BC Premier David Eby gave cabinet a new look today.
Among the changes for Greater Victoria, Oak Bay MLA Murray Rankin remains as Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation but will no longer serve as Attorney General. Saanich South MLA Lana Popham is the new Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.
Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming retains his role as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean stays on Minister of Children and Family Development. Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Grace Lore was named Minister of State for Child Care.
Victoria-raised Ravi Kahlon, MLA for Delta North, will lead the newly created Ministry of Housing.
Other prominent roles went to Katrine Conroy, who takes over as Finance Minister, and Niki Sharma, who is now AG.
Could this be the end of interest rate increases? The Bank of Canada increased its rate today to 4¼%, but softened the language it uses around future increases.
A statement from the bank said the bottlenecks that had been affecting global supply chains are loosening.
The Consumer Price Index was at 6.9% in October, though core inflation was 5% — much closer to the bank's target of 2%.
"Three-month rates of change in core inflation have come down, an early indicator that price pressures may be losing momentum," the bank stated. "However, inflation is still too high. The longer consumers and businesses expect inflation to be above the target, the greater the risk that elevated inflation becomes entrenched."
Make sure to consult with your preferred financial and mortgage advisors —The Chamber's Member Directory is a great place to find experts who can help you make your business thrive.
Greater Victoria continues to have one of the tightest labour markets in Canada. The latest numbers from November show our unemployment rate is back to 3.5%, according to Statistics Canada. That's down from 4.3% in October and closer to where the region typically was before the pandemic.
"We know there is work in our region and that makes us attractive to ambitious people who want to move here and build their careers," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Our regional economy benefits from having the stability of BC government jobs as well as CFB Esquimalt. However, we still need to address housing supply in Greater Victoria to make sure we can retain people who want to work here and contribute to our community."
There is some good news on that front as new construction jobs appear to be driving the lower rate. There were 18,400 people employed in construction this November compared to 13,500 in November 2021.
Businesses that service the real estate industry are a major contributor to Greater Victoria's economy. However, rising interest rates have slowed sales. Throw in the traditional quiet period around the holidays and fewer properties are changing hands. Only 384 sales were recorded in the region for November, down from 653 last November.
There are also concerns about potential unintended consequences of recent changes to the provincial Strata Property Act.
"It is an open question whether these changes will bring any additional rental stock to the market — with BC's complex Residential Tenancy Act not all homeowners of vacant strata homes have a desire to become landlords and current interest rates are less attractive to investors who may want to purchase strata rental properties," Victoria Real Estate Board President President Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "It is also possible that these measures will contribute further to eroding housing affordability as older stratas with rental restrictions were generally valued lower than their rentable counterparts."
Slower sales have also contributed to a slight dip in market values over the last few months. That could mean some property assessments — being sent out soon to homeowners from BC Assessment — will be higher than current market value.
“I want to emphasize that assessments are based on July 1 values of this year, meaning that when similar properties were sold up to and around July 1, those market value sales are used to calculate your assessed value," Assessor Bryan Mura said in a news release. “An increase in assessment value does not, however, necessarily result in an increase in property taxes. Taxes are typically only affected if you are above the average value change for your community."
This holiday season, be sure to shop locally and sustainably! Follow these Chamber tips to help your local community and the earth as a whole.
Inflation has become the top concern for many businesses. The Chamber is hearing from many members struggling to balance higher costs by adjusting prices and raising wages to keep staff.
On top of this, the increased emphasis on tipping that took hold during the pandemic has created new challenges for employers, employees and customers.
The issues and a few solutions are the subject of a new series that recently ran in the Times Colonist. The articles shine a light on how tipping was affected by social changes over the past few years, as well as consumers reliance on debit cards and tax implications for people whose income relies on tips.
It's well worth the read as we head into the holiday shopping season!
BC Premier David Eby hasn't wasted any time putting his stamp on the provincial government. In less than two weeks, the province has rolled out a series of almost daily announcements that take aim at some of the top concerns facing British Columbians.
Among the barrage of news releases was a promise to add $230 million to RCMP funding to increase staff and a plan to train more doctors. Those, along with announcements of a new Housing Ministry and a strategy for making communities safer, are welcome news. The Chamber will continue to advocate for business as these announcements move from the idea stage to implementation.
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The federal government released Canada's Indo-Pacific Strategy this week, providing a guideline for future engagement with this massive economic region. The Canadian Chamber welcomed the news.
“In addition to increasing our presence in the region, much of the important work that needs to be done is here at home," Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s President and CEO Perrin Beatty said. "Any successful strategy must give an enhanced priority to building the trade-enhancing infrastructure that is needed to significantly increase our exports. Additionally, the rapidly-growing communities of Canadians who trace their roots to the region provide a much-underutilized source of people who speak the languages, understand the cultures and have networks of family and friends in the region and who could help to strengthen our trade and investment ties."
The Indo-Pacific accounts for 65% of the world's population and is Canada’s second-largest regional export market, after the United States, with annual two-way trade valued at $226 billion.
Almost 20% of Canadians have family ties in the Indo-Pacific, which also provides 60% of Canada’s international students.
A movement that initially took hold in the City of Victoria is set to become a Canada-wide initiative as of Dec. 20. The federal Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations aims to stop the manufacture, import and sale of bags, cutlery and other items made with problematic plastics.
The Chamber worked closely with Victoria and other local governments. Our goal was to make sure the initial regulations incorporated innovations that businesses were already using to address consumer concerns. The public has, for many years, supported businesses that provided alternatives to plastic waste. Having the same rules across the country will help businesses work with the requirements efficiently and effectively.
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.