Today is the first day of fall! Put away your white shoes and celebrate the beginning of cooler, cozier times while supporting your fellow Chamber members.
As the weather gets cooler, take a moment to think about those in Greater Victoria who may not have warm clothes or a place to stay. View Chamber member non-profits here to learn how you can give back this autumn.
The latest numbers show inflation has cooled faster than expected. The August Consumer Price Index was up 7% over last year — less than the 7.3% that had been forecast. Core inflation was also lower than expected.
The drop in inflation comes after the Bank of Canada raised interest rates. However, it will take more than numbers to stem inflation and get Canada's economy back on track, said the bank's Deputy Governor Paul Beaudry.
"Some have suggested that policy-makers need to engineer a substantial slowdown — or even a recession — to get inflation back under control," Beaudry said in a speech on Tuesday. "But the best strategy for responding to high inflation needs to consider how people form their inflation expectations. If people understand and believe that the central bank will eventually bring inflation back to target, their expectations will remain 'anchored.'”
Businesses and employers can help by moderating increases to prices or wages, with the understanding that inflationary pressures are temporary. Not an easy task for organizations facing increasing costs and still recovering from pandemic challenges.
An enthusiastic roomful of Chamber members enjoyed a heartfelt and engaging presentation by Jonathon Morris, CEO of the BC Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The event, part of The Chamber's Business Leaders Luncheons series, was held at the Parkside Hotel & Spa on Tuesday afternoon. Morris spoke about the benefits of better understanding the psychological health of our workplaces. Many employers in the room noted ongoing efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness and promote safer and more productive organizational cultures.
Morris and Chamber CEO Bruce Williams discussed how businesses can improve their bottom line by taking steps to ensure staff feel safe and supported.
Special thanks to event sponsors Coastal Community Credit Union.
As we mark the start of fall, tourism and hospitality businesses can look back on a successful summer.
A return of customers kept many restaurants operating at capacity, though they did face other constraints. A lack of staff and a public sector strike that made stocking liquor a challenge cast a shadow on a season that many businesses rely on to make it through slower seasons.
Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant & Food Services Association told CHEK News that many Victoria restaurants operated with 80% of their staff.
The accommodation sector also enjoyed strong season. The latest Victoria Tourism Bulletin from Chemistry Consulting reports that occupancy rates in July were up from 2021 and close to 2018 levels. The average rate for a room was $305 in July, up from $230 in July 2021 and $250 in July 2019.
BC Ferries also reported a return to pre-pandemic levels in vehicles, though there were fewer passengers and buses onboard in July.
The Victoria International Airport welcomed 162,000 passengers, which is getting closer to the 185,000 in July 2019. And the Victoria Conference Centre saw a big increase this year with 8,211 delegate days in July compared to 3,633 in July 2019.
The Chamber applauds the provincial government's initiative to seek public input on plans to rejuvenate Belleville Terminal.
The facility in the Inner Harbour has served as a gateway for international visitors arriving by water since 1924. As a champion of our region's tourism industry, The Chamber has consistently advocated for the terminal and the need to modernize it with the times.
"We've been calling for renovations for decades, and it's taken time to get all levels of government onboard," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Now that we've done that, there's no time to lose. The requirements to be a border crossing have changed and there's a real risk we could lose our port of entry."
More than 680,000 passengers travelled through Belleville Terminal in 2019 and spent about $174 million in Greater Victoria, says the province's project plan.
Belleville Terminal generates 220,000 overnight visitors and sells over 16,000 vacation packages annually to their passengers, all of which are provided by local businesses in Victoria.
The province is developing a business case for the project. It's expected to cost up to $290 million and be completed by fall 2027.
A temporary terminal will be built until a new facility is ready.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8 has led to a tremendous response from people around the world.
"On behalf of our Chamber members, Board of Directors and Staff we offer sincere condolences to all who are feeling grief and sadness at the passing of Queen Elizabeth," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said in a statement last week. "These historic events bring us together in conversations about the impact the Royal Family and Her Majesty have had on our world and our lives. Her years of service are an inspiration to all who offer their lives to service of others."
Yesterday, the federal government announced it would mark the Queen's death with a national day of mourning on Sept. 19. BC Premier John Horgan followed suit a few hours later noting that the province has "advised provincial public-sector employers to honour this day in recognition of the obligations around federal holidays in the vast majority of provincial collective agreements."
