Access to affordable housing is key to ensuring Greater Victoria employers are able to find and keep workers. Yesterday, the province announced a new ministry would be created to focus solely on housing and, on Monday, BC Premier David Eby unveiled three actions aimed at quickly getting more homes built.
"The Chamber has long been vocal about the need to streamline processes and invest in programs that increase housing supply," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We're happy our new Premier is listening, and we look forward to working with the province to connect the businesses and people who make housing happen with the policy makers who need to support them."
The new Minister of Housing will be named on Dec. 7, when Premier Eby shuffles cabinet. The action plan will see strata rules changed to reduce vacancies and end restrictions against young families. As well, the province will monitor municipalities and step in if local governments are unable to get homes built.
“Housing affordability and availability are among the biggest problems people in Saanich and across the province are facing," District of Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock said in the news release. "We all need to work together to address this issue and deliver the homes people need for sustainable and thriving communities. I’m glad the Province is taking these steps to help ensure municipalities build the housing people in their communities need.”
Safe communities are fundamental to business as everyone deserves to feel secure at home and in their workplace as well as on the commute between.
The new Safer Communities Action Plan includes a promise to make it harder for violent repeat criminals to get back on the street after being jailed. The plan also states there will be more help for people suffering a mental health crisis to try and prevent situations from escalating to the point police are needed. As well, the gains of crime will be targeted by a new “unexplained wealth order.”
“Root causes of tragedy, crime and victimization are found in social, economic, cultural and societal systems that create inequities and disadvantages for individuals, families and communities," Police Victim Services of BC executive director Ian Batey said in the province's news release.
Victoria Police Chief Const. Del Manak said police officers deal with the impacts of mental health and addictions daily, including challenges with violent, repeat offenders.
“I support initiatives that enhance social services, connect people to the services they need and prioritize public safety," Chief Manak said. "I look forward to working with government on our shared vision toward community safety and well-being.”
A pair of announcements over the last week offered good news for efforts to find and keep workers in Greater Victoria. On Nov. 16, the federal government listed changes to the types of jobs considered high demand. Sectors such as health care, construction and transportation will benefit from having 16 new occupations included under the Express Entry system.
Meanwhile, BC announced today a plan to encourage more skilled immigrants to settle outside of the Lower Mainland. That should help regions such as Greater Victoria. The incentives give candidates in the Provincial Nomination Program a higher priority if they have worked outside of Metro Vancouver. The same priority will be given to recent grads of post-secondary schools outside of the Lower Mainland.
The provincial government has announced funding for close to 100 events in BC through the Tourism Events Program. Among the Greater Victoria events to receive grants are the Rifflandia Festival, the Royal Victoria Marathon, Dragon Boat Festival, JazzFest and Symphony Splash.
In April, the province announced $4.8 million for the program, which aims to boost BC's reputation as a destination for major events.
There is something truly spectacular about seeing the lights of Victoria dancing on the waters of the Inner Harbour. That experience is about to get even more impressive as a new attraction is set to debut Dec. 2.
Spearheaded by the Ralmax Group of Companies, the Victoria Harbour Lights: A Winter Dream will feature interactive lights, sounds and animations. The displays will be visible from the shore and on the water, with a special tour available for Victoria Harbour Ferries passengers.
The displays will serve as a draw for people to go downtown, and will help more locals experience the uniqueness of our region's working harbour.
“We have something that is very special, very unique and we should certainly embrace it,” Ralmax founder Ian Maxwell told the Times Colonist.
Lights of Wonder
And while the Inner Harbour is set to shine from the water, the Downtown Victoria Business Association is planning to add their own magic to the city. Starting Dec. 15, Lights of Wonder will transform Centennial Square into a holiday wonderland. Light exhibits and a 40-foot tree will be on display until the end of the year, providing a festive backdrop for live entertainment, food vendors and more.
British Columbia is not seeing a surge in people needing to be hospitalized due to respiratory illnesses, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said today.
Over the summer, there were concerns that the fall flu and cold season would see an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. So far, that has not happened.
Dr. Henry said the current situation does not warrant a formal mask mandate.
"While COVID-19 continues to circulate in communities, the situation has changed ... and the number of people at risk for serious outcomes from COVID-19 has dropped significantly," states the provincial news release. "There are many tools to get people through respiratory illness season. The most important is to maximize protection through vaccination. People are also encouraged to check daily for symptoms of respiratory illness, wash their hands regularly and practise respiratory etiquette. This includes wearing a mask if they have mild symptoms, covering coughs and disposing of tissues appropriately."
