BC Premier John Horgan has admitted the province failed to properly explain plans to replace the Royal BC Museum, and has put the project on hold.
“I always try to act in the best interests of British Columbians,” Horgan said in a news release. “That involves listening. That also means taking responsibility when you make the wrong call.”
The museum is no longer scheduled to close this fall, and a new round of public consultation will begin to hear what British Columbians want to do with the institution.
"Kudos to the province for hearing what we, and many others, told them we didn't like about the initial announcement," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The Royal BC Museum is a pillar of Greater Victoria's tourism industry so, first and foremost, we need it to stay in our region. The museum is deeply connected to our economy and benefits many of our members. What we want to see is the province make an investment in this asset that drives visitation, excites the intellect and creates revenue for our region and the province."
The Chamber also fully supports a more inclusive narrative about our province that shares the story of Indigenous people as well as all of the diverse communities that make up the fabric of who we are today.
Construction continues on a new Collections and Research Building in Colwood. It will house museum artifacts once completed.
Greater Victoria will be the first region in BC to benefit from access to TELUS premium 5G spectrum. The company announced Friday it was rolling out the high-speed network in select cities across Canada.
“The deployment of our 3500 MHz spectrum is an important step to unlocking the potential of 5G, particularly as it fuels innovation across different industries," Tony Geheran, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operations Officer at TELUS said in a news release. "We believe that Canada should follow international best practices to ensure enough spectrum is available as quickly and affordably as possible so that all Canadians have access to the social, environmental and economic benefits that 5G brings, which is why we continue to advocate for responsible, strategic and predictable regulatory policy as a critical opportunity to drive timely and ubiquitous availability of 5G.”
A notable increase in full-time work helped drive job numbers for May, Statistics Canada said. The figures also show that absences from work due to illness or disability are back to pre-pandemic levels. Statistics Canada also said that wages grew by 3.9% ($1.18) in May compared to the same month last year.
Though work still needs to be done to close the gender wage gap, salaries among women have grown by 17.8% since January 2018, compared to 14.9% for men. Students are also experiencing higher wages, with average hourly wages up 5.7% year over year.
Other trends include one in five Canadians working exclusively from home, the same as the previous month, while slightly more (6.3%, up 0.5%) employees reported splitting time between home and office.
Greater Victoria had an unemployment rate of 4% in May, down from 4.4% in April.
A renewed call to protect the Island Rail Corridor is being made to the Capital Regional District today, June 15.
The Town of View Royal voted last week to ask the provincial and federal governments to commit to maintaining the corridor. In a 2021 ruling, the BC Court of Appeal gave the federal government until March 2023 to clarify its intentions for the future of the corridor. The Island Corridor Foundation has released a business case for restoring rail service. All that's needed is the political will to make it happen.
“We want to bring real focus to this problem that we need to solve, and we need the upper levels of government to solve it with us,” View Royal Mayor David Screech told the Goldstream News Gazette.
More than one billion Interac e-transfers were conducted by Canadians between April 2021 and April 2022, setting a new milestone, the company said.
It's the first time that number was reached in the 20 years the service has existed. Almost 90% of Canadians have sent cash by e-transfer, sharing $338 billion over the 12 month period. The numbers are from a recent survey by Interac about how different demographics are using the service.
“Each generation is navigating the changing economic conditions, and we see the rising trend in Canadians, especially younger ones, using their own money for the simple joys of shared experiences with friends and family,” Interac spokesperson William Keliehor said in a statement.
Starting June 20, travellers will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination when boarding a plane or train in Canada. Federally regulated workers will also no longer need to reveal their vaccination status.
The federal government has opted to suspend the requirements, which could be reinstated if the COVID-19 situation changes.
The change does not affect the steps that need to be taken by Canadians returning from international travel. As well, travelling to other countries requires following their entry rules, including proof of vaccination to enter the US.
Federal vaccine mandates for travel were put in place on Oct. 30, 2021.