The unplanned closure of schools and public offices will have an impact on many businesses. Staffing could be challenging as parents scramble to arrange child care. People who had appointments booked will also face disruption as they need to reschedule for a later date.
In Greater Victoria, the province is planning to host a procession on Sept. 19, starting at 10:15 am, and travelling from the BC Legislature to Christ Church Cathedral.
There's truth to the saying you don't know what you have until it's gone. We all experienced this during the pandemic as the loss of routines gave us a new perspective on the value of many things we took for granted.
It's a lesson we can apply to our approach to democracy. Let's not make going to the ballot sound like a chore. There is no burden on election day. The ability to vote is an exceptional thing. With civic elections coming up fast on Oct. 15, we are encouraging Chamber members to lead the way. Let's remind our communities to celebrate democratic values so they can continue to thrive.
Get involved, know who your candidates are and learn what they stand for. A well-informed electorate is the best way to ensure good governance.
Who is running in your municipality?
CRD Electoral Areas
School District 61
School District 62
School District 63
How to find out more information on candidates?
In 2022, a quick search online is an easy way to see how individuals and organizations present themselves in their own words. However, The Chamber suggests turning to local media for a more objective analysis of candidates and what they stand for.
We're lucky in Greater Victoria to have a number of sources of great journalism committed to keeping democracy healthy. Over the course of the election campaign, The Chamber will highlight key election coverage and we will actively encourage all eligible voters to exercise their right on Oct. 15.
Local Media Municipal Election coverage
Staying active is key to a long and healthy life, and this week Greater Victoria welcomes 2,500 older athletes competing in the 55+ BC Games. It's the first time the multi-sport event has been held in the region.
The Games kicked off on Sept. 13 and run until Sept. 17. The annual competition features 22 sports and activities at facilities in the City of Victoria, District of Saanich, City of Langford, District of Oak Bay and Township of Esquimalt.
Age categories range up to 100+ for some Track and Field events. Athletes come from 12 Zones across the province, and a special party is planned for tomorrow. The Thursday Night on the Town festival will feature music, First Nations cultural performances and activities from 5 to 8 pm on Government Street between Humboldt and View streets.
The 55+ BC Games are the largest annual multi-sport event in the province, and the first to be held in Greater Victoria since the North American Indigenous Games in 1997.
A plan to make it easier to replace single family homes with multi-unit housing within the City of Victoria is heading into its third debate on Thursday.
The Missing Middle-Housing Initiative is a proposal to make the construction of new homes faster. The plan has been working its way through the municipality's channels since 2019 and went to public hearing this August. However, the outpouring of public commentary was more than could be addressed in the initial hearing. Additional time was required last week but was still not enough to conclude the hearing, which will continue tomorrow at 10 am (Thursday, Sept. 8).
Information on how to participate, including a link to a livestream, can be found here.
A plan to level up Greater Victoria's film industry received a boost last week. The provincial government's BC Bid website posted a Request for Pre-Qualification for a film studio at Camosun College's Interurban campus.
“The process is intended to result in an innovative proposal that benefits the college, students and the local economy,” Camosun College President Geoff Wilmshurst said in a news release.
The request could lead to a respondent being pre-qualified to design, build and fund a film and digital media education centre in exchange for a 99-year lease. The deadline to submit is Sept. 30, with next steps dependent on the numbers of responses received. The size and construction timeline will be part of a future step in the process.
The belief that prices will keep rising can become self fulfilling as markets react to public expectation. To try and put an end to that, the Bank of Canada increased interest rates by 75 basis points Wednesday.
"Surveys suggest that short-term inflation expectations remain high," the Bank of Canada stated in its news release. "The longer this continues, the greater the risk that elevated inflation becomes entrenched."
Rising inflation has been the story of the summer, with fuel costs and global supply chain disruption causing the Consumer Price Index to reach 8.1% in June. Since then, the CPI has dropped though other indicators remain concerning.
To help understand what inflation and interest rates mean for Greater Victoria businesses, check out our special expert panel facilitated by Chamber CEO Bruce Williams.
The pandemic showed that government support has an important role in helping business. As the economy recovers, the lessons learned should help the public and private sectors find more efficient ways to work together.
