Join The Chamber for a discussion with the Vancouver Island Transportation Corridor Coalition and Island Corridor Foundation on the work done towards identifying the need for, and public interest in, reinstating Island Rail Service.
"The provincial government is quickly approaching a critical decision point and must provide an answer on the future of the Island corridor by March 14," said coalition representative Paul Robinson, noting that reinstating Island rail service could help the Island's tourism economy and get more vehicles off the roads. "VITCC believes that rail is, by far, the most equitable mode of ground-based transportation as there are no age, health, ability, income impediments, and no requirements for vehicle operator ownership, licensing, and associated expenses."
The Chamber will be leading the discussion on rail as part of our role in The Island Chamber Advocacy Alliance, connecting business across the Island.
This free, virtual event is open to members of Chambers across Vancouver Island.
Island Corridor Foundation: Member since 2020
A movement that initially took hold in the City of Victoria is set to become a Canada-wide initiative as of Dec. 20. The federal Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations aims to stop the manufacture, import and sale of bags, cutlery and other items made with problematic plastics.
The Chamber worked closely with Victoria and other local governments. Our goal was to make sure the initial regulations incorporated innovations that businesses were already using to address consumer concerns. The public has, for many years, supported businesses that provided alternatives to plastic waste. Having the same rules across the country will help businesses work with the requirements efficiently and effectively.
Changing times create disruption but also present tremendous opportunities for forward-thinking organizations. The tide of high inflation has highlighted the need to create more resilient local production and supply networks.
Groceries are a good example of the need for investment in suppliers located closer to home. The provincial government's Buy BC program and the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance's Island Good shows the value of supporting innovation led by business.
On Monday, BuyBC hosted an event in Victoria called Every Chef Needs a Farmer, Every Farmer Needs a Chef. Among the exhibitors was Finest at Sea Ocean Products.
"There is clear evidence of the value that bring local brings to a community, but it's not always top of mind when we're at the grocery story purchasing produce for our families," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The Buy BC and Island Good programs makes it easier to remember the value in buying local, both in terms of freshness and health as well as in ensuring local farmers feel they are supported so they can take the risks needed to build their business."
Innovation led by business is vital to addressing climate change. A prime example is the work being done by Harbour Air to switch to an all-electric fleet. On Aug. 18, that goal came a little closer as the company celebrated the successful 45 mile flight of a De Havilland Beaver. The plane was completely retrofitted in 2019 to operate using 100% electricity.
“I am excited to report that this historic flight on the ePlane went exactly as planned” said Kory Paul, Harbour Air’s Vice President of Flight Operations.
To stay up to speed on the latest progress from Harbour Air, go to ePlane Updates.
Fueled by surging gas prices, Canada's inflation rate rose again last month to 8.1%. If the cost of gas is taken out, the rate would be 6.5%.
Other factors contributing to our higher cost of living include jumps in grocery bills, accommodation and ticket prices for sports and concert events. If there is a silver lining it is that the increase was less than expected. Whether this signals peak inflation is unclear. Many experts are forecasting inflation to begin falling in the next few months.
The Chamber is working with a number of members to get a clearer picture of what rising rates mean for business. Watch for updates in future editions of BizNews.
British Columbia will be among the first provinces to engage in consultations with the federal government on planning for a new economy based on renewable energy.
The Regional Energy and Resource Tables will include representatives from municipalities, First Nations, universities, industry and business groups. The discussion will look at opportunities that come with investing in a net-zero economy.
“It's about actually doing the manufacturing of batteries and electric vehicles and a range of other products that utilize critical minerals in this country,” Minister of Natural Resources Jonathon Wilkinson told Glacier Media. “I see this as actually a generational opportunity for Canada.”
An initiative that started in the City of Victoria, was supported by business and took root across Greater Victoria is moving to the national stage. As of the end of this year, the federal government is banning the production or importation of single-use plastic bags, straws, stir sticks containers and other items that clog up landfills and contaminate natural ecosystems.
The Chamber worked closely with local governments on the initial regulations to ensure government followed innovations already being introduced by business. This helped the implementation unfold smoothly as the rules were a response to public demand as identified by businesses, ensuring success. The best way to address the seriousness of climate change is by supporting innovations led by business.
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.
Last June's heat dome caused major disruption across the province, shutting down a number of businesses because of uncomfortable or even unsafe conditions. The weather event was especially damaging because it caught people off guard. Tragically, the extreme heat was also linked to the deaths of 619 British Columbians. The province has now launched a Heat Alert and Response System to identify and support people at risk during extreme heat. The system will categorize extreme heat events as warnings or emergenices, with thresholds varying across regions.
