Letter to the Editor from Mike Bedard : Cornwall Ontario The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – April 24, 2011

It has been officially 6 Months since my letter to the editor on October 20th, 2011.  The Communities in Boom Report placed Cornwall 100th out of 100 communities; stating that our city was difficult to start-up and maintain a business!
Many local officials and community figures were outraged and upset that I would agree with the negative aspects of the report.  But any of you who know me well know that I am very critical of myself and my own business because I continuously strive for perfection.  I never hide from the truth and believe the best way to handle negativity is head on.
The Good
Before I begin to discuss the local economy and give some foresight on how I believe the local market will look, in the short-term, I would like to state that “Everyone I met while campaigning in 2010 truly wanted Cornwall to become a source of inspiration!”  Without a doubt Cornwall has a large potential for progressive change.
The Bad
In October, I stated the following “I believe Cornwall to be currently in a very similar position to what has been portrayed by several economists and industry leading professionals.  Cornwall is currently NOT an easy city to start and operate a business in for various reasons including but not limited to: High Tax Rates, Slow Building Permit Approvals, a lack of ‘Small Business Awareness’ by local government and a stagnant population.” Since then Satisfied Brakes, StarTek, Olymel, Café Connectionz, Bugaboo’s and others have announced lay-offs and closures.  We would need to bring in over 750 new jobs to replace the loss of employment and keep up with inflation in this year alone.  We will not be able to realistically achieve this goal and because of that our unemployment rate may increase or Cornwallites could move out of town.
The last council banded together and like a broken record  repeated over and over again how they were community “Builders” and how proud they were to have been a part of leading Cornwall out of potential disaster and that they acquired government funding to build the new Benson Centre.  Since they were so eager to be responsible for the economic climate, during a period of government spending and some councilors even publicly stated that it was their “job” to provide an economic climate that fostered growth.  I ask you this:

“Why have our municipal leaders not addressed the major decline in our economy!”

Please don’t tell me there isn’t a decline because if their wasn’t then why did Lift-Off state that they are having a hard time securing funding due to a “Slow” start to the economy?  If you are going to take the credit for the good then you need take the credit for the bad!  The truth is council played a very small and insignificant role in bolstering the economy and that is why they cannot help now and nor did they help then!  They will do everything they can to help but ultimately they can do very little and should have never portrayed the image of a vigorous community.
I believe Cornwall will feel the effects of the local job losses more this time then in the past because most of the job losses do not come with severance packages; as large as some Domtar employees.  Local small businesses will be forced to cut spending and more lay-offs will come in all forms.
The Ugly
Cornwall needs to lower the tax burden on both its businesses and residents or it will continue to operate in a stagnant state.
Councilors: Stop arguing over each individual pea and start cutting the meat and potatoes.  Stop arguing and focusing on the Smaller programs that account for under 5% of the budget and take the tougher route of cutting from the Bigger programs that account for over 90% of the budget!  And please, stop calling yourselves FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE or CONSERVATIVE and then say yes to everything in some fashion.  YES is EASY!  NO is HARD! Being FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE is HARD!
Also, let’s see some activity or a status report on the  promises made during the 2010 election and start implementing improvements to the cities programs for the youth, culture, businesses, etc.
Cornwall also needs and attitude adjustment!
Residents: Stop trashing your city or spreading rumors when you are talking to your children, family and friends.  Cornwall people are more prone to be excited about a person or business failing and the gossip that comes with it rather than focus on cheering on and supporting our local successful people and businesses.  Focus on creating rather than destroying!
When I am out of town, which is weekly, I speak very highly of our City and its people!  However, I never turn a blind eye to problems or concerns and I strongly believe we should continuously be improving and comparing ourselves to other municipalities and ensure we are amongst the best in the province and country!  Wanting to faithfully improve my home and community is not a negative thing but bantering and doing nothing is!
Even though I was the youngest candidate in the 2010 municipal election, I was the only local business owner to run for election and I hope more successful entrepreneurs will consider running in the 2014 election!  This city needs a new collective voice and a breath of fresh air to garner interest from outside of the city and right now even though the smell of Domtar is long gone the smell of denial is still fresh in the air!
Thank You,
Mike Bedard

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Moustache Joes


  1. Good letter!

  2. It would be difficult to keep a tax rate low in the near term, however with a project for work now and future tourism because of it, a loan at today’s low rates could help the city and some business, with a return later.