Meanwhile, long lineups continue at Service Canada centres caused by people seeking to renew their passport. An additional 600 workers were hired this month to help alleviate the backlog as passport applications jumped.
The federal government expects as many as 4.3 million applications over the next two years. Almost 1.3 million passports applications were processed between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. That compares to 363,000 the previous year.
The Chamber is meeting with the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on Monday to offer guidance on the next provincial budget.
Chambers have a long history of being the effective voice of business in their communities. We've worked hard to earn the trust of decision makers as we advocate to make a real difference in policies that help business thrive.
"I'm available to our members any time they want to reach out and discuss concerns or seek support," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We don't always see eye to eye with government officials but we're always respectful and do the work needed to show why policies need to be implemented or changed. A robust and vibrant economy is good for business and everyone in our community."
Individuals can also share their views with the committee by filling out an online survey or sending in written comments by 3 pm, June 24.
People looking to buy a home in Greater Victoria have more options to choose from as there were 30.1% more listings in May compared to April.
"The real estate market in Greater Victoria is returning to a steadier pace following the strange two years we experienced over the course of the pandemic," Victoria Real Estate Board President Karen Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "While inventory is still below historical levels for a spring market, it is now within our pre-pandemic five-year average, which is good news for buyers."
The cost of a single family home continued to increase, however, with the benchmark value for May at $1.446,400. That's up from $1,424,900 in April.
The provincial government has launched a new BC Bid portal, making it easier for businesses to participate in procurement opportunities offered by hundreds of public sector organizations.
The single-point of access is used by school districts, municipalities, health authorities, Crown corporations and other government agencies to post contracts for goods and services across industries.
Tourism businesses are back in a big way, as pent-up demand has operators planning for a boom this summer season.
According to Chemistry Consulting, BC Ferries recorded massive increases in the number of vehicles, passengers and buses between April 2022 and April 2021.
Greater Victoria hotels are also reporting hotel vacancy and room rates that are back to or surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
"It's heartening to see our tourism members getting back on their feet after enduring exceptionally challenging circumstances during the pandemic," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We'll be continuing to work with our community partners to encourage local support for tourism and hospitality business throughout the summer."
A class action settlement against certain credit card surcharges means businesses that accepted credit card payments between March 23, 2001 and Sept. 2, 2021 could be entitled to rebates of up to $5,000.
The class action opposed certain rules regarding fees paid by merchants and collected by banks for Visa and MasterCard transactions. The deadline for eligible businesses to submit a claim in order to participate in the settlement is Sept. 30.
The Bank of Canada raised its interest rate by half a point Wednesday morning, after higher than expected inflation in April. The move was expected as global economies continue to face challenges. In simplest terms, the economy continues to struggle with supply challenges and is not able to meet demand for goods and services. The result has been rampant inflation, making the cost of living less affordable.
"With the economy in excess demand, and inflation persisting well above target and expected to move higher in the near term, the Governing Council continues to judge that interest rates will need to rise further," the Bank of Canada said in a June 1 media release. "The pace of further increases in the policy rate will be guided by the Bank’s ongoing assessment of the economy and inflation, and the Governing Council is prepared to act more forcefully if needed to meet its commitment to achieve the 2% inflation target."
The increase by the bank will mean higher costs for borrowing and will affect the housing market and some business's ability to make investments in their operations.
The minimum wage in BC increased June 1 from $15.20 to $15.65 per hour. The increase is based on the average annual inflation rate of 2.1% in 2021.
"According to the province, the increase helps workers but if governments really want to tackle affordability concerns they need to address the fundamental reasons affecting the cost of living," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. " We need more housing, which requires a concerted effort to allow builders to build — less red tape and more help attracting workers and getting materials to our region."
The Chamber continues to advocate for real solutions that add to Greater Victoria's workforce housing and reduce costs of other major expenses, such as child care and transportation.
