Secondary suites have long played an invaluable role in our economy, offering affordable housing for many workers who are vital to keeping our economy vibrant.
The Chamber applauds Monday's announcement that will see less red tape for homeowners who want to add secondary suites — which also creates income that helps with the cost of living. As well, an incentive administered by BC Housing will provide a forgivable loan to qualified homeowners of up to $40,000 to add a secondary suite. The unit must be on the property where the homeowner lives and rent for less than market rates.
The province has prepared the Home Suite Home guide to provide more info on programs that incentivize the creation of new rental housing.
BC Ferries is waiting to see if it can raise rates, starting next April, to help the organization steer itself through the unsteady waters created by global inflation and the challenges of finding and keeping workers.
There is a shortage of qualified mariners, and new vessels are needed for BC Ferries fleet. The BC Ferries Commission, which is distinct from the provincial government and operations, sets the amount that prices can increase.
The public has until Sept. 30 to contact the commission to provide input to help with its decision. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
With school returning for thousands of students next week, commuters can expect heavier congestion on their way to work. Make sure to give yourself extra time, especially along routes affected by ongoing construction. Highway 17 near Keating Cross Road, for example, has been singled out by BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
"With the Highway 17 Keating Crossroad Overpass project well underway, traffic congestion is expected along the detour near the Keating Elementary School during child drop-off and pickup periods," a ministry news release said. "To ensure a smoother journey, commuters who have the flexibility to do so should consider leaving earlier in the morning or later in the evening when traffic is anticipated to lighten. People dropping off or picking up children should plan their journeys with extra time to account for delays."
The provincial government announced today that it received more revenue than expected for fiscal 2022-23.
Public Accounts show B.C. ended the year with a $704-million surplus and no operating debt, helped in part by income tax generated by high employment.
BC Minister of Finance Katrine Conroy, who spoke to Chamber members on March 1, said investing in people and businesses is paying off.
“We’ve seen time and again that when we invest in people and the services they count on to build a good life here, it makes our economy stronger and more resilient,” Conroy said in the news release, which also noted that BC has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in Canada.
The Chamber will continue to work with decision-makers in all levels of government to reduce the tax burden faced by business, while also calling for smart investment.
"These revenue figures show that the province clearly can do better at reducing costs borne by businesses, such as the Employer Health Tax," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The best investment any government can make is creating the right climate for entrepreneurs and businesses, who drive the majority of employment in BC."
The next report on provincial finances will be the first quarterly report for 2023-24 in September.
Travel restrictions are being lifted tonight for many areas of Interior BC devastated by wildfires, but for people and businesses forced to flee their homes recovery will take time.
“The emergency order we put in place on Saturday has had the effect we required and thousands of hotel rooms were made available for people forced from their homes, as well as the many firefighters and emergency crews who are protecting us during the worst wildfire season in our history," BC's Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness said in a news release.
The Chamber has been in conversation with affected chambers to offer support during this difficult time.
"We know that Greater Victoria is an exceptionally compassionate and generous community," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "There are ways to help now, and there will be a need to help communities as they work to recover from so much loss."
How to help:
Housing supply is at the core of Chamber advocacy. Greater Victoria, like much of North America, is facing a crunch — not enough homes are being built to meet demand. This affects the cost of living for employees, delays people from starting a family and impacts the availability of shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
A group of Canadian housing sector organizations recently released the National Housing Accord: A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis. The report offers 10 solutions that aim to focus the efforts of all levels of government and industry on policies to support more building.
"It's a bit of a Catch 22 in that we need skilled tradespeople to build homes so that the market has enough supply for skilled tradespeople to be able to afford to live here," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The lack of housing affects people at all income levels but is particularly concerning for people early in their careers and those who have the added costs that come with raising kids."
The Royal BC Museum has brought back one its most beloved sections. Old Town, an exhibit originally designed to recreate the look and feel of an early-20th-century settler community, reopened to the public last weekend. The space had been closed for a year-and-a-half for repairs and modernization.
"The museum plays a vital role in Greater Victoria as an anchor for local tourism and as a space where the stories of our province are shared with hundreds of thousands of visitors every year," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "It's good to see people once again enjoying and learning from Old Town. The museum is working hard to give a voice to Indigenous peoples whose stories need to be heard, and to the many communities that settled here and helped make BC what it is today."
Arriving at work to find your storefront window smashed or property vandalized can be a nightmare for business owners and their staff. Dealing with the cost of repairs or insurance paperwork can add to the anxiety.
A new provincial program starting in the fall will help businesses invest in preventative measures, and assist with the clean up if a property crime happens. The $10.5 million Securing Small Business Rebate Program will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023.
