As organizations modify their operations to carry on safely serving customers, many are facing challenges covering unexpected costs. To help, the Canada United movement — created by RBC — is offering up to $5,000 for businesses that need to outfit plexiglass barriers, purchases personal protective equipment or update e-commerce capacity.
The program, administered across Canada by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, supports businesses that need to make changes to meet local health and safety requirements. Applications for the program opened Monday.
The John Howard Society will own and operate a new affordable housing development at 736 Princess Ave., after Victoria council approved a total of 72 new housing units for low-income and vulnerable residents.
The Princess Avenue location will provide 28 new units, as well as amenities such as a coffee shop and art gallery that will facilitate an employment readiness program.
Council's decision, made last Thursday, also includes 44 new units at 330 Michigan St. The Capital Regional Housing Corporation will retain an existing heritage building on the site and demolish three other buildings to create room for two four-storey multi-familiy buildings. The new buildings will increase the number of affordable units from 62 to 106 on the site.
Voters in Victoria will soon find out who is on the ballot for the city's Dec. 12 by-election. The candidate nomination period opened yesterday, and closes Nov. 6.
The by-election was rescheduled after its original date in April was cancelled due to the pandemic. Any candidates who were previously nominated will need to go through the process again if they still plan to seek election. Candidate nomination forms are available by calling Victoria City Hall at 250-361-0571 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit victoria.ca/election.
As soon as candidates are confirmed, The Chamber will provide our members with opportunities to find out where council hopefuls stand on issues of importance to the business community.
The Chamber strongly supports Greater Victoria mayors who are calling on the new provincial government to do better to improve regional transportation on southern Vancouver Island. Specifically, we have been calling for a regional approach to how transportation is governed. We need to think broadly to address transportation issues and take advantage of opportunities to create 21st century solutions.
The mayors of Saanich, Victoria, Colwood and View Royal were among the group that co-authored a letter to the province.
Greater Victoria municipalities will get $13.1 million from a new federal fund for emergency housing, announced yesterday. The $1 billion Rapid Housing Initiative will create as many as 3,000 homes for Canadians in need across the country.
The government determined how much of the fund cities will get by metrics such as the percentage of people experiencing homelessness, and the level of renters in severe housing situations. The initiative provides cash to quickly build modular multi-unit rentals, and to transform abandoned or derelict and non-residential buildings into livable, affordable housing units. Applications can be submitted until the end of the year to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The federal government unveiled a new plan last Friday to help commercial tenants struggling with a loss of revenue due to the pandemic.
The Chamber had called on government to replace the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), which expired last month. It suffered from low uptake and had faced criticism from many business that found it exceptionally difficult to implement.
The new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) will be provided directly to eligible tenants, unlike CECRA which relied on buy-in from landlords. The government touts CERS as providing "simple and easy-to-access rent and mortgage support until June 2021."
"A program that is easier to access is good news for many commercial tenants that are struggling right now," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "The new plan is an improvement and allows businesses to plan for the winter and spring. We'll have to see how it's rolled out, and how well it works for our most vulnerable businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector."
Also announced Friday was an extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy until June 2021, and an expanded Canada Emergency Business Account offering access to an interest-free loan of $20,000 in addition to the initial CEBA loan of $40,000.
The City of Colwood is enjoying time in the spotlight as the West Shore municipality undergoes an impressive uptick in popularity. So much more than a source of commuters, Colwood is becoming a hub for new jobs being created in the region.
Recently announced projects include a new home for the Royal BC Museum's archives, collections and research as well as a $26 million complex for Seaspan Victoria Shipyards. There's also a massive mixed-use development in the works from Omicron.
“Colwood is at a really pivotal time right now where we’re shifting from a bedroom community to something very dynamic and I think dynamic is good,” Colwood Mayor Rob Martin told the Times Colonist.
City of Colwood: Member since 2020
Omicron Canada Inc: Member since 2015
Seaspan Victoria Shipyards: Member since 2002
Royal BC Museum: Member since 1994
Statistics Canada's latest unemployment numbers offer more evidence about the impact of the pandemic on jobs in Greater Victoria. Our region is improving from the summer, with the jobless rate at 9.1% for September compared to 10.3% in August and a low of 11.1% in July.
However, we are currently the 22nd ranked Census Metropolitan Area in Canada. Before COVID-19, Greater Victoria consistently had the lowest or second lowest unemployment rate in the country.
Our ranking is largely attributable to a 39% drop in the number of people working in accommodations and food services — the sector hit the hardest by measures to control the pandemic.
The decision to get BC government workers back in the office is welcome news. In June, The Chamber wrote to provincial Finance Minister Carole James — who is also MLA of Victoria-Beacon Hill — and asked what her plan was to return civil servants to their workplaces. The request was made after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advised that it was safe to go back to the office, and after WorkSafeBC published extensive guidelines on how to do so.
Greater Victoria's economy needs a vibrant downtown, and downtown businesses need support. Restaurants, cafes and retailers struggle without the civil servants who shop or buy meals before and after work and during their breaks.
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist that businesses outside of downtown are generally faring well, but those in the core are fighting for their survival.
"It’s put a real serious challenge in front of many business owners downtown.”
In the letter to the finance minister, which was co-signed by the Downtown Victoria Business Association and the City of Victoria, we called on government to model best practices for a safe return to work. We're thankful our voice was heard, and that the return of public service workers gives hope to the many businesses that are hanging on downtown.
WorkSafeBC: Member since 2006
Downtown Victoria Business Association: Member since 2007
City of Victoria: Member since 1962
We are starting to get some perspective on the pandemic and what we've been through and where we're going. However, back in the spring, the world was a much more uncertain place and BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins says he's proud of how his team rose to the challenge.
Collins, who was the guest of The Chamber's Business Restart Series yesterday, says his team at BC Ferries stepped into the unknown in order to meet its mandate and keep alive vital supply chains and transportation services to remote BC communities.
Collins also offered hope to commuters enticed by the idea of a ferry between Colwood and Victoria.
"We really think there's a business case here," Collins says, detailing the cost and timelines that show the service is viable.
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