The best time to prepare for emergencies is before they happen. With summer's heat waning and the rains yet to fall this autumn, The Chamber is working on strategies to help businesses be ready for future climate events.
"Through our Public Policy and Advocacy committee and my conversations with Chamber members, we have recognized that the reality of doing business is planning for the unexpected," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We want to see businesses have strong representation on the recently announced task force that the Premier is planning to support people affected by climate emergencies."
The expert task force on emergencies will work to determine how the province can better support communities facing wildfires, flooding and other climate events that are now expected to regularly occur.
If you're a chamber member interested in learning more about planning for climate change, or a business that can help others prepare, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll keep you posted on Chamber's initiatives.
Travel restrictions are being lifted tonight for many areas of Interior BC devastated by wildfires, but for people and businesses forced to flee their homes recovery will take time.
“The emergency order we put in place on Saturday has had the effect we required and thousands of hotel rooms were made available for people forced from their homes, as well as the many firefighters and emergency crews who are protecting us during the worst wildfire season in our history," BC's Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness said in a news release.
The Chamber has been in conversation with affected chambers to offer support during this difficult time.
"We know that Greater Victoria is an exceptionally compassionate and generous community," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "There are ways to help now, and there will be a need to help communities as they work to recover from so much loss."
How to help:
The board of the Capital Regional District has agreed to a $53.5 million plan that will widen and add lighting to sections of the Galloping Goose and Lochside regional trails. The sections are on the Galloping Goose between the Selkirk Trestle and Grange Road, and the Lochside Trail between the Switch Bridge and Borden Street.
The plan was developed over several years through public engagement. About three million people use the trails per year and the CRD says user volumes "will increase significantly due to trends in population growth and a shift toward active transportation and healthy lifestyles."
Cyclists account for about 80% of traffic on the trail, compared to 20% for pedestrians.
The City of Victoria has added an electric fire truck to its growing fleet of electric vehicles. The Rosenbauer Revolutionary Technology pumper fire engine, currently being assembled, is expected to arrive by the end of the year. Funding from the provincial government allowed the city to purchase the electric fire engine for about the same cost as a typical fire engine.
Vancouver and Brampton are the only other fire departments in Canada that have ordered RT electric fire engines, which are in use in Los Angeles, Berlin, Amsterdam and Dubai.
A panel of experts has been tasked with developing a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan for the City of Victoria. The goal is to address multiple complex issues such as "declining civility and social cohesion, increasing social disorder, inadequate housing supply and homelessness, poverty, inequality, addictions, mental and physical health challenges, criminal activity and other factors."
The panel will work over the next 15 months to advise Victoria council on immediate interventions as well as long-term solutions.
"I’m in frequent contact with the business community throughout the downtown and beyond and I’m consistently hearing that the impact of the pandemic is far from over," Fort Properties Ltd. CEO/co-owner Suzanne Bradbury said in the city's news release. "I believe that this is the right initiative at the right time and I’m honoured to bring a small business perspective.”
Along with Bradbury, the panel includes:
In Greater Victoria, The Chamber serves as the voice of business by amplifying what we hear from our members. We can then further raise the volume by working with our national network to include the questions and concerns of more than 200,000 businesses across Canada.
A recent example is the 2024 pre-budget recommendations submitted by the Canadian Chamber to the federal government. The submission calls for for investment in trade-enhancing infrastructure, easing the burden of doing business, facilitating the transition to net-zero, enabling an innovative economy, attracting and retaining talent and taking a lead role in life sciences.
To learn more about the work done by The Chamber's Public Policy and Advocacy committee, contact email@example.com.
The provincial government has expanded rules to further reduce the use of hard-to-recycle plastics. The Single-Use and Plastic Waste Prevention Regulation will cover "shopping bags, disposable food service accessories, oxo-degradable plastics and food service packaging made of polystyrene foam, PVC, PVDC, compostable or biodegradable plastics."