No surprises here, but our region is once again earning praise as a great place to visit and build a life.
This time, the City of Victoria gets the credit as Best Small City in Canada, according to Resonance Consulting. The international firm ranked six categories: place, product, programming, people, prosperity and promotion to determine the top 25 small cities in Canada.
Victoria placed on top for access to post-secondary education and bike lanes (product) as well as for its restaurant scene and activities (programming). The rank is well deserved, of course, though locals know that the city couldn't do it without all of the neighbouring municipalities that make up Greater Victoria. The list did include the District of Saanich, which placed No. 23. Saanich's only real knock seems that it is lesser known then the official capital!
Hopefully being featured in lists such as this will help more people choose to join our community and contribute to our workforce and economy.
Inflation watchers breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday morning as the latest report on Canada's Consumer Price Index shows the rate appears to have stalled out at 6.9%. While the number is still more than double the Bank of Canada's target rate, the fact it no longer seems to be increasing is reason for optimism. High inflation creates uncertainty for businesses facing difficult decisions around how they will increase prices and raise wages.
Inflation jumped to 8.1% in June — the highest it had been in decades — prompting the Bank of Canada to raise its interest rate target six times in an attempt to slow the economy.
As we honour members of the armed forces and their sacrifices this Remembrance Day, The Chamber is proud to have a long history of commemorating the soldiers who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
After the First World War, The Chamber was instrumental in helping create Memorial Avenue that still runs along Shelbourne Street. Shelbourne was chosen as it offered enough space to commemorate every soldier from the city who died in the war. Chamber members helped plan the project, and business owners rolled up their sleeves to dig holes for the trees, providing shade and succour over the years.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the Royal Canadian Legion will be incorporating the veterans’ parade into the national Remembrance Day ceremony. Here in Greater Victoria, a Remembrance Day ceremony will be held at the BC Parliament Buildings from 10:30 am – 1 pm this Friday. Municipalities across the region are also hosting ceremonies and we encourage all members to attend.
We hope you have a day of reflection and remembrance.
The Chamber will be closed Friday, Nov. 11.
Changing times create disruption but also present tremendous opportunities for forward-thinking organizations. The tide of high inflation has highlighted the need to create more resilient local production and supply networks.
Groceries are a good example of the need for investment in suppliers located closer to home. The provincial government's Buy BC program and the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance's Island Good shows the value of supporting innovation led by business.
On Monday, BuyBC hosted an event in Victoria called Every Chef Needs a Farmer, Every Farmer Needs a Chef. Among the exhibitors was Finest at Sea Ocean Products.
"There is clear evidence of the value that bring local brings to a community, but it's not always top of mind when we're at the grocery story purchasing produce for our families," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The Buy BC and Island Good programs makes it easier to remember the value in buying local, both in terms of freshness and health as well as in ensuring local farmers feel they are supported so they can take the risks needed to build their business."
Housing remains a drag on the vitality of our region, though overall quality of life in Greater Victoria has improved.
According to the 2022 Vital Signs Report, released this week, Greater Victoria's grade has moved up from a B grade last year to a B+ this year.
Housing earned an F grade this year, a significant drop from a D+ last year.
"Vital Signs is a great check up on our region's economy, and The Chamber was happy to contribute as a community partner this year," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The grades are a good way to illustrate concepts that contribute to our overall quality of life."
It's the 19th edition of the annual report, which uses surveys as well as stories and graphics to provide snapshots of the past year.
This year's theme asked What Does Community Mean To You? Respondents rated the natural environment and climate as the best things about Greater Victoria. The aforementioned Housing crisis and cost of living were the two most important issues, according to the survey.
The report looks at 12 areas, with grades ranging from a B-plus for Learning and Sports and Recreation, to an F for Housing and a C- for Health and Wellness.
After a trying two years, the cruise ship sector made a spectacular comeback in Greater Victoria. The 2022 season was the best yet recorded, with 329 cruise ships stopping at Ogden Point.
The industry was shut down as the pandemic hit. The stoppage even raised questions about whether ships would be back in Victoria, but hard work and effective advocacy by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and The Chamber has paid off.
Next year could be even better. GVHA CEO Ian Robertson told the Times Colonist he's predicting one million cruise ship passengers will visit Victoria in 2023. That would be a leap from the 715,000 arrivals this year, but cruise operators are excited about being back in our region. There are 340 ships already confirmed, Robertson said.