    You may have heard of the rush for green in society today(insert sarcasim emoticon here). However using that momentum, solicit government funds (loan or grant) and make the bike path through the town into a more useable and safer feeling attraction. Link to hotels and resaturants with road lanes and signs. Have the BBB businesses, hotels and restaurants advertise it to other communities.

    I can see an ad now, Stay, eat and play in Cornwall, it is not just a bike path!
    Upper Canada Village is only one spoke in our wheel.

    This would provide a few construction jobs now and tourism jobs later. Just don’t hire me for slogans!

  3. Author

    Hi Eric, we’ve finally made a connection with Seaway Tourism. We’re hoping to promote many of the amazing attractions in the area, but the most frustrating thing is that so many businesses don’t understand how to market themselves and that there’s so much more than just throwing out a simple ad or banner.

  4. Admin, your post screams for a sales professional to offer some marketing workshops to local business.
    That would be another job right there!

    I enjoyed biking the path last summer and stopping to hear the bands, well some of them. LOL

  5. Author

    Hi Eric,

    We try to do exactly that with many of our clients; most of whom are surprised by how much more there is to promoting their businesses besides simple advertising.

  6. Mike, that was a very thoughtful piece. You stay right here in town. You’re right about some of the problems you’ve identified. As much as we have to build a city that is a place of joy for the people already here, we should be moved to make it an inspiring and compelling place for the executives and their families, we expect to move in to Cornwall with their projects.

    It can sometimes be worthwhile to seek advice. One step forward, might be to try what some other communities have tried and that is to reach out. We would not be off the mark if someone, perhaps, Mike Bedard, would approach the John Molson Graduate School of Business, at Concordia University, to make inquires to find out if some Graduate students would care care to make a project of our city. Perhaps they could apply some deep thought with the latest theories on growth and future. In this way we can make another use of our general tax dollars, already invested.

    The expense may be modest and the school could be accommodating. Ideas are sometimes laughable, but it’s nice to have a choice, it’s all about choices. We have the ingredients – we’re muddled when it comes to the recipe.

    I think it would be worthwhile if Cornwall would formally approach some academic institutions for solutions. As opposed to another private consultant fee. We might get real solutions for a real world. If we aren’t getting answers from ourselves then the answers have to come from somewhere else. I mean, we’re all stumped right? And if you took a good look at the MoneySense report – we’re in good company.

  7. Mike
    How much capital would you be willing to provide for a new industry to enter Cornwall?
    It is an industry that would promote both the green initiative and energy concerns

  8. The mayor and city council need to look at our neighbour communities and see what the city staff per resident percentage, we are overstaffed, that is why our property tax and commercial tax rate is so high,nobody wants to make cuts because they are afraid or they have a relative on staff. We also have too many high paid executives working for the city, until someone trims the fat, we will always pay a high mill rate.

  9. Hi Everyone,

    That is great idea. To let a highly educated “group” from outside give advice on how our city could be more attractive to businesses, would be great to get a fresh look and overview!

    None! All businesses must provide a business plan to the bank in order to garner financing. If the banks turn them down than the City would not be well advized NOT to provide funding to a company; the company could garner financing through programs from the Eastern Ontario Training Board, SDG Futures Development or DBIA………..Ultimately it is illegal, for the city, to give money to businesses to locate to your area! You can provide in kind services such as sewer upgrades, etc. but you can not give money nor should you; it would be extremely unethical!

    The proper solution is to cut spending and lower the tax rate! Sounds too simple but it works……why do think Walmart is so well visited!

    We can start by eliminating the information coordinator which would be what I would call a FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE decision!

  10. Author

    Now Mike you’re in business and I’m sure you know it takes money to make money. The city isn’t there to purely be a business or make a “profit”. Most of the services they provide cost money.
    For me I think it’s simply of being better at it and listening to ideas from inside and outside of the city. With e-learning now we need some University presence in Cornwall; either through a partnership with St. Lawrence College or a move to help facilitate with a school. IF we can pull together to help build a hospital, why not a school? We have a few empty ones here last I checked….

    Walmart is destroying our society; not helping it. If people can’t earn money they can’t spend it whether it be employees or independent business like yourself.

    And one thing to always consider is “Value.” I’m not sure why but it seems we’ve lost our focus on Values in society whether it be in the quality of the goods we buy or of the people we work with.

  11. Mikey
    You need to better your own attitude regarding growth in the city. Not to mention your view on economics.

    I have presented two different business plans to economic development for consideration. It is burdened with politics and policy not making it worthwhile to open a place in Cornwall. Some of the problems are the people working in the system, Like Star Tek they are only as good as the computer screen before them. It is unfortunate because it leaves Cornwall without significant competition needed for local business to gauge against.

