- PA 313
Suggestions for the establishment of a Board of Trade for Regina, North-West Territories occurred as early as 1884, when the editor of the Regina Leader, Nicholas Flood Davin, promoted the formation of a central body to oversee the interests of the growing business community. The 1885 Rebellion and subsequent trial of Louis Riel delayed the formal organization of a Regina Board of Trade until April 1886 when businessmen gathered and elected J.A. McCaul as their first president and Davin as their first secretary. Early concerns of the organization included the reduction of freight rates, the promotion of immigration, livestock handling and the construction of roads and railway branch lines. In 1888, the Regina Board of Trade was incorporated under the Dominion Boards of Trade Act. That year the Board sponsored grain exhibits at the Ottawa Exhibition.
Following Regina's incorporation as a city in 1903, local problems such as the need for hotel accommodations, sidewalks, street paving and a municipally owned transit system assumed importance. The growth and promotion of local businesses, the sponsorship of civic events, the emergence of tourism as an industry, the impact of agriculture on the city and freight rates held ongoing interest to the Board. Delegates were sent to exhibitions and international congresses. By 1911, when the city's population reached 18,300, the structure of the Board of Trade included committees for Finance, Business Management, Reception and Membership, Transportation, Advertising, New Industries, Freight Rates and Legislation. The organization supported transportation and infrastructure developments throughout the province; participated in industrial exhibitions; encouraged advertising in business directories, the development of insurance companies and improved railway service; while also providing a forum for protesting issues surrounding the shipping of grain, the price of power and poor crops. The Board responded to the ravage caused to Regina by the 1912 cyclone with a new industries campaign and assistance for rebuilding businesses. During and following the Great War, the Board promoted advertising Regina as a business city through British, American and Canadian Chamber publications.
In the 1920s new committees were added to address agricultural, civic improvement and shipping matters. An emphasis on housing, warehouse development, new hotels, educational institutions, hospitals and railway expansion was evident in Board discussions and activities. The Board lobbied for a provincial war memorial and continued the active promotion of Regina as a convention city through the distribution of brochures and maps. The Board also responded to legislation concerning gas tax, the Companies Act, succession duties, daylight savings time and the ward system. By the late 1920s the Board of Trade operated the Regina Motor Club (later the Saskatchewan Motor Club), sponsored prizes at the Regina Exhibition and assumed a more active role in entertaining visitors to the city. With the opening of Regina's municipal airport in 1928, a Board of Trade Aviation Committee followed in 1929 and aviation service for Regina assumed a growing focus. The Board also advocated improvements in city beautification, street widening and a better water supply. The Regina Improvement Commission was a direct result of these efforts.
Drought, economic depression and the noticable decline in business starts became a growing concern in the 1930s. The Board urged the development of public works programs and ran a "Give a Man a Job" campaign appealing to 10,000 citizens to support casual employment within the city. Continued decline in housing starts, poor harvests and business failures curtailed many Board functions and activities. However, support was given to the construction of the Albert Street Memorial Bridge, the formation of a Regina Welfare Bureau and the Board played an active role in relief measures such as the used clothing campaign operated by the Regina Leader-Post. The Board also urged public support for locally-made (Regina and Saskatchewan) products and voiced growing objections to taxation as detrimental to economic recovery. In 1933, the Board assisted with the hosting of the World Grain Show and published an industrial booklet on Regina. Membership in the Board by 1939 stood at 670.
During the Second World War, the Board of Trade advocated the use of Regina facilities for an air-training centre and developed close liaison with other organizations involved in the war effort and industrial production on the home front via the Regina Auxiliary War Services Committee and the provision of secretarial services for charity appeals. It partnered with the University of Saskatchewan to offer a course in aeronautical engineering, promoted the recruitment of farm labour, assisted with providing accommodation to those arriving in Regina, established a Hostess Club, promoted war contracts for Regina industries, supported the Victory Loans campaign and continued to provide a forum for business and economic issues. The Board also entertained soldiers and their families with summer concerts in Wascana Park. New committees reflected interests in national parks, retail, wholesale and manufacturing business and concerns regarding wartime price controls. Recognition of the role of agriculture as an essential industry continued to impact Board responses to civic development.
In 1947, the organization changed its name to the Regina Chamber of Commerce. Post-war construction, especially housing, assumed prominence. The Hostess Committee ended and a Citizens' Rehabilitation Committee was established by the organization. The Chamber in its committees and meetings addressed issues related to aviation service; new water sources in the development of Buffalo Pound Lake and the South Saskatchewan River Development Project; surges in business development and industrial expansion; veterans' services; and ongoing concerns with freight rates, transportation and commerce. Agricultural field days were implemented while the organization continued to promote and publicize Regina as a tourist and convention destination.
