A lack of crew has forced Washington State ferries to suspend its Sidney-to-Anacortes ferry until at least the end of summer. The service carried 135,000 people in 2019 before the border was closed to non-essential travel between the US and Canada at the start of the pandemic.
"International service to and from Sidney, BC remains suspended until further notice due to continued significant crewing and vessel availability challenges," reads a statement by the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Cruise ships are being warmly welcomed to Canada by the federal government. On Monday, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced the steps cruise passengers must take for Canadian ports to reopen to cruise passengers.
"We welcome cruise ships — an important part of our tourism sector — back to Canada, and we will continue working with partners to support this important industry,” Alghabra said in a news release.
Crew and passengers will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, symptom free, and:
Surging fuel costs are adding to the ongoing inflation pressures facing businesses.
Prices hit a high of 216.9 cents per litre yesterday in Sooke, caused by global uncertainty from the war in the Ukraine.
The increase is having a particularly hard impact on couriers and transportation companies, and will lead to higher prices for customers.
The Chamber is working with our partners across BC to advocate for help. For every litre of regular gas, Greater Victoria residents pay 30 cents in provincial taxes and more than 15 cents in federal taxes. The biggest cost affecting the price at the pump is the cost for crude (about half the total price), which is what has risen because of Putin's invasion.
BC's Public Safety Ministry said Monday it will not follow Alberta's lead and cut provincial fuel tax.
One idea The Chamber is looking at is calling for a carbon tax exemption for companies that transport goods or passengers. The idea being that these businesses help take single driver vehicles off the road and should be encouraged.
To find the lowest gas prices in the region, go to gasbuddy.com.
The Bank of Canada increased its interest rate to 0.5% this morning. The move had been forecasted earlier by the bank, which is attempting to use its financial tools to address soaring inflation. The bank cited the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, ongoing supply-chain bottlenecks and faster than expected economic growth for causing inflation in Canada to reach 5.1% in January.
The increase will make borrowing more expensive, but it remains uncertain whether it will be enough to cool down housing markets.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce welcomes news from the federal and provincial governments that will boost business in our region.
“I’m not much of a dancer. However, I think many of us are doing a little jig — either in our mind or literally — upon hearing this news,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. “The sun is shining a little brighter and the birds are singing a little sweeter today. We are all ready to soar after a long winter of doing what we needed to keep each other safe. Let’s keep moving forward and respect each other as we find our footing and our own pace as we begin to step a little lighter.”
The federal government’s announcement on Tuesday will make it easier for visitors to travel to our destination and enjoy all of the attractions, goods and experiences we have to offer. Starting Feb. 28, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in Canada from any country will face easier testing requirements. As well, Transport Canada will allow international flights to return to more Canadian airports starting Feb. 28.
Also, BC’s Provincial Health Officer has updated the timeline for easing restrictions in British Columbia. This is great news for the events industry, fitness centres, dance clubs and organizations such as sports teams that depend on ticket sales.
The province is lifting capacity restrictions on gatherings and events; exercise and fitness; and bars, clubs and restaurants as of 11:59 p.m., Feb. 16.
For now, business will still be required to have COVID-19 Safety Plans. As well, masks and the BC Vaccine Pass are still required in indoor public spaces.
With recently announced dates for returning in-person events to full capacity, tourism businesses can begin work on attracting major business events and conferences in our region. To help, the province recently announced the Business Events and Conferences Restart Fund, which will provide up to $5 million this fiscal year and up to $3 million next year to help restart business travel.
The money will help destination management organizations, such as Destination Greater Victoria, which will be able to submit proposals to access the new funds.
The province also announced $1.3 million to fund dedicated human resources specialists for two years to attract more workers to the tourism industry.
Throne speeches are typically more pomp than particulars, and yesterday's ceremonial start to a new session at the BC Legislature was no exception. However, there were a few items of interest to business in Greater Victoria.
Minimum wage, which went through a series of increases to reach $15.20/hour in BC, will now be tied to the rate of inflation.
The housing market, under pressure due to a lack of supply, will soon face a regulated "cooling off period" for buyers.
A new plan is being developed to train British Columbians to meet the one million job openings expected in the next 10 years.
There were also mentions of modernizing the Royal BC Museum, taking action on reconciliation and improving child care by making it a function of the Ministry of Education.
"What we didn't hear was an adequate plan to help business by reducing unfair costs such as the Employer Health Tax, or cutting red tape," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We're looking forward to hearing details next week about how government will help business and build resilience in our economy."