Before this year, the record for most visits was 257 in 2019.
A plan to increase the number of people immigrating to Canada is a step in the right direction. Employers are facing a challenging labour market as demographic forecasts show a growing number of job vacancies in the years ahead. The federal government's new plan, announced Tuesday, will see immigration increase by almost 1.5 million over the next three years.
"I think employers in Greater Victoria still want to see details about how the Express Entry system will work to ensure newcomers have the skills needed to fill open positions," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "There are also questions around how the Provincial Nominee Program might help settle new Canadians in Greater Victoria."
The Chamber has worked with our national network to call for better recognition of credentials so that people who choose to live in Canada are able to continue careers they've trained for. We all benefit from the addition of skilled professionals who can make immediate contributions to our economy.
Immigration event for employers
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is offering a virtual learning series to help employers learn more about Canada’s economic immigration programs. There are four sessions and you can attend as many as you want. Topics include an overview of outreach services for employers, the benefits of hiring global talent and an introduction to work permits.
It will be easier for fans of the world's game to gather together, regardless of the time their favourite nations are kicking off on the other side of the planet. The province announced temporary expanded hours for businesses in BC's hospitality sector. The move won't affect liquor sales and service, but bars, pubs and restaurants will be able to serve non-alcoholic beverages during the extended hours.
The FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar begins Nov. 20 and runs until Dec. 19.
Canada makes its first appearance in the global competition since 1986 with a game against Belgium on Nov. 23.
Thank you to our many members who voted in the Chamber Board Election. Here are the directors who will represent you starting Jan.1:
Chair and Vice-Chair:
Kris Wirk, with Dusanj & Wirk Chartered Professional Accountants, will take on the role of Board Chair, while Christina Clarke from the Indigenous Prosperity Centre becomes the new Vice-Chair.
James Gatsi from CL Web Developers Inc.
Moira Hauk from Coastal Community Credit Union
Capt. (N) J. Jeffery Hutchinson of Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt
Ann Squires Ferguson from Western Design+Build
Josue Dubon from DesignWealth, represents the Prodigy Group as a non-voting director
Rose Arsenault from Agilus Work Solutions
Pedro Márquez from Royal Roads University
Judith Ethier from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority
Jessica Stigant from Ocean Networks Canada
Richard Michaels from MACCRIM Solutions
Fallon Lindsay from Kinetic Construction
John Wilson, from The Wilson's Group of Companies, moves to Past Chair
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams as a non-voting director.
Access to primary health care is an important element of safe communities. The Chamber applauds news that the provincial government is taking serious steps to retain existing family doctors and attract new ones to the province.
A new payment model will be available for family doctors starting in February. The deal will change how patients interact with their doctors, allowing for more focused visits. The current model has been criticized for emphasizing the number of patients seen per day rather than the quality of the visit.
With winter looking likely to bring a chilling to Canada's economy as well as the weather, The Chamber is urging government to promote investment in business growth that can light the way through winter.
Working with our national network, The Chamber is calling on federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to work together with business.
"Attempting to borrow our way to prosperity would only generate more debt and inflation," Canadian Chamber CEO Perrin Beatty said, noting a better way is to use available "no-cost and low-cost tools" that will increase government revenue and grow the economy. "These measures include reforming regulation, increasing labour force participation and eliminating longstanding barriers to interprovincial trade, while avoiding new taxes and ending rhetoric that portrays Canadian businesses as the problem instead of as partners in growing a stronger economy."
Minister Freeland is scheduled to provide a fall economic update on Thursday.
On Monday night, kids will fill the streets on the hunt for sugary treats.
Greater Victoria is known as one of the most haunted places in Canada, and this spooky season is the perfect time to experience something new — if you dare!
Visit a local pub or nightclub to show off your great costume skills, or have a Halloween meal at a great restaurant before handing out handfuls of candy to trick-or-treaters.
Check out Destination Greater Victoria's list of 20 eerie-sistable Halloween activities if you’re dying to see a ghost, and explore famously haunted sites such as Craigdarroch Castle, Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University, the Fairmont Empress, Rogers’ Chocolates, and many more.
If you’re looking to burn off that extra sugar from Halloween treats, check out a local fitness facility, and be sure to recycle your pumpkin at Pumpkin Smash 2022 in the City of Langford on Nov. 5.
Whatever you may be up too this Halloween, The Chamber hopes you have a fun (and frightening) time!