"Raising minimum wage can hurt the economy by making it harder for some of our major employers to get high school and college students into the workforce," Williams said. "We'll keep working with our partner organizations to make sure employers have a say on any future increases to minimum wage — especially with atypical factors affecting inflation right now. Government needs to understand that increasing the cost of doing business affects affordability for everyone."
After the initial announcement of plans to replace the Royal BC Museum created a storm of controversy, the provincial government tried again to explain their rationale with the release of the final business case today.
"If we had seen the business case when the original announcement was made, it might have helped with some of the sticker shock our members are feeling," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We're going to keep working with our members to help those that can pick up some of the traffic, as well as with the museum and the province to try and mitigate the loss of a major attraction for eight years."
The province said it's not possible to keep the museum open while rebuilding because of the complexity of moving items and safely removing hazardous materials. The current building has outlived its useful life and there are potential risks to its stored collections as well as staff and visitors.
There is a cost to doing nothing, Minister for Tourism, Art, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark said at today's technical briefing. The province estimates that the cost of the project — currently at $789 million — will increase the longer it is delayed.
Greater Victoria's business community is showing its resilience as a new report shows commerce continues to strengthen and grow.
“Despite headwinds facing the global economy, our region has roared back and we’re in a good position to really take flight as we welcome our traditional tourism season,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “These indicators make it clear that people can’t wait to get back to our vibrant downtown and enjoy all the amazing experiences our businesses provide.”
The report shows that there were 314,730 more pedestrian trips to downtown Victoria in the first three months of 2022 than the same period last year. The City of Victoria issued 7,623 business licences in the first quarter of 2022, up from 7,187 in the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.
Capital Bike is hoping to inspire more people to choose bikes to get where they need to go. Go By Bike Week runs May 30 to June 5, and anyone can participate as individuals or by registering as a team. The week-long event, previously known as Bike to Work Week, is a great chance for co-workers to boost their mental and physical health in a collaborative and fun way. Capital Bike is planning Celebration Stations along popular bike routes with more than $20,000 in prizes available.
The Victoria International Marina was abuzz with stories of intrepid adventure and precision planning as it hosted the largest gathering of Nordhavn yachts to date. The Nordhavn Owners Rendezvous was held at the marina last week as participants prepared to explore BC's coast. Among the vessels was the Motoryacht LARS, which holds a submarine capable of handling arctic exploration and scientific research.
"The gathering is a sign that things are getting back to pre-pandemic levels right now," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist.
The provincial government appears committed to its plan to rebuild the Royal BC Museum over the next eight years at a cost of $789 million. The museum was founded in 1886 and has been in its current location since 1968.
The Chamber will work to support businesses affected by the change, including attractions that now have an opportunity to increase their profile.
“You can come downtown and go to the Bateman Gallery, you can go to the Bug Zoo, you can go to the Maritime Museum — there are still a lot of attractions around and plenty of things to do,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told CHEK News.
“The work to modernize the Royal BC Museum is a legacy project that will enrich, inspire and continue to benefit British Columbians and Indigenous Peoples for generations to come," RBCM CEO Alicia Dubois said in the provincial news release.
There are plans for travelling exhibitions, regional displays and an interactive walking tour in Victoria while the new museum is being built.
For 17 years, the Victoria Foundation has conducted the Vital Signs Citizen Survey to measure social indicators that help us better understand the health of our region. This year's survey went live on May 5 and is open until July 4.
This year's focus is "What does community mean to you?" Data collected from the survey reflects how a community is integrating economic, social and environmental elements and helps policy makers understand where improvements are needed.
Unemployment was up slightly for April, with fewer people active in the labour force in Greater Victoria, according to the latest report from Statistics Canada.
Our region's unemployment rate was 4.4% last month, compared to 4.1% in March. There were a total of 228,100 people in the labour force in April, down from 229,800 in March.