Businesses can apply for up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of cleaning up broken glass and graffiti and up to $1,000 for vandalism prevention such as security cameras or gates.
Businesses that need help protecting their intellectual property will have access to a new set of tools through Innovate BC. The province gave Innovate BC $2.5 million to leverage $12.5 million from the federal government going to Accelerate IP.
The investment aims to help the growing knowledge sector of the economy, which includes creators and innovators. Understanding the legal and financial implication of IP can be complex, and the new tools will help make the process easier.
The Chamber continues to strongly advocate for Safe Communities. Everyone needs to feel safe at work, in their community and at home. The ongoing toxic drug crisis as well as a shortfall in available mental health care has contributed to a rise in the number of people experiencing profound distress in public places.
On Monday, BC's Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions announced the Westshore was one of the regions that will be getting a Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Team. The program has shown success in Victoria.
"We've called for the province to focus on the fundamental need to have the resources to help people when they need it," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "It's not enough to ask someone in distress to wait weeks or months for treatment. Too often this ends up with calls to the police and people going through the criminal justice system."
Crisis Response Teams provide on-site emotional and mental-health assessments, crisis intervention and referrals to appropriate services in the community. This helps people in need access treatment and frees up police resources to focus on crime.
For more on what's being done, check out the new series of Chamber Chats focused on mental health in the workplace and community.
Managing mental health in the workplace
Talking about mental health in the workplace
The situation is still uncertain for Vancouver Island communities that have had their main transportation routes cut off by wildfire.
Highway 4, connecting Tofino and Ucluelet with Port Alberni and the rest of the Island, remains closed after fire burned more than two square kilometres of forest along the route.
"Right now, our thoughts are with everyone in those Island communities," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The alternate routes are for essential traffic only. They're needed to ensure supplies and emergency personnel can get through. So we're working with our friends at 4VI to encourage people who had planned trips to impacted communities to consider other Island destinations that remain open."
Yesterday, the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce relayed that they're trying to stay optimistic. However, businesses will be challenged until they are able to fully reopen.
“(We're) really pleased to hear that the fire is now being held, so that gives some businesses time to arrange for alternative arrangements for things coming in, but this is definitely going to be hard on the community,” Alberni Chamber CEO Jolleen Dick told CHEK News.
The Chamber applauds the ongoing investment in new workers through the Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning Pathways. Camosun College received $240,625 in funds for 2022/23. and, this year, the province is providing $3.8 million to help students earn pre-requisites for post-secondary programs they need to meet career goals.
The provincial government released the first cohort of municipalities that have been targeted to increase housing supply. The City of Victoria as well as the District of Saanich and the District of Oak Bay are on the list.
The Housing Supply Act allows the province to set housing targets that encourage municipalities to make construction more efficient so housing can be built faster. Some of the suggested tools include updated zoning bylaws and streamlined approval processes.
“The housing crisis is hurting people and holding back our economy, and we’re taking action with our partners to cut red tape and get homes built faster for people. Municipalities are our critical partners in addressing the housing crisis and building healthy, economically viable communities,” BC's Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon said.
“We welcome being part of a first wave of communities challenged to accelerate building homes for people," Victoria mayor Marianne Alto said. "These targets reflect the city’s own commitment to housing current and future Victorians.”
The other municipalities are Abbotsford, Delta, Kamloops, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Vancouver and West Vancouver. A second cohort of 10 municipalities will be announced later this year.
Every year, The Chamber gathers comments and concerns from our members in order to present them to the province's all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. The committee travels BC to consult with businesses and residents about budget priorities for the year ahead.
Public budget consultation closes June 16, at 2 pm, and The Chamber will have an opportunity to address the panel at a later date.
You can share your thoughts directly or send them to email@example.com. We'll gather feedback and help amplify individual concerns as the voice of business for Greater Victoria.
The minimum wage in this province makes a significant jump tomorrow, going from $15.65 to $16.75 an hour.
The increase was previously announced on April 5.
"This is a cost increase that will affect more than people who pay or are paid minimum wage," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "With inflation still very much dominating business news, we are concerned that this measure will prolong the pain by increasing prices for consumers and suppliers and prevent the Bank of Canada from lowering interest rates in the near term."
BC now has the highest minimum wage of any province in Canada.
How will this affect your business? Will you need to raise prices or reduce staff? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback helps inform The Chamber's advocacy efforts when we speak with decision makers in government.
The province received some welcome news about its financial state of affairs when Moody's reaffirmed BC's AAA credit rating on May 17. Moody's is the last credit agency to release its results. In April, Fitch Ratings maintained its AA+ rating for the province, while S&P Global Ratings downgraded BC from AA+ to AA. On May 1, DBRS Morningstar kept BC at AA(high).
