Unless you're stuck under the proverbial rock, you know that economies around the world are facing some serious doldrums. The latest report from the Conference Board of Canada adds to the dreary outlook. Headlined, "Consumer confidence falls to Its second lowest point to date," the index of Consumer Confidence shows that Canadians are feeling bummed about their finances.
"We had hoped to be through the rough patch by now but it's proving persistent," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said, noting that the fight against inflation and the re-balancing of global supply chains continues to take a toll. "We will get through this, as we have countless times in the past, by supporting each other. So much work has gone into building a resilient economy for Greater Victoria, and, as a result, we are in a better place than many other regions."
The Index of Consumer Confidence was 59.6 in September, compared to 61.2 in August. The Conference Board said wildfires likely contributed to the pessimistic outlook in BC.
The targets are now official for three Greater Victoria municipalities deemed to be among the top 10 BC communities with the most pressing housing needs.
The Housing Supply Act requires the following number of new homes within five years:
“These targets are a step toward creating more homes to meet the diverse housing needs of Saanich residents,” Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock said in the province's news release. “We are committed to working together with the Province on housing solutions, and welcome their support to help us achieve our goals.”
After six months, and every year thereafter, municipalities will be evaluated on their progress.
A second cohort of eight to 10 municipalities will be selected by the end of the year.
An adequate housing supply directly supports a robust workforce, which is critical for employers' efforts to find and keep staff. Reducing red tape at the municipal level is one of the keys. Investing in efficiencies is another, which is why The Chamber supports last week's news that funding will help local governments improve their development-approval processes.
The province has $61-million in capacity funding to be distributed over three years.
With Sept. 30 marking National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, The Chamber continues to work to support Indigenous entrepreneurs and First Nations.
"The more we listen and learn, the more we understand how much we can benefit from embracing Indigenous knowledge about the lands we live on," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We have acknowledged the role we played in the suppression of Indigenous culture and commerce. Now we need to keep taking action to support the inclusion of Indigenous people and First Nations in our broader business community."
Bruce and Chamber member Jamin Zuroski recently spoke with CBC Radio's Gregor Craigie about what The Chamber is doing to support reconciliation.
Check out our social media this week for stories about local events happening for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
This week's exciting list of Chamber Auction items features some of our great Indigenous businesses.
The Chamber office will be closed Monday, Oct. 2 in recognition of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
The effect of high interest-rates is measurable, with Statistics Canada's latest Survey on Business Conditions showing many businesses are challenged by increasing costs and reduced customer spending.
The Canadian Chamber's Business Data Lab explores the stories behind the numbers, including an analysis by Chief Economist Stephen Tapp.
"Continuing cost pressures explain why firms’ pricing behaviour still hasn’t normalized yet, even though headline inflation has slowed," Tapp said. "Thankfully, the labour market is loosening up, although there are still significant challenges in sectors such as health care, accommodation and food services, manufacturing and construction. Supply chains are also recovering from their peak difficulties of last year, but they too remain problematic for affected companies."
Each year, more than 400 chambers across Canada prepare policies on issues of national importance for the Canadian Chamber AGM. At the conference, days of debate ensue on the best actions needed to support our businesses and the select policies that the advocacy team at the Canadian Chamber will champion on Parliament Hill with federal officials.
Here's a look at the proposed policy resolutions formally supported by the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. All resolutions will be voted on at the Canadian Chamber AGM, Oct. 12-14 in Calgary.
"Many of the policy resolutions are worthy of support but we selected these because they align with initiatives that matter to our members and we were happy to lend our expertise and voice to get these advocacy action items moving ahead," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
After reviewing the federal government’s announcement on Sept. 14 regarding changes to requirements for repayment of CEBA loans, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is joining our national chamber network as well as our many partner organizations to call for an extension to the repayment deadline while maintaining the forgivable portion.
Razor sharp margins and a steep increase in interest rates have created unfavorable conditions for doing business. The Chamber is calling for a two-year extension to give businesses and interest rates enough time to stabilize.
“Many organizations still need time, and extending the deadline for repayment of the loan is reasonable, however, that needs to be coupled with continuing to allow the forgivable portion of the loan,” Chamber Chair Kris Wirk said. “The reality facing many small businesses — especially those in hospitality, tourism and retail — is that they have a viable path to making a full recovery but it’s going to take longer than expected.”