Chamber Event: A conversation with BC's Finance Minister on Feb. 23
With the forecast calling for plenty of sunshine in the week ahead, it's a great time to enjoy one of the many patios that popped up over the past two years.
Sharing a bite and bevvies outside with family and friends is one of the bright spots to come out of the pandemic. Patios are another example of why innovation led by business is the best way to solve challenges facing our community.
Last week, the City of Victoria unanimously approved an application from Phillips Brewing to make their patio a permanent feature of their tasting room. More pandemic patios are expected to officially become permanent in the coming months.
The provincial government announced last year that it was giving businesses until June 2022 to apply to make temporary patios permanent. The trend has caught on across Greater Victoria, including in the District of Saanich where temporary patios have also been approved until at least June.
How do you think the federal government can help Canada's economy remain robust and resilient in the years ahead?
Now is the time to engage with federal decision makers, who are looking to the business community for help understanding the private sector's challenges and opportunities. The Chamber is preparing a submission for pre-budget consultations. We're also working with the national chamber network to amplify the voice of business.
Let us know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before Feb. 18, or answering a questionnaire by Feb. 25.
The numbers for December show the tourism industry was returning to pre-pandemic levels before Omicron caused a spike in COVID-19 cases. The Victoria Tourism Bulletin, released this week by Chemistry Consulting, shows the accommodation sector in particular had improved significantly from the year before. Average daily room rates were up $47.21 in December compared to December 2020.
With restrictions brought in because of Omicron expected to ease in the next few weeks, the industry is optimistic for improving business in 2022.
If you're hoping for an early spring, there was some unwanted news from Mount Washington Wednesday morning. Van Isle Violet, an Island marmot who is famous for her Groundhog Day predictions, has indicated we can expect six more weeks of winter.
However, there was some good news this week for all the other days that have felt like Groundhog Day so far in 2022. Dr. Bonnie Henry said she expects to begin lifting restrictions by Feb. 21.
As more people receive their booster shots, and with high vaccinations rates protecting most of the population from serious illness, the Provincial Health Officer said hospitalizations caused by Omicron have likely peaked.
"We can get through this. We will reach a point when we no longer need provincial orders or extraordinary measures," Dr. Henry said.
Island Health is using the Breakwater District at Ogden Point as a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test pickup location, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority announced Tuesday.
Appointments are needed to pick up the tests and can be made by calling 1-844-901-8442. The site will be open from 8 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays.
“I am excited that our space will help to ensure the COVID-19 test get into the hands of residents,” GVHA CEO Ian Robertson said. “As I have stated over the past two years, the health and safety of Victorians is our top priority."
Chamber members continue to show leadership as we build resilience in our economy and community.
One of the best things each of us can do is make sure we register for our booster shots.
Greater Victoria has one of the highest rates of fully vaccinated people, thanks in a small part to efforts such as our #ChamberChangemaker campaign.
Show your leadership by rolling up your sleeve and sharing your commitment to getting a booster shot. Make sure to tag The Chamber and we will help you spread the word!
#ChamberChangemaker Booster edition!
Who doesn't love a good chart, especially when they remind us that there's a lot to be optimistic about despite our current uncertainty. Stephen Tapp, chief economist with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, put together his insights on Canada's labour force. Data shows that employment recovery exceeded expectations in 2021, though the Omicron wave will undoubtedly drag down the numbers for the next reporting period. "Even before these restrictions, many small businesses were struggling with rising input costs, labour difficulties and supply chain disruptions," Tapp says.
Once you're done perusing Tapp's charts, you might want to check out Maclean's Chart Week 2022. The national magazine offers a handful of charts showing how Canada's economy is faring in a number of areas.
It's hard to believe that a little more than a month ago there was so much joyous optimism as we prepared to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Of course, COVID had other plans. If you're struggling to keep your team's spirits up, you're not alone.
If there is a bright side to these soggy January days it's that we know things change quickly.
Let's control what we can, support each other and our community and keep the faith that brighter days will be back soon.
Chamber members are a resilient bunch, and we've successfully navigated turbulent waters many times. We're still building a better future together. Let us know if we can help with advocacy or creating connections for you and your business. Don't forget to sign up for Chamber events, and make sure to read all of today's BizNews for helpful info and some positive news about fellow members.
The province announced today that applications are now being accepted for the COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant. The program is for businesses that were ordered to close on Dec. 22 by the Provincial Health Officer. Gyms, fitness studios and event venues along with bars and lounges that don't serve meals are not allowed to operate under current restrictions. The available grants range from $1,000 to $10,000 and can be used for rent, wages, insurance, maintenance and utilities.
