A program to get more people out of their cars and onto e-bikes is proving popular for the District of Saanich.
The Community E-bike Incentive Pilot Program launched Oct. 12. It's aim is to provide 300 people with between $1,600 and $350 toward the purchase of an e-bike. As expected, the $200,000 allocated for the program is being claimed quickly. After the funds run out, the municipality will review the program to see how it fits with future climate programs.
The Chamber is lending our voice to a coalition working to protect the future of the cruise industry. The coalition, spearheaded by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, is calling on the federal government to immediately engage with the United States to ensure cruise ships continue to stop in Canadian ports such as Victoria.
The urgent effort is needed after the US Congress passed a temporary exemption to the US Passenger Vessel Services Act. The exemption was a response to Canada closing its ports in May 2021, and effectively allowed cruise ships to bypass Canada.
Until that exemption was signed into law, the PVSA had required foreign-flagged ships sailing from US ports to stop at an international port. The law has helped grow the Canadian cruise ship industry as BC ports have become a popular stop for ships on the way to Alaska.
However, there are new threats to permanently end the requirement for ships to stop in Canada on the way to Alaska. This could be devastating for places such as Greater Victoria, which has many businesses that cater to the cruise ship season.
Next week marks a significant shift in responsibilities and opportunities for businesses in BC that are required to check for proof of vaccination.
On Sunday, everyone over the age of 12 will need to present their BC Vaccine Card to show they are fully immunized against COVID-19. And then on Monday, the province is lifting restrictions on capacity limits in specific situations. This will allow more people who are fully immunized to gather together on Vancouver Island and other areas of BC with high vaccination rates.
"The provincial health officer order restricting capacity limits to 50% for inside organized events and gatherings will be revised to allow 100% capacity in those settings where the BC Vaccine Card is in place and proof of vaccination status is checked," BC's Ministry of Health said in a news release. "In addition, the requirement to remain seated at a table in restaurants and pubs will be lifted. Indoor mask requirements remain in effect for all indoor gatherings and events."
The changes mean that many theatres, stadiums and events such as weddings can return to full capacity.
The City of Langford is stepping up to give a hand to residents struggling to get into the housing market. On Monday, Langford announced a $3 million Attainable Home Ownership program, which will pay up to 75% of a 5% down-payment for a two-bedroom condo in the city.
“It’s tough for young families to get into the market, even in Langford,” Mayor Stew Young said in a news release.
The amount of funding available is based on gross annual household income. Families with incomes less than $99,999 receive 75%, while those between $100,000 and $115,000 receive 50%. Households with incomes up to $125,000 receive 25%.
The two-bedroom condos are being offered at a set purchase price of $450,000.
“This program comes at the height of a major housing crisis across the region and will assist those Langford families who could afford a mortgage payment but are struggling to save the amount necessary for a down payment," Young told CHEK News. "We want to see more Langford residents in a position where they can purchase their own home.”
The Chamber hosted a successful Annual General Meeting yesterday. Members were able to make connections over lunch and hear directly from BC's Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation.
The Hon. Ravi Kahlon spoke about how the provincial government plans to work with business, and answered questions about our ongoing economic recovery. Much of the focus was on helping employers find and keep workers.
"Minister Kahlon is very accessible to The Chamber and I believe he truly wants to hear from our members about challenges facing business in Greater Victoria," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We're looking forward to offering more in-person events for our members to build relationships with each other, and to speak directly with decision makers in government."
The AGM also saw members unanimously approve a by-law change allowing the Board of Directors to extend the term of the board chair in dire circumstances, such as natural disaster, pandemic or an extreme financial situation.
A pilot project could help working parents of school-aged kids. The Seamless Day Kindergarten project, announced Monday by the BC Ministry of Education, will provide before and after school care in the same classroom that children are in for their school day. The pilot is being tried at 21 BC schools, including Millstream Elementary in the City of Langford.
The program requires no new construction and can be set up quickly. It potentially could help more parents contribute to the work force by providing quality and convenient child care at the beginning and end of typical work days.
Greater Victoria continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada. September's numbers from Statistics Canada show our region has an unemployment rate of 4.2%. That's the same as August, and second only to Quebec City's rate of 4.1%. The national rate is 6.9% and BC's rate is 5.9%.
"Women, who have been disproportionally impacted by this pandemic, led BC’s increase in employment for the month of September," Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation said in a news release.
Kahlon, who will be the guest speaker at The Chamber's AGM next week, noted that BC's average hourly wage has risen to $30.74 an hour, a bigger increase in the past five years than any other province.
A new report reveals that 43% of office space being built outside the region's core is already pre-leased. One of the examples cited is Plexxis Software, which is constructing a six-storey concrete and glass headquarters in the City of Langford. The 60,000-square-foot office next to Langford Lake is expected to be finished by 2023.
A return of office workers from their home offices is also expected to reduce vacancy rates in downtown Victoria.
Thank you to all of our members who voted for The Chamber's 2022 Board of Directors. It was a very competitive election this year, with 11 excellent candidates vying for four seats.
Jessica Stigant, Associate Director of Government Relations and Partnerships for Ocean Networks Canada, and James Gatsi, founder and CEO of CL Web Developers Inc., have been elected to two-year terms on The Chamber Board. Incumbent candidates Rose Arsenault, Agilus Work Solutions and Tom Plumb, Kinetic Construction were also re-elected.
The Chamber holds staggered elections every fall, so we can maintain continuity while ensuring fresh voices are able to join the table.
Jessica, James, Rose and Tom will join John Wilson, Kris Wirk, Christina Clarke, Moira Hauk, Judith Ethier, Pedro Marquez, Richard Michaels, Ann Squires Ferguson as well as past chair Dan Dagg as members of the 2022 board when its term begins on Jan. 1.
"The Chamber is also pleased to announce we will have two other new faces on the board," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We maintain a seat at the table for whoever is the current Base Commander of CFB Esquimalt. So, when Capt. (N) Sam Sader was re-assigned to a new post in Ottawa, we welcomed new Base Commander, Capt. (N) J. Jeffery Hutchinson to the table. As well, the incoming chair of The Chamber’s Prodigy committee, Paul van Koll, will join the board starting Jan. 1, 2022."
The Chamber continues to call for the federal government to confirm it will extend the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Both are scheduled to end on Oct. 23, but many businesses continue to face ongoing operating and capacity issues. The tourism and hospitality industry, specifically, needs help making it through the fall and winter.
The federal government had, as of Sept. 26, reportedly paid out $94 billion through the wage subsidy program to 4.4 million employers, as well as about $6.6 billion in rent subsidies to more than 1.6 million organizations.
The Chamber, through our national network, is asking the federal government to replace CEWS and CERS with a program for businesses still hurt by pandemic restrictions, as well as to commit to not introducing new taxes and forgiving interest payments on government-backed loans to businesses that were hardest hit by COVID-19.