Greater Victoria has officially joined a continent-wide initiative to create high-performance buildings that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The 2030 Districts Network is a non-profit organization working to transform the built environment in cities around the world and promote sustainability.
The Greater Victoria 2030 District consists of 36 buildings and 3.5 million square feet of space, represented by major property managers in the region: Anthem Properties, Colliers International, Cushman & Wakefield, Ivanhoe Cambridge, Jawl Properties, Richmond Property Group, Shape Properties, City of Victoria, District of Saanich and the Province of BC.
Businesses, local governments and non-profits can now access larger rebates through CleanBC's Specialty-Use Vehicle Incentive and Commercial Vehicle Pilot programs.
Vehicles eligible for SUVI rebates include medium- and heavy-duty vehicles such as electric-battery or hydrogen-fueled passenger buses, airport and port service vehicles and heavy-duty transport trucks, as well as smaller specialty-use vehicles such as motorcycles, cargo e-bikes, and low-speed utility trucks. Rebates will now cover 33% of the cost, up to a maximum of $100,000 per vehicle.
Organizations can also access $11 million for piloting unique or large deployments of medium- and heavy-duty or very large electric vehicles, such as domestic air, marine or rail transportation through the CVP program. Eligible applicants can compete to receive up to one-third of total costs in rebates for vehicles and charging or refueling infrastructure.
The federal government has moved forward on a Chamber advocacy initiative, paving the way for international students to help employers fill workforce vacancies.
The Chamber called on government to invest in retaining international students, who often spend co-op work terms learning Canadian skills needed by local employers. WorkBC forecasts Vancouver Island will face a massive jobs deficit by 2029, as our regional economy grows and our population ages out of the workforce.
International students can now apply for an open work permit that will be valid for 18 months and allow them to continue to build a life in Canada. "This new policy will help more graduates fill pressing needs in areas like health care, technology and more," a federal government news release said.
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 email@example.com and we will be happy to advocate on your behalf.
Can a gondola help make it easier to move commuters between the West Shore and downtown Victoria? It's not so far fetched.
Embracing opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be a major theme in 2021. The Chamber has long been an advocate for innovations led by business as the most realistic approach to mitigating climate change.
Colwood Mayor Rob Martin has a vision to turn 10-acres of city-owned land into a park-and-ride featuring a gondola to move people from a site behind the new Royal BC Museum archive building to a proposed ferry terminal at Royal Bay. The idea is to reduce space needed along the waterfront for a commuter ferry, which already has the blessing of BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins.
The Chamber supports the idea of reducing vehicle traffic between downtown and the West Shore, and we would like to see the province fund a study to determine the feasibility of Martin's plan.
The new year brings new assessments for property owners in BC. The real estate sector in Greater Victoria was a bright spot in 2020 and it's not surprising that assessments are up across the region.
A total of 8,947 properties sold last year, up 17.1% from 2019. The increased demand and limited inventory has raised house prices about 5 to 10% in the region.
In response, the province has raised the threshold for eligibility for the Home Owner Grant to $1.625 million. The province has also taken on administration of the grant, which was formerly done by municipalities.
To listen to Chamber CEO Bruce Williams discuss the state of real estate in Greater Victoria, check out our Chamber Chat with the Victoria Real Estate Board.
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
Canada's Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly said BC could have its own agency to help businesses bounce forward after COVID-19.
“We need to be much more focused on British Columbians’ realities and needs, and the pandemic has exacerbated this reality,” Joly said in a report by Postmedia this week. "When you look at other regions of the country, there is a very strong presence of the federal government. But that’s not necessarily the case as much in British Columbia.”
The Western Economic Diversification Agency currently serves BC as well as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joly was a guest speaker last Friday at the South Island Prosperity Partnership's Rising Economy Week.
Joly, pictured above, spoke to Chamber members last year as part of our Business Leader Series of luncheons.
Meet the candidates: Chamber hosts discussion on priority issues for business in Victoria
The Chamber hosted a virtual Candidate Discussion today ahead of the City of Victoria's by-election on Dec. 12.
The panel featured five candidates selected for their experience and approach to business issues facing the city. We also think voters should be aware of which candidates are running as independents, and who is running on behalf of a slate. The five who took part in the discussion:
You can watch the video at victoriachamber.ca/vicbyelection. On the same page you can find the Questions and Answers open to all 11 candidates on the ballot.
For more information on when and where to vote, including for those who own property in the city but reside outside it, go to victoria.ca.
What does local mean to you? The answer to that question will be key to ensuring Greater Victoria is able to recover from the pandemic and gain added resilience as we move forward. As the province ramps up temporary restrictions to try and reduce the transmission of COVID-19, not everyone is being impacted equally. Downtown Victoria, in particular, is facing a difficult few weeks as the provincial government backs away from its plan to move workers back to their offices.
“If people are not coming downtown to work. They are probably not coming downtown to shop,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told CHEK News, noting that suburban hubs are faring better. The Chamber urges people to find ways to support business in need. Why not make a special trip downtown while parking is abundant and protocols are in place to ensure customers' safety? It's also easy to support businesses by purchasing from them online for pickup or delivery.
The Downtown Victoria Business Association has a Shop Downtown from Home campaign underway encouraging locals to support businesses in the downtown core.
Please do what you can to support each other so we can get through this together. #InItTogetherYYJ #ChamberLocalVicBC