Uber Canada is hoping Chamber members can help give the province feedback on proposals that could have a profound impact on the sustainability of "app-based workers." Often referred to as the gig economy, this sector has evolved quickly alongside technological advances. The Chamber is a strong advocate for Fair Rules for emerging and established businesses.
Uber is siding with proponents of labour reforms that would mandate benefits and protections for workers while preserving the flexibility of their work environment.
A discussion paper was published in the summer by the Ministry of Labour, exploring employment standards for app-based rideshare and food delivery workers. The paper itself focuses on:
The government has asked for feedback by Sept. 30, emailed to: email@example.com.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has finalized the list of proposed policy resolutions that will be voted on at its 2023 AGM next month.
The resolutions reflect input given to chambers by their boards and members. The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce holds an annual member survey and consults with our Public Policy and Advocacy committee to determine policies to support.
"The policy book reflects the work of over 400 chambers across the country amplifying the voice of business on issues around climate change, innovation, skilled labour force and other critical issues for success," Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams said. "We want to make sure the resolutions that are adopted provide the government with practical solutions to challenges facing businesses."
The Canadian Chamber AGM takes place Oct. 12-14 in Calgary.
Also at the AGM, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce will find out if we won an award for our work supporting diversity and inclusion. We have been nominated for the Canadian Chamber’s Inclusive Growth Award.
Secondary suites have long played an invaluable role in our economy, offering affordable housing for many workers who are vital to keeping our economy vibrant.
The Chamber applauds Monday's announcement that will see less red tape for homeowners who want to add secondary suites — which also creates income that helps with the cost of living. As well, an incentive administered by BC Housing will provide a forgivable loan to qualified homeowners of up to $40,000 to add a secondary suite. The unit must be on the property where the homeowner lives and rent for less than market rates.
The province has prepared the Home Suite Home guide to provide more info on programs that incentivize the creation of new rental housing.
A proposal to keep communities safe from the small group of people responsible for repeat criminal activity is a step in the right direction.
Bill C-48 was given its first reading in the Senate yesterday. The Act to Amend the Criminal Code (bail reform) aims to keep violent offenders behind bars instead of being released before trial. The amendments were supported by BC's provincial government, and reflect a public frustration with feelings that some areas are becoming more unsafe.
"The Chamber strongly advocates for safe communities as fundamental to good business," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "That said, we've also heard from experts on criminal law in Victoria and know that real change will require investing in the court staff and infrastructure needed to keep the system working as intended."
New law prohibits drugs near parks
In related news, the federal government also approved this week a request by the province to prohibit illicit drugs in areas frequented by kids and families.
As of Monday, it is illegal to possess controlled substances within 15 metres of a playground, wading pool or a skate park.
“Decriminalization is one part of a complex response to the toxic-drug crisis," Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto said in a news release. "As the longer-term effects of decriminalization are assessed, and more addictions and mental-health services are established, it’s important to consider and take steps that specifically protect children.”
The Consumer Price Index rose 4% year over year in August, Statistics Canada reported this week. That's up from a 3.3% increase in July.
"In addition to facing higher energy prices, Canadians paid more for rent and mortgage interest in August," Statistics Canada said. "Moderating the all-items CPI were declines in prices for travel-related services and a smaller increase in food prices compared with the previous month."
The rise in inflation could impact the Bank of Canada's next interest rate decision. In a summary of deliberations, released today, the Bank noted that they had concerns about pausing rate increases last month. The Bank said it needs to make sure Canadians aren't expecting interest rates to be lowered soon, and that there is still a risk of ongoing high inflation.
The best time to prepare for emergencies is before they happen. With summer's heat waning and the rains yet to fall this autumn, The Chamber is working on strategies to help businesses be ready for future climate events.
"Through our Public Policy and Advocacy committee and my conversations with Chamber members, we have recognized that the reality of doing business is planning for the unexpected," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We want to see businesses have strong representation on the recently announced task force that the Premier is planning to support people affected by climate emergencies."
The expert task force on emergencies will work to determine how the province can better support communities facing wildfires, flooding and other climate events that are now expected to regularly occur.
