Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.6% in October from 9.1% the month before, according to Statistics Canada's latest figures.
The numbers reflect what is now being called a K-shaped economic recovery, with some businesses able to return to pre-pandemic operations and others still facing an uncertain future.
Across Canada, 57% of businesses in the accommodation and food-services sector report they are unable to take on more debt. About one-third of those say, at current levels of business, they will need to consider closing, declaring bankruptcy or reducing staff unless revenue increases in the next six months.
"With finite public resources available, we need to look carefully at the return on investment of government spending," said Canadian Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist and Vice-President of Policy, Dr. Trevin Stratton. "Some programs are more beneficial than others. Some policies will contribute more to economic growth. Let’s make sure federal spending is focused on quality over quantity."
The pandemic has been especially difficult on working parents, with women disproportionately suffering income loss as they leave jobs or reduce hours to care for children. The Chamber has been calling for investment in accessible child care for years.
Some good news this week as the Greater Victoria School District announced on Friday that it is creating 316 childcare spaces across the region. The school district has completed four childcare studios in Saanich and is building five others that are expected to open in early 2021.
Ensuring all sectors play a role in recovering from the pandemic is one of the key elements of Reboot: Greater Victoria's Economic Recovery Plan. The report, released Monday, is the work of the Rising Economy Taskforce, which brought together 40 business, community, government and academic leaders to work on 12 sector committees.
"I worked closely with other community leaders and the South Island Prosperity Partnership, and I think this report is an invaluable tool for making decisions about where we want to see investments made to achieve a full and equitable recovery," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
Among the recommendations are a call to embrace the 21st-century innovation economy and the creation of an Indigenous Economic Development Office.
The Chamber has reached out to all 11 candidates registered for the City of Victoria's by-election on Dec. 12. We want to know where candidates stand on issues that are priorities for our members and the region's business community. We'll share the responses next week. We're also hosting a candidate discussion on Nov. 25 at noon.
This by-election is a rare opportunity for people who have businesses or income properties in the municipality but live outside its borders.
Typically during civic elections, voters will cast their ballot in the municipality in which they reside. But doing so disqualifies them from also voting in a different municipality where they own commercial property.
With the Dec. 12 by-election only happening in Victoria, there's a lot of interest from people who have a business in the city but live outside its borders.
For information on who is eligible to vote as a non-resident property elector, here’s a link to the details. A few notable requirements include:
Call Legislative Services at 250-361-0571, or check out Victoria.ca for 2020 Information for Voters, including what documents you need to register as a non-resident property elector.
It’s a great opportunity for business owners to ensure their voice is represented on Victoria council.
There's a reason the word "uncertainty" rivals "unprecedented" as the most used term of the pandemic. There was no playbook for dealing with COVID-19 when we first learned, back in the spring, how dangerous the virus was. But we have a precedent now. We know what to do to flatten the curve and re-open society safely, and it's the playbook we continue to follow on Vancouver Island.
On Saturday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced new geographic restrictions targeting larger population centres on the Lower Mainland. The area-specific rules are needed to try to tamp down a concerning flareup of new cases.
"We aren't facing new restrictions in Greater Victoria because we have done the right things and our low case counts reflect that. We need to carry on, while also continuing to support local businesses that are going above and beyond just to stay open," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "Please make sure of the information you're consuming and sharing. Our situation is not the same as Vancouver or Toronto or other large media centres. Support local news and make good choices for you and your family and our community. The Island can be a beacon of hope for so many places wondering what they can do to slow this pandemic. We will get through this together."
With the rise in case counts in BC and many other jurisdictions, Dr. Bonnie Henry is also suggesting it's prudent for businesses to review their existing plans for keeping customers and staff safe from COVID-19.
The provincial government is freezing rent increases until July 10, 2021. The move extends the measure implemented in March through the Emergency Program Act and COVID-19 related Measures Act.
The rent freeze helps people who have lost income during the pandemic and are struggling to cover basic costs. However, it potentially burdens landlords who are facing rising costs because of inflation, maintenance or insurance increases.
Commercial Rent Relief
Businesses struggling to pay commercial rent can access the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS). It replaces the poorly implemented Canada Emergency Rent Assistance (CECRA) program that was rolled out in the early stages of the pandemic.
The new program covers up to 65% of rent until Dec. 19, 2020 and, unlike CECRA, does not place liability and 25% of the program costs on landlords.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce proudly announced the first members of the Chamber Champions initiative at the Annual General Meeting Tuesday afternoon. The Champions are a new, highly engaged echelon of membership designed to connect these business and community leaders through vigorous dialogue and strategic discussions about the recovery and resilience of our Greater Victoria economy.
“The Champions are just as the title says, they are offering their resource to champion the work of The Chamber in support of our members,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. “This sort of leadership is more important now than at any other time in The Chamber’s 157-year history. The Chamber matters more than ever, and these leaders represent a clear voice.”
This first announcement of Champions welcomes:
Many more will be announced in the weeks and months ahead.
“MNP works with clients on business planning and advisory services, tax strategies, accounting and helping to make strategic decisions about the future," says Steve Wellburn, Partner, Private Enterprise with MNP Victoria. "Given the exceptional challenges and opportunities our local businesses are facing right now, the Chamber Champion program is extremely timely and we’re proud to be involved as a partner.”
Want to have a say on future bike lanes in Victoria? The City of Victoria is hoping to hear from businesses and residents about plans for the next phase of the cycling network. You can check out and comment on specific sections of the plan below:
The Chamber strongly supports the guidance of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and we are waiting for direction on regional restrictions for BC.
With Vancouver Islanders making a concerted effort to keep COVID-19 cases low, it's time to at least consider why businesses here face the same restrictions as areas of the Lower Mainland that have not had the same success.
"We are hearing some frustration that the entire province is being painted with the same brush," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told CTV News Vancouver Island on Tuesday. "People are saying that we are abiding by the rules here and have really never seen a bump in cases."
The Chamber would like to hear from our members about what you would like the province to do. Are you in support of regional restrictions, or do we need to continue to apply the same rules to the entire province?
Send your feedback to email@example.com.
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams has started a new series of video podcasts — vodcasts — we're calling Chamber Chats.
Real Estate Analysis
The first vodcast includes experts from the Victoria Real Estate Board, including president Sandi-Jo Ayers, president-elect David Langlois and executive officer David Corey. The vodcast is timely as real estate sales continue to set records in Greater Victoria. Our region saw 990 property sales in October — almost 60% more than October 2019.
The second vodcast is a discussion with an expert on vaccine research. Dr. Srinivas Murthy is the co-chair of the WHO clinical research committee on COVID-19, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, and a critical care and infectious diseases physician at the BC Children’s Hospital.
With so many people waiting for a vaccine, find out what the science says about when that will be and what it means for Vancouver Island and BC.