As well, prevention and mitigation strategies can help the public better prepare for future climate events.
With cooler than seasonal temperatures so far this spring, experts are continuing to watch their long-range forecasts for any indication of a summer heat wave.
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 Chamber hosted BC Ferries President and CEO Mark Collins last week, with more than 60 business leaders at the Coast Victoria Hotel & Marina by APA.
“We had a highly engaged audience who learned about ongoing efforts to electrify the ferry fleet and reduce greenhouse gas and noise emissions," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said, adding that many employers in the room were also keenly interested in BC Ferries work to find and keep workers. The recent addition of 500 new employees helped the corporation add more than 100 extra sailings for the Victoria Day Weekend.
City of Colwood Mayor Rob Martin, who attended the meeting, stood up to eloquently ask everyone in the room to call on the province to fund a formal study of a commuter ferry between Royal Bay and downtown Victoria. The concept is supported by BC Ferries and The Chamber, and now requires political will to become a reality.
“The Chamber has a long history of working with BC Ferries to connect this vital Island link with leaders in Greater Victoria’s business community and it was great to hold another successful in person meeting,” Williams said of the May 12 Business Leaders Luncheon, sponsored by Seaspan Victoria Shipyards.
Innovation led by business is key to tackling climate change and The Chamber is committed to working with all levels of government to help them understand how the private sector is providing real solutions to meet public demand. The City of Victoria has designated staff to work on ensuring food service businesses are using the most sustainable materials available.
City staff have developed a Draft PDF of a Sustainable Takeout Guide that they hope will help businesses. Staff have also asked The Chamber for feedback on the city’s plan. The Chamber worked closely with the city on plastic bags regulations holding a roundtable of city staff and business owners to identify what was already working, what could be efficiently implemented and the tools needed to do so. As a result, the regulation was welcomed by most businesses and served as a model for municipalities across the region.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made several appearances in Greater Victoria on Monday, including a meeting with City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps to talk about housing affordability, climate change and the opioid crisis.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister was at Royal Roads University to speak about the federal government's effort to increase sales of electric vehicles and the number of charging stations.
The PMO announced it wants 60% of all new vehicles sales to be electric by 2030, and 100% by 2035.
To help British Columbians deal with high gas prices, ICBC announced last week it is providing drivers with a one-time $110 rebate ($160 for commercial drivers).
Rising fuel prices — caused by what Premier John Horgan called "Putin's illegal war in Ukraine" — have made life more expensive and led to calls for the province to reduce fuel taxes. And while consumers will welcome the rebate, there are concerns that the cash back from ICBC could increase demand for fuel. A better solution, some economists say, would be to focus relief on commercial vehicles facing higher costs — costs that will inevitably be added to the price of goods and services.
The ICBC rebate will be directly deposited in customer's accounts or applied to their credit card, depending on how they pay for vehicle insurance. ICBC will not text or email information about the rebate and warns customers to be vigilant about fraud attempts.
BC Minister of Finance Selina Robinson met with Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce members today to address your questions about the province's 2022 Budget, unveiled yesterday.
Minister Robinson expects economic growth even as provincial debt increases.
This year's $71 billion budget is forecast to have a deficit of $5.5 billion, followed by a $4.2 billion deficit in 2023/24. Robinson said the main reasons for the deficits are the anticipated costs of rebuilding damaged transportation infrastructure to withstand future climate events.
Asked whether the province planned to ease the burdens of the EHT — which took $207 million more than anticipated from BC employers last year — or paid sick days, the minister defended the government's current policies. She also acknowledged concerns about linking the minimum wage to inflation and said she will work to make the change as smooth and predictable as possible for business.
Greater Victoria is getting two complex care facilities, though specific locations were not announced. The budget also includes $84 million over three years for planning and capital funding for upgrading the Belleville Terminal.
The tourism sector has been allocated $25 million to help with recovery efforts, though a further $915 million was set aside for potential pandemic-related expenses, including health care costs or economic recovery funding.
Greater Victoria is also in line for numerous “bus and shoulder” expansions to improve regional transit, and money has been earmarked for the transit hub at Uptown in Saanich.
“The Chamber has long advocated for child care as an investment in our economy, and we applaud the province’s commitment to adding 40,000 new spaces within seven years. We also are encouraged by some of the steps to address our lack of housing supply,” Williams said.
A survey of Greater Victoria businesses will gather data to help better understand challenges facing the region's economy in 2022. The survey, launched by the South Island Prosperity Partnership, is open until Feb. 11 and takes less than 10 minutes to fill out. Questions range from what your experiences have been with supply-chain disruptions to various affordability concerns, including housing supply.
