On Monday, the provincial government announced it was expanding the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant to help businesses struggling because of pandemic restrictions. The province increased the fund to $125 million with one-fifth of that targeted at hotels and other accommodation providers. Businesses with more than 100 employees can receive up to $20,000, while those with between five and 99 employees can get up to $10,000.
We can all agree that everyone needs and deserves a safe community in order to have functional and healthy workplaces and homes. In Greater Victoria, we know there is tremendous compassion for people living in our communities' parks and on our streets. Tremendous work has been done to help and house individuals, but more needs to be done to address root causes. Specifically, the issue of involuntary care has been a controversial topic but is one that needs to be discussed.
The Chamber commends Our Place CEO Julian Daly for his thoughtful essay published on April 27 in the Times Colonist.
Daly, who also spoke about this issue on a Chamber Chat in February, acknowledged that the issue "will be provocative and controversial to some."
"After decades of work in this field, and years of advocating for those who are homeless and struggling, heartfelt and bitter experience has taught me that, in some situations, there is a need to bring people into this kind of care involuntarily," Daly writes, stressing that he does not want a return to the old ways of inhumane institutions. However, he states there are extreme circumstances when vulnerable people need to be removed from dangerous situations. "In these situations, we believe it is the right thing to compel care. We believe that in doing so their rights are recognized – the right to be safe, the right to be housed, and the right to good health."
On April 27, BC's Minister of Finance Selina Robinson provided Chamber members with an overview of the recently unveiled budget and she answered questions about the state of the province's economy.
If you missed seeing it live, you can still watch a recording of the event to hear what Minister Robinson had to say about government plans to help business and families, and implement new initiatives to ensure our economic recovery continues.
Request Access to the Video
A new provincial Crown corporation with independence to make investments without political interference has been created. The aim is to use a $500 million fund to keep growing businesses in BC, instead of moving away as they scale up and need more capital.
The province says InBC is a new initiative to "help businesses scale up, drive innovation, create family-supporting jobs" that will drive economic recovery after the pandemic ends.
“Congratulations to the BC government on the launch of the InBC Strategic Investment Fund," BDC Capital executive vice-president Jérôme Nycz said in a news release. "We are pleased that the province can rely on a new source of capital to support its innovation economy, alongside other national players such as BDC Capital.”
Business in BC can now apply for Provincial Sales Tax rebates on purchases or leases of machinery and equipment, including tools, furniture, computers, software and zero-emission vehicles.
The rebate, announced in September, allows incorporated businesses to recover 100% of PST on most machinery and equipment purchased between Sept. 17 last year and Sept. 30 of this year.
Applications can be made until Sept. 20 for the first window. A second window of eligibility begins in October and continues to March 31, 2022. Rebate eligibility is based on the Canada Revenue Agency’s Capital Cost Allowance classes.
Apply for PST Rebate
Camosun College is getting $150,000 from the province to explore film industry training programs as well as the development of a film studio on campus in the District of Saanich.
“The investment from the BC government allows the college to further explore the feasibility of a film studio and sound stage at our Interurban campus and the exciting educational possibilities it could create for students," Camosun College's president Sherri Bell said in a news release.
The funds are a first step for creating the infrastructure needed to provide more opportunities for Vancouver Island's film industry, which continues riding a wave of optimism in 2021.
"By working together, we can capture the opportunity to bring more big-budget movies and TV shows produced right here in Saanich and create the essential infrastructure for a successful creative industry on the south Island at large,” Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said in a news release.
Monday's speech from the throne offered few details about the provincial government's plan to help businesses recover from the pandemic. With case counts climbing over the last few weeks and the rapid spread of variants of concern, our economic recovery remains precarious one week before the province unveils its 2021 budget.
Aside from urging ongoing vigilance and a spirit of resilience, the throne speech promised that the April 20 budget will invest in capital projects and infrastructure to create jobs and boost local communities. There will also be money to help people disproportionately hurt by the pandemic, including gig workers and people working face-to-face with customers in retail and the hospitality industry. Many of those most affected are women, people of colour and young people.
"The Chamber is looking for next week's budget to reassure businesses struggling to get through the pandemic," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We want to see investments that help employers find and keep workers. We need accessible child care so that parents can stay in the workforce, and we need training programs that ensure workers have current skills for the many jobs that are in demand but are going unfilled."
The Chamber and the Downtown Victoria Business Association commend the City of Victoria for reducing property taxes for business. It's the right thing to do as the pandemic continues to create challenges for our region’s economy.
The City of Victoria has approved a two per cent decrease in taxes — about $146 for business with an average assessed value of $647,000. During 2020, the assessed value of commercial property dropped by an average of 5.29 per cent. Residential assessed values in the city increased by 2.26 per cent.
“We’re grateful that Victoria council has acknowledged the struggles businesses are facing with uncertain conditions and the pace of change spurred by the pandemic,” Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce says. “We’re seeing many businesses pivot successfully and develop innovations that allow them to adapt. Reducing taxes during this time shows that the city wants to work with the business community, so that all of our employers and operators have a chance to get through this together.”
The tax break reflects an adjustment to the city’s current policy of equalizing changes to taxes across all classes. If council had chosen to follow that policy, the average assessed business would have had a tax increase of $122.
The Chamber will recap property tax rates for businesses in all Greater Victoria municipalities as the information becomes available in the coming weeks.
Chamber News Release
The restaurant industry has been told to expect restrictions on dining inside to extend beyond April and through to May. Representatives from the industry, including the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, met with BC's Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry this week. The restrictions, which the province called a circuit breaker, were set to expire on April 19.
Applications open for Circuit Breaker grants
Businesses adversely affected by the unexpected imposition of restrictions on March 30 can now apply for grants to help cover costs.
Businesses with between five and 99 employees or contracted staff are eligible for $5,000. Business with 100 or more employees can get $10,000, while businesses with between one and four people on staff can receive $2,000. If the business does not have any employees or contracted staff, a grant of $1,000 is available.
Apply for Grant
The federal budget will be unveiled on April 19, and is expected to confirm ongoing support for wage and rent subsidies and other relief programs that have been vital for businesses affected by the pandemic.
Working with the Canadian Chamber, we have been advocating to government to offer direction on how investments in the private sector can create jobs and encourage the growth of new and existing businesses.
Read next week's BizNews for more analysis on the federal budget, and what it will mean for Greater Victoria.
Related: The Chamber's column in Douglas Magazine