The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber) engages, supports, and informs the business community to shape dialogue and identify issues of concern to member businesses. The Chamber also engages elected officials at all levels of government to ensure the region’s business interests are heard.is the voice of business for our members and the Greater Victoria business community.
The Chamber is at its most effective when backed by an active and informed membership. To that end, we regularly survey and actively engage our membership to best identify and address issues that affect our community.
To support its 2017 advocacy efforts, The Chamber has identified the following priority areas:
This focus will support our work as the voice of business to help shape an environment conducive for business growth and success.
The Chamber Network
Through our partnership with the BC Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Victoria Chamber joins its voices with over 200,000 businesses across Canada to maximize our influence and impact.The Chamber's current positions endorsed by local, provincial and national chambers and boards of trade are here.
Members are increasingly concerned about the scarcity of affordable housing available to our workforce, particularly those earning low to moderate incomes. For example:
- housing costs are going up every year and the average home is not affordable on the average family wage, and
- rental vacancy rates are lower than one percent, the lowest in Canada.
The Chamber’s position is easy access to housing—both rental and ownership—supports the labour needs of today and tomorrow.
The Chamber will advocate for the local, regional, provincial and federal governments to invest in methods to reduce private market housing prices as well as stimulate housing and rental inventories. In addition, The Chamber will advocate to increase the supply of affordable housing accessible to employees on low to moderate incomes.
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Members are concerned about climate change and how the evolving regulatory environment pertaining to how it will affect businesses’ ability to succeed and attract investment. For example:
- our approach to climate change management affects the ability to compete with other jurisdictions,
- conversion to green technology is expensive, and effectively managed transitions can be critical to business sustainability, and
- there will be many business opportunities for innovation and new solutions.
The Chamber’s position is economic prosperity goes hand-in-hand with environmental sustainability.
As a newly adopted policy area, our advocacy will build on the existing work of The Chamber and Greater Victoria businesses to support environmental sustainability. The Chamber will advocate for solutions that work best for business while supporting public goals for emission reduction and promoting how businesses can also lead through innovation and example
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Labour Supply and Retention
Members are citing challenges in hiring qualified workers as a barrier to success. Further, our members are concerned that young families cannot afford to move to/remain in in Greater Victoria due to the high cost of living: namely housing and childcare. For example:
- in July 2016, Greater Victoria had the lowest jobless/unemployment rate in the country,
- B.C. has the highest job vacancy rate in Canada, and
- the forecast is for continued modest economic growth over the next 18 months, which will further exacerbate the labour shortage.
The Chamber’s position is that employers need to be able to effectively compete for and tap into all available sources of talent.
In 2017, The Chamber will advocate for efficient immigration processes with relevant immigration targets and domestic mobility programs that allow employers to effectively compete for foreign and domestic talent. Further, The Chamber will advocate for ways to decrease the high cost of living in Greater Victoria, such as through increased access quality affordable childcare and housing
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Members are aware that government support to economic development has been historically under-resourced and has lacked a regional focus, thereby impacting their ability to succeed and to attract investment. For example, while real GDP growth has improved in 2015 to 1.7 percent, this is after years of stagnant growth. Victoria Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), ranked almost last out of Canada's 28 metropolitan areas with populations greater than 100,000 during the years from 2011 to 2014 and among those years we experienced negative growth in 2013 (-0.2 percent).
The Chamber’s position is that fair and competitive residential and business taxes, a competitive cost of living as well as a regional approach to economic development contributes to a healthy, resilient and growing economy.
In 2017, The Chamber will advocate for the judicious use of taxpayer dollars, creation of better jobs, attraction of external investment, and for the diversification and growth of our vibrant economy. The Chamber will actively champion a regional approach to economic development, and will continue to work collaboratively with local governments and like-minded stakeholders to enhance Greater Victoria's reputation as a world-class place to live, learn and work.
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Local Government - Governance
Members are frustrated with the cost—in terms of dollars, time and energy—to operate in more than one municipality. In addition, members are concerned that Greater Victoria’s reputation and ability to compete with other jurisdictions can be impacted by its inability to deliver regionally. For example:
- there are conflicts of interest when local politicians are also decision-makers for the CRD,
- the City of Victoria bears the majority of costs, e.g. policing, homelessness, as the region’s core, and
- higher levels of governments consider our issues and funding requests as those of small municipalities versus one of Canada’s 20 largest cities.
The Chamber’s position is that effective local governance supports business success and growth.
In 2017, The Chamber will advocate for better governance through fewer governments. Specifically, for the Province to develop realistic options for improved regional governance through the amalgamation of local governments as well as for local governments to commit to regional approaches.
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Local Government - Service Delivery
Members are increasingly concerned about the financial burden placed on businesses as well as the impact that inefficient service delivery has on their ability to succeed and to attract investment. For example:
- responsibility for public safety is fractured, which can lead to the perception that Greater Victoria is not safe, thereby affecting decisions to visit, live, or do commerce in the region, and
- the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses 2016 report has the average property tax gap between residential and commercial on Vancouver Island in 2015 at 2.71, which is above the provincial average of 2.6. In particular, North Saanich was at 4.83, Colwood at 3.95, Saanich was at 3.4 and Victoria at 3.12.
The Chamber’s position is efficient and cost-effective municipal services support business success.
In 2017, The Chamber will advocate that local governments work to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of municipal service delivery so as to reduce the burden on businesses and improve Greater Victoria’s reputation.
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Members are increasingly aware of the need to adapt and evolve to meet customer demands, such as to offer more convenience, lower prices, and increasingly unique customer experiences. Members are concerned that emerging business models affect traditional industries and that existing regulations can place them at a disadvantage. For example:
- unregulated short term vacation rentals, commercial ride-sharing and related companies' unfairly compete with with regulated taxi, hotels, etc., and
- the concentration of illegal marijuana dispensaries may disadvantage Greater Victoria businesses.
The Chamber’s position is that well designed and effectively enforced regulations and legislation supports businesses, protects consumers, and contributes to healthy communities.
In 2017, The Chamber will advocate for the creation or review of regulatory and legislative frameworks, at all levels of government, to ensure a fair and competitive environment.
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Members are concerned about increasing vehicle travel times, aging/inadequate transportation infrastructure such as Belleville International Ferry Terminal, disproportionate and costly approaches to non-vehicle related transportation modes, inadequate parking supply downtown Victoria, and the affordability of B.C. Ferries. For example:
- commuting and road traffic in general are becoming more time consuming, especially to and from Westshore communities, and
- road design and planning for major routes and infrastructure, such as the Johnson St Bridge, Belleville Terminal, and McKenzie Interchange are treated as if they are the responsibility of a single municipality
The Chamber’s position is that a fast, easy and reliable regional transportation system will attract and retain workers and investors, and support key sectors such as tourism.
In 2017, The Chamber will advocate for regional approaches to transportation, such as a transportation commission with multimodal planning and delivery responsibility as well as fair and transparent approaches to infrastructure planning
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