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Year in Review 2017 - Message from The CEO

In 2018, The Chamber will celebrate its 155th year of doing business in Greater Victoria. Throughout the year you’ll hear our theme “Building Good Business” frequently as we look forward to the future and perhaps take a moment or two to bask in our previous successes.

On that note, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the many successes The Chamber has had in 2017 by working with our members and advocating on their behalf at all levels of government. From punitive tax reforms to getting more staff for local businesses (plus getting them housed, their kids in quality care and transported to work) we’ve been busy.

Here are some of the 2017 wins for business that aligned with our advocacy efforts.

1. Revised Proposal for Small Business Tax Reform: We worked with the other local chambers and with the Canadian Chamber to let the federal Minister of Finance know the tax changes he proposed would be punitive to small business and, rather than achieving fairness in taxation between employees and the self-employed, they would increase the financial risk and uncertainty involved in running a business. The finance minister withdrew his proposals but has subsequently proceeded with a watered-down version.

2. Retracted Proposal to Tax Extended Health Benefits: Early in the year the federal government floated another tax proposal that drew an immediate backlash from us and other chambers across the country. The proposal was to tax employees for the extended health insurance benefits employers provide, such as our very popular Chamber Group Insurance. That would make these benefits less attractive, less affordable and ultimately less available, which would drive employee health in the wrong direction. The federal government retracted its proposal.

3. Funding for Affordable Housing: The cost of housing is a top issue for employers and an issue that we have repeatedly brought up at all levels of government. Workers won’t move here if they can’t afford to live here. The CRD started the ball rolling on affordable housing in 2015 and the Province then matched its $30 million. In 2017, the federal government finally stepped in with $40 billion for a National Housing Strategy. The volume of funding now available for affordable housing projects in the region should be enough to make a difference.

4. Affordable, Available, Quality Child Care: Child care is the second highest cost for young families, after housing. It is essential to ensure kids are well cared for so their parents can participate in our active economy. The Chamber was invited to work with the City of Victoria to improve child care in the city and to lobby the provincial government to invest in child care. The city has seen some increase in spaces and the province has announced capital funding for new spaces in Victoria, many on school property. More support is anticipated in the 2018 provincial budget.

5. More Funding for Buses: The Chamber has been advocating for improved transportation options for our workforce. The bus has to be frequent, reliable, affordable, and go where you need to go, if it is going to be an alternative to the car. After years of lobbying by local municipalities and The Chamber, the Province provided a significant operating budget increase in 2017 to allow the Victoria Regional Transit Commission to expand service. The Province is currently proceeding with a dedicated bus lane on both sides of the TransCanada highway.

6. Federal Funding for BC Ferries: The Chamber has advocated for years that BC Ferries should qualify for federal infrastructure funding. The federal government agreed in 2017. This means the federal government will bear some of the cost of BC Ferries, rather than just the people of the province, as it does with other important transportation infrastructure across the country.

7. Increase in Immigration: Our local employers need workers and immigration is an important source, one which The Chamber has supported through requests for better systems to fast track skilled workers and increase the employee pool locally. The federal government made a modest ten percent increase in the number of immigrants allocated to BC this year. Not enough to meet our requirements, but a step in the right direction.

8. Working with retailers to reduce plastic bags: Retailers have been at the forefront of reducing the use of plastic bags. The Chamber worked with the Retail Council of Canada and local retailers to inform, and work with, the City of Victoria to improve its proposed regulation on plastic bag reduction and make it more practical.

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