To that end, Innovation Canada is hosting an event at 10 am on Sept. 14 for entrepreneurs interested in government investment. explain what programs are available to help businesses scale their growth
The free session includes a chance to ask questions. Register here.
Greater Victoria's housing market continues to become more balanced. The ratio of sales to active listings is at 28.14%. Real estate professionals consider a balanced market to be between 20% and 15%, Victoria Real Estate Board president Karen Dinnie-Smyth said.
“A high percentage means more of the available listings have sold, which shows a high buyer demand and that’s generally a favourable market for sellers," Dinnie-Smyth said.
The benchmark value of a single family home in Greater Victoria's core was $1.39 million. That's down from $1.43 million in July, but up from $1.2 million last August.
People in BC's hospitality industry could be forgiven for stopping to say "cheers" yesterday (Aug. 30), as word spread that government workers were standing down from job action that had threatened vital supply chains.
"The Chamber applauds this decision to let workers stay working in our restaurants, craft breweries and all businesses that depend on the government for access to goods," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Last week, The Chamber was part of a coalition calling for a quick end to this strike and we're happy our voice has been heard."
BC's hospitality and tourism sector brings in more than $22.3 billion in annual revenue. The strike, which began Aug. 15, was affecting the viability of many people whose livelihoods depend on the accommodation, liquor and cannabis retail industries.
The Liquor Distribution Branch Wholesale Operations division has posted an update on plans to meet outstanding orders and get the service back to speed.
People in Greater Victoria could soon have access to the ride-sharing brand that is ubiquitous in most of the rest of the world.
Uber Canada announced today that it has asked the province's Passenger Transportation Board to allow the company to operate in Greater Victoria and Kelowna. Uber was rejected by the board last year, which was concerned about allowing competition affecting business hurt by pandemic restrictions. However, the new request is for a transfer of licence from a company that was already approved by the board but is not operational.
The Chamber supports Uber's efforts as the company is a recognized global leader in the provision of ridesharing. Their international experience would be a welcome addition to Greater Victoria, particularly as international visitors return to our destination.
Make the most out of your Labour Day long weekend by supporting your fellow Chamber members. Celebrate by enjoying a bite out, a night away from home, or plan an action-packed weekend at these local treasures.
After you enjoy the long weekend, you may be getting ready for the return of the school year and your fall routine. Take advantage of The Chamber's exclusive member-only deals and discounts on quality school and office supplies.
Chamber members can save:
Discover more discounts and savings here.
On Monday, Sept. 5, a shameful moment in Greater Victoria's history will be commemorated with a walk and an official apology.
The ceremony marks the 100th anniversary of the decision to segregate Chinese students up to Grade 7 in Greater Victoria.
On July 27, Alan Lowe, chair of the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society, appeared before the current board of the Greater Victoria school district to ask for a formal apology.
The Chamber is also hoping to formally apologize at this time for the role our organization played in advocating for this discriminatory action.
"I want to acknowledge The Chamber’s role in supporting the racist and non-inclusive statements and practices of that time in our history, and I apologize unequivocally," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "And I promise we will continue working to be welcoming of all businesses so we can better represent the true diversity of our region."
The Chamber was founded in 1863 to promote investment in our region.
"Over the course of our history in Greater Victoria, there were times when we did the wrong thing. We acted with indifference or even encouraged discriminatory practices," Williams said. "This was the case with segregation of Chinese students, which had the insidious intent of making it harder for the Chinese community to live and work here. It was racist and it was wrong 100 years ago."
Today we know that diversity is what makes all of us strong. We also know we need more than just words. To that end, The Chamber has created a committee to promote Inclusion, Diversity and Equity.
BC is back in the black as the province is reporting a $1.3 billion surplus for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The economy outperformed most forecasts that were expecting deficits for years to come as businesses recover from the pandemic.
“While others might have chosen cuts and austerity, our investments in people have helped our economy rebound faster than anyone in the public or private sector predicted," BC Finance Minister Selina Robinson said. "Looking ahead, the Province will keep using this economic strength to support British Columbians, including bringing in new measures in September to help those who are struggling the most with global inflation.”
