Last week, as President of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce (CVCC) I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the 72nd BC Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) AGM in Kelowna.  The conference was filled with almost 200 Chamber of Commerce Presidents, board members and Executive Directors from all over the province.

I have been volunteering on the board of directors at our CVCC for a decade now, but this was my inaugural trip to this event. With those years of experience and engagement, I feel I am familiar with what our CVCC does locally, and I thought I had a good understanding of our Strategic Priorities.  Seeing the work that goes on behind the scenes by the Chambers across the province was inspiring and shocking. I underappreciated the scope of advocacy action that was being facilitated through the Chamber of Commerce network beyond the scope of the CVCC monthly board room meetings. At the BCCC we debated, discussed, and voted on 42 different polices that originated as important issues to the members of the authoring Chambers. Often here, in relatively small-town Columbia Valley, we can feel that the rest of the province doesn’t listen to us, but when it came to voting, I was surprised to feel the weight of my vote.  The strength of our membership determines our voting.  And CVCC was assigned 7 votes based on our size, out of a maximum of 10 votes, which means that our voice was heard and not overwhelmed by the power of larger centres.  The approved polices become part of the Policy & Positions Manual and direct the priorities of the BCCC moving forward.

The theme for this year’s BCCC AGM was Innovating for Impact, recognizing how innovations plays in how we do business, attract and retain employees, and engage with our clients.  Over the conference we heard from a wide variety of industry leaders and experts including an informative and interesting presentations on AI technology, which did invite discussion around the table, much of it centered on morality and trust concerns as well as the efficiency of the technology. I was also very moved by the presentation on how to be more Indigenous inclusive in our businesses. This did not focus on hiring practices but rather on incorporation of traditional Indigenous values to a business model and succession planning.

In addition to the policy work and presentations, we had speeches from, and the opportunity to engage with, government, including different Ministers and MLAs and members of the three opposition parties. Our Executive Director Pete Bourke took to the microphone to ask John Rustad, Leader of the Conservative Party of BC, a question on the use of BC Gaming Grant Funding. The government was there to listen, as the BC Chambers are a respected voice of BC Business.

Throughout it all there was amazing networking with the other Chambers around the province.  We had breakout regional caucus meetings to enable discussion of local position on policy, so I was able to connect with our neighbouring Chambers in Cranbrook, Revelstoke, Nelson and Fernie.  It was validating to hear the similar struggles from different regions of the province, and experience that support and understanding.

The BC Chamber of Commerce AGM was awesome, (as in filled me with awe!) to be an active participant representing Columbia Valley and that CVCC is a key member in actioning policy and advocacy through this network.  Former CVCC President Cris Leonard also returned to the event, and it was good to have a veteran to hold my hand and lend his experience.  I am grateful to have been there with our Executive Director Pete. I got a deeper understanding of how much work he accomplishes and how high the level of his involvement is.  He is a respected player in the Chamber network, which results in Columbia Valley being a noticed entity. The experience of attending this event has inspired me to further leverage our involvement to continue to support our local businesses.

“Why should I join the Chamber?” is sometimes asked. I can confidently answer, “Because we are focused on supporting local business, and advocating on a provincial scale, for the needs of Columbia Valley Businesses.”



Rhiannon Tutty-Sun Life Financial

CVCC President