If you're a chamber member interested in learning more about planning for climate change, or a business that can help others prepare, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll keep you posted on Chamber's initiatives.
The provincial government has capped the allowable rent increase to 3.5% for 2024.
Landlords who plan to raise rent in 2024 will need to provide tenants with three months notice using the correct form and following specific rules.
BC's Minister of Housing, Ravi Kahlon, said costs are increasing for landlords and tenants. The need for affordable housing well documented, but many property owners are facing higher costs for repairs, financing and maintenance. The province claims the 3,5% cap will keep people housed while making sure rental units stay on the market.
The rent increase cap does not apply to commercial tenancies, non-profit housing with rent geared to income, co-op housing and some assisted-living facilities.
A report released Wednesday morning offers a tangible take on how many new homes need to be built in Canada to restore affordability.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation said that the slowing economy and growing population have changed the forecast for where housing is most needed.
We need about 3.5 million new homes by the end of the decade, with BC and Ontario dealing with the largest gaps between supply and demand. The predicted shortfall has grown since last year as the CMHC forecasts a slowing economy, tougher financing climate and stretched labour force will result in less construction.
"For British Columbia, higher estimated household numbers in 2030 and slightly lower estimated income per household lead to a relatively neutral impact on overall demand," the report states. "Still, the supply gap increases because of a lower projected number of housing units that will be built."
The CMHC said its analysis shows the importance of modelling demographic changes as well as economic conditions when planning policies to increase housing supply.
Making strategic investments in the Indigenous tourism sector would generate an additional $684 million in tax revenue that would pay for those investments in five years, says a new report by the Conference Board of Canada.
The report found that recommendations made by the Indigenous Tourist Association of Canada would greatly increase the scale of Indigenous Tourism across the country. ITAC has proposed a $2.4 billion plan, including $1.75 billion for destination development.
Construction has begun on the Royal BC Museum’s collections and research building in the City of Colwood.
The 15,200 square-metre building will be a state-of-the-art facility using mass timber to house the Province’s collections and BC Archives. There will also be dedicated research labs and learning spaces.
“The provincial collections and archives help us to share the stories of our cultures and communities. It’s vital to ensure they’re kept safe for future generations,” said RBCM's acting CEO Tracey Drake in a news release. “This exceptional facility will also provide a window into the world of the museum, enabling visitors to see our paleontologists, entomologists, botanists, zoologists and more, engaged in active research projects.”
The $270 million project is expected to be substantially completed by fall 2025, a public opening is planned for 2026.
The latest sales figures show a slight increase in the number of homes for sale, though the demand for housing continues to affect the cost of living in our region.
According to the Victoria Real Estate Board, there were 2,490 listings at the end of August. That's up 2.9% from the previous month and higher than the 2,137 homes listed in August 2022.
"The focus in our market and by all levels of government needs to be on opening up more supply," VREB chair Graden Sol said in a news release. "Our inventory levels, though up from last year, are still too low to support a well-balanced market. A decade ago, we saw over 5,000 active listings in August."
Sol noted that many listings were for single family homes, which are at the top of the residential market.
"Missing middle homes, such as townhomes and condos represented only 37.1% of listings for sale," Sol said. "Townhomes, which in my experience are what a lot of families hope to purchase, represented only 9.8% of the residential properties for sale. This imbalance in the mix of housing options means there is the potential for more price pressure on these types of properties because demand is concentrated at more attainable price points."
The benchmark value for a single family home in August was $1,323,900. That 's up $5,100 from July but down $3,800 from last summer.
BC Ferries is waiting to see if it can raise rates, starting next April, to help the organization steer itself through the unsteady waters created by global inflation and the challenges of finding and keeping workers.
There is a shortage of qualified mariners, and new vessels are needed for BC Ferries fleet. The BC Ferries Commission, which is distinct from the provincial government and operations, sets the amount that prices can increase.
The public has until Sept. 30 to contact the commission to provide input to help with its decision. Email email@example.com for more information.
The Bank of Canada announced this morning that it was holding its interest rate at 5%, as expected. The next announcement is Oct. 25.
The Bank's Governing Council said there are signs that supply is catching up to demand, and it is still assessing how previous rate hikes are affecting the economy.
