The pandemic and the "unprecedented uncertainty" we've all had to live with for more than year is not an excuse for surprise decisions that damage businesses.
Monday's announcement that restaurants, pubs and bars had mere hours to implement severe restrictions could have been handled better. Business has been leading the charge on following restrictions and keeping our community safe, but we need the government to work with us.
"It's clear that decision makers in government don't understand business, which is why we're calling for the province to do a better job of working alongside organizations such as ours," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "I'm talking to our partner organizations in Greater Victoria and the other Island chambers to offer the province a readily available advisory network that understands the challenges facing businesses."
Monday's decision left the restaurant and hospitality industry reeling. The Downtown Victoria Business Association reports that business owners are worried about wasting food purchased as part of plans for Easter weekend. Staff are also anxious about their jobs, while the tourism industry has been left feeling kicked while already on the ground.
Destination Greater Victoria says it's hearing from hotels that, after Monday's announcement, guests have cancelled planned visits as far out as September. According to DGV, the sector could lose $900,000, based on 6,000 hotel rooms with an average room rate of $150.
With the recent Provincial Health Order limiting indoor dining across BC, supporting local restaurants is as important as ever. That’s why we invite you to take part in
The Chamber’s Takeout Challenge!
Tag your favourite restaurant and two friends for your chance to win one of two $100 gift cards to Tutti!
Take a photo enjoying takeout from your favourite restaurant, tag us and use the hashtag #ChamberLocalVicBC for five additional entries!
Winners will be announced on April 26 in our Chamber Events newsletter.
Click here to eat with a #ChamberLocalVicBC restaurant tonight.
On April 19, the federal government will unveil its first full budget in two years and The Chamber is working with our partners to ensure businesses can lead the way.
It's crucial that government move away from a subsidized economy and invest in the private sector to create sustainable growth.
"We at the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce are calling the roadmap to a post-COVID economy the 'recovery runway' and we are identifying 'pivot pilots' as those organizations and leaders who have been nimble with pivoting the way they do business," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says in his latest column at Douglasmagazine.com.
Businesses that are leading the recovery — those pivot pilots — serve as a beacon of optimism as we taxi down the recovery runway.
Making it easier to get around Greater Victoria, and addressing climate change were among the many topics addressed yesterday by BC's Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming.
The Minister spoke to Chamber members as part of our ongoing Business Restart Series, which continues March 30 with Agricultural Minister Lana Popham (details below).
Fleming spoke about continuing efforts to make getting to work convenient for commuters who live in more affordable areas of the region. For example, he said the McKenzie Interchange, which is "substantially complete," has cut commute times to the West Shore in half. As well, an additional widening of the highway will make the route ready for Light Rapid Transit. Another concept that is still being looked at is a ferry from Colwood to Victoria.
The Minister also addressed The Chamber's calls for better transportation governance in the region. Fleming said the solution requires something other than the system of weighted votes used by the Capital Regional District. Greater Victoria needs a body that looks at the region as whole, and not as a collection of 13 municipalities.
The Minister also responded to a Chamber member question by encouraging businesses to lend their voice to a proposed "flyover" overpass from the Pat Bay Highway northbound to Keating Cross Road westbound, eliminating the left turn across highway traffic onto Keating Cross Road.
If you missed yesterday's event but would like to hear more about what the Minister had to say, the video is available for purchase.
The Chamber continues to advocate for focused relief to ensure all businesses have an opportunity to get through the pandemic. On Monday, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams was on a province-wide broadcast on CBC Radio speaking about what government needs to do to help specific sectors.
As well, on our national Chamber network, Canadian Chamber CEO Perrin Beatty interviewed Arlene Dickinson, a noted investor and former cast member on Dragons' Den, about the opportunities awaiting businesses that pull together on a local level and embrace innovation.
Beatty was also a recent guest of The Chamber's Business Restart Series, discussing what's in store for Canada-US relations under the Biden administration.
