Delegates representing the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce returned earlier this month from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting, where they received support for policies related to northern immigration and airports. Charla Robinson, president of the local business chamber, went to the meeting in Calgary with Jason Thompson, board chairman, and Bianca Garofalo, the board’s vice-chairperson. Robinson said one of the focuses of the conference is to review policy topics from a local perspective to determine if any should become a national chamber issue. The Thunder Bay delegation put forth two policies that the national chamber will now support. “Our first policy resolution called for the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) to be made permanent,” Robinson said. “It’s a federal program established in November 2019 with the goal to attract and retain skilled immigrants in rural and northern communities by testing innovative approaches to permanent immigration.” She said the pilot program can play a key role in addressing the labour shortage and achieving the federal government’s recently announced immigration targets, but it is set to expire in August of 2024. “Local chambers, (Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot) delivery organizations, and economic development groups have been advocating for some time for the pilot to be made permanent,” Robinson noted. “So we were thrilled to have that adopted as a national policy that will now be considered Canadian Chamber policy and something that we’ll be working with them to advocate to the government.” The second policy resolution expressed by the Thunder Bay delegation involved local autonomy and funding support as a key to success at Canada’s airports. “We know that Transport Canada has recently been putting some consultation documents out that suggest that Transport Canada may be looking to change the governance process for airports and to increase government involvement,” Robinson pointed out. “This will give the government a larger role taking away some of the local processes and basically management authority.” She said the chamber is concerned about this because airports need to respond to local needs and priorities. “What our airport needs to do is different from what Toronto Airport needs to do and we’re concerned that Transport Canada may be moving towards implementing some changes that would hinder the ability of airports to address local needs. We wanted to make sure we had this on the radar and we’re thrilled to have that also adopted as Canadian Chamber policy.” Robinson added the current process and governance strategy for airport authorities is working, but they are expressing the need for the federal government to provide financial support to help airports keep up with the growth of passengers and cargo. “That is just continually growing and it requires airports to keep investing in things like upgraded runways and upgraded, expanded airport terminals. We need the government to try to help with some of those investments because it’s a pretty significant cost.” The Canadian Chamber is the largest business network in the country with significant influence on policies, regulations and decisions that are critical to creating a favourable environment for business success and the future of Canada, Robinson told The Chronicle-Journal. More than 65 resolutions on topics relating to agriculture, digital economy, finance and taxation, Indigenous issues, international affairs, natural resources, energy, environment, transportation and infrastructure were debated by delegates. The Canadian Chamber is constantly meeting with ministers on Parliament Hill, and they will have an opportunity to bring forward concerns from the business community’s perspective.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal