagara Falls Mayor (then city councillor) Jim Diodati, Niagara Ice Dogs owner Bill Burke, radio personality Rob White, Ripley’s Entertainment manager Tim Parker, Dino Fazio who at the time managed the Winter Festival of Lights, Dr. George Zimakas, and businessmen Brian Pellow and Kevin Grealy.

Stepping up and helping out – The Philanthropy of Business

by Kevin Vallier

This is the first article in a series on the generousity of the local business community in Niagara.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Niagara isn’t home to numerous multi-billion dollar corporations. Companies like GM have downsized dramatically over the years and public sector jobs like government, healthcare and education are the leading employers. This type of corporate landscape can make it a challenge for non-profit social welfare organizations to raise money in order to help those they serve as part of their mandate.

Thankfully, Niagara is home to hundreds of small, medium and some larger size businesses that step up year after year contributing money and time to local charities. Business owners are asked daily for gifts ranging from golf prizes, sponsorship money, gifts-in-kind and large gifts supporting capital campaigns for hospitals, colleges and universities.

The Business of Philanthropy

by Kevin Vallier

One can’t walk into a Niagara hospital, new arena, community centre or many other such venues, without seeing front and centre a donor wall with the names of dozens, if not hundreds, of generous businesses and individuals whose cumulative gifts made the facility possible.  Businesses and business people make by far the lion’s share of all charitable donations to fundraising initiatives in Niagara – always have, probably always will.

Drive around and you’ll see the Meridian Arena, the Gale Centre, Scotiabank Convention Centre, McBain Community Centre, Walker Cancer Centre, Rankin Technology Centre and First Ontario Place to name just a few.  Donor walls are filled with the names of big, medium and small local businesses and with the who’s-who in any particular business community.

Rarely do these walls have the names of public sector workers or their unions.  Not that these individuals and organizations don’t give, they surely do, especially through workplace source deduction plans that are often set up with groups like the United Way.

Oil CEOs Are Making Their Case Against Being Sued Over Climate

by Kelly Gilblom

Leaders of the world’s largest oil companies want everyone to know it won’t do anyone any good to make them pay for the damages of climate change.
Executives have been making the argument after a series of U.S. states and municipalities filed class action lawsuits against Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and others in recent months, arguing it should be them that pays for the sea walls, levees and other infrastructure climate change is sure to require.

Niagara’s Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits acquires BC winery

by Niagara Independent Staff

Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. has acquired Backyard Vineyards Inc. of Langley, British Columbia for $3 million in stock, cash and the assumption of some debt. In what is described by the Company as a “highly strategic transaction” the acquisition transforms Diamond Estates into a national producer of VQA wines and positions the Company to build a major new winery in the internationally-recognized Okanagan Valley wine-producing region.
Diamond Estates Wines and Spirits Inc. is a producer of wines and a sales agent for over 120 beverage alcohol brands across Canada. The company operates wineries in Niagara and one in Toronto, producing VQA and blended wines under brand names 20 Bees, EastDell, Lakeview Cellars, FRESH, Dan Aykroyd, McMichael Collection, Benchmark and Seasons.

U.S. tariffs put rhetoric ahead of prosperity

by Mishka Balsom

The Trump administration’s recent decision to levy a 10 per cent import tariff on aluminum and a 25 per cent tariff on steel makes little economic sense, not only to Canada, but for the United States. Despite the belief among much of President Trump’s base that tariffs will protect American jobs, a policy brief from the Trade Partnership estimated that 146,000 American jobs will be lost because of such tariffs. This is borne out by the experience of 2002 when President George W. Bush enacted similar tariffs on steel, causing the loss of 200,000 American manufacturing jobs. If the true aim of U.S. policy is to protect American jobs, it is foolhardy in the extreme.

Oilpatch Outflanked Again By False Subsidy Allegations

by David Yager

Years ago, allegations emerged that the oil industry was heavily subsidized by governments, part of an opinion shaping strategy by activists convinced fossil fuels were accelerating climate change. As subsidy estimates grew larger, few questions were asked. Governments had to stop contributing to this planetary threat.
Except it wasn’t true.
While indeed some countries insulate consumers from the full cost of energy for political reasons, the definition of what constituted a subsidy was expanded beyond previous comprehension. In Canada the allegations of subsidies are complete rubbish. The oilpatch has a huge hill to climb to return sanity to the discussion.

State of the Canadian Economy

by Trevin Stratton PhD

Tariffs. Trade talks. Pipelines. Electoral change. While the Canadian economy continues to grow (albeit somewhat slowly), these are just some of the factors that might slow it down. As we head into summer, and the mid-point of 2018, now is a good time to take stock of Canada’s economic performance and consider what the latter half of the year might have in store for us.
The economy stumbled into 2018, slogging its way through weak consumer spending and housing markets. Real GDP increased at a pace of 1.3 per cent in the first three months of 2018 – the slowest quarterly growth in nearly two years. The Canadian economy grew at less than a 2-per-cent rate for the third consecutive quarter, a far cry from the nearly 4-per-cent average between July 2016 and June 2017.

