The tourism industry received some great news this week as the federal government finally announced a firm date to allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit Canada by land or by air.
Tourism has struggled while many other sectors have been able to rebound quickly and contribute to our region's economic recovery.
Starting Aug, 9, Canada will no longer require a quarantine period for recreational travellers from the US. On Sept, 7, the border will open to fully vaccinated travellers from all other countries.
The move comes late in the season for many tourism businesses that rely on summer revenue, but allows the industry to begin working on bookings for 2022.
Meanwhile, the US announced today that it won't be following suit and will keep its land border closed to Canadian travellers until at least Aug. 21.
Canada has recently surpassed the US in the percentage of our population who are fully vaccinated, leading experts to state it is now a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."
In BC, 81.1% of adults have now had at least one dose, and 59% are fully vaccinated.
We asked for quick action and the government responded.
Last week, Transport Canada announced that, effective Nov. 1, it was ending the prohibition of cruise ships in Canadian waters. In the weeks before, The Chamber joined the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and a number of community and business organizations calling on the government to set a re-open date. A firm date is necessary for the industry to begin planning for a return to Canadian ports.
“We needed government to make it clear that cruise ships are welcome in Canada, and we needed a date so that industry can plan to return as soon as possible. I’m happy that the federal government heard us and understands the importance of this industry to our region as well as to Canada’s economy,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told Douglas Magazine. “The GVHA has done tremendous work making Greater Victoria a great port, and a lot of businesses will be thrilled to see the ships back with their passengers and crew enjoying our city. There is so much potential for this industry and we look forward to continuing to advocate for the investments and projects that will help make the cruise industry an important and sustainable economic driver for many years to come.”
The GVHA says cruise adds $130 million to our region's economy and creates more than 800 jobs. Revenue from cruise tariffs allows the authority to support popular spaces such as the Ogden Point Breakwater and the Inner Harbour Lower Causeway.
TELUS is investing $63 million across Greater Victoria in 2021. It's part of a $13-billion infrastructure and operations upgrade across the province over the next three years.
“TELUS is proud to make this generational investment in Greater Victoria, providing the technology to connect citizens to loved ones, as well as vital resources and information as we continue to navigate the global pandemic,” TELUS President and CEO Darren Entwistle says.
The investment will enable TELUS to provide 5G network speeds in our region, and allow the company to meet increasing demand for its services.
“The enhanced connectivity being undertaken by TELUS aligns with the priority The Chamber has in place to advocate for strong and equitable access to technology for all member businesses to keep them competitive,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says.
Construction is underway on TELUS’s new Greater Victoria headquarters, TELUS Ocean, which will be a key economic hub in our region’s growing tech and innovation ecosystem. TELUS Ocean is on track to open in 2024.
Greater Victoria employers continue to struggle finding and keeping workers, and The Chamber continues to advocate for help. With limited immigration during the pandemic, Canada experienced its slowest population growth since 1916. That is expected to change this year, as the federal government has increased immigration targets for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Greater Victoria employers will also get some relief with the return of post-secondary students to our region this fall.
"Finding and keeping workers was an advocacy priority before the pandemic and will be even more so as we emerge from restrictions and the economy recovers," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who recently spoke to CBC and CFAX about this issue.
Many employers in Greater Victoria already pay above minimum wage but will continue to face challenges as our region also deals with a limited supply of affordable housing and child care.
"We're working with our partners and government to address the housing shortage and challenges with child care," Williams said.
The federal government has clarified rules around intergenerational transfers of shares in a small business. The clarification came after push back from business organizations, including the national chamber network.
The change will help businesses with succession planning, and make it easier for children and grandchildren to carry on with the company. Bill C-208 was passed earlier this week to "support family-run Canadian small business, protect the tax system and ensure everyone pays their fair share," states the federal government's news release.
Tourism businesses received welcome news on Monday as the federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, announced the $500-million Tourism Relief Fund. The program aims to help businesses and organizations make their products and services more resilient from future shocks.
Money can be used for adapting to new regulations, modernizing products and encouraging environmentally sustainable and inclusive practices. As well, the funds can aid with strategic planning that helps with destination development. The funds are not available for restaurants, retailers or hotel chains.
Eligible applicants can receive up to $100,000 in non-repayable contributions for 50% of eligible costs, or up to to $500,000 in repayable contributions for up to 75% of eligible costs.
Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams has been named to the inaugural Canadian Chamber of Commerce BIPOC and Inclusion Council.
Diversity initiatives across the country are playing a part in creating a more socially inclusive economy. Small businesses play an important role, but often don’t know where to start.
"Chambers are experts at building connections and bringing people together," Chamber CEO Bruce Willams says. "We talk about being more inclusive and diverse, and we also need to walk the walk by hearing directly from voices and lived experiences that will guide us in making meaningful change."
The new council will inform the Canadian Chamber’s initiatives in supporting BIPOC, drive meaningful action to address the identified challenges and opportunities BIPOC face in participating in the Canadian economy, share and recognize best practices and advocate for changes that facilitate diversity and inclusion.
The Chamber has repeatedly advocated that inclusion is a key economic driver. Across Canada, improved participation rates could add 2.2 million workers to the labour force by 2040, including more women, Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities, thereby growing our economy by $101 billion.
There are more people working in Greater Victoria than before the pandemic, with 212,200 people employed in June. That compares to 194,200 in June 2019 and 187,400 last year. One explanation for the increase could be migration into Greater Victoria.
The unemployment rate was 5.4% in June, still higher than it was before COVID-19, but BC didn't enter Step 3 of the province's Restart Plan until July 1. With visitors from across Canada now welcome, the expectation is for the numbers to improve in July. However, until international travellers return, the recovery will continue to be difficult for many businesses in the tourism sector. The Chamber has been working with our national network and our community partners to ensure government has a plan to safely open borders and support the return of cruise ships.
Hall will enshrine business leaders who helped build Greater Victoria
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the establishment of a Business Hall of Fame for the region.
The Greater Victoria Chamber Business Hall of Fame presented by RBC, will be the first of its kind on Vancouver Island and will celebrate the legacy of pioneers and leaders who have played a role in the region’s economic growth and prosperity.
“The story of The Chamber is the story of Greater Victoria in so many ways, and it is time to honour all of the individuals who helped establish and grow business in our region,” Chamber Chair John Wilson says. “Throughout The Chamber's history we have accelerated our members’ connections to support their growth.”
The process to select inductees will recognize and respect the diversity of leaders who helped build business in Greater Victoria over the decades.
“Generations have come and gone, with each leaving a legacy that has made us who we are, a community,” says Mark Lovick, RBC Regional Vice President, South Vancouver Island. “It’s a privilege to be part of this inaugural event that will honour our region’s remarkable history, highlight our current success and inspire our community’s future prosperity.”
Inductees will be announced this fall with an official ceremony scheduled to take place in February 2022.
The pandemic has made it clear that affordable and accessible child care is needed to ensure employers can access the talents and skill sets of parents. Last week, the federal government announced that BC will receive $3.2 billion over five years to improve access to child care for kids under six years old. The provincial and federal governments say they are working toward $10 per day child care, with BC also committing another $2.5 billion over three years. The agreement is expected to lead to 40,000 new child care spaces in the next seven years.
"Studies show that for every dollar invested in early childhood education, the broader economy receives between $1.50 and $2.80 in return," states the federal government news release.