"However, Governing Council remains concerned about the persistence of underlying inflationary pressures, and is prepared to increase the policy interest rate further if needed," said the news release issued by the bank.
The pause comes as political pressure increases to stop raising rates, though the Bank has been clear it's committed to restoring price stability for Canadians and does not make decisions based on government requests.
"I know a lot of our members are affected by increasing costs caused by inflation and higher interest rates," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "It's not an easy time, but we're also seeing investments in more efficient operations and a focus on sustainability that will make our community more resilient in the long run."
A new report by the Conference Board of Canada's Workplace Mental Health Research Centre found that your organization's policies on absenteeism could directly affect the productivity of employees. The study noted that it's difficult to measure presenteeism — workers pushing through their day despite feeling unwell physically or mentally. A lack of awareness and sense of trust between employer and employees was cited as a common reason for not addressing presenteeism.
“Without formal productivity measures, how can you tell that somebody is showing up and not delivering 100%?" the reports quotes one unnamed employer. "I don’t know that you can.”
Most of the causes for presenteeism were related to symptoms of illness, stress and and trouble sleeping. Stigma around mental health continues to be a major factor for workers punching the clock when feeling unwell. There remains concerns about how disclosing an illness could impact their standing in the workplace.
The report suggests organizations can take active strategies, such as accommodations for caregivers — predominately women — so they can remain on track for career growth and can overcome the many barriers they face.
The conference board established the research centre to increase awareness and understanding of workplace mental health through research, analysis and dialogue.
Schools are back in session next week and that means it's time to slow down. Last year, the Victoria Police Department teamed up with the Greater Victoria School District SD61 to remind drivers that a change in speed limit takes effect on many streets in Greater Victoria.
Police are typically out in force to ensure motorists slow down so that the walk to school is safer for students. With more families embracing active transportation, this message is more important than ever.
Social media platforms have revolutionized the way businesses market their products and services. And while a new study shows a growing disaffection with some of the toxic traits of social media, it's clear the Internet is firmly cemented into our everyday lives.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority's recently published Canada's Internet Factbook survey found that people are finding social media less beneficial. In 2023, only 18% said there was a benefit to social media compared to 25% in 2022 and 35% in 2020. Facebook continues to be the most popular platform, used by 65% of British Columbians. YouTube is used by 54%, Instagram by 43% and LinkedIn by 28%.
British Columbians also report a preference for patronizing Canadian retailers when they shop online (67%) and 43% say they primarily shop locally or equally between local and chain stores.
"It seems highly unlikely that our dependence on the internet will decline anytime soon," states the survey's Executive Summary. "In the meantime, the best course of action is to accept the many positives we derive from this indispensable technology while taking whatever positive and intentional actions we can to reduce the impact of the negatives—or even avoid them altogether."
Indigenous business support is one of The Chamber's key advocacy priorities. We all stand to benefit by having First Nations participate in the economy, and that requires supporting self-determination.
The University of Victoria recently received a federal research grant that will allow a team to "design and advance a sustainability framework for decision-making in Indigenous communities that ensures their values, knowledge and concerns are at the forefront as they assess development proposals on their lands."
The UVic team will build off a successful system that has been used for five years with Toquaht Nation in BC, as well as with communities in New Zealand and Indonesia.
“This project is very critical to the empowerment and self-determination of Indigenous governments and peoples," said Cloy-e-iis Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and a member of the project’s Council of Senior Advisors. "Basing models on traditional knowledge and ways of knowing directs the work to be done and utilizes self-determination to its fullest. Sharing models with other Indigenous communities around the world adds to the richness of what can be contained in the models. Establishing their own indicators on what is important to each Nation is also building on governance and putting the decision making in the hands of the people.”
With school returning for thousands of students next week, commuters can expect heavier congestion on their way to work. Make sure to give yourself extra time, especially along routes affected by ongoing construction. Highway 17 near Keating Cross Road, for example, has been singled out by BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
"With the Highway 17 Keating Crossroad Overpass project well underway, traffic congestion is expected along the detour near the Keating Elementary School during child drop-off and pickup periods," a ministry news release said. "To ensure a smoother journey, commuters who have the flexibility to do so should consider leaving earlier in the morning or later in the evening when traffic is anticipated to lighten. People dropping off or picking up children should plan their journeys with extra time to account for delays."