Small Business Week

Pontiac Chamber of Commerce President Sébastien Bonnerot speaks at the Canadian Small Business week event held at the Little Red Wagon Winery on October 19.

Grace Richards
Local Journalism Initiative

On Thursday, October 19, the Pontiac Chamber of Commerce celebrated Canadian Small Business Week with an 5 à 7 gathering at the Little Red Wagon Winery in Clarendon. President of the Chamber, Sébastien Bonnerot, invited the Canadian Federation of Independent Business to speak on the issues that are affecting small business owners in the region.

Bonnerot started the event commenting on the importance of networking and making connections between businesses; the Chamber works with business owners in the region to further their reach and create networking opportunities. He explained  how cold calling was pivotal in growing their membership and event attendance, as last year’s black-tie event relied heavily on ticket sales made over the phone despite many believing a virtual presence is more vital to a business’s success rather than a personal touch.

The meeting shone a light on numerous issues plaguing business owners in the Outaouais region, most notably the current labour shortage and how the CFIB works to advocate for business owners. Three out of five businesses in the Outaouais are experiencing a labour shortage, one of the highest in the country and 72% of business owners in Quebec say they’re working more hours because of the labour shortage, affecting the potential for business expansion.

On average, business owners are working 60 hours a week. Six percent of businesses say they can’t survive another year of labour shortages. The CFIB is flagging these issues and bringing them to the government with potential solutions. One thing the CFIB is advocating is to get funding from the government to increase wages to help retain employees.

Another topic was the necessity for more interprovincial commerce. According to business owners polled by the CFIB, the demand is there, but there are barriers to access, such as language laws. These regulations make it hard for Ontario businesses to work with Quebec businesses. In Quebec, one out of five business owners say they can’t expand because of their inability to do business in another language.