Record-breaking gas prices are the latest challenge for businesses that need to transport goods across our region. The cost per litre of regular gas hit $2.219 this week. That compares to $1.526 in December. The rapid increase is partly linked to global shortages caused by sanctions on Russian energy supplies after the invasion of Ukraine. However, supply issues existed before the war began and are expected to become more of a concern as demand for gas increases in the summer.
The sudden jump in gas prices has led to spirited debate in BC's Legislature, and highlighted efforts to switch to alternative fuels.
Affordable and accessible child care is vital to the economy because it creates opportunities for working parents to contribute to the labour force. As such, The Chamber has long called for child care to be considered an investment that attracts families to our region and helps organizations find and keep workers. The provincial government now offers a wage enhancement for Early Childhood Educators and is working with the federal government to reduce the costs that families pay for care.
However, it will take more than funding for new spaces to address the lack of access to child care in Greater Victoria. Our region needs qualified workers for the many positions currently going unfilled.
“Finding an early childhood educator seems like trying to find a unicorn these days,” said Mira Laurence, executive director of the Oaklands Community Association which runs the Oaklands Little Acorn Centre. “There are no people,” Laurence said, in an interview with CHEK News. “The four-dollar top-up doesn’t even seem to be working.”
"We're having discussions with post-secondary institutions as well as with government about how we can get more Early Child Care workers," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We need to create pathways that lead from school to jobs, or ease immigration for qualified foreign workers. And when we find staff, we need to keep them by making sure they feel valued."
Housing supply continues to present a major bottleneck for Greater Victoria's economy. The latest figures on Greater Victoria’s real estate market show low inventory, rising interest rates and buyer fatigue has the industry off to a slow start in 2022.
Spring is typically the busiest season fro real estate sales.
"This tells an interesting story because activity traditionally peaks over the course of the spring, and this year we have seen a gradual softening of the market," 2022 Victoria Real Estate Board President Karen Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "As we have reported many times in the past years, the market hinges on supply and demand."
A total of 824 properties in Greater Victoria sold in April, down from 1,116 in April 2021. The board's benchmark value for a single-family home increased to $1.27 million, up from $1.23 million the month before.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is forecasting Greater Victoria housing starts to “decline in 2022, strapped by capacity constraints, before moderating in 2024.”
CMHC’s Senior Analyst of Market Insights, Pershing Sun, said 2022 will be a moderating year in Greater Victoria’s housing market.
“Rising borrowing cost, affordability erosion, and constraints in construction will anchor sales and slow down price growth,” Sun said in a recent report. “Improved job market and migration inflow will drive rental demand over the next few years.”
The CMHC report said the market is expected to slow down after breaking records last year, with prices rising slower than the “frenzied pace in 2021.”
The Chamber has been calling on all levels of government to address obstacles hindering the construction of more homes. With builders operating at their slowest pace in the past 10 years, the industry needs more workers, improved supply chains and streamlined regulations to meet demand.
As municipal councils across the region finalize tax rates for business properties, The Chamber wants to hear from any members facing unfair increases.
“Businesses need to plan for expenses, and they expect to be treated fairly. After all, the long-term health of our communities is directly related to the health of our small businesses,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist. “The Chamber is reaching out to our members to see how (tax increases) affect them individually, and we’ll take that information forward to candidates in the fall municipal election.”
The Chamber recognizes that municipalities must juggle a number of variables when setting rates. Ultimately, each municipality determines how much money they need to deliver services to their citizens and then set rates to raise the revenue to cover most of those costs. Whether an individual property experiences an increase in their tax bill typically depends on whether the property had a higher-than-average increase in value. However, municipalities also need to be fair when allocating costs to commercial properties.
“The business community understands that taxes are a tool used by local governments to provide services, but we’re always watchful of councils who try to shift costs to business and industry and away from residents for political reasons,” Williams said, noting that now is not the time for municipalities to be increasing costs for any taxpayers. “Many businesses are still facing challenges, so any tax increase will weigh on them at a time when we need our economy to take flight.”