Despite the efforts of many individuals and organizations, there still is not enough young people entering the skilled trades as a career.
Skills Canada estimates almost half of new jobs created in the next decade will be in skilled trades, but only 26 per cent of young people are considering that type of career. Jon Whyte from the Niagara Home Builders’ Association (NHBA) says not enough is being done to promote the skilled trades. “One of the things we, and others, have been recommending is a one-to-one journeyperson to apprentice ratio,” said Whyte. According to the NHBA most provinces already have a one-to-one ratio whereas Ontario has one of the highest tradesperson to apprentice ratios for residential construction trades in Canada.

Time to Turn Small Business Talk into Action

by Julie Kwiecinski

Every election, party leaders and candidates like to position themselves as friends of small business, fighting for the little guy or gal on Main Street. It makes for a great photo-op, but with increasing government debt, higher labour and energy costs, and NAFTA uncertainty, it’s imperative that parties back up all their small business talk with plans for real and immediate action if elected.

We recently conducted a survey of our members on the top small business issues for the next government to tackle after the June 7th election. The 3,390 respondents told us that reducing the provincial debt is their number one priority (71 per cent), followed by balancing the budget (68 per cent).

It wasn’t an apology nor admission of wrongdoing. But it was certainly an about-face for Steve Williams, the CEO of Suncor Energy Inc. On May 3, Williams was very explicit about why Suncor would not be investing in any new projects in Canada.
“Big investment in the resource industry….is starting to move away from Canada. And that is partly because of taxation, partly to do with royalties, partly to do with the uncertainty – the length of time it takes to get through these regulatory hurdles – and the general belief in the investment community that Canada is not a great place to spend money”.

Can Niagara be More Resilient?

by Brock Dickinson

One of the realities of growth and job creation in the current economy is that new and entrepreneurial ventures are carrying a lot of the burden. The US-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) suggests that almost all of the job creation in the American economy since the year 2000 has been driven by companies less than five years old.

This reliance on entrepreneurship ups the ante in terms of how well we support new business ventures. The World Bank says that Canada is actually the 2nd easiest country in the world to start a business in, with procedures that take a single day. But while red tape isn’t an issue in launching a business, the barriers begin to mount up starting on day two – and recent changes at both the provincial and federal levels have made it more difficult to get a new business from start-up to success.

The Keys to Raising Financially Savvy Children

by David Somerville

If you asked any parent these days what about raising children is keeping them awake at night, it could be several things. One of the top three concerns for sure would be how kids today have no appreciation for money.  Kids these days don’t really understand the concept of money. Why would they? Parents today are basically glorified ATM machines in the eyes of their children.

Most parents we talk to are overwhelmed with the expense of raising children. Not only are the basic needs draining the bank account, but the consistent wants of the children are financially exhausting.  The keeping up with the Jones’s – teen edition – is on full stage these days with the need to fit in and the social media barrage of advertisements.

Bill 148 A Niagara Perspective

by Kevin Vallier

 As the Niagara Independent wraps up its five-part series on the impacts of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, it has become clear that the legislation is stifling the growth of local companies. Small and medium-sized business owners in particular have stated they will have to lay-off employees, reduce hours or not hire seasonal workers to the extent they have in the past.

It’s not only the rapid minimum wage increase that has added unanticipated costs to the bottom line but several other amendments to the Act as well including equal pay for full or part-time employees, vacation entitlements and scheduling. Business owners that The Niagara Independent spoke with said they have no issue with increasing minimum wage. The issue they have is with the phoney consultation process and rapid implementation.  

Ontario’s Economic Performance worst in Canada Study Finds

by Niagara Independent Staff

Every year when the provincial or federal budgets are introduced, the public gets bombarded with economic spin as the governments of the day seek to put lipstick on a pig.  For the public, constantly experiencing unemployment, underemployment and a seemingly ever-increasing cost of living to go along with minimal income growth – these rosy statistics put out by government Ministers just does not seem to match their own realities.

Recently Ben Eisen and Milagros Palacios, academics with the Fraser Institute, put out several economic measures about Ontario’s economy over the last decade (2007-2016) to objectively measure its performance.  Matching what most Ontarians are feeling, the results weren’t good.

Niagara Region’s Director of Economic Development David Oakes recently announced he was stepping down from the role after about two years in the position. Oakes is moving on to become the Deputy CAO of the City of St. Catharines, and he’s leaving behind some big shoes to fill.

