September saw Fredericton, New Brunswick host the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting (AGM) and conference. The hosting Fredericton Chamber of Commerce team prepared a terrific, jam-packed agenda for this year’s conference, including an ONB-sponsored Maritime Kitchen Party. As the event’s presenting sponsor, ONB was thrilled to help showcase New Brunswick’s trademark hospitality for the more than 350 attendees from across Canada.

The Fredericton chamber also presented a policy resolution at the conference aimed at attracting and retaining more international students. To learn more about the resolution, and the conference, we spoke with Chamber CEO Krista Ross.

ONB: Before we discuss your policy resolution, tell us about your overall experience with this year’s AGM.

Ross: As the host Chamber, the most exciting part was that it was held here in Fredericton for the first time. This was an excellent opportunity to showcase our beautiful city and province, as well as real Maritime hospitality to business and chamber leaders from coast to coast. We’ve heard favourable comments on everything from the variety of downtown shops and restaurants to the hotels to the Fredericton Convention Centre itself, not to mention the excellent program of education, policy and being educated about the current business climate and opportunities that the conference explored.

Our top responsibilities, in addition to the Maritime Kitchen Party, included ground transportation, managing the companion program, marketing, and hospitality. As you know, we hosted the Maritime Kitchen Party, which was sponsored by ONB; it was awesome. We saw a great turnout from local attendees that came to mix and mingle with business leaders from across the country. Delegates definitely felt that Fredericton did a tremendous job.

The policy resolution your team presented, what exactly does it entail, and what was the result?

There is broad agreement that growing our population, lowering the average age of that population, and further increasing skilled immigration are all good things for business. Our chamber’s resolution focused on attracting and retaining international students through Canadian work experience. The resolution recognizes international students as individuals that have already chosen either our city or province as a great place to come to further their education. They’re already here, putting down roots, have excellent language skills, and are being Canadian credentialed via their education. They are the perfect candidates to remain in the country permanently.

The resolution had several recommendations, including:

  • International students should qualify for the Canada Summer Jobs Program;
  • Student permits should be modified to allow participation in co-op terms and internships without needing a separate work permit;
  • The extension of the post-grad job search period from 90 days to six months so students don’t need to get an extension of their study permit;
  • All time spent in Canada as an international student should count towards citizenship eligibility; currently, it’s counted as half;
  • A change in the length of time for which post-graduate work permits are valid; it’s at three years and we’d push it to five; and
  • Expediting the process for international students to receive visas as well as processing times for permanent residency.

Not only did our resolution pass with 93.6% approval, there were no amendments made; it passed as presented.

You have collaborators on this resolution, correct?

Yes, we were fortunate to have Alberta’s Spruce Grove Chamber and the Greater Charlottetown Chamber as co-sponsors. We also worked closely with the New Brunswick Student Alliance and received additional input from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

ONB recognizes the value of immigration and workforce development so this resolution aligns well with our own initiatives.

We have a close collaborative relationship with ONB. We’ve worked on a variety of projects together as it relates to issues of common concern. When ONB has companies visiting the province that are considering Fredericton we’re often called upon to participate. We are often asked to suggest chamber members that could be of value as well; businesses that can effectively speak to New Brunswick’s value proposition.

We’ve also worked with ONB’s CyberNB unit on the rollout of things like the Cyber Essentials certification program and improved cybersecurity plans for chamber members.

We should also offer congratulations on being named Executive of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Canada. We are thrilled to see that go a New Brunswick leader.

Thank you! It’s an honour, but recognition like that absolutely reflects the team at the chamber, both the staff and the board. The work we do is a group effort and we have assembled a great team here.

What’s next?

The chamber is once again hosting the Business Excellence Awards on October 26 at the Delta Fredericton. Nominees have been announced for seven awards, including the Business Person of the Year Award sponsored by ONB. Registration is still open.

Cover image: From the AGM – ONB’s Denise Maloney and Suzanne Turmel, Jeff MacArthur of Export Development Canada, Terry Malley of Malley Industries.

Written by Jason Boies