Creating Dialogue

The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce advocates on behalf of our membership and the Tri-Cities business community through a number of avenues. One of the ways in which we support our advocacy efforts is by providing our members with access to government officials and community influencers through roundtable discussions and luncheons. See below for a summary of the discussions that have taken place.


Assistant Deputy Speaker and MLA for Coquitlam – Burke Mountain, Joan Isaacs

On November 12th, 2019, the Chamber hosted local Coquitlam – Burke Mountain MLA Joan Isaacs for a lunchtime round table with a few members of the Tri-Cities business community. The gathering gave members the opportunity to discuss how MLAs could best help local businesses grow and succeed. Joan also gave an overview of the pain-points that she is hearing about from businesses. Our attendees also brought up a number of concerns, including:

  • Critical labour shortages across a number of sectors, but more pronounced in skilled jobs and professional services such as legal, health services, and engineers.
  • The cost of minimum wage on smaller businesses, but with an equal understanding that current wages are not keeping up with cost of living on the lower end of the wage spectrum.
  • The added cost for businesses of the Employer Health Tax.

Joan also talked about the need to address the crippling property taxes that many small businesses are facing due to their properties being taxed according to their future development potential. Joan spoke about the recent private member’s bill introduced in the house on this issue and hoped that the government would pick up the bill in the future.


Michelle Rempel, Conservative MP (Calgary Nose Hill) and Official Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

On July 2, 2019 the Chamber hosted Michelle Rempel, MP for Calgary Nose Hill and Official Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for a round table with a dozen local business owners, immigration professionals, and non-profit newcomer service providers. Immigration is gearing up to be a big issue this federal election, and our members got to speak to Michelle directly about a number of issues including:

  1. How to improve and streamline the process of recruiting talent abroad
  2. Immigration’s role in addressing the tight Greater Vancouver labour market
  3. How to support newcomers so they can successfully integrate into the Canadian society and the workforce
  4. The public’s perception of immigration
  5. How the government can make sure Canadians remain confident in their immigration system

Michelle talked in depth about the important role that immigration plays in supporting Canada’s economy and filling job vacancies in a tight labour market. However, she also highlighted the regional and sectoral differences in labour needs across the country, and how the federal government should use a more targeted approach in using immigration to fill jobs in Canada. Michelle also spoke about the integration of newcomers as a critical success metric for judging the immigration system’s performance.


BC’s Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Wilkinson

On March 19, 2019, we hosted BC’s Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Wilkinson, and MLA for Coquitlam – Burke Mountain, Joan Isaacs, for an intimate roundtable discussion with a dozen local business owners.

Our members asked questions on a range of urgent business issues:

  • Labour market and difficulty in finding staff
  • Compounding taxes and the rising cost of doing business
  • Changes to labour relations such as sick leave and a statutory holiday pay
  • Spikes in commercial property taxes

Wilkinson and Isaacs were sympathetic, and echoed the need to improve affordability in the province while avoiding undue burdens on business. Wilkinson stressed the importance of having businesses rally together and around organizations like the Chamber to maximize their advocacy efforts. He spoke about how change in policy can be influenced by grassroots campaigning, as long as the business community is able to effectively come together and increase the visibility of important issues.


BC Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, Carole James

On March 1st, 2019, the Tri-Cities Chamber hosted a post-budget luncheon with the Honourable Carole James, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier to talk about the recently released BC Budget 2019. Chamber members had an opportunity to questions Minister James on a number of timely business topics including:

  • The substantial added cost of the Employer Health Tax on local Tri-City businesses, and its overall effects on business profitability, hiring, growth, and investment.
  • BC’s economic health and outlook amidst deteriorating international economic forecasts and trade tensions.
  • Affordability for British Columbians, axing MSP premiums, and the province’s Child Opportunity Benefit that will provide families with children with between $1600 to $3400 a year.

Our members asked Minister James about the increased costs to business in the new budget and how her government will keep BC competitive and attractive to investment when compared to neighbouring markets in Canada and the United States. There was robust discussion about the $6 billion increase in spending contained in the budget over the next 3 years to address affordability and social programs, and the substantial cost increases the business community is being asked to bear to cover that extra spending.


BC Minister of Labour, Harry Bains

On November 14, 2018, we hosted BC’s Minister of Labour and MLA for Surrey-Newton, Harry Bains, for a lunchtime roundtable discussion with a number of business owners from the Tri-Cities.

Our members asked questions on a range of urgent business issues:

  • Labour market and difficulty in finding staff
  • Changes to the Labour Relations Code (with specific concern regarding Secret Ballot Voting for union confirmation)
  • Changes to the Employment Standards Act on issues such as sick leave and statutory holiday pay
  • The costs of labour law changes for the business community

Minister Bains explained the government’s rationale for reviewing the Labour Relations Code and the Employment Standards Act, saying that it would update our labour laws to reflect BC’s modern economy and job market. Secure full-time permanent employment has continued to be replaced by increasing levels of less secure temporary and part-time work. Technology has also transformed the economy and workplace, leading to decentralized and virtual work environments, as well as a greater demand for flexible work arrangements. Participants cautioned against changes that would add significant costs to an already burdened business sector.


BC Premier John Horgan and local MLA’s Selina Robinson, Mike Farnsworth, and Rick Glumac

On March 28th, 2018 the Chamber of Commerce hosted BC Premier John Horgan, as well as Housing Minister Selina Robinson, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, and Parliamentary Secretary for Technology Rick Glumac. In the audience were members of the Chamber’s inaugural Tri-Cities Young Professionals group. Having three of our local MLAs together with us at once gave us a great opportunity to touch on a wide range of topics affecting younger residents and business people in the lower mainland. Topics covered included:

  • The increasing challenge of affordability for young people and new families.
  • The government’s proposed increases to the foreign buyer’s tax and introduction of a vacancy tax on housing.
  • How the provincial government will roll out ride-sharing, and what considerations need to be taken for licensing, safety, and proper competition in the market.
  • Canada’s legalization of cannabis and how the province is implementing rules for commercial and retail cannabis.