Blog Oct 28, 2020

AGM & Convention 2020 Wrap Up


Our AGM and Convention 2020 was like none we have ever done before, and with over 900 delegates, it marked the largest and most attended AGM in our history.

The event kicked off with a keynote address from the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, reminding participants that continuing to have an innovative mindset is what will help drive the economy forward. Emphasizing that small businesses are the lifeline of our economy, he announced that as of Monday, October 26, 2020, self-employed small business owners who have personal accounts would have access to the Canada Emergency Business Account, something we have be advocating. The Prime Minister also acknowledged the hard work the Council for Women’s Advocacy has done for women and echoed our statement that Canada’s economic recovery from COVID-19 will only happen if women can fully participate in the workforce. During a Q&A with our President and CEO, the Hon. Perrin Beatty, the Prime Minister signaled that his government would not immediately set a new fiscal anchor as it rolls out more COVID-19 spending.

Leader of the Official Opposition, the Hon. Erin O’Toole, then joined us for a colourful discussion on Canada’s economic recovery. Mr. O’Toole talked about the importance of rapid testing in getting our economy back up and running and touched on the importance of broad based support for Canadian businesses during the pandemic. During the Q&A portion of the interview, the Hon. Perrin Beatty mentioned that we have long been asking for a special council to review Canada’s outdated tax system. While Mr. O’Toole agreed the system is outdated, he was short of committing to a full review if he were to become Canada’s next Prime Minister.

With the pandemic continuing to be top of mind, our panel on COVID-19 testing touched on how private sector innovation surrounding saliva-based testing has been critical in speeding up testing time, but the need for more rapid testing will be key moving forward. Also focusing on private sector innovation, our business recovery panel, featuring speakers from CN, EDC and Suncor, discussed how we are moving into a new digital economy and how quickly organizations were able to pivot and adapt and are now far more superior than ever before.

“Governments do not create jobs; they create the environment to help businesses create jobs,” was the message the Premier of Ontario, the Hon. Doug Ford, shared during his keynote address. Similar to Prime Minister Trudeau, he focused on small businesses, announcing that support would be coming in Ontario’s fall budget, due November 5. “Businesses need help today, right now, not next week or next month,” he said. Emphasizing a Team Canada approach, he discussed regulation, the importance of interprovincial trade and the need to adapt a “buy Canada” mentality.

The Hon. Perrin Beatty kicked off day two with a clear message to all delegates: “What businesses need is a focus on economic fundamentals.” Looking towards the future, Mario Thériault was officially sworn in as Chair of the Board of Directors and we heard from Canadian business executives on how their companies are responding to the effects of COVID-19. Margaret Stuart, Country Manager of Salesforce in Canada, discussed a business-led recovery, SMEs, digital transformation, upskilling and reskilling while François Gratton, the Executive Vice-President and Group President for TELUS and Chair, TELUS Health and TELUS Québec, and Marc Hamilton, Microbiologist, RMCCM and Chief Executive Officer at Eurofins, spoke about how their respective industries are looking forward to advancements and recovery efforts.

Our very own Ian Faris, Senior Vice President of Chamber Network Relations and Advocacy, led a panel where local chambers shared how they have been able to continue to innovate and keep their content fresh in the face of COVID-19.

With the U.S. presidential election less than one week away, the Canada-U.S issues panel, moderated by Andrea van Vugt, Global Director at Harper & Associates, and featuring Thomas J. Donohue, Chief Executive Officer of the United States Chamber of Commerce, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton, and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, touched on everything from Canada’s relationship to China to the importance of building shared interests between countries.

Closing out both days, were the policy resolutions debates, where local, provincial and territorial chambers came together to discuss and vote on the public policy recommendations that will set our policy agenda for the year ahead. “Any true recovery must and will inevitably be business led,” was the lasting messaging from Perrin Beatty.