The border with the US will open sooner under a Joe Biden presidency than if Donald Trump had stayed in power, says Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
With a more focused, hands-on approach to controlling COVID, Biden stands a better chance of putting the pandemic behind us than did the chaotic approach of the last administration.
Beatty was the guest of The Chamber, earlier today, for our latest Business Restart Series video. The conversation focused on Canada-US relations, which Beatty compared to resembling the "mating dance of the stickleback" under Trump.
However, Canadians shouldn't get too comfortable after today's inauguration. The Democrats have historically been more protectionist than Republicans, and relations will be more complicated than "Trump/bad, Biden/good."
Closer to home, Beatty says our immediate focus needs to be on controlling the pandemic in Canada. We've had a "crazy quilt of approaches" to stopping the spread of the virus, Beatty says. A national approach is needed rather than regional restrictions. The biggest risk to business is the yo-yo effect of opening and closing, which disrupts operations and makes planning impossible.
"What worries me when I look at it today, the Team Canada approach (we had in the spring of 2020) is fraying. People are feeling victimized and powerless," Beatty said, saying it's within each of us to use the tools and knowledge we have to stop the spread. "We're not powerless."
Missed the live event? Register online to access the video recording.
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.
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.
Victoria continues to shine on the international stage as Monocle magazine has named our city one of the top five small cities in the world.
“Victoria is at the heart of a vibrant South Island region. Our city has made an effort over the last few years to diversify our economy, especially in our ocean research and technology sectors, drawing new talent and energy into our region,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said in the City of Victoria's news release. “Despite the recent challenges of the pandemic, this recognition reinforces the fact that we continue to be one of the most desirable places to live and work in the world.”
Porto, Portugal, topped the list followed by Leuven, Belgium, Itoshima, Japan and Lucerne, Switzerland.
The list features cities that Monocle's editors believe are the best options for people looking to move away from big cities. The top small cities were selected in part because they are well connected internationally, and have progressive and nimble local leadership.
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.
Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.6% in October from 9.1% the month before, according to Statistics Canada's latest figures.
The numbers reflect what is now being called a K-shaped economic recovery, with some businesses able to return to pre-pandemic operations and others still facing an uncertain future.
Across Canada, 57% of businesses in the accommodation and food-services sector report they are unable to take on more debt. About one-third of those say, at current levels of business, they will need to consider closing, declaring bankruptcy or reducing staff unless revenue increases in the next six months.
"With finite public resources available, we need to look carefully at the return on investment of government spending," said Canadian Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist and Vice-President of Policy, Dr. Trevin Stratton. "Some programs are more beneficial than others. Some policies will contribute more to economic growth. Let’s make sure federal spending is focused on quality over quantity."
The pandemic has been especially difficult on working parents, with women disproportionately suffering income loss as they leave jobs or reduce hours to care for children. The Chamber has been calling for investment in accessible child care for years.
Some good news this week as the Greater Victoria School District announced on Friday that it is creating 316 childcare spaces across the region. The school district has completed four childcare studios in Saanich and is building five others that are expected to open in early 2021.
Ensuring all sectors play a role in recovering from the pandemic is one of the key elements of Reboot: Greater Victoria's Economic Recovery Plan. The report, released Monday, is the work of the Rising Economy Taskforce, which brought together 40 business, community, government and academic leaders to work on 12 sector committees.
"I worked closely with other community leaders and the South Island Prosperity Partnership, and I think this report is an invaluable tool for making decisions about where we want to see investments made to achieve a full and equitable recovery," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
Among the recommendations are a call to embrace the 21st-century innovation economy and the creation of an Indigenous Economic Development Office.
A new federal program is offering up to $75,000 for small businesses through the CanExport SMEs program. Before the pandemic, the program had helped cover the cost of travel but has a new focus now. Business can access funding to:
For more information, go to tradecommissioner.gc.ca.
And if you're looking to improve your international e-commerce reach, join The Chamber and the World Trade Centre's ICE program this December.