Finding staff is a major challenge for businesses, especially in the hospitality sector. The issue is affecting businesses across the province, and, on the Sunshine Coast, one group seems to have found a temporary solution. Coasters helping Coasters is a group of mostly retired seniors who are filling in at restaurants and cafes in Sechelt. Their aim is to help keep their businesses open, but they say the idea could work anywhere.
What do you think about seniors stepping up to help fill vacancies in Greater Victoria? Tell us your thoughts and share your solutions by emailing email@example.com.
With immunization rates in Greater Victoria among the highest in BC, it's not surprising there has been little outcry for vaccine mandates for local businesses. The Chamber's staff are 100% fully vaccinated and many of our members tell us they have had the same voluntary commitment from their employees.
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist that businesses play a leadership role in their communities and that includes finding ways to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
“I think it’s fair to say that most businesses put the health and safety of their employees as a paramount concern,” he said. “Everybody’s concerned about the economic side, but, realistically, if everybody’s healthy and in a good place so that they can continue to work and things function (that's how we move forward).”
Vaccine mandates are in place for federal workers, and there have been calls to make immunization mandatory for employees of the University of Victoria. And, last week, BC announced all health-care workers in care homes will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said she believes businesses are within their rights to impose vaccine mandates.
“These are business decisions that they need to make in conjunction with their own labour lawyer advisers,” she said. “But I do think it is a perfectly valid thing.”
An influx of visitors to Greater Victoria is providing a healthy boost to businesses catering to tourists. BC's Interior is suffering from a prolonged wildfire season and a surge in COVID-19 cases. The unfavorable conditions there are suspected as one of the reasons for the increase in visitors to our region.
Downtown Victoria Business Association executive director Jeff Bray told CHEK News that retailers are seeing a trend of people who changed their vacation plans and are visiting Vancouver Island instead of the Okanagan.
Tourism statistics for July have not yet been released, but Chemistry Consulting's numbers from June show a healthy increase from 2020, though still far cry from June 2019.
The Chamber supports BC's immunization efforts and we believe the evidence shows COVID-19 vaccinations offer our best chance to put the pandemic behind us.
However, mandating vaccination for BC employers requires taking care to ensure human rights are respected. Unlike the US, where the Department of Justice has opined that employers can require employees be vaccinated, BC's Human Rights Commission has issued general advice for treating people differently based on their vaccination status.
Essentially, the commission says workplaces must balance the need to be safe with avoiding discrimination against people who have adequate alternative means for preventing COVID-19 transmission.
The lack of clarity means the issue will be front and centre with HR departments for the foreseeable future.
Victoria is legendary for the number of places you can go for a meal or grab a drink, and now Destination Greater Victoria has crunched the numbers to prove the city really does have more restaurants, pubs and bars per capita than any other in Canada.
According to DGV's analysis, Victoria has 4.6 eateries and watering holes per 1,000 residents. That compares to 3.6 for second-place Vancouver and third-place 3.4 for Niagara Falls. The data came from Statistics Canada’s June 2020 Canadian Business Counts for restaurants, eateries, pubs, and bars, while the population figures are from the 2016 Census.
Find your next culinary adventure and help support a local business! #ChamberLocalVicBC
The BC Day long-weekend was a boon for tourism and hospitality businesses, with reports of full patios and dining rooms, and sold out ferries.
Hotels and attractions are also reporting an influx of tourists even as businesses continue to struggle finding and keeping workers. We expect this double-edged blend of increased vibrancy and staffing challenges will only increase after Canada re-opens the border on Aug. 9 to fully vaccinated travellers from the US.
The end of restrictions is welcome news but also comes as concerns grow over the Delta variant. It's now the most common strain of COVID and spreads quickly among unvaccinated populations. Fortunately, Greater Victoria has some of the highest immunization rates on the planet, with almost 90% of people 12 and up having had a first dose and almost 70% fully vaccinated. To ensure that trend continues, the province has launched a new campaign, Vax for BC, with initiatives such as today's Walk In Wednesday, where anyone in need of a first or second shot can show up without an appointment.
The Chamber applauds all of our members who are immunized, and we encourage everyone to share their vaccine photos. Don't forget to tag us and be a #ChamberChangeMaker!
It's time to get the Citizens' Assembly process back on track. In 2018, voters in the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria gave a mandate to their respective councils to explore the pros and cons of merging the two municipalities. The good faith discussions were interrupted by the global pandemic, but they're far from forgotten. In fact, recent news about policing challenges shows how vital a Citizens' Assembly might be for the future of our region.
The Chamber has long advocated for Better Regional Services. We don't know what a Citizens' Assembly will find, but it is the right approach to get answers to questions about governance — and merging services such as policing — in Greater Victoria's largest municipalities.
As the province moves closer to Step 4 of the BC Restart Plan on Sept. 7, it's time for the Citizens' Assembly process to get back on track.
The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) has reported it ended its fiscal year on March 31 with $199.6 billion in managed assets and a net return of 16.5% for its pension plan clients.
BCI's CEO and CIO, Gordon Fyfe, told Black Press a shift to managing assets in-house freed up $3 billion. Those savings are now being invested as well as covering the cost of 400 new employees.
“It certainly helps the economy. We now have 600 people managing $200 billion based here in Victoria. Rather than everybody around the world taking that money from our pensioners, that money’s staying here in the province," Fyfe told Black Press.
The provincial government announced grants of up to $1 million for major tourism businesses last Friday, answering calls to help this hard hit sector. Grants of up to $500,000 were also available for tour bus companies and rural attractions.
The funds were approved for 83 business across BC, including a number located in Greater Victoria.
Recipients in our region include The Butchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum, Prince of Whales Whale Watching, LA Limousines and Wilson's Group of Companies.
“The sector called on government to provide grants, not loans, and we worked with tourism sector leaders to make sure these vital businesses and non-profits can continue to employ residents and draw visitors to attractions throughout BC," Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Melanie Mark said Friday.
The funds will help the industry with its ongoing recovery as the number of visitors from across Canada increases. The border is set to open to US travellers on Aug. 9, providing another boost for tourism businesses.
With 62% of eligible British Columbians fully vaccinated, we are in a very good place this summer. The pandemic, at least for our region, is starting to feel almost over as COVID-19 becomes another communicable disease we know how to control.
However, the virus continues to spread among unvaccinated people. On Tuesday, the province announced a new campaign to make it easier to reach people who weren't able to participate in the initial immunization rollout.
The Vax for BC campaign will shift focus from mass clinics to mobile ones, making the process more convenient. On Aug. 4, all clinics will also offer walk-in service for people who have not registered.
The Chamber is part of the national Faster Together initiative, whose studies show that 14% of Canadians are hesitant about vaccines. The majority of those say they have questions and want access to qualified health professionals before they get their shot. Let's hope this new campaign can give them the answers they need.
If you are an employer looking to transition your COVID-19 Safety Plan to a communicable disease prevention plan, WorkSafeBC offers a guide for employers.