Productive Engagement

Voltaire said, “I might disagree with your opinion, but I am willing to give my life for your right to express it.” I have a slight disagreement with Voltaire. I am willing to give my life for your right to hold an opinion if it is based in relevant expertise but even then, I do not agree that you have a right or an obligation to express it.

We have many opinions. In fact, we express our opinions on a variety of subjects every day just by the choices we make: the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the food we eat. These, and many others of our opinions have been formed by our life experiences, world views, and often, our privileges.

There are various levels of opinions – the most legitimate being those grounded in science and expertise. Then there are those that are based on our politics and ideas of what others should do and finally there are those that include our personal experiences, likes and dislikes. One’s subjective beliefs are more difficult to defend. The saying “everyone is entitled to their opinion” only means that we can think whatever we like but our opinion is not more deserving of respect than anyone else’s and we are under no obligation to express it. And yet, people do. Opinions are voiced every day in letters to the editor, as comments online, and in other public fora. Often these opinions are trotted out like facts and are garnished with condescension, sarcasm, and cynicism.

Many opinions are not facts; rather they are judgments and assessments and are masquerading as passive-aggressive advice. Opinions can be wrong and ill-conceived and that they are widely held and shared does not make them valid.

The quality of public and personal engagement would be elevated if we considered the following when our opinions are burning to be shared: Do I have the information and actual expertise to form an opinion? Why do I believe my opinion ought to be shared? Am I sharing it with the right people? Have they asked for my opinion? Will the sharing of or my delivery of my opinion diminish other people’s willingness or opportunity to communicate their opinions?

It is important that our privilege and fundamentalist beliefs don’t give us the false idea that our opinions are more significant than anyone else’s. Listen to opinions that differ from your own – especially those based in expertise. Leave room for others to influence discussions. There is wisdom in knowing what you don’t know. Superiority is illusory.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Cheers to our Volunteers

In honour of National Volunteer Week which was celebrated the last week of April, I wish to acknowledge our new Board of Directors:

Doug Walker, President (Cambium Leadership)
Gordon Benn, Vice President (Pearlman Lindholm)
Sheila Henn, Treasurer (Paterson Henn Chartered Professional Accountants)
Tara Keeping, Secretary (Tiger Lily Events)
John Treleaven, Past President (The Treleaven Consulting Group) (more…)

Embracing Diversity of Opinion

An investment in your local Chamber of Commerce is an investment in your own prosperity, as a businessperson and as a member of the community. Our role is to promote business, monitor all levels of government and champion managed growth in the economy.

As the voice of business, we mobilize like-minded individuals who, together, work to cultivate a community with a healthy, diversified, economy. The events and activities we undertake are a means to achieve that end.

On occasion, we take a position that is unpopular with some of our members. Organizations can experience paralysis and overload when they try to be all things to all people. We, at this Chamber, would rather be seen to be being proactive than to be doing little by attempting only those activities where we had consensus. And so, while it is never comfortable to have members unhappy with our choices, we trust that our purposes remain aligned and we will continue working together to see the Peninsula become the very best place to live, work, and play.

One duty we take very seriously is to continue stimulating passionate discourse on the Saanich Peninsula!

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Be it Resolved

Tis the season for considering the successes and challenges of the past year while making plans for the New Year. In the spirit of making resolutions, we offer some straightforward suggestions for optimizing your financial health in 2017 by making good use of your Chamber benefits. We would rather you didn’t feel the same way about your Chamber membership as you do about that unused gym pass.

  • Take advantage of the opportunities we offer to market your business. The more you interact with us, the better informed and able we are to promote your business on your behalf.

 

  • Attend our events. You are your brand and the more others in the community see you, the more likely they are to remember you when making purchasing decisions.

 

  • When attending events, use the time wisely. Create connections and relationships rather than contacts or business prospects. It doesn’t have to be a painful process. Be curious and learn about a couple of people at each event.

 

  • Use your time strategically. All chamber members are important but some have more potential to you than others. Maximize your networking time by connecting with and fostering relationships with those members who are more likely to be prospective clients.

 

  • Consider how you can contribute to the success of other members or to the organization. When you act as a resource, you will be perceived as having more credibility and competency. Think about how you can bring value to the membership and give yourself the opportunity to showcase your talents and skills.

 

  • Leverage your profile in the community through sponsoring a chamber event. Bring a potential member to the events you attend so they and you can benefit from our growing network. Advertise on our website. Have your customers leave reviews on your online directory listing.

 

  • Finally, consider taking on a leadership role as a committee or board member. This will connect you with others who share your values. It provides an opportunity for others to see you as an authority, to garner respect and to have some fun. It’s true. We have fun.

A little motivation to get you started:  no matter how slowly you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch. Let us help you make next year your best year.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Change Always Comes Bearing Gifts

Ours is an organization that is inherently in flux due to our communities being in transition, yearly election of board members, changes in office staff, and the varying levels of involvement and participation of members. Change helps us grow and reveals our strengths and opportunities. It is essential that we check in periodically to ensure we are heading in a direction that continues to provide value to our members.

We recently undertook a strategic planning session that served to reinforce some of our assumptions and challenged others. The first step was to develop a vision and mission for our organization that our board and staff can hold up as a test or guide when considering future activities. We then established four strategic priorities and continue to develop specific items within those categories. We also agreed on activities that we need to stop doing.

The process was useful to help us re-focus on who we represent and to whom we hold ourselves accountable. I am pleased to say the plan has already been very useful to me and to our board as we move away from the provision of visitor services and look towards using our organizational resources in the highest service of our members.

Going forward you will see evidence of our belief that a healthy business community is essential to a healthy community. We will continue to work to see the Saanich Peninsula recognized and respected as the best place to do business. But first and foremost, you will see us supporting, promoting, and advocating for member-businesses on the Saanich Peninsula.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director, Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce

Taking a Stand against Public Incivility

I was disturbed by the dearth of civility I witnessed at the public hearing hosted in September by Town of Sidney Mayor and Council to address the rezoning of the proposed Gateway site. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the behaviour of many in the crowd was not different than what one witnesses during Question Period in the House of Commons or on national TV shows or in the comment sections online.

We are a rude and disrespectful society labouring under warped ideas of what free speech actually means. It doesn’t mean that we avoid the consequences of our speech or that we tolerate all forms of discussion. Free speech means that we have the right to say what we like without the government imposing punishments. It is possible to disagree, even stridently, and not lose our sense of civility. As poet and writer Mary Wortley Montagu has said “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.”

We have to hold ourselves and each other to higher standards. At the local level, we can do so by developing our capacity for constructive participation. If we tolerate disrespectful language and actions, we risk shutting citizens out from participating in the democratic process. It is important that we develop a framework for governing communities in participatory, deliberative, inclusive and collaborative ways.

 

The National League of Cities Center for Research & Innovation developed an action guide for city leaders entitled “Beyond Civility, From Public Engagement to Problem Solving”. In it, the authors identify seven principles for doing democratic governance right including 1) Model civility 2) Sharpen skills 3) Create opportunities for informed engagement 4) Support a culture of community involvement 5) Make the most of technology 6) Include everybody and 7) Make it last.

 

We are enthusiastically supportive of the problem-solving strategies offered by the NLC action guide. The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce has organized a facilitated, participant-led discussion of the issues arising from the proposed Gateway project with our members and Omicron principals. We will continue to initiate constructive discussions on local issues and build the capacity in this community for active, effective, participation as an antidote to the troubling form of public “engagement” we saw at the September public hearing.

 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director