As post-secondary schools in BC prepare for students to return to campus in the fall, the provincial government has created guidelines to help the process.
The COVID-19 Return to Campus Primer offers high-level advice to ensure the safe return of students, staff and faculty. BC's Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said that, by the fall, transmission of the virus is expected to be low and serious infections will be uncommon.
"COVID-19 is a virus that is unlikely to be eliminated from the population, but can be managed in the same manner as other common respiratory infections," states the province's news release.
A lack of housing supply and an eruption in demand has Greater Victoria's real estate market continuing to set the pace for the economy. The benchmark price for a single family home in the region's four core municipalities was $996,500 for April. That's up 2.9% from March and 12.6% higher from April 2020's benchmark price of $884,600.
"We've seen an imbalance in our market for a quite a few months," Victoria Real Estate Board President David Langlois said in a news release. "Our market is based on supply and demand and there is a disconnect right now with record low supply and high demand. Unfortunately, our housing supply is not as elastic as market demand is."
Langlois says markets such as Greater Victoria can "erupt quickly," and outpace the time it takes to build new homes.
"These realities make it hard to bring our market into balance. Efforts by government to dampen demand by making home ownership more expensive through taxes and borrowing limitations do not bring balance. Municipal governments adding costs and time delays to new developments do not bring balance. A commitment to developing our communities over the long term may."
Today is Red Dress Day, a national day of awareness for murdered and missing indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people.
Too many lives are lost to violence. We grieve the loss of these daughters, sisters, mothers, and wives. The Chamber supports those families and we promise to advocate for change to end this national tragedy.
Please consider reading the report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Chamber continues to work on behalf of business to help the provincial government plan for a safe summer with fewer restrictions. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has had nothing but praise for businesses and their efforts to prevent transmission of COVID-19 among customers and staff. It's not surprising. Those of us in the business community understand the innovative work being done, especially by our restaurateurs and retailers.
Our message to government is that they don't have to think like a business — but they have to includes businesses in their decision-making. As BC's immunization plan ramps up and we reach the point when widespread transmission stops, better communication from the government remains vital.
For example, the rollout of complicated guidance around patios caught many restaurants off guard. The Chamber supports efforts of the BC Restaurant and Food Association to call for a better process that allows businesses to be part of the solution.
One idea is for highly effected sectors to have someone assigned to them who can serve as a direct connection between industry and the provincial cabinet. Dr. Henry has been tireless in her work to protect the public, but she should not be expected to manage the engineering specifications of outdoor patios across the province.
More than 40% of eligible adults on Vancouver Island have been vaccinated. We're getting close to putting the pandemic behind us.
The District of Saanich won't be home to our region's second casino.
After being approached by the BC Lottery Corp., Saanich council decided to take a closer look at the pros and cons of the revenue-generator. Responses from Saanichites appears to have tipped the decision to decline.
“The cons would be around money laundering, the deleterious effects of gambling addiction on a family, etc.," Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes told the Times Colonist. "The pros would be the economic-development side around entertainment, hotels.”
A casino would have brought in up to $3 million per year for the municipality, but ultimately wasn't the right fit for the community.
People encamped in City of Victoria parks are officially transitioning to indoor housing, after the city's bylaw prohibiting daytime camping took effect May 1. It's expected to take time to move everyone in the park who is homeless into accommodations secured by BC Housing.
"I don't want people camping in the city of Victoria," Mayor Lisa Helps told CBC Radio. "It's not good for anyone. I mean, that's been abundantly clear ... Our parks are not campgrounds."
Property owners in the District of Saanich will now have extra flexibility to pay property taxes. The municipality has adopted a staggered schedule for late penalties on all property taxes.
“We recognize that a one-time penalty of 10% is significant and is likely a bigger disincentive than needed to get taxpayers to pay on time,” Saanich mayor Fred Haynes said in a news release. “We hope this adjustment alleviates some of the financial stress for those having difficulty paying their full taxes on time or when an honest mistake is made paying late or claiming the home owner grant."
On Monday, the provincial government announced it was expanding the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant to help businesses struggling because of pandemic restrictions. The province increased the fund to $125 million with one-fifth of that targeted at hotels and other accommodation providers. Businesses with more than 100 employees can receive up to $20,000, while those with between five and 99 employees can get up to $10,000.
A ferry between the City of Colwood and downtown Victoria continues to break waves. The Capital Regional District's Transportation Committee looked at the concept last week and decided the idea is worth a feasibility study. The CRD's board will now vote on May 12 to decide whether to work with the province and other partners to pursue the study.
"In a region surrounded by water, it would be irresponsible not to fully explore the feasibility of marine travel as one approach to addressing traffic congestion and achieving our active transportation and clean energy goals," Colwood mayor Rob Martin said in a news release.
Last year, BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins told a Chamber Business Restart Series that a ferry from Royal Bay to Victoria could make a profit. The route would connect to Ship Point and, potentially, Esquimalt and service commuters working downtown or at the naval base.
On April 26, The Chamber hosted federal Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray, who spoke about how the recent federal budget can help Canada embrace economic opportunities and do more to protect against climate change.
If you missed seeing it live, you can watch a recording of the event to hear what Minister Murray had to say about extending wage and rent subsidies, addressing food security and much more.
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