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 Chamber is hearing concerns from the construction industry about the provincial government's introduction of compulsory trades training. The goals and intent of the plan raise more questions than answers.
BC's construction industry is critical to our economic recovery, and we call on the province to do better at consulting with key stakeholders. We also agree with our partners in the industry that there has been a lack of evidence showing how the proposal will work. Construction employers, as with all industries, are already struggling to find workers and we can't risk red tape impeding the creation of jobs or the work being done to increase housing in our region.
“You don’t attract more people to the trades by closing the door to get into them and forcing contractors to navigate a sea of red tape,” Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Business Association of BC, told the Vancouver Sun.
A Greater Victoria craft whiskey maker is in the news after raising the ire of the Scotch industry. Lawyers have told Victoria Caledonian Distillery owner Graeme Macaloney that he has to change the name of his award-winning whiskey brand.
"It's nonsense," Macaloney said to the CBC. "It's really a frivolous, quite damaging lawsuit, to be honest."
The industry says Macaloney's name and the words "Island" and "Caledonian" will confuse consumers. Trade rules prohibit whiskey not made in Scotland from being called Scotch, which Macaloney has been careful not to do. Craft producers play a vital role in our region's tourism economy. Hopefully the courts see this suit to be as silly as it sounds to us.
What will the future hold for one of Greater Victoria's most iconic streetscapes? The City of Victoria is inviting the public to help shape Government Street, which looks much the same as it did 50 years ago. The time-worn benches, aging traffic signals and mature trees are nearing the end of their useful lives. The need to upgrade provides an opportunity to ensure the popular tourism spot meets the needs of the region for the next 50 years.
The first of three phases involves gathering public input for a design concept that will be shared with the community in the fall. The concept will be refined and go back for more public feedback in January 2022 before a final concept is presented to City Council.
The deadline for the first phase is July 11. You can submit ideas and images at engage.victoria.ca/government-street-refresh.
The District of Oak Bay continues to look at permitting secondary suites to help create affordable housing options in the community.
The municipality is in the fourth of a five phase approach to gauge community support and look at how suites have been supported in other jurisdictions.
Housing supply is an important issue for our region. The Chamber continues to hear from members who are struggling to find and keep workers, with the cost of housing one of the main deterrents for people wanting to live and work in Greater Victoria.
We've said it before and we'll keep saying it as long as it takes for government to hear us. Businesses need certainty and they deserve to know how and when our economy will re-open. The BC Restart Plan has helped, but the federal government risks doing serious damage to Canada's tourism sector with its prolonged suspension of cruise ships. The Chamber along with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and other business organizations are calling for a clear signal that the industry is welcome and can plan to return to full capacity by next year.
“Cruise lines need time to prepare for the full resumption of cruise and the Government of Canada, through Transport Canada, needs to signal that they are prepared to welcome the industry back in a safe and measured way,” GVHA CEO Ian Robertson said in a news release. “The decision needs to be made in line with the reopening plans for the Canada-USA land and marine borders. We cannot afford to play roulette with something that is such a vital economic lifeline for our province.”
We hope that we can learn the names and better understand the stories of the 215 children found buried in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school.
This has been devastating news for First Nations. It is difficult for Canadians to learn about our shameful past and the burden all of us must bear today. The days ahead will be painful if we are to address this wound and begin to let it heal.
The Chamber encourages all of our members to learn more about the residential school system, and to listen with purpose to the stories of our Indigenous friends and neighbours.
We must also do more to ensure Indigenous businesses are included in all of our communities. Please consider connecting with a local Indigenous business that is doing great things in Greater Victoria.
The Chamber is working with our national chamber network to improve our connections and conversations with Indigenous businesses across Canada. It's time to do better.
Greater Victoria's film industry had a banner year in 2020, despite physical productions closing down for a portion of the year. The Vancouver Island South Film & Media Commission reports that a rush of new productions resulted in $55 million in direct spending — almost triple the previous record of $20 million.
The province's film and digital media industry generates $3.2 billion annually, employing more than 71,000 British Columbians.
The Island's film commissioner, Kathleen Gilbert, told the Victoria News that the commission has more than 800 crew in its South Island database.
“Anyone with experience would have been able to work full time since production resumed in July of last year,” Gilbert said.
The health of the film industry has been especially beneficial for tourism businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
“Certainly, given the impact on tourism that COVID has had, this is very welcome business and almost a lifeline for some of these hotels,” Bill Lewis, Chair of the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria, states in the film commission's 2020 Annual Report.
The Canadian Chamber is looking for guidance on their advocacy work with the Canada Revenue Agency. As a business, what changes will make it easier for you to fill out your tax forms?
If you have a peeve or a bright idea on how tax forms can be digitized, consolidated or eliminated, let the Canadian Chamber know by filling out an online form.
What's one small change that would make a big difference to you?
Council meetings will run a little more efficiently in the District of Saanich after the municipality adopted a new procedure bylaw. The new rules are meant to save time, including using a consent agenda to allow for non-controversial business to be addressed quickly. If an item requires more consideration, a member of the public or an individual councillor can ask for it to be added to the regular agenda.
The changes will also ensure council meetings are used for making decisions and that less formal debates happen at the committee-of-the-whole stage.