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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: March 17th, 2021

A message from GNCC CEO Mishka Balsom

Today marks one year since we sent our first Daily Update to you. We launched the updates to keep the community informed about the changing policy landscape. The global pandemic had been declared not long before, and the first cases of COVID-19 in Niagara had been reported just days earlier. New government directives were coming out every day, sometimes every hour, as they tried to work out the delicate policy balance needed to keep us safe and to keep us in business. People in Niagara were having a hard time keeping up with the ever-changing rules, and so we distilled the important government updates into a daily message summarizing what was new, what had changed, and what you needed to do.

Over three thousand people now receive our Daily Update, Monday to Friday, at 4:00 p.m. We are still bringing you the important government policies as before, but you will have noticed that we have added municipal updates, important business news from reputable and verifiable sources, information on grants and subsidies, and data products that are relevant to Niagara’s business community. We have curated reading recommendations for you to bring you content that is insightful, interesting, and relevant. We know your time is valuable, and it is our goal to save you time by bringing you everything you need to know in one message.

We are committed to continuing the Daily Update. If there is something new you would like to see in them, please let us know – you can email your comments and suggestions to info@gncc.ca. The GNCC is here to support your business, and if we can do anything to help you, reach out to me or my team.

Thank you.


More small businesses compliant with COVID-19 regulations

The Ontario government is seeing a greater number of small businesses complying with COVID-19 safety requirements. During follow-up visits for educational workplace safety campaigns, provincial offences officers found that approximately 73 per cent of businesses were in compliance with public health measures and compliance increased by 20 per cent.

Workplace inspections continue to focus on educating small businesses across the province to help them reopen safely. Where needed, follow-up visits were conducted with a focus on enforcement. Follow-up visits are currently taking place in Eastern Ontario, Durham Region and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, and are scheduled for York Region, Waterloo Region and Windsor-Essex.

Businesses can access free training and assistance, including the workplace safety plan toolkit, live webinars on how to operate a business safely and comply with COVID-19 health and safety requirements, and a 30-minute online course on infection prevention and control provided by the Public Services Health and Safety Association.

Assistance and support for small businesses is available from the Provincial Employment Standards Information Centre and Occupational Health and Safety Contact Centre.


Niagara Region seeks residents to sit on new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee

Niagara Region is seeking interested community members to join its newly approved Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
Approved in early 2021, the committee will play an important role in carrying out Regional Council’s commitment to making Niagara a more diverse and welcoming community. Members will work with Regional and municipal staff and the Niagara community to provide Regional Council with recommendations to address bias, racism, and discrimination, and promote understanding and inclusion.
The committee will include 10 members of the public and one Regional Councillor. The Region is particularly seeking residents from across Niagara who represent the growing linguistic, racial, cultural, sexual and spiritual diversity of our community, including:
  • Indigenous individuals
  • People of colour and members of racialized communities
  • Francophones
  • New immigrants
  • Members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Seniors
  • Individuals living with low income or experiencing homelessness
  • Post-secondary students and youth
  • Members of various religious communities
  • People of all genders
Interested residents can ap​ply online for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee until 4 p.m. on Friday, April 9, 2021.

Two new high-speed Internet projects underway in Fort Erie (PDF link)

Recently, Bell Canada was awarded funding from the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) initiative to support two fibre-to-the-home projects in Fort Erie. Service will be expanded along the Niagara Parkway between Switch Road to the North and Thompson Road to the South. Service will also be expanded into the Point Abino neighborhood.

On January 27, SWIFT announced it would provide funding to expand access to highspeed fibre-optic broadband service to households in Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Port Colborne, Lincoln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham, Wainfleet and West Lincoln. The newly awarded projects will collectively service more than 271 km of underserved roadway to bring high-speed internet access to 4,248 homes and businesses across the
region. The projects represent a collective total investment of $12.8 million and will be completed with service available by mid-2022.


Consumer Price Index rose faster in February

12-month change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and CPI excluding gasoline

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose at a faster pace year over year in February (+1.1%) than in January (+1.0%). The rise in gasoline prices (+5.0%) supported consumer price growth in February. Excluding gasoline, the CPI rose 1.0% in February—down from a 1.3% increase in January.

On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI rose 0.1% in February.

The homeowners’ replacement cost index, which is linked to the price of new homes, rose 7.0% year over year in February, as higher building costs, low interest rates and strong demand for homes with more space continued to push prices for new housing higher. This is the largest yearly gain recorded since February 2007.