The requirements begin to take force in December to allow time for businesses to use up existing inventory.
The federal government has already announced sales of these items will be banned as of Dec. 20.
Island communities cut off by wildfires received some good news as the province announced Highway 4 will reopen to limited single-lane travel starting this weekend.
Fallen trees and debris that had been blocking the route have now been cleared. As well, mesh curtains suspended by cranes are being deployed to protect passersby as the impacted slope continues to settle alongside the highway.
An alternate route continues to be used by about 1,000 vehicles daily, helping ensure essential goods are available. Tourism support includes increased flights so that visitors can bypass the affected road.
A report released yesterday from the Canada Energy Regulator says that electricity will take a lead role in reshaping the future of the country.
Canada’s Energy Future 2023: Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2050 offers three scenarios based on the pace of climate leadership in the years ahead. Two of the scenarios have Canada reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.
To accommodate the shift, Canada will need to generate more energy from wind, nuclear and hydro.
The situation is still uncertain for Vancouver Island communities that have had their main transportation routes cut off by wildfire.
Highway 4, connecting Tofino and Ucluelet with Port Alberni and the rest of the Island, remains closed after fire burned more than two square kilometres of forest along the route.
"Right now, our thoughts are with everyone in those Island communities," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The alternate routes are for essential traffic only. They're needed to ensure supplies and emergency personnel can get through. So we're working with our friends at 4VI to encourage people who had planned trips to impacted communities to consider other Island destinations that remain open."
Yesterday, the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce relayed that they're trying to stay optimistic. However, businesses will be challenged until they are able to fully reopen.
“(We're) really pleased to hear that the fire is now being held, so that gives some businesses time to arrange for alternative arrangements for things coming in, but this is definitely going to be hard on the community,” Alberni Chamber CEO Jolleen Dick told CHEK News.
A new era for rapid transit in Greater Victoria began this week with the launch of BC Transit's Blink RapidBus Route 95. The first of the orange-topped buses hit the road Monday, taking passengers from Downtown Victoria to Langford. The new route replaces Route 50 and promises more convenient service with buses running every seven to eight minutes in peak times.
"Rapid transit takes time to implement, so while this modest step will increase our service levels, frequency and reliability for customers, more infrastructure is needed to make Blink RapidBus even faster," states BC Transit's website.
In a big win for business, sustainability and Chamber advocacy, the provincial government announced today it was moving forward to bring shore power to Ogden Point.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, announced $9 million for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. The money will be used for planning and installation of infrastructure that will let cruise ships turn off their engines while docked by enabling access to electricity from BC Hydro.
GVHA expects 320 cruise ships this season, carrying 850,000 passengers.
“Innovation led by business is key to addressing the biggest challenges facing our community and our planet,” Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams said. “Adding shore power to Ogden Point benefits people living nearby. It also shows how the cruise ship industry is adapting to public demand and embracing new ways of doing business. The Chamber has a long history of working closely with all levels of government and the cruise industry. We are grateful for the work of Minister Fleming to help champion this important project for our region.”
GVHA has been working on plans for shore power with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, BC Hydro, the cruise industry and the City of Victoria.
“Today’s funding announcement by the Province of British Columbia is key to launching the next phase of this important initiative,” GVHA CEO Robert Lewis-Manning said. “Shore power is one of several initiatives supporting a sustainable working port cherished by the Lekwungen people, residents and visitors alike."
The City of Victoria is moving forward on a bylaw that will require restaurants to serve food and drinks in reusable containers. The bylaw will also make single-use straws, stir sticks and utensils only available by request.
Victoria council made the decision at its March 9 Committee of the Whole meeting and will look to ratify the new rules at the March 23 council meeting. The bylaw would then go through readings in April before going to the BC Ministry of Environment for approval before being officially adopted.
City council did decide not to look at imposing a fee for using disposable cups and containers, noting that the impact would not likely be worth the burden it would add to businesses.
If the measure makes it though all stages of approvals, businesses will have a grace period to implement the rules.
