The primary work of the Ottawa Board of Trade is led by business leaders who serve as committed volunteers to ensure we achieve our mission of creating prosperity through advocacy, collaboration, and leadership.
More than 100 volunteers currently work in various capacities with the Board of Trade. Many devote their time and effort to support our committee and council structure, which covers a wide spectrum of critically important business fields necessary to drive local businesses forward.
Some of these include the Capital Build Task Force, CEO Council, Diversity and Inclusion Council, Economic Growth, Environment & Sustainability, SME Council, Talent Development, Transportation & Infrastructure, and Young Entrepreneurs & Professionals.
The experience and expertise these leaders bring to our committees are essential – especially today as we face the challenges and counter measures of COVID-19. Committee members are connected to the real life and emerging issues facing the business community and their advice is invaluable to the Board of Trade as we create recommendations for all levels of government.
The exceptional circumstances presented by COVID-19 have significantly impacted our work in 2020, as we help to mitigate its devastating effects on some of our local businesses while optimizing opportunities for the future.
The SME Council began meeting weekly as soon as COVID began and were able to provide direct feedback on the government programs and make specific recommendations on how they could be more valuable. For example, one of the key federal programs was the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). However, it did not initially take into consideration all business models in its eligibility criteria and we advocated for a broader inclusion. Those efforts met with success and the federal government broadened its definition of businesses to expand its reach.
Another critical program was the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to help keep Canadians working and connected to their employers. The initial revenue criteria was not aligned with the reality of business owners and the federal government addressed those concerns quickly. CEWS has since become an essential program for many local businesses.
The CEO Council also began meeting weekly to address issues related to large business and monitor the COVID impact on our community at large. This group has met with several Ministers, national CEOs and leaders from other countries who were ahead of us in having to deal with the pandemic. We have stayed in close communication with local health and city officials and continue to garner information critical to our recommendations as we contemplate our economic recovery.
The Talent Development Committee began meeting bi-weekly to assess the changing landscape of our local employment needs and opportunities. We focus on how we can support businesses in their workforce development, what the overall community strategy needs to be, and how we can continue to promote Ottawa as the best place to live and work.
For example, the emerging trend of remote work has important and long-term implications for our workforce, our competitiveness and our downtown.
The Board of Trade committees have also been at the leading edge of discussions about how businesses need to reopen and operate safely amidst the pandemic health threat. We support the mandatory use of masks and promote key messaging aligned with Ottawa Public Health, the City of Ottawa and other key partners.
Our Board of Trade volunteer and staff team are committed to the economic, mental and physical well-being of our community. Our focus is to support businesses in surviving and thriving. We do that by offering relevant information, benefits and programs, advocating for policies that create a competitive business environment, and promoting Ottawa in the global marketplace.
We will continue to work with and for the business community through and beyond the pandemic crisis, so they may lead us out of this crisis and into our evolved economy. We are stronger together.