Greater Victoria employers continue to struggle finding and keeping workers, and The Chamber continues to advocate for help. With limited immigration during the pandemic, Canada experienced its slowest population growth since 1916. That is expected to change this year, as the federal government has increased immigration targets for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Greater Victoria employers will also get some relief with the return of post-secondary students to our region this fall.
"Finding and keeping workers was an advocacy priority before the pandemic and will be even more so as we emerge from restrictions and the economy recovers," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who recently spoke to CBC and CFAX about this issue.
Many employers in Greater Victoria already pay above minimum wage but will continue to face challenges as our region also deals with a limited supply of affordable housing and child care.
"We're working with our partners and government to address the housing shortage and challenges with child care," Williams said.
The Chamber has submitted a request to speak to BC's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. The annual process helps the provincial government plan for its next budget.
As our economy takes flight and the pandemic recedes from view, we need government to focus on being fiscally responsible and enable growth to be led by the private sector. Government has tools to encourage an increase in housing supply and more efficient transportation options for our region. We need to attract more workers and keep them here. Immigration will be key. And we need to do better at including Indigenous businesses and workers.
Another focus will be on investing in economic opportunities that create jobs and improve food security as one way to mitigate climate change through innovation.
Do you have questions or concerns about the next provincial budget? Send us your thoughts at email@example.com.
A Greater Victoria craft whiskey maker is in the news after raising the ire of the Scotch industry. Lawyers have told Victoria Caledonian Distillery owner Graeme Macaloney that he has to change the name of his award-winning whiskey brand.
"It's nonsense," Macaloney said to the CBC. "It's really a frivolous, quite damaging lawsuit, to be honest."
The industry says Macaloney's name and the words "Island" and "Caledonian" will confuse consumers. Trade rules prohibit whiskey not made in Scotland from being called Scotch, which Macaloney has been careful not to do. Craft producers play a vital role in our region's tourism economy. Hopefully the courts see this suit to be as silly as it sounds to us.
Rather than let perception become reality, we need facts and data to help all of us make better choices for our communities and economy.
Last Friday, The Chamber partnered with the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association to release a series of data sets showing positive signs of economic recovery, especially in downtown Victoria.
“The increase in the number of film permits and the value of construction are good indicators of how attractive Greater Victoria is to people wanting to do business here,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “We see in the data that people are returning to typical levels of activity. We also know there is tremendous pent-up demand to visit our region and for locals to get back to dining inside, going to the movies and theatre and attending concerts and sporting events. We’re ready to go, as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
The information shows that going downtown is a safe and vibrant option as we emerge from pandemic restrictions.
There are many reasons why Inclusion is an advocacy priority for The Chamber. We know we need everyone in our region to participate in our economy to meet challenges facing our workforce and to embrace new opportunities in a changing world. In Greater Victoria, local First Nations have much to contribute and The Chamber is actively working to ensure Indigenous people are engaged in our business community.
"We can learn so much from our First Nations, but we need to make the time to listen," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "Reconciliation is not simple, and The Chamber is committed to doing all we can to help this process. Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam and Esquimalt Nations Chief Rob Thomas have written a powerful commentary I encourage all of our members to read."
The essay, We are stronger together only if guided by respect, was published in the Times Colonist on June 15.
We hope that we can learn the names and better understand the stories of the 215 children found buried in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school.
This has been devastating news for First Nations. It is difficult for Canadians to learn about our shameful past and the burden all of us must bear today. The days ahead will be painful if we are to address this wound and begin to let it heal.
The Chamber encourages all of our members to learn more about the residential school system, and to listen with purpose to the stories of our Indigenous friends and neighbours.
We must also do more to ensure Indigenous businesses are included in all of our communities. Please consider connecting with a local Indigenous business that is doing great things in Greater Victoria.
The Chamber is working with our national chamber network to improve our connections and conversations with Indigenous businesses across Canada. It's time to do better.
We now know what our Recovery Runway looks like and can begin planning to help all businesses become pivot pilots as our economy takes off this summer.
B.C.’s Restart: A Plan to Bring us Back Together, released yesterday, outlines four stages leading to a complete reopening of the province by September. The plan is contingent on COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization remaining low and vaccination rates increasing.
“We’ve been asking for this on behalf of our members for some time. Having the steps laid out for easing of restrictions has lifted the fog many of us are feeling,” Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams says.
“Speaking with Chamber members, the consensus is this plan is good news. It’s something we can work with. We need to continue rolling up our sleeves, keep B.C.’s immunization schedule moving forward, and get to work rebuilding those connections that will allow everyone to experience economic renewal.”
The restart plan marked the end of a five-week circuit breaker that had restricted in-person dining, recreational travel and indoor fitness classes.
The next milestone is June 15 when travel within BC will re-open along with extended hours for restaurants and pubs and the ability to hold small in-person meetings. By Canada Day, travel throughout Canada will open, and bigger meetings will be possible. There will also be no limits on dining, and bars and casinos can return with limited capacity.
“These are hopeful times and we can see the end of the pandemic and a chance to get our lives back,” Williams says, adding that the Chamber’s 2021 Business Awards recently celebrated the many incredible stories of organizations and entrepreneurs who found innovative ways to be successful — our Pivot Pilots. “We’ll need these leaders now as we make sure all businesses can take part in the recovery. We want to extend a hand to everyone who needs it now to make sure you have what you need to be successful.”
The pandemic has upturned all of our lives, so it's truly inspirational to celebrate the many businesses that have found a way to thrive during these trying times.
"There are silver clouds that give all of us a little hope, which is something we all need right now," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "On Saturday night, the 2021 Greater Victoria Business Awards will be broadcast on CHEK for the second year in a row. Please join us at 6 pm to share the excitement as we announce the winners. I promise you'll enjoy the show, and come away with a little inspiration to help you get through to better days ahead."
Watch the broadcast live on CHEK and engage with us virtually on social media for this spectacular night of prestige, entertainment and celebration.
Special Awards Dinner for Two
Click here for a special awards menu you can order for your at home celebrations courtesy of Chamber member Food for Thought Catering. Place your order by 4 pm on Thursday, May 13.
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 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