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.
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.”
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.
One of the innovations that helped business weather the uncertain days of the pandemic was the expansion of outdoor service areas. The ability to enjoy a beverage or bite to eat outside was so well-received, the District of Saanich is extending the initiative until June 2022. Businesses are able to add patio service in their parking lots, allowing them to increase customer capacity and meet public demand.
“This patio (rule change) came out and it was a godsend, and it has since turned out to be a remarkable success story,” Victoria Caledonian Distillery and Twa Dogs Brewery owner Graeme Macaloney told the Saanich News.
In the same article, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said the rules have helped business hang on to valuable members of their team. To hear more from Mayor Haynes, including his announcement that he is seeking re-election in 2022, make sure to check out his recent Chamber Chat with Chamber CEO Bruce Williams.
Click here for a list of Chamber members who offered patio service during the pandemic.
The days are getting shorter but things are getting brighter for downtown businesses, according to new data released by the City of Victoria last week.
There was a marked increase this summer in business licenses issued, film permits and hotel occupancy over last summer. Construction value reached $101.6 million in July, compared to $13.4 million in July 2020 and $51.5 million in July 2020.
Jeff Bray, Executive Director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said the rise in pedestrians downtown is a good measure of vitality. "When more people were working from home, it really emptied out the streets and hit the downtown businesses hard. I am hopeful that we can get back to our pre-pandemic numbers.”
“Tourism is a dynamic sector that contributes to the city and region is so many ways. When the industry was hit hard by the pandemic, the repercussions were felt throughout the community,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said in the news release.
The cost of housing remains a sore spot for Greater Victoria, but the quality of life, economy and other factors helped the region earn a B grade from the Victoria Foundation's 2021 Vital Signs report.
"The Chamber was happy to sponsor the section of the report that looked at Greater Victoria's economy," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The grades helps us understand the state of our region, where we're doing well and how we can improve going forward."
The 18th edition of the annual report measures our region's wellbeing through qualitative data as well as stories and graphics to provide snapshots of the year that was.
This year's theme explores equity and inclusion. The pandemic has emphasized that we might be in the storm, but we're not all in the same boat.
The report looks at 12 areas, with grades ranging from a B-plus for Learning and Sports and Recreation, to a D-plus for Housing and Getting Started. The Economy rated a B-minus.
As well as The Chamber, other Vitals Signs sponsors include Coast Capital, CHEK News, Page One, Black Press, Tecnet, Maycock Eyecare, Urban Sytsems, Oakcrest Park Estates and CIBC.
The Chamber applauds a new initiative by the Town of View Royal to make it easier for the public to track the municipality's spending.
View Royal's new budget variance dashboard provides detailed info on operational finances in a number of areas, and allows comparisons of this year's figures to previous years.
“It’s important that the community holds us accountable to stewarding their financial resources and that they receive regular reports on our progress," View Royal's Chief Administrative Officer Kim Anema said in a news release. "By regularly sharing detailed budget information with the community, we aim to build trust with our residents and demonstrate how we work to meet our financial goals.”
With less than two weeks to go before BC introduces a proof of vaccination requirement on Sept. 13, The Chamber continues to work with our partner organizations to ensure the program does not unduly burden staff and businesses while protecting our community.
The Chamber has been a vocal supporter of BC's immunization campaign, including through our #ChamberChangemaker initiative.
"We recognize that vaccines are the path forward and we continue to encourage full vaccinations as the best way to keep ourselves and each other safe," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "What we want from government is assurance that the proof of vaccination requirement will be rolled out in a way that doesn't penalize businesses whose staff are already working at capacity."
The BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, for example, supports the plan but says it is vital there be a "clear implementation plan, simple rules,
hands-on training and industry support."
Quebec was the first province to launch a vaccine passport, with its app going live today. Quebecers will have a two-week leniency period before penalties of up to $6,000 for vaccine passport fraud will be enforced. Ontario also announced today its plan to introduce proof of vaccination requirements by Sept. 22, with an app available Oct. 22.
In BC, people will need to have at least one dose by Sept. 13 to be allowed in specified settings. That requirement will shift to fully vaccinated for at least seven days as of Oct. 24. The measures will be re-assessed on Jan. 31, 2022, to determine if an extension is required.
The province has not disclosed exactly how penalties will be enforced. We expect businesses will be subject to inspections as with the current mask mandate.
The Chamber adheres to the direction and advice of BC's Provincial Health Officer. We also recognize that many people are struggling with the uncertainty of the pandemic and specifically the Delta variant. We'd like to hear from Chamber members about your questions and concerns regarding BC's Proof of Vaccination proposal. Please keep your commentary civil. We will share productive feedback anonymously with decision makers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget to pack your reusable bags when going shopping in the District of Saanich. The municipality's bylaw regulating single-use plastic bags came into effect Aug. 20. Saanich has created posters, till toppers and other printable resources for businesses to help with the transition.
The Chamber continues to work with Greater Victoria municipalities to ensure checkout bag bylaws align and support initiatives implemented by retailers in response to public demand.