David Eby will be the next Premier after being formally named leader of the BC NDP. The transition from Premier John Horgan is expected to take place mid-November, and Eby has already said he intends to bring in a budget that will allow quick action on housing affordability, the climate and healthcare.
The Chamber looks forward to continuing to work with the provincial government on key issues affecting Greater Victoria. We're also calling on the province for better budget transparency, especially if new spending is planned. Last month, BC's Auditor General Michael Pickup raised concerns about the province's accounting methods.
“Each year, my office is mandated to report whether government’s financial statements are fairly stated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles,” Pickup is reported to have said. “My job is to report what I see (and) give the opinion that I believe. So I think these things should be corrected.”
Chamber members have an opportunity to hear directly from BC's AG next month.
Recent media reports about break-ins that seem to be targeting specific types of business are renewing calls for solutions to downtown crime.
"Businesses, of course, want to feel safe," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told Global News. "They want to know that they themselves and their employees are safe when they come and go from work."
Of course, the situation is complex. The toxic drug crisis continues to cause damage throughout society, and, particularly, with people involved in street life who are at risk of homelessness. Addictions, as well as mental health challenges, are often at the root of criminal behaviour that makes the news. Any solutions need to intersect with the healthcare system, which is why organizations such as Island Health are critical to have onboard.
On Tuesday, The Chamber and Island Health hosted a gathering of about 40 people at the University Club at the University of Victoria. The discussion focused on how businesses and non-profit organizations can work with Island Health to develop innovative solutions to complex problems around mental health and addiction. Other topics included work being done to attract and retain more doctors, support workplace mental health and streamline health care delivery.
It was a good opportunity to combine the nimbleness and creativity of the private sector with the resources and gravitas of the public health authority. The spirited discussion resulted in a number of ideas that The Chamber and our members will continue to follow up on in the months ahead.
The Bank of Canada raised its policy interest rate today by 50 basis points, which aligns with what many experts had been predicting. The move indicates that measures are still required to return balance to Canada's economy.
Inflation has declined from 8.1% to 6.9%, though it's still well above the target of 2-3%.
"The Bank expects CPI inflation to ease as higher interest rates help rebalance demand and supply, price pressures from global supply disruptions fade, and the past effects of higher commodity prices dissipate," states today's news release. "CPI inflation is projected to move down to about 3% by the end of 2023, and then return to the 2% target by the end of 2024."
Another increase to interest rates is expected on Dec. 7, but will depend on how much demand has slowed, and how well improving supply chains are able to keep up.
The legal sale of cannabis in BC continues to grow, potentially reducing the size of the black market. Statistics Canada's figures show that British Columbians spent $57.3 million on legal cannabis in July — the highest month yet recorded.
Since cannabis was legalized four years ago, statistics show one in five people report using the product over the past year. The Chamber supports fair rules for all businesses, and we believe that the community benefits from an industry operating with legal regulations that protect the public and provide certainty to businesses.
There is tremendous power in a coalition of organizations from every corner of the country that have an active role in connecting businesses with all levels of government. This was in full display earlier this month as the national chamber network gathered in Ottawa for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's AGM.
"It really was remarkable to be among the voices of business communities from across Canada and hear how many of our concerns and challenges are shared," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said of being a delegate at the meeting. "We were able to meet directly with a number of federal ministers and senior staff, who were quite keen to better understand what policies are needed to help businesses build resiliency."
Williams also introduced a policy resolution at the AGM, highlighting the need for federal support of child care to enable parents to stay in the workforce and continue their careers. The resolution was adopted, along with a number of others supported by The Chamber that further our Advocacy Priorities.
Local governments now know who will be leading them for the next four years. Last Saturday's civic elections in BC brought about sweeping changes in some municipalities, while affirming the direction of incumbents in others.
The Chamber will continue our work with all governments in Greater Victoria to ensure the voice of business continues to be heard.
"Over the next few weeks I'll be extending an invitation to meet with all of the newly elected mayors and councillors," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "As the regional Chamber, we can help municipalities build good relationships with their business communities. We also work with community chambers to amplify individual voices and connect with higher levels of government."
The Chamber looks forward to continuing our tradition of dialogue to help create good economic conditions needed for a healthy business community. New councils must hold their first meeting between Nov. 1 and Nov. 10.
The provincial government is increasing the threshold for the small business tax rate. The rate had been limited to businesses with less than $15 million in taxable capital. That is being increased to $50 million.
The changes will apply to taxation years that began on or after April 7 of this year. The shift aligns BC with the federal government and will particularity benefit businesses that are capital intensive.