What’s in a name? Plenty of controversy, if you’re the Kanata Chamber of Commerce.
Ian Faris is the CEO of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.
By David Sali
The organization, which represents 412 businesses in the west end of the capital region, has raised the hackles of its larger Ottawa counterpart with a proposal to change its name to the West Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.
The Kanata group is holding a general membership vote next Tuesday on the new name, which president Greg Weatherdon says more accurately reflects the chamber’s membership.
“The biggest issue is we represent such a large geographic portion of the west end,” he says, noting the organization includes businesses in Goulbourn, West Carleton and Nepean as well as Kanata. “It’s a rebranding effort - nothing more.”
However, that explanation doesn’t sit well with Ottawa Chamber of Commerce CEO Ian Faris, who recently fired off a letter to the Kanata group expressing opposition to the proposed name change and urging it to drop the idea.
Mr. Faris says his organization was created by a special act of parliament in 1857 - 10 years before Confederation - empowering it to be the chamber of commerce for the National Capital Region. He’s worried having two chambers in the city with “Ottawa” in their name will cause confusion.
“We have the legal right to that name,” he says. “They can’t register (West Ottawa) as their official name. We feel we’re the chamber of commerce for pan-Ottawa and act accordingly.”
Mr. Weatherdon says he doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. He doesn’t think the change will cause mass confusion because it’s clear his group represents merchants in the west end only.
Still, he says he’s willing to talk to the Ottawa chamber about its concerns if his group votes to approve the rebranding.
“Really at this point, it’s a little premature,” he says. “We’re doing this in good faith. If (Ottawa chamber officials) want to have conversations, we’re open to it.”
For his part, Mr. Faris says the Ottawa chamber will seek a legal opinion to figure out its next move if the name change goes through.
“It’s up to the lawyers then, I presume,” he says.
If the rebranding does go ahead, the Kanata organization wouldn’t be the first suburban business group with “Ottawa” in its name. The Eastern Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, once known as the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, merged with the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce in 2009.