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Strength in Numbers: Jackman-Atkinson

February 11, 2017 9:50 AM | Columns

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman

Chuck Davidson

Chuck Davidson (HANDOUT)

NEEPAWA, Man — Last week, the Neepawa business community got a reminder of the good that can come from working together. Chuck Davidson, president of the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, was in town to visit local businesses and speak at the Neepawa Chamber’s annual general meeting. It marked a good opportunity to step back and look at the big picture.

It’s only natural that our focus tends to narrow. Most businesses are focused on the day-to-day grind– helping their existing customers, getting new customers and dealing with staff and suppliers. Most businesses owners and managers are focused on edging out their competition; being more successful than the business next door or down the street. In this daily grind, we are hesitant to share, worried it will put us at a competitive disadvantage.

But Davidson talked about the benefits than can be found from working together. By joining together, thousands of individual business owners can become a powerful force. By banding together and amplifying their voice, they can make their ideas and concerns heard. Right now, provincial and federal governments are reviewing policies that will impact Manitoba businesses and to do that, they are seeking input from business owners and in particular are working with chambers of commerce. This is what makes Chambers, and similar groups, so important, they offer a recognized avenue for the transfer of information to and from the business community.

Just this month, the power of a united business community was seen. Earlier last week, the federal Liberal government wasn’t ruling out a tax on health and dental benefits as part of plans to increase revenue. The Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, along with sister organizations across the country, mobilized and asked local Chamber members to spread the word and write their MP. The move was opposed as it would not only raise costs for businesses, but those higher costs were likely to make fewer employers offer this benefit to their employees.

After pushback from the business community, on February 1, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a commitment, saying that they wouldn’t be raising taxes on those benefits. In a release, Davidson thanked the 70 Chambers in Manitoba who wrote to their MPs, part of the nation-wide opposition that was mobilized in response to the potential tax increase.

This doesn’t just happen at the national level, I’ve seen widespread opposition from local businesses change municipal policy too. It can be done, but not by any one individual business.

We forget that though we may be small individually, collectively, the business community is the foundation of the country. Canadian businesses provide employment and tax revenue, without commerce, we would be in grave trouble and governments know that too.

While we may be competing with our neighbouring businesses every day for customers, at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat. A strong community means more shoppers for all businesses, a supportive government means more vibrant businesses who can offer shoppers the products they want, without having to go out of town, out of province or out of country. But this can only happen when we work together. A strong business community can play a vital role in helping a community grow and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?

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