In contrast, the Mortgage Interest Cost Index fell 5.4% year over year in February, following a 4.3% decrease in January, as more Canadians renewed or initiated mortgages at historically low interest rates.

Prices for food purchased from stores rose 1.3% year over year in February, compared with a 0.1% increase in January, primarily because of a rise in prices for fresh fruit (+5.9%). Prices for food purchased from restaurants were up 2.9% year over year in February, compared with growth of 2.8% in January.

Household appliance prices rose 6.1% year over year in February, compared with January (+3.4%). Prices for cooking appliances (+6.8%) and refrigerators and freezers (+6.4%) were also higher, on a year-over-year basis, in February.

Year over year, traveller accommodation prices declined more in February (-18.0%) compared with January (-16.1%). Demand for traveller accommodation remained low amid continued restrictions on non-essential travel to contain the spread of COVID-19.


Ontario government makes workplace COVID-19 testing easier

The Ontario government is making it easier for businesses to test for COVID-19 in the workplace by providing guidance to employees who want to self-swab for a rapid antigen point-of-care test on a voluntary basis under the supervision of a trained individual. Based on the success of the initial deployment of rapid antigen testing, the government is also expanding the program to more sectors including first responders, emergency medical services, trucking and transportation, wastewater management, and post-secondary institutions.

Rapid antigen testing can provide an additional layer of safety in workplaces and provide reassurance to employers and employees alike. By clinically endorsing supervised, voluntary self-swabbing for asymptomatic individuals, Ontario is helping businesses reduce the administrative costs of using antigen tests by allowing staff to consider the option of taking their own swabs under the supervision of a trained individual.

The province has also removed regulatory barriers governing the use of COVID-19 tests that are approved by Health Canada for point-of-care use to make it easier for organizations to offer onsite testing and support a safe return to work. This change will especially benefit rural and remote communities including Northern Indigenous communities where health professionals required to administer testing are limited.


Reading recommendations

The coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to address homelessness

Timothy Martin, The Conversation

As emergency shelters and encampments emerge in cities across of North America, the public has been confronted with a more visible homeless population as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, this has led to several crusades aimed to — once again — hide this population from view.

Homelessness need not be viewed as an inevitable part of the fabric of North American society. It was not always omnipresent, and need not continue to be. It has only really become pervasive, and increasing since the 1980s in Canada. Research has argued that it is preventable.

Today’s housing crisis is a result of particular policies that are neither inevitable nor intractable. Yet, perhaps most unfortunately, the collective response has too often included blaming, criminalizing and stigmatizing people experiencing homelessness.


‘No more cubicle farms’: Ford to let 30,000 employees keep working from home after pandemic ends

Keith Naughton, Bloomberg News

Ford Motor Co. told employees they can continue to work from home, allowing more than 30,000 to use the office only when they need to, even after the pandemic is over.

The “flexible hybrid work model” unveiled Wednesday lets employees choose to stay home for “heads-down work,” while coming to the office for meetings and team-building activities. The system will debut as soon as July and apply mostly to salaried office staff, not factory workers.

Like many employers, large and small, Ford is grappling with the reality that workers have grown to appreciate not commuting every day and working among family and pets. Half of the world’s workers now do so from home, up from 11 per cent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a global study of employers by Willis Towers Watson, a risk-management and human-resources firm. Even after the health crisis ends, companies expect one-third of global employees to continue to work remotely.


Niagara COVID status tracker

Niagara’s most up-to-date COVID statistics, measured against the targets for the various stages of the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, are presented below. This does not predict government policy, but is offered to give you an idea of where Niagara is situated and how likely a relaxation (or further restrictions) may be. These data are drawn daily from Niagara Region. The Grey-Lockdown level does not have its own metrics, but is triggered when the COVID-specific measurements in a Red-Control region have continued to deteriorate.

 December 18December 25January 1January 8January 15January 22January 29
Reproductive number1.41.81.41.11.00.70.9
New cases per 100,000101.2267.3469.8575.8507.1295.5250.6
New cases per day (not including outbreaks)60.7178.7311.7376.9325.4182.7145.7
Percent of hospital beds occupied97%95.2%98.2%103.2%104.5%103.6%106%
Percent of intensive care beds occupied78.8%77.3%87.9%87.9%90.9%89.4%93.9%
Percentage of positive tests6.1%15.6%28.1%28.6%26.6%21.2%16.2%

Definitions:

  • Weekly Incidence Rate: the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week
  • Percent Positivity: the number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed
  • Rt: the reproductive rate, or the number of people infected by each case of the virus

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here.The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.
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