Parking in downtown Victoria is one of those topics that has sparked debate in coffee shops, board rooms and council chambers for decades. Whether its a frustrated driver searching for an open spot or a cyclist lamenting car-centric culture, it seems we all have an opinion on parking.
That said, compromise is unavoidable if we want to make progress as a region on this extremely complex issue. Parking has been in the news recently as the City of Victoria looks to raise revenue to cover rising expenses. One idea council is considering is to expand the hours that drivers are required to pay for street parking.
Another recent story involving parking involves plans by Merchant House Capital to build a 12-storey tower with 160 rental units on Douglas Street where the heritage Victoria Press Building (former home of the Times Colonist) is located. Currently, the plans state that no parking will be provided for the rental units. The proposal will go to the neighbourhood community at a meeting on March 20 before a formal proposal is submitted for municipal approval.
Meanwhile, another important project that could add 1,500 much-needed homes in downtown Victoria has taken an unexpected turn. The duly considered proposal by Starlight Investments for Harris Green has passed third reading but now has additional amendments to parking requirements that need to be addressed before the plan is adopted.
"I know that Victoria city council has agreed that housing supply is a top priority for residents of the entire region, of which downtown is an important part of," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "And we know that part of the attraction of living downtown is its proximity to the many services and experiences in neighbouring municipalities. It's one thing to walk or cycle to work on weekdays, but many people use their weekends to shop outside the city proper, or to visit forests and beaches that are a short car ride away."
Regardless of personal opinions about parking, the fact is we continue to require it — for residents, delivery drivers and commuters. Parents need vehicles to transport kids from care and school to sports and activities. Seniors and others with mobility issues use vehicles to get from point to point, and often require parking close to their destination.
With the adoption of zero emission standards and accelerating shift to electric vehicles, opinions about the future of driving are shifting. Care needs to be taken before we lose a resource that is vital to commerce, and that will be essentially impossible to get back when it's gone.
Employers need employees, so there's reason to applaud initiatives that make our region more attractive as a place to live, work and raise a family. Making neighbourhoods more accessible for people to walk or cycle to work, and making those routes safer, are steps in the right direction.
“We know that people make healthier, greener transportation choices when the options are there,” said Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming, who serves as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Last week, the province announced $20 million in funding for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Grants program to help cover costs of multi-use pathways, protected bike lanes, pedestrian bridges and regional connections, as well as lighting, sidewalks and other safety improvements. Greater Victoria projects include:
It's Budget Season for all levels of government. After the province reveals BC Budget 2023 on Feb. 28, the federal government will announce its own budget at some point in the following weeks. Municipalities in BC don't have the same flexibility, with legislation requiring financial plans be adopted by March 31 and tax rate bylaws before May 15.
The Chamber is working to remind Greater Victoria municipalities that they need to support their community's businesses through fair taxation. We encourage Chamber members to get involved with their local government through however they can. In the City of Victoria, for example, Council is asking The Chamber for member feedback on a 6.96% increase to residential property taxes that's largely the result of inflation. While that's down from the almost 9% increase initially proposed in January, there might be more opportunities to find efficiencies.
Businesses that pay property taxes in Victoria are urged to voice their formal feedback by:
If you have questions or concerns about municipalities outside Victoria, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And watch for more coverage on The Chamber's budget advocacy on social media and in upcoming editions of BizNews.
The planned RapidBus route between the West Shore and downtown Victoria will be a game changer for commuters when it launches April 10.
The service will run every 15 minutes, making the ride more convenient. That's key for convincing people to leave their cars at home. Buses will run between 7am and 10pm Monday to Saturday and 8am to 10pm on Sundays. There will be additional buses during peak times on weekdays to improve customer experience, BC Transit said.
"Smart regional transportation is important for businesses that depend on staff being able to get to the workplace," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Taking the bus instead of a car is much better environmentally, especially with BC Transit's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its fleet."
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.