    What do you think about that?

    It is very easy to purchase an existing and established business and then pass judgment on how others should proceed.

    These entities you mention to gain some capital as in Eastern Ontario Training Board and Futures Development or DBIA cost the city and province billions per annum. No Cornwall groups, not just you alone but all similar entities combined, they are little more than a self preservation industry which spends money like wild fire in economic turn downs. Banks, well, I think we all know just how supportive they can be.

    Then you tell us to be fiscally responsible and stop spending. If business needs money to start somebody needs to foot the capital or at least contribute. Seeing as you are unwilling to provide capital and wish people to seek out entities that cost tax payers money I need to wonder how you run your business? Do you promise one thing and deliver something different?

    Wal Mart is so well visited only because it is cheap, not because of quality or spending. Wal Mart also guarantees their products and services, In their own way.

    Does your business guarantee all its services? Mine does

  12. Author

    Smee I can tell you that Mike goes way over the line to take care of his customers. I know I shopped with him and so have quite a few friends. Roy’s Pools is a company I would definitely endorse and you don’t see their ad on here either so it’s not about client loyalty.

  13. I beg to differ Jamie and it is why we use people from Ottawa.
    However it is not what the discussion is about

  14. Smee,

    I am sure your business is very successful and I would love to know what it is?

    My business has done the following in the last year:
    1) Voted the Readers Choice Award for Favourite Pool Company
    2) Supported 15 minor and local sports teams and leagues
    3) Was Cornwall’s First Retail Busines to Successfully Complete the Cornwall Carbon Reduction Initiatives – ECOBUSINESS PROGRAM
    4) Employed over 40 employees and will grow to 55 with the Grand Opening of our NEW Store in Rockland!
    5) Use 100% in-house employees for a total payroll of over $1,000,000

    ………………………………………….in just the last 6 months!

    I guarantee you know nothing about my business and you are exactly like the residents I speak of who are negative and unwilling to change!

    Since, you want to challenge my business ethics; I ask you to consider your information before you judge me!

    My parents live in my basement and I have lost many partial scholarships as a young athlete because my parents simply could not afford to pay for difference in my schooling! They are both on pentions, are great parents but financially could not get by and me and both my brothers experienced many Christmases supported by the Agape and Salvation Army!

    I worked very hard in College, graduated with 2 Diplomas and was awarded the Presidents List Awarded for having the Highest GPA in my discipline! All paid by working 3 jobs while in school to help my parents and pay for school!

    Upon graduation, I was hired by my summer employer (Roy’s Pools) to handle the accounting duties! The company lost several key employees to Cameron’s Pools and I offered to sell in the store to help during training! At this time it was the year after our Fire in 2005 and the future of Roy’s was in jeopardy! It sold approximately $1,800,000 with a Well division in operation.

    I personally managed the retail and the administrative duties of the company and decided to Close the Well Division! We had 16 employees and were breaking even!

    That same year all the staff, that left for Cameron’s, were let go or quite and Roy’s sales climbed to $2,500,000 or approximately 40%. We doubled our staff and continue to add new employees and systems to streamline our systems annually!

    At 24 years old, I developed a business plan and the BANK (Caisse Populaire) financed me for over $2,000,000 to buy a company that only showed profits in one of the past five years! Not being close minded I acquired 2 business partners to help financially back the transactions by showing them the potential in the business!

    Today, I am the only operating partner and I have just opened my second store which has already sold over $300,000 in its first 2 months of operation!

    So, I ask you this do you think that I am continuing to grow because my client base isn’t growing or because my work ethic is lacking? I do not keep all of my customers for ever but I never stop trying to gain new business and create customer loyalty!

    My modo is simple “It’s not that things happen but how you take care of them!” that makes both a quality business and individual!

    Attitude is everything and your attitude SMEE is similar to those that will continue to keep Cornwall in cellar! Stop and think! What have you done besides complain about what has happened to you!

    Why did you not ask me for help instead of trying to lure me into a public battle?

    Thank You,
    Mike Bedard

  15. Author

    Kudo’s to you Mike. You’re something that more business people in Cornwall should be working towards and Smee, it’s about time you outed yourself. You can’t keep pooping on people autonomously here. If you want to make arguments with any credibility you can’t do so from the shadows…

  16. Bravo Mike

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