The results of the survey will be used by industry and business associations, including The Chamber, to help our advocacy efforts with government.
An area near the heart of Greater Victoria is changing quickly as our region grows. To help guide development, the District of Saanich has unveiled its Uptown-Douglas Plan for the next 20 to 30 years.
“It really is an ambitious plan and future envisioning that addresses climate change, affordability and the quality of life,” Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes told CHEK News.
Some of the highlights of the plan include creating a central district and transportation hub for a fast-growing population that will be less reliant on cars. The area is currently the crossroads for a number of major routes in the region.
The plan goes to Public Hearing Feb. 15.
More housing, especially housing that is affordable for working individuals and families, is vital for our regional economy to reach its potential.
Applications open Jan. 26 for the third intake of the CleanBC Communities Fund, which has $134 million in federal and provincial money for initiatives that address climate change.
Projects are eligible for funding if they manage renewable energy, improve access to clean-energy transportation, improve energy efficiency of buildings or generate clean energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Businesses, non-profits, municipalities and Indigenous communities can apply.
To date, more than $240 million has been invested in local projects that increase clean energy and energy efficiency in buildings, transportation and other community-owned infrastructure.
As we head into the heart of the holiday season, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has put together a wish list for a few of the things we want in 2022:
"Good business builds great community, and we look forward to helping our members connect and grow in 2022," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We'll continue working on our advocacy efforts to ensure business can get the investments they need to continue leading the way on sustainability, inclusion and resilience."
Let us know what your wish is for the business community in 2022, and how we can help you achieve success in the year ahead.
Areas of Greater Victoria are experiencing their wettest fall on record, with the Gonzales weather station reporting almost 300 times the rainfall of a typical year.
The parade of storms caused substantial damage to infrastructure in BC. And while the current forecast suggests the worst is over, the coming winter is expected to be wetter and colder than most years. Meteorologists at the Weather Network have released their winter forecast and say we can expect "tumultuous temperature patterns."
The prediction is based on a La Niña weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean that will bring frigid weather that could extend ski season well into March.
"This will bring an abundance of snow to the alpine regions, and, at times, we expect significant snowfall across lower elevations, including Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, Victoria and the Okanagan Valley," the network's report says.
As November's heavy rains continue to cause disruptions on BC highways, a group of Island transportation advocates are renewing calls to bring back rail service as an alternative route over the Malahat.
Highway 1 was closed after the Nov. 15 atmospheric river brought record rainfall that caused mudslides on the Malahat. The highway closure contributed to supply shortages in Greater Victoria.
The recent South Island Transportation Study found that bringing back rail service would be too expensive, but their numbers are contested by the Island Corridor Foundation.
The Chamber has long advocated for better transportation planning in Greater Victoria. If a rail service is feasible, it's worth investing in the Island's infrastructure so we can avoid future disruptions to the supply chain.
The province has extended fuel rationing requirements for non-essential vehicles until Dec. 14. The limit does not apply to essential vehicles, which include commercial transport trucks, home care workers and refrigerated trucks.
Rationing is required due to the shutdown of the Trans Mountain pipeline because of intense flooding in southern BC. The pipeline, which supplies most of the fuel used on Vancouver Island, is expected to be restarted later this week.
The City of Langford has adopted a policy to help reduce the carbon footprint of new construction in the municipality. The low-carbon concrete policy takes affect June 1, 2022 and will require all city-owned or solicited projects to use concrete produced with carbon dioxide mineralization technologies. The policy also applies to private projects greater than 50 cubic meters.
The Chamber applauds this innovation led by business as real solution for climate challenges affecting us locally and globally.
Harbour Air is showing how innovation led by business is critical to making changes needed due to the climate crisis. Clean BC's Go Electric ARC program is investing $1.5 million to help Harbour Air convert to fully electric aircraft.
“This funding is imperative to help us do that and show other companies across all sectors how investing in innovation can result in commercial success,” Harbour Air president Randy Wright told the Times Colonist.
Harbour Air made history in December 2019 when its fully electric aircraft flew for the first time, ushering in the Electric Age of Aviation. The project is now working on improving engine design and battery systems, and will support 21 full-time jobs.
The movement away from single-use plastics is being addressed by new initiatives announced this week for BC and Victoria.
Following feedback from the public, the province is updating laws that allow for regulation and prohibition of packaging materials that are harmful to the environment. Businesses have led the way on sustainable packaging with innovative solutions that meet the demands of customers.
The City of Victoria is also looking to cut waste disposal in the municipality in half by 2040. This week, the city announced a new engagement process to hear from businesses and residents. A survey for businesses has 13 questions to help inform its plan.
The survey will be open until Nov. 22.