There is uncertainty beyond anyone's control, and then there is uncertainty caused by surprise shifts in government policies. It's the latter that causes concern for many businesses, especially after operators in the food and beverage industry lost thousands of dollars when the province suddenly banned alcohol sales after 8 pm on New Year's Eve.
Businesses need to plan for their future, regardless of their sector, and it shouldn't be up to industry associations to get clarity on rules as it was this week ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.
The Chamber will continue to work with the provincial government to ensure better transparency around public health restrictions that affect business operations.
"We've heard from Dr. Henry that businesses are doing the right thing and have not been problematic," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We need to work together with government to make sure businesses can do the type of long-range planning they need to stay viable and get through this pandemic."
The border with the US will open sooner under a Joe Biden presidency than if Donald Trump had stayed in power, says Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
With a more focused, hands-on approach to controlling COVID, Biden stands a better chance of putting the pandemic behind us than did the chaotic approach of the last administration.
Beatty was the guest of The Chamber, earlier today, for our latest Business Restart Series video. The conversation focused on Canada-US relations, which Beatty compared to resembling the "mating dance of the stickleback" under Trump.
However, Canadians shouldn't get too comfortable after today's inauguration. The Democrats have historically been more protectionist than Republicans, and relations will be more complicated than "Trump/bad, Biden/good."
Closer to home, Beatty says our immediate focus needs to be on controlling the pandemic in Canada. We've had a "crazy quilt of approaches" to stopping the spread of the virus, Beatty says. A national approach is needed rather than regional restrictions. The biggest risk to business is the yo-yo effect of opening and closing, which disrupts operations and makes planning impossible.
"What worries me when I look at it today, the Team Canada approach (we had in the spring of 2020) is fraying. People are feeling victimized and powerless," Beatty said, saying it's within each of us to use the tools and knowledge we have to stop the spread. "We're not powerless."
Missed the live event? Register online to access the video recording.
If you have ideas on future uses of the former Oak Bay Lodge, the Capital Regional Health District wants to hear from you. The CRHD, a corporation of the Capital Regional District, has set up a website to engage with the community about the redevelopment of the lodge property. The senior care facility closed last summer, after moving all tenants to The Summit on Hillside Avenue.
“Working with the community to reimagine the future use of the property is a high priority project for the region,” said CRHD Board Chair Denise Blackwell.
For details on upcoming virtual open houses, as well as a feedback form and discussion guide, go to crd.bc.ca.
The City of Victoria has reached out for public input on its 2021 Draft Budget. Municipalities in BC typically begin their budget process early in the new year by compiling a wishlist that is then whittled down during deliberations. Victoria says it wants to keep any tax increase down to 1% plus inflation by focusing on essential services. To have your say on what Victoria is proposing, go to engage.victoria.ca to fill out a survey and get details on a Jan. 19 town hall.
With property assessments increasing across the board in the region, municipalities will need to adjust rates to cover their costs without increasing taxes for all property owners. The District of Saanich's website, which includes the graphic above, has good information on the financial planning process. The provincial government requires all BC municipalities to adopt their financial plans by March 31, and their annual tax rate bylaws by May 15 each year.
The Chamber will continue to advocate for fair rules to ensure municipalities don't burden businesses by raising commercial property taxes. As Chamber members, Victoria, Saanich, Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt and View Royal have shown leadership by ensuring fair financial plans. If you have questions or comments about the budget process in any of these municipalites, contact The Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to advocate on your behalf.
We're now eight months into the pandemic in BC, and businesses are finding their way — often with help from government relief programs that have been rolling out since the spring. On Tuesday, The Chamber hosted the latest offering in our Business Restart Series with tax experts Kris Wirk and Matthew Hohnsbehn. If you didn't have a chance to watch live, you can still view the recorded video.
Kris and Matthew provided insight into the most popular programs, including updates and changes to what you need to apply. This video is particularly timely for businesses that are accessing the wage subsidy, the emergency business account and the recently revised emergency rent subsidy.
Register to watch the video