It’s going to be a weekend of firsts for the Northwestern Ontario Association of Chambers of Commerce as it holds its annual fall conference here.
NOACC president Dave Barker said the executive will present position papers to its members this year rather than pass a number of resolutions.
In those papers, NOACC wanted to spell out its stance in certain areas, such as health care, municipal restructuring, transportation and roads network, and economic development.
That’s because the group can’t get a meeting with Cabinet, as it had in the past, to present its resolutions.
“Since the Harris government has come in, they’ve refused our meetings," noted Tannis Drysdale, president of the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce. "That’s caused us to refocus on how we do things.”
“[And] sometimes our resolutions weren’t that well researched,” Barker admitted, noting individual chambers could still bring forward resolutions.
But he said they weren’t certain how the position papers will be received.
“It’s a brand new route for us but we believe it will be effective,” he noted, adding they received a positive response from Premier Harris on the concept in the spring.
“But it’s an untested method for us.”
And for the first time, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce will make an appearance at a NOACC convention. OCC president Jim Harper and CEO Douglas Robson are both slated to be here.
Traditionally, Barker said, the OCC has been a southern Ontario organization. But he stressed the two organizations were developing stronger links to lobby the province together.
NOACC also is broadening its horizons to the federal level, with local MP Robert Nault to be on hand to answer any questions on how it can lobby Ottawa.
“We’ve historically been a provincial organization,” Barker noted.
A new executive also will be voted in, with Sioux Lookout’s Dick Mackenzie, who was past-president this year, the only one vying for the president’s gavel so far.
Meanwhile, as host community, Drysdale said it was the chamber’s job to make sure the convention goes smoothly. And because it coincides with the Northern Networks trade conference, the local chamber is keeping an international theme.
Events kick off Friday with a beach party and Reggae band at La Place Rendez-Vous, as well as a light dinner at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s agenda includes morning meetings after breakfast, lunch at the Ukrainian Hall, more meetings in the afternoon, then a dinner, with a comedian providing the entertainment afterwards.
On Sunday, the convention moves to the Red Dog Inn, where delegates will enjoy a Polynesian breakfast—complete with champagne—before wrapping things up at noon.