During the 1950s the Chamber hosted an annual agricultural banquet, continued to promote improvements in water quality, began a group insurance plan for employees of members, provided meeting space at its offices for other service organizations, promoted a new bus and trolley transportation system for the city, submitted briefs to various commissions on industrial and economic expansion, supported increased air service with American cities, and provided business advice regarding unwanted solicitations. In 1955, the motto for the organization boasted "Doing Today's Job and Planning Tomorrow's Future". A stronger link to the educational community also developed with the 1956 sponsorship of the first business-education days, involving teachers and business firms sharing their experiences. A new Business-Education Committee was also formed. Efforts continued to promote tourism, conventions, workshops and seminars. 1958 marked a large convention year for the city and 1959 saw a strong construction boom.
During the 1960s lobbying efforts focused on improved aviation service, the development of Regina College as a degree-granting institution, stronger liaison with City Council, a brief to the Royal Commission on Transportation and an advisory service on better business practices. Farm forums, highway improvements, downtown core development, improved education facilities, Medicare, income tax exemptions, resolving traffic and parking problems and increased provincial and national convention participation were at the centre of Chamber efforts and activities. The growth of the city during this period resulted in increased demands on services. A restructuring of Chamber committees occurred in 1962 with the combining of several committees and the establishment of a Petroleum Section to encourage the marketing of petroleum products. This was followed in 1963 with the establishment of a Convention Promotions Department and the hosting of the first Miss Regina Courtesy Contest. Briefs were presented in the mid-1960s to the Royal Commission on Taxation (1963) and the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1964). In 1964 the Chamber opened three visitor information booths and this service continued to grow annually thereafter. In 1966 over 100,000 visitors to the city benefited from information and business services.
By 1965 membership in the Chamber reached 760 firms and 1,119 individuals; a contact club was set up to promote membership and services. The Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan opened leading to stronger local ties with the Chamber and the educational community. The Chamber was first awarded the Canadian Chamber of Commerce shield for the most outstanding Chamber of Commerce Week in cities over 100,000 in 1967. That year new seats were created on the Board of Directors to reflect ties with the Downtown Merchants' Association and University. A Water Resources Committee was established; the Chamber assisted with preparations and hosting of INDEX 67, the largest economic symposium in Saskatchewan history; and also launched the first "Buffalo Days" theme citywide in conjunction with the Regina Exhibition Association. On the entertainment front, "The Trial of Louis Riel" opened with its first presentations in 1967 and the Chamber organized Football Day on October 30, 1968 to recognize the importance of professional football to the city. In the late 1960s the Chamber also ran executive training courses for businesses, offered a business protection service, hosted golf tournaments, promoted public awareness of its activities, established the Distinguished Community Service award and launched British Trade Week.
The Chamber successfully lobbied for a Better Business Bureau and a Convention Bureau for the city in the 1970s, established a University Committee, and participated in the national "Meet the Canadians at Home" initiative. The promotion of job experience for youth occurred through the Youth Voyageur Program, student tours of businesses and the Operation Placement Program. During this period an Industrial Advisory Committee was established to advise the City of Regina's City Industrial Development Officer, and through the University of Saskatchewan's Department of Extension, the Chamber promoted the launching of the first Civic Orientation course, encouraging public participation in civic affairs.
The Chamber participated in the RCMP Centennial in 1973, launching a special committee and a successful commemorative calendar. In 1974 the Chamber amalgamated several committees: the Public Relations, Membership, and Reception Committees became the Chamber Activities Committee; the Civic, Water, and Downtown Committees became the Civic Development Committee. The first Classified Visitor and Buyer's Guide, briefs and presentations emphasizing assistance to businesses for research and development of new markets, and the launching of an anti-shoplifting campaign also occurred in the 1970s.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the Chamber continued to respond to civic initiatives, launch studies and proposals surrounding taxation issues, business and commercial development. Increased recognition of the contributions of business to the larger community, as well as mentorship opportunities within the business community continued as major Chamber initiatives to improve the business and employment environment within the city. Through committee work, briefs and submissions, seminars, workshops, special events, media coverage, conferences and speaker programs, as well as provincial and national liaison with other Chambers, the Chamber of Commerce encouraged a collective business voice, while promoted the city's economic well-being through long-range commercial development and diversification.
Throughout its history, the Chamber has participated in civic and provincial celebrations including the various anniversaries of the City of Regina, royal visits, the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Saskatchewan, and most recently, the province's Centennial.
The Chamber of Commerce currently (2010) operates with a fourteen member Board of Directors and staff of six, including the Chief Executive Officer, John Hopkins. The president, Andrew Rathwell, is the 124th individual to hold that post.
The office of the Board of Trade was originally in the old Regina town hall until it was demolished in 1908. Thereafter, offices were shared with a variety of businesses. By 1953, the Chamber secured its own premises where it remains today (2010). The Regina and District Chamber of Commerce is located at 2145 Albert Street.