The return of Black Ball Ferry Line's MV Coho was big news in Greater Victoria when the iconic ship returned to service. Across the strait, the community of Port Angeles also cheered the return of sailings between countries. The connection boosts the economy on both sides of the border and helps bring together families as well as vacationers.
The Chamber looks forward to renewing Greater Victoria's relationship with businesses and visitors from Washington State. Check out Black Ball's website for up-to-date information on travelling on the MV Coho.
Businesses in BC are facing a new challenge as Omicron spreads rapidly through our communities, including workplaces. The province has re-introduced temporary restrictions and health authorities are continuing to assess the full impact of the new COVID-19 variant.
On Jan. 7, the province also ordered all businesses to reactivate their COVID-19 safety plans.
Employers are advised to expect a significant number of staff will be unable to work because of illness. As of Jan. 1, BC requires employers to provide five days of paid sick leave. The province has also stepped up its campaign for providing booster doses to everyone over the age of 18.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is calling on everyone to protect each other by doing the things we did earlier in the pandemic that helped reduce transmission. For example, businesses can encourage all employees to be fully vaccinated.
"This is not where any of us want to be, but we are also not where we were at the beginning of the pandemic," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We have the experience and tools to get through this wave, and we can make sure businesses are ready to return to regular operations as soon as possible."
The provincial government recently announced new financial relief for businesses forced to close due to the new restrictions.
The Chamber is currently reaching out to members to better understand what they need during this time. We encourage any member who needs help to contact us at email@example.com.
Downtown Victoria continues to show positive signs of recovering from the pandemic. The latest report from the City of Victoria contains a selection of indicators showing an increase in the value of construction and the number of business licences issued. As well, more people are working downtown, and there has been an increase in the number of pedestrians and visitors staying in hotels.
“Growing our economy is key to ensuring we have strong, diversified and resilient communities now and in the years to come,” said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams. “The data shows more workers are back in downtown offices, the value of construction has increased considerably and more business licences have been issued this year. Those are all positive signs that our economy is recovering.”
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.
The provincial government has settled on mandating five paid sick days for workers in BC, starting Jan. 1. The announcement was made today after several rounds of consultation were held this year.
"Chamber members have been clear that no one wants sick employees in the workplace," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We think five days is much more acceptable than 10 days, and that five days fits with what many businesses are already offering."
The new regulations apply to workers covered by BC's Employment Standards Act, including part-time employees. The permanent rules replace temporary measures introduced in May.
The Chamber is helping host a celebration in the Inner Harbour to mark the return of the MV Coho ferry linking Victoria with Port Angeles, WA.
A flotilla will greet Black Ball Ferry Line’s flagship vessel at 9:50 am, Nov. 8, as it arrives in Victoria with passengers and vehicles from the US. The Mwill then prepare for the return trip at 10:30 am — the first time Canadians have been able to take a ferry to Washington State since the start of the pandemic.
The MV Coho can carry up to 1,000 passengers and 115 vehicles, and has served the region for 60 years. Ferry service, suspended in March 2020, will resume with two sailings per day for the rest of the year.
The deadline for registering with the BC government's Land Owner Transparency Registry has been extended to Nov. 30, 2022. The database was created to fight money laundering and will create a record of "beneficial owners" of property in BC.
According to the province, beneficial owners include:
The extension was granted to help ensure more property owners are able to comply with the regulation.
Starting Nov. 30, the Victoria Airport Authority can begin welcoming international flights. Transport Canada announced yesterday it was easing restrictions on where flights can arrive in order to allow more travellers to visit the country. Currently, only 10 airports are open to flights arriving from outside Canada.
The airports are working with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada to implement safety measures ahead of Nov. 30.
“Increased vaccination levels have allowed us to safely re-open these additional Canadian airports to international passenger flights," Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said. "This measure will help ensure that travellers are able to access more regional airports for their international travels this winter, while continuing to support the Government of Canada’s measured approach to re-opening our border.”
In an effort to reduce spending, the federal government announced two new targeted relief programs to replace now-expired subsidies.
The Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Program and the Hardest-Hit Business Recovery Program will be accessible to fewer businesses than previous programs. The wage and rent subsidies, specifically, were widely used by businesses across Canada to ride out the pandemic recession. Both programs ended Oct. 23.
Eligibility for the new programs requires businesses to show significant revenue loss over 12 months of the pandemic as well as in the current month.