BUSY AGENDA FOR CHAMBER BOARD WITH THREE NEW POLICIES ADOPTED AND TWO OTHERS COMPLETED

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March 26, 2018
(Medicine Hat) The Chamber of Commerce approved three new policies and marked two as complete at the March 21st Board of Directors meeting. Two policies around the recent labour legislation were adopted including the ‘Clarity Needed in Employment Standards Averaging Agreements and Treatment of Statutory Holidays’ as well as ‘Managing Impacts of Layered Legislation’.

Perry Deering, Chamber of Commerce President, stated, ‘the recent legislation passed regarding labour and employment in Alberta was done with very short consultation periods and inadequate timeframes for employers to adjust. The changes and magnitude of information required to digest these large pieces of legislation resulted in increased workload and uncertainty for businesses trying to understand the implications of the changes.’
 
The Chamber is requesting that further amendments and considerations need to be made in order to clarify the implementation of these standards to ensure employees and employers continue to benefit and to help businesses better understand the legislation and remain competitive.

‘There has been a lack of clarity that has resulted and gaps that have been identified in the Code and regulations due to the limited consultation leading up to and after the legislation was introduced,’ further remarked Deering.

 As a result of the concerns identified, the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce has stated that the Government of Alberta should:
  1. Reduce the frequency and speed of legislative changes, taking into consideration the scope and implementation requirements of legislative changes being proposed;
  2. Ensure that there is inter-departmental collaboration within ministries to avoid layering of legislative changes and the subsequent impacts;
  3. Take a balanced approach in both consultation and legislative changes to reduce the burden on business and provide for a reasonable time for consultation, implementation or enforcement period, while taking into consideration economic, cost and implementation impacts;
  4. Provide an overview of legislation changes that are being considered in advance that will have an impact on specific stakeholder groups so that organizational changes and workload requirements can be determined and planned for in advance;
  5. Conduct additional consultation with stakeholders after legislation is first introduced to identify any gaps, challenges or implementation concerns to ensure legislation and regulations are balanced and can be clearly interpreted once coming into force;
  6. Provide more timely and accurate information and education to impacted stakeholders in advance of changes, providing stakeholders time to adjust to long term decisions around change management and operational systems; 
  7. Implement additional staff training, extended hours and increased support in government call centers that will be subject to increased volume and inquiries as a result of legislative changes.
  8. Ensure there is clarity in the regulations so that changes are easy for employers to interpret and implement;
  9. Ensure timing of legislative changes and information is done with enough advance notice that businesses can plan in order to prevent administrative burden from occurring right at or before a calendar year end when businesses and organizations can be closed, on skeleton staff or managing yearend activities.
  10. Evaluate how the legislated changes within averaging agreements will positively or negatively impact flexible work environments for employees by consulting with employer groups;
  11. Work with employer and stakeholder groups to find a more flexible solution to averaging agreements that will not result in more cost and administrative burden for employers and result in more flexible work environments for employees;
  12. Revise the code to clearly indicate that employers can provide a paid work day off in lieu of the general holiday that an employee would not regularly be working. 
In addition to the labour related policies, the Chamber of Commerce also focused on ‘Higher Standards for Animal Welfare’.

‘The Chamber adopted this policy out of a need to address the loss of valuable animals and provide better outcomes for farms and ranchers when an animal is injured’, commented Deering. ‘The creation of a video inspection program would allow for proper inspection to take place on the farm, spare the animal unnecessary transportation and put value and profit in the hands of the agriculture industry, while contributing to putting valuable protein into the hands of various not for profit groups and organizations as well’.

With the support of organizations like the Animal Farm Care Association (AFCA), along with industry, the Chamber introduced and passed policy to implement a provincial video inspection program as one way to address the issues identified. As a result, the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce is recommending the Government of Alberta:
  1. Amend the Meat Inspection Act Section 4 to read: (1) Except as provided in the regulations, no person shall slaughter an animal unless (a) the animal has been inspected by an inspector immediately before the time of slaughter, or (b) the animal has been clearly identified by method of video inspection immediately before the time of slaughter.
  2. Amend the Meat Inspection Regulations Part 5 section 32 (3) to read: The mobile butcher shall identify the carcass and all other portions of the animal by affixing tags on them stating (a) “uninspected – Not for resale on all carcasses retuning back to the location of slaughter or (b) “Held”- to remain held in the mobile butcher’s designated cooler until the carcass is released by an inspector or accredited veterinarian.
  3. Work with the Alberta Meat Inspection Department to update all documents regarding the approval of a video inspection program and maintain that it remains in compliance with existing regulations already in place.    
The Chamber also introduced amendments to the policy on ‘Impacts of Significant Minimum Wage Increase’ to reflect the current environment and wage rates.
 
‘The goal of poverty reduction is commendable and widely supported, but attempting to resolve this complex issue by simply implementing minimum wage increases as a one size fits all solution has the potential to result in unintended consequences to both employers and employees’, identified Deering.
The Chamber’s resolution has been updated to state that the Government of Alberta should:
  1. Recognize that each region has a different living wage rate by ensuring minimum wage is not tied to living wage rate and set the minimum wage rate standard accordingly and fairly to all jurisdictions
  2. Implement special minimum wage rates for students under 18
  3. Phase out personal and provincial income tax rates for Albertans earning less than $30,000 per year
  4. Establish an ongoing research program for data and information gathering and its subsequent analysis to address policy-relevant minimum wage issues, as well as alternative poverty reduction strategies.
Along with the approval of these policies, the Board of Directors also marked the ‘Municipal Government Act Review: Require Updates and Provisions for Transparent, Consistent and Effective Municipal Governance’ and the ‘Impact of Increased Non-Residential Property Assessments’ as complete due to the achievements in these policy areas.

‘The Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee and the Board of Directors continue to work with members and the business community to identify challenges and provide solutions and policies through the Chamber’s advocacy efforts,’ stated Perry Deering, Chamber of Commerce President.
The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors also adopted a new Strategic plan which will move forward in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, along with the concept for a new membership model, which will formally be launched at the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting in November.

‘This has been a long term goal and we’re excited to roll it out during the upcoming year,’ stated Perry Deering. ‘We’ve made changes to our mandate and some core themes and goals for the organization, which will help lead the Chamber to its 125th year being celebrated in 2025.’

Resources:
Click here to view the Chamber’s policies
Click here to read the Chamber’s annual reports

Please direct all media inquiries to:
Perry Deering, President
c/o Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce
(403) 527-5214 ext.221

The Chamber of Commerce is a member-driven, volunteer-led organization, proudly representing the interests of businesses in our region, and working diligently to stimulate a strengthened and vibrant economy through our connections, support and influence. For more than 115 years, the Chamber has stood for promoting business, monitoring government and championing managed growth in the local economy. The Chamber represents over 800 businesses in our region and is aligned with both the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC), which represents over 24,000 businesses and the Canadian Chambers of Commerce (CCC), which represents over 200,000 businesses. With the largest and most influential business organizations locally, provincially and federally, the Chamber network is the most unified, valued and influential business network in Canada and works together to shape policy and programs that will make a difference to businesses in our region.