The pandemic and the "unprecedented uncertainty" we've all had to live with for more than year is not an excuse for surprise decisions that damage businesses.
Monday's announcement that restaurants, pubs and bars had mere hours to implement severe restrictions could have been handled better. Business has been leading the charge on following restrictions and keeping our community safe, but we need the government to work with us.
"It's clear that decision makers in government don't understand business, which is why we're calling for the province to do a better job of working alongside organizations such as ours," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "I'm talking to our partner organizations in Greater Victoria and the other Island chambers to offer the province a readily available advisory network that understands the challenges facing businesses."
Monday's decision left the restaurant and hospitality industry reeling. The Downtown Victoria Business Association reports that business owners are worried about wasting food purchased as part of plans for Easter weekend. Staff are also anxious about their jobs, while the tourism industry has been left feeling kicked while already on the ground.
Destination Greater Victoria says it's hearing from hotels that, after Monday's announcement, guests have cancelled planned visits as far out as September. According to DGV, the sector could lose $900,000, based on 6,000 hotel rooms with an average room rate of $150.
The District of Saanich is hoping to lead the way for Greater Victoria municipalities after council voted unanimously to reduce the speed limit on side streets to 30 km/h. Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes has reached out to other municipalities that had agreed to a previous plan to reduce speeds to 40 km/h. The hope is they will agree to a further reduction and can make a joint request to the provincial government. The default speed for streets in BC is currently 50 km/h.
Proponents note multiple benefits of reducing side streets to 30 km/h. Fewer collisions and better experiences for pedestrians and cyclists would immediately improve the many streets in Saanich without sidewalks.
Employers can now apply for the BC employer tax credit originally announced last September.
"With 2020 payrolls finalized, businesses will know if they are eligible for a credit that could equal up to 15% of any increase in total eligible payroll paid in the last quarter of 2020. The tax credit could be as much as $2,230 per employee," states the provincial news release.
The credit will be applied to any outstanding Employer Health Tax or other debt owed to the province. Businesses that don't pay EHT or owe less than their credit will receive a refund.
With spring in the air, there's good news for BC's farmers markets. The province has lifted restrictions so that artisans can once again set up shop in markets. The change will allow non-food vendors, such as flower vendors, to sell at farmers markets, which must still follow Provincial Health Office rules.
A casino in the District of Saanich could spur development of a hotel and resort and offer a new source of revenue that would take some of the burden off residents, business and industry. The BC Lottery Corp. has asked Saanich if there is interest in pursuing the idea, after plans for a casino in downtown Victoria fell through.
“It’s an opportunity to get some real funding for our amenities … bicycle paths, sidewalks. How about a third ice surface for Saanich?” Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes told CHEK News.
The discussion is in early stages but Mayor Haynes suggested the location will be in east Saanich, between the Swan Lake area and Gordon Head.
May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light. May good luck pursue you each morning and night.
St. Patrick's Day is usually a time for large gatherings and celebrations regardless of your culture or heritage. But with the end of the pandemic so close, we need to stick together and stay apart a little longer. Still, there are many ways we can celebrate safely. See our story below for great ideas on making the most of today and supporting local businesses. #ChamberLocalVicBC
Also, remember that special Provincial Health Orders are in place tonight restricting the service and sale of alcohol after 8 pm at restaurants, bars and pubs, as well as liquor and grocery stores. Establishments also need to close by 9 pm, unless full meal service is being provided.
WorkSafeBC is planning to have an increased presence at workplaces tonight and throughout spring break. Businesses are required to have updated measures and controls in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Renewed calls from the mayors of Victoria and Esquimalt for a regional police department need to be carefully considered in order to meet the best interests of Greater Victoria. The Victoria Police Department needs help. Victoria and Esquimalt account for about one-quarter of the region's total population of 400,000, yet VicPD is tasked with protecting a downtown that serves the entire region.
Before the pandemic, Victoria and Saanich were engaged in a Citizens' Assembly process that will examine the benefits and challenges of merging the two municipalities. One of the outcomes will be a better understanding of how Saanich and Victoria police departments can work together. After all, their role is to improve safety for citizens, many of who have daily lives that cross between municipalities.
Before the pandemic, The Chamber was encouraged that the Citizens' Assembly process, currently on hold until in-person meetings can be done safely, was the best way to move forward on better regional services. The concerns voiced by VicPD show how vital it is for that process to move forward as soon as possible.
Helping women entrepreneurs get the funding they need to run a successful business will be key to our economic recovery. A recently released report by the Women's Enterprise Centre helps explain the unique challenges facing women who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
This report outlines strategies to get back to growing the overall number of women entrepreneurs, as was happening before COVID-19.
One of the consequences of the pandemic was that a number of things were put on hold. Among them were restrictions on plastic bags as uncertainty about how COVID-19 spread created concerns around reusable alternatives. With a better understanding of the science, consumers are once again creating a demand for less plastic waste.
On April 15, the City of Victoria is scheduled to bring back a revised bylaw restricting plastic bags. Businesses can pick up a tool kit with posters, till toppers and fact sheets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The District of Saanich is also bringing back restrictions on plastic bags. Saanich council voted on Monday to add the bylaw to its June 15 meeting for final adoption.
New fare choices for BC Ferries will provide better "value, flexibility and certainty" for passengers travelling to or from the Island.
The Prepaid and Saver fares, announced today, can be purchased in advance of sailing the major routes between the Island and mainland.
BC Ferries President and CEO Mark Collins, who has previously spoken at Chamber events about moving to a prepaid model, said once travel restrictions are lifted the new fares will "help spread traffic across the day, reducing sailing waits at popular times.”
Saver fares will range from $49 to $73.70, including reservation, and are available year-round for travellers able to choose less busy sailing times.
The prepaid fare enables customers to pay for reservations and travel in advance, making boarding more convenient.