We feel a positive relationship and a good dialogue with the City is important to the strength of the Chamber and our efforts to advocate on behalf of our local business members. We are encouraged by the number of detailed conversations we have had with representatives from the city over the last year and a half and appreciated the opportunity to meet with local officials once again.
During the meeting, the Chamber presented an overview of our priorities and ways we can work together with the City to improve the business climate in Prince Albert. More information about the presentation can be found in the document below.
The Prince Albert & District Chamber of Commerce is very pleased to be a part of this Stakeholder Engagement Session with the City of Prince Albert. We feel a positive relationship and a good dialogue with the City is important to the strength of the Chamber and our efforts to advocate on behalf of our local business members. We are encouraged by the number of detailed conversations we have had with representatives from the city over the last year and a half and appreciate the opportunity to speak here once again.
As an advocate for local business and overall growth and investment in the community, the Chamber is committed to representing the priorities of our members and promoting business and opportunity in Prince Albert. It is with that in mind that the Chamber presents an overview of our objectives.
- Tax Ratio: The Chamber is a membership-based organization representing approximately 400 members in and around the City of Prince Albert. Our members represent industries such as health care, justice, retail, food service, automotive and agriculture. One of the biggest issues we hear on a regular basis from our business members is around Prince Albert’s high commercial tax ratio, which continues to stifle local investment and opportunities. Our Chamber’s 2015 tax recommendations call on the city to devise a more competitive tax ratio for Prince Albert. Last year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) listed Prince Albert as having one of the highest municipal tax gaps amongst all Saskatchewan cities. Saskatoon, which continues to enjoy steady growth, has the lowest commercial property tax, according to the same report. Strengthening and growing our current businesses and having a more competitive tax ratio will not only make it easier to retain and attract business to Prince Albert, but will lead to an overall growth in the community.
- Infrastructure: The Chamber is advocating for more money for infrastructure development in Prince Albert. More than just a second bridge, the Chamber is advocating for more capital investment in health care, roadways, highways, schools, housing and community spaces. More investment in these initiatives will lead to an increase in population and more sustainable business and industry. This initiative has a local focus but will require more investment from all levels of government.
- Industry: The Chamber supports business growth and economic diversification. Our organization is advocating for more incentives to attract industry and retain them on a long-term basis. Our community, including the City, needs to make it more attractive and easier for larger companies in sectors such as agriculture, retail, machinery and manufacturing to build and stay in Prince Albert. We call on the city to become more proactive in planning for and attracting new business and industry, rather than finding opportunities by default.
- Bridge Summit: On October 7, the Chamber hosted a one-day conference to look at opportunities for a second bridge in Prince Albert and ways to maintain the city’s current bridge. The conference heard detailed presentations on the cost to maintain the city’s current bridge, the cost of a partial or full bridge closure, the economic impacts of a bridge closure and the first steps in planning for a second bridge. The conference was a good chance to hear from those with knowledge of the various processes around bridge infrastructure and an opportunity to learn. However, the biggest and possibly most important piece of information to come out of the ‘Building Bridges for Success’ conference was the need for good planning and good consultation on this issue. One of the goals of the Prince Albert & District Chamber of Commerce is to participate in this consultation process, and we urge the City to begin serious discussions with local and regional stakeholders as soon as possible. With an estimated timeline of 10 years from start to finish, our current bridge will also need to be a focus of any bridge discussions, to insure we are properly maintaining our current infrastructure. Our Region and Province can’t bear the economic costs of not achieving the critical infrastructure that will drive and support our future growth.
- Roadways Levy: The Chamber believes the city’s current Roadways Levy is contrary to business competitiveness. While the majority of our community’s businesses are small, this levy continues to place an unfair and unsustainable burden on our commercial sector and the long- term costs can be measured in reduced investment and attraction that is so greatly needed to grow both our commercial sectors and our community.
- Chamber Membership: The Prince Albert & District Chamber of Commerce is supported solely by our membership. Our advocacy efforts are enhanced by participation from our local business members and membership fees, which on average, total about $330 per year. The Chamber continues to work toward building membership and appreciate the continued commitment in support of our advocacy efforts from our current members.
- Chamber Member Engagement: The Chamber is committed to engaging with local business members on issues of importance to them and the wider community:
- The Chamber provides numerous opportunities throughout the year to engage and network with local members, including monthly luncheons, policy discussions, roundtable meetings and networking socials.
- The Chamber sends out a weekly e-newsletter to members and a monthly newsletter to help members stay up to date on local issues and opportunities to engage with provincial and federal representatives, and others within the provincial and national Chamber network.
- Local Chamber board members and staff also meet regularly with members – both on an informal and formal basis – to show support and stay up to date on issues of importance.
- Community Involvement: The Chamber supports a variety of initiatives aimed at strengthening and enhancing our community:
- The Chamber has participated in a number of local initiatives including community cultural discussions, community celebrations and public awareness campaigns.
- The Chamber is co-chair of the Keep Prince Albert and Area Beautiful project, which aims to remove litter and curb illegal dumping in rural areas around the city. This project has seen collaboration between the Chamber and municipal and provincial levels of government, local business, community representatives and the general public. The project started earlier this year as a pilot project and has seen the removal of thousands of tonnes of garbage from rural areas around the city.
- Chamber CEO sits on the board for Prince Albert Tourism and the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, providing more opportunities to support the community and partner on local initiatives.
- Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce: On a broader scale, the Prince Albert & District Chamber of Commerce priorities align with those of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. These same issues affect our local business members in the Prince Albert economic area. (Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce On Track 2016)
- Better utilization of water resources –
- There are many economic opportunities associated with having a stable water supply. The Chamber supports completing a water availability study as soon as possible.
- Enforce the 1:500 year flood plain restriction on development
- Updated legislation around water resource management
- Improved training and education opportunities – Education leads to more economic productivity, community engagement and improved quality of life.
- The Chamber supports improving Aboriginal graduation rates
- Encouraging “zero marking” and more accountability from students.
- The integration of entrepreneurship and business skills training within the entire K-12 education system
- Ensure that all high school students take at least one entrepreneurship class before graduation
- Better financial literacy for students, especially in the areas of debt, credit, money management, loans and investing
- Utilizing Alternative Service Delivery – The government should not be the sole provider of services in sectors where there is a private company willing and able to provide those same services
- ie: Creating a private and competitive market for liquor sales
- Accelerated Development of Northern Economy – With its vast resources, in addition to opportunities in the mining industry, the Chamber supports greater exploration, tourism and forestry in the North.
- Ensure increased Internet access and cellular coverage throughout the North
- Adjust ice road closure dates annually
- Enhanced Workforce Development – There is a chronic shortage of skilled workers. More efforts toward a diverse and stable workforce will lead to more skilled workers and fewer disproportionately unemployed.
- Collect and distribute labour market information on graduation rates, on-reserve labour force and the labour market experience of immigrants in Saskatchewan
- Creation of a plan to monitor provincial and regional retention rates of new immigrants
- Increased number of students enrolling in advanced skills training
- Stronger Taxation and Fiscal Framework –
- Change tax assessment cycle from four years to two years
- Simplified Property Tax Tools: ie: mill rates, base tax and minimum tax
- Reduction of corporate and commercial taxes
Thank you for this opportunity to present our goals and priorities. Now in its 128th year, the Prince Albert & District Chamber of Commerce works hard to be the voice for business in Prince Albert. We strive to represent our members and advocate for policies and initiatives that enhance and grow our local economy. By working together to become a more inclusive and welcoming community, both for residents and business, we can enhance our local economy and our community as a whole.