And filling those shoes will be a challenge.  I’ve worked in economic development for more than 25 years, leading projects and programs in more than 400 communities in 30 countries. For the past dozen years, I’ve also been the head of the University of Waterloo’s Economic Development Program, which runs the professional certification programs for those who hope to work in this field in Canada.

Niagara’s Tourism Industry Hit Hard by Bill 148

by Jill Tham

Bill 148 came into effect in January of this year.  While most of the buzz created by the bill goes to the 36% hike in minimum wage, there are many additional measures in the Bill that are causing increased costs and concerns for businesses. 

In the first two profiles, the Niagara Independent looked at the impact the bill had on a locally owned and operated restaurant followed by an agricultural business. In both cases, the owners had little to no option on raising prices or find ways to work more efficiently with few employees to make up for increased costs imposed on them by Bill 148.

This is the second in a multi-part series of reports on how the Ontario government’s Bill 148 has impacted local Niagara businesses. The effects of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Job’s Act is hitting Niagara’s business sector. One local businessman willing to speak openly about the Bill, yet unwilling to disclose his name for fear […]

Niagara’s Next Jobs

by Brock Dickinson

As you’ll see from coverage elsewhere in the Niagara Independent, Innovate Niagara is approaching the 10th anniversary of some of its operations in the community. According to ancient tradition (or to Hallmark – I’m never really sure about these things), the 10th anniversary is supposed to be marked by gifts of tin or aluminum. That’s not quite the “golden” anniversary we often look forward to, or the “diamond jubilee” we offer to monarchs, but it is a significant opportunity to look back and reflect on where we’ve come from.

Innovate Niagara is one of 14 Regional Innovations Centres (or RICs, since we all love a good acronym) spread across Ontario, structures meant to promote and encourage innovation and the growth of high technology industries. Long before it started to operate under the name “Innovate Niagara” however, the organization was first known as nGen, and was focused on growing Niagara’s interactive and digital media industries. For the uninitiated, that’s things like video game companies, computer animation firms, online content creation businesses, and e-learning ventures

Bill 148 – The Local Impact to Niagara Business

by Jill Tham

Three months have passed since the onset of Bill 148, leaving small business owners across the Niagara Region conflicted by the impact of the changes to the Employee Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act. With increases in business costs across the board, employers have been left holding the bag on how to compensate for the rise in costs.

Situated in the quiet town of St. David’s is The Old Firehall Restaurant. Originally a volunteer fire station, The Old Firehall is one of only two restaurants in the community. In 2001, owner Chris Rigas purchased the establishment from his father and since then has enjoyed the intimate dining experience the historic building provides local residents and visitors.

Ontario’s Labour Changes: Much More than Minimum Wage Hikes

by Julie Kwiecinski

Ontario’s small businesses have been struggling to cope with much more than hasty and hefty minimum wage hikes. Lying in the shadows of these dramatic increases are many other sweeping labour reforms that mean even higher labour costs and more red tape.

The Ontario government has described its labour reform exercise as the biggest overhaul of the province’s labour and employment standards laws in over two decades. Yet, they have failed to adequately educate employers about the exhaustive list of other significant changes beyond the minimum wage. How can a business be expected to comply with what it doesn’t yet know and/or fully understand?

One thing our new knowledge economy produces in huge volumes is a lot of vague but exciting-sounding terms meant to say something about how technology reshapes our world. You probably know the type of world I mean. There’s Hacking. And Cracking. And Phishing. And Making. And Coding.

One of the more exciting ventures to launch in Niagara recently is called Code Niagara. Started by Yashvi Shah, a young woman from Niagara Falls, Code Niagara is a not-for-profit group that delivers “coding,” or computer programming training to young people in Niagara. Yahsvi’s story is an interesting one: As an undergraduate student, she signed up for some introductory computer programming classes at McGill University, where she found that her classmates from across Canada were already familiar with the basics of coding. Her own time in Niagara elementary and high schools had left her without any exposure to coding, which placed her at an obvious disadvantage. To make sure that other Niagara youth didn’t face the same challenges, she launched Code Niagara.

The Biggest Risk Facing Canadians Is Their Debt

by David Somerville

When I get the chance to really talk to friends, family and clients, the one thing that comes up most often is how they are struggling to manage their monthly cash flow. This concern is not just limited to people I’m spending my time with, but rather Canadians as a majority are currently living month to month and for many, living in a debt and spending crisis.

I came across some startling facts in my research for this article. In 2016 Canadians were adding more debt to their balance sheets faster than any other time in history.  Currently the average Canadian owes $22,595 of non-mortgage debt. Breaking it down another way, the average Canadian owes $1.64 for every dollar of take home income.

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