Roundtable: PM, local leaders talk economy
First time discussions have taken place
By Neil Bowen
March 21, 2009 - Sarnia-Lambton leaders traded economic pointers with Prime Minister Stephen Harper during an unusual meeting in Point Edward on Friday.
The so-called "roundtable" was the first ever in which local leaders were actually consulted by a sitting PM, said George Mallay, general manager of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, who was involved in the 75-minute session at the Holiday Inn.
Representatives from industry, education, small business and labour made five-minute presentations to Harper, who took notes and responded with questions of his own.
"He's listening to the needs of people," Mallay said.
Chamber of Commerce board chairperson Les McDermott called for government-backed rebates to stimulate sales, one of about 20 issues raised by the local business community.
"He was very receptive to that," McDermott said later.
Mallay pushed for investment in innovative bio-products. There were also calls for support of existing local industry, and programs for laid-off workers.
Harper said he would follow-up with federal officials on the local suggestions, Mallay said.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the get-together featured "good dialogue" about the issues, such as red-tape-free access to federal infrastructure funding.
Such dialogue should be pursued on a provincial and national basis to bring ideas forward, he said.
People want the community and country to succeed and it requires a balance of cheerleading and quarterbacking, Bradley said.
Bradley was a last-minute addition to the meeting. He said Conservative MP Pat Davidson ensured his inclusion, demonstrating the value of bringing people of all political stripes to the table.
The meeting ended in the afternoon with Harper heading to a reception organized by the local Conservative association.
That event was attended by about 50 people, including former MP Ken James and former MPPs David Boushy and Andy Brandt.
Observer Article ID# 1489292