Chamber staff took part in the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting this week, helping adopt a number of policy resolutions that address important issues for our members.
"By joining with our Chamber network, we can amplify our calls for government to better serve Canadians by focusing on helping the business community," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "Greater Victoria shares many of the concerns of other regions in Canada, such as ensuring indigenous communities are included in conversations about local economies and advocating for investment in marine industries in Canada."
The Chamber also heard from a panel of experts on what to expect after next Tuesday's elections in the US.
“I just hope that everybody doesn’t retreat into their corner of the sandbox and play by themselves because this will cause both health risks and economic collapse,” said panelist David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2016 to 2019.
The John Howard Society will own and operate a new affordable housing development at 736 Princess Ave., after Victoria council approved a total of 72 new housing units for low-income and vulnerable residents.
The Princess Avenue location will provide 28 new units, as well as amenities such as a coffee shop and art gallery that will facilitate an employment readiness program.
Council's decision, made last Thursday, also includes 44 new units at 330 Michigan St. The Capital Regional Housing Corporation will retain an existing heritage building on the site and demolish three other buildings to create room for two four-storey multi-familiy buildings. The new buildings will increase the number of affordable units from 62 to 106 on the site.
Voters in Victoria will soon find out who is on the ballot for the city's Dec. 12 by-election. The candidate nomination period opened yesterday, and closes Nov. 6.
The by-election was rescheduled after its original date in April was cancelled due to the pandemic. Any candidates who were previously nominated will need to go through the process again if they still plan to seek election. Candidate nomination forms are available by calling Victoria City Hall at 250-361-0571 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit victoria.ca/election.
As soon as candidates are confirmed, The Chamber will provide our members with opportunities to find out where council hopefuls stand on issues of importance to the business community.
The Capital Regional District has launched a new program to help businesses in the region check the efficiency of faucets used for hand-washing. If the faucet isn't operating at maximum efficiency, the CRD will replace the faucet's aerator for free.
The new aerators use less than two litres of water per minute, compared to as much as 11 litres per minute in older faucets. The update can save businesses money and waste less water. The regional district estimates that 25% of all water in Greater Victoria is used for commercial and industrial purposes. That adds up to 10 billion litres per year.
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The Chamber strongly supports Greater Victoria mayors who are calling on the new provincial government to do better to improve regional transportation on southern Vancouver Island. Specifically, we have been calling for a regional approach to how transportation is governed. We need to think broadly to address transportation issues and take advantage of opportunities to create 21st century solutions.
The mayors of Saanich, Victoria, Colwood and View Royal were among the group that co-authored a letter to the province.
The Island Corridor Foundation has released a report estimating the economic impact of restoring the Island Rail Corridor to operational condition.
The report says the $304 million project would require $147 million for labour and create thousands of jobs — based on an average annual full-time income of $67,000.
The foundation also recently contracted a survey that determined interest is high in rail service on Vancouver Island.
"The results should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the people of Vancouver Island want to see rail service restored,” foundation CEO Larry Stevenson said in a news release.
Overall, 80% of survey respondents believe that federal and provincial governments should fund a modern and revitalized rail system for Vancouver Island, and 81% of respondents believe rail should receive a subsidy to support ongoing operations.
Doing business in a region with 13 municipalities can be confusing. The Chamber continues to advocate for better governance through fewer governments, and we have strongly supported the Citizens' Assembly process that was started by Saanich and Victoria to explore the pros and cons of amalgamation.
One area that many municipalities have been trying to streamline is the business licence application process. The City of Victoria announced this week that it was moving the process online, enabling businesses to apply, pay and print licences without having to go into city hall.
The City of Langford offers perpetual business licences that don't need to be renewed unless the business closes or moves.
The City of Colwood also doesn't charge businesses an annual fee but does require licences to be renewed. This year, Colwood is encouraging businesses to use its online online application process.
The District of Saanich offers step-by-step instructions for businesses looking to apply for a business licence.
Businesses that carry on work across Greater Victoria can apply for Inter-Community Business Licences.
The City of Colwood is enjoying time in the spotlight as the West Shore municipality undergoes an impressive uptick in popularity. So much more than a source of commuters, Colwood is becoming a hub for new jobs being created in the region.
Recently announced projects include a new home for the Royal BC Museum's archives, collections and research as well as a $26 million complex for Seaspan Victoria Shipyards. There's also a massive mixed-use development in the works from Omicron.
“Colwood is at a really pivotal time right now where we’re shifting from a bedroom community to something very dynamic and I think dynamic is good,” Colwood Mayor Rob Martin told the Times Colonist.
City of Colwood: Member since 2020
Omicron Canada Inc: Member since 2015
Seaspan Victoria Shipyards: Member since 2002
Royal BC Museum: Member since 1994
Statistics Canada's latest unemployment numbers offer more evidence about the impact of the pandemic on jobs in Greater Victoria. Our region is improving from the summer, with the jobless rate at 9.1% for September compared to 10.3% in August and a low of 11.1% in July.
However, we are currently the 22nd ranked Census Metropolitan Area in Canada. Before COVID-19, Greater Victoria consistently had the lowest or second lowest unemployment rate in the country.
Our ranking is largely attributable to a 39% drop in the number of people working in accommodations and food services — the sector hit the hardest by measures to control the pandemic.
The decision to get BC government workers back in the office is welcome news. In June, The Chamber wrote to provincial Finance Minister Carole James — who is also MLA of Victoria-Beacon Hill — and asked what her plan was to return civil servants to their workplaces. The request was made after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advised that it was safe to go back to the office, and after WorkSafeBC published extensive guidelines on how to do so.
Greater Victoria's economy needs a vibrant downtown, and downtown businesses need support. Restaurants, cafes and retailers struggle without the civil servants who shop or buy meals before and after work and during their breaks.
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist that businesses outside of downtown are generally faring well, but those in the core are fighting for their survival.
"It’s put a real serious challenge in front of many business owners downtown.”
In the letter to the finance minister, which was co-signed by the Downtown Victoria Business Association and the City of Victoria, we called on government to model best practices for a safe return to work. We're thankful our voice was heard, and that the return of public service workers gives hope to the many businesses that are hanging on downtown.
WorkSafeBC: Member since 2006
Downtown Victoria Business Association: Member since 2007
City of Victoria: Member since 1962