The Canadian economy was also up, with national GDP rising by 3.3% in the second quarter. The jump is the largest since 1974. The increase was driven by strong consumer spending and investments by businesses, Statistics Canada said.
Municipal governments are responsible for services and infrastructure that have very real impacts on the daily lives of businesses in their community. Having good quality governance is critical to making sure money raised from taxes is well spent.
On Oct. 15, voters will have a chance to choose who will represent them on their municipal councils for the next four years.
"This is an opportunity for individuals to take a look at the candidates and what they represent, and (ask if it's) in the best interest of you, your family, your business, your neighbourhood," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told Global News. "So make sure you're voting for the right people."
Exactly who your options are will be known by 4 pm on Sept. 9, as that's the deadline for candidates to put forward their nomination.
For key dates in this year's civic elections, which includes voting in a new school board for your districts, check out this link.
Access to a family doctor is one of the keys to ensuring safe communities, which are fundamental to good business.
With an ongoing shortage of primary care providers in BC, there are serious concerns about what can be done to encourage more doctors to commit to serving BC communities.
To try and stabilize the situation, the province announced today that it is providing $118 million through a partnership with Doctors of BC. The funds will be used over four months, starting Oct. 1, to support operational costs for family doctors and medical clinics.
About 3,480 family doctors who have their own practices and 1,100 family doctors working in walk-in clinics are expected to receive funding. That represents more than 70% of family doctors working in the province.
Greater Victoria's tourism sector continues to bounce back. Statistics are tracking ahead of last year and even 2019 in some categories. Chemistry Consulting's latest Tourism Bulletin shows the rate of an average hotel room in June was higher than the same month in 2019. Hotel occupancy was 77.85%, compared to 38.22% last year and 83.79% in 2019.
Innovation led by business is vital to addressing climate change. A prime example is the work being done by Harbour Air to switch to an all-electric fleet. On Aug. 18, that goal came a little closer as the company celebrated the successful 45 mile flight of a De Havilland Beaver. The plane was completely retrofitted in 2019 to operate using 100% electricity.
“I am excited to report that this historic flight on the ePlane went exactly as planned” said Kory Paul, Harbour Air’s Vice President of Flight Operations.
To stay up to speed on the latest progress from Harbour Air, go to ePlane Updates.
The Chamber has added our voice to an open letter on behalf of BC's hospitality, tourism, accommodation, liquor and cannabis retail businesses.
The letter is calling for a quick end to the BCGEU strike that is damaging businesses still trying to recover from the pandemic.
“The craft brewers and the local distilleries, people like that are having problems because the people that are on strike are the ones that would put their product on the shelves of stores,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told CHEK News. "So they’re now wondering whether they have to stop production and lay people off.”
These businesses are at risk if the strike continues and "will unfairly bear the brunt of serious economic consequences including business closures and layoffs, cancelled events such as concerts and weddings, loss of consumer confidence, and damage to BC’s reputation among tourists and consumers," the letter states.
"Up until 2020, B.C.’s hospitality and tourism sector was growing faster than the provincial economy as a whole, with more than $22.3 billion in revenue annually, and supporting more than 250,000 jobs. But two years of restrictive Public Health orders, mandated closures, and capacity limits caused losses in business, revenue, and workforce, and left us with high debt loads and depleted bank accounts. Approximately 20% of businesses in our sector did not survive the pandemic. The rest are still struggling to recover."
Housing supply is critical in order to address the highest expense directly affecting the cost of living in our region and across Canada. With demand growing due to increases to our population, the challenge of our time is to ensure homes are accessible and affordable for everyone needed to help our community prosper.
"It's fundamental economics. A limited supply results in increased demand, which tends to increase costs," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We need a concerted effort from all levels of government to support builders who need an adequate workforce as well as access to materials and land needed to build more homes."
Some progress is being made. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. recently reported that urban housing starts increased in July compared to June.
“Historically elevated levels of housing starts activity continue in Canada, which have been well above 200,000 units since 2020,” said Aled Ab Iorwerth, CMHC's Deputy Chief Economist.
With a little more than one month before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, demand is high for orange shirts that are traditionally worn as a show of support. The Vancouver Island Construction Association is offering to order shirts on behalf of companies. The deadline to order is 2 pm on Aug. 18. Check out VICA's latest newsletter for info on how to order.