Moody’s noted British Columbia’s attractiveness to businesses and individuals, as well as migration into the province.
Good credit ratings are vital for the province to get competitive rates on borrowing for infrastructure projects and service demands. BC has the highest credit rating among Canadian provinces across the four agencies.
This year, the Buy BC Partnership Program is providing $2 million for marketing activities that increase consumer awareness and drive sales of local food and beverage products.
The program, managed and administered by MNP LLP on behalf of BC's Ministry of Agriculture and Food, has helped generate an estimated $80 million in sales since 2017. More than 800 businesses are registered to use the Buy BC logo on almost 4,000 food and beverage products.
The Chamber has been working to advocate for investment and policy changes that make all of our communities safer. It's a complex issue that requires a major increase in resources to treat people struggling with mental health and addictions.
That said, we're please to hear that the federal government has proposed changes to Canada's bail system to keep violent repeat offenders off our streets. The shift comes after BC moved to use tools available to the province to address repeat offenders.
"This is a start, but we need to address bottlenecks with our court systems and the length of time it takes to provide treatment for people who want help with mental health or addiction issues," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We don't have enough capacity in jails or treatment centres, and everyone requires a fair trial and can't be held on bail indefinitely."
The Chamber will continue calling on all levels of government to ensure resources are available for the adequate enforcement of laws and bylaws, as well as investment in long-term solutions that address the root of the issues. Everyone needs to feel safe where they live and work.
A well-known ride-sharing brand has been approved to begin operations in Greater Victoria, the company announced today.
Uber Canada had been awaiting a decision by the Passenger Transportation Board to allow a licence transfer from a company that had been approved previously but was never operational. The news is welcomed by Greater Victoria's tourism and hospitality sectors.
"The Chamber wrote to the PTB in support of Uber," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Our members have been clear that they want ride-sharing options here, and that we need to have international brands available."
Adding Uber to Greater Victoria also benefits many late-night workers who have found it challenging to get home after their shifts. Transit is a great option to get to work, but does not operate late enough for many people working in Victoria restaurants and bars. Having the option to take an Uber home means that staff have a reliable and safe way to get home.
"Over the next few weeks, we will work hard to ensure a smooth transition and activate our platform for drivers and riders as soon as possible," Uber said in a letter to The Chamber. "Thank you for everything you have done to get us here. We achieved this milestone because of your strong support and advocacy."
A new approach to help more businesses with exporting and investing internationally was announced by the province last week.
The Trade Diversification Strategy targets three new markets for increased exports and investment, as well as expansion in existing markets. The aim is to help BC businesses "grow on the world stage while creating jobs and protecting British Columbians from supply-chain disruptions and global uncertainties."
The new target markets are Mexico, Vietnam and Taiwan. The province will add Trade and Investment Representative offices in Taiwan and Mexico. Offices have also been opened in Vietnam.
The Trade Diversification Strategy will provide funding to successful programs, including $1.2 million annually for Export Navigator and $913,000 to deliver new cohorts of the Trade Accelerator Program (TAP), which supports BC businesses and entrepreneurs to be export ready.
The Royal BC Museum is bringing back Old Town. The much-loved exhibit will re-open July 29, after it closed to visitors in January 2022.
The museum is going through a modernization process that will eventually see a new building that is seismically safer and better suited for 21 century audiences. The current building opened in 1968.
"The museum is part of the fabric of Greater Victoria and many people feel strongly about what they want to see happen," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said after the museum hosted The Chamber's 160th Celebration. "I'm fully confident in the work that museum staff are doing to modernize their facility, and The Chamber is excited about helping to ensure the museum continues to serve its important role in our region for generations to come."
Many features of Old Town remain untouched. Among the additions is a new loop playing in the old-time movie theatre showing the diversity of voices who contributed to the province's history.
The provincial government announced today it is providing $2.5 million to Vancouver Island Life Sciences to create a 650-square-metre facility to help up to six companies with access to low-cost, specialized lab space. The lab will be in Greater Victoria, but the specific location is still in the works.
Vancouver Island Life Sciences is a volunteer, non-profit society in Victoria that connects Island researchers with the global life science community.
The provincial government announced Tuesday that is focusing on five pillars to help businesses find and keep employees. They are:
“I’m hearing from businesses, small and large, that finding skilled labour is one of their biggest challenges,” said BC Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey, who will be speaking at The Chamber's Business Leader Luncheon on Monday, May 8.
The Tofino Bus is returning to service starting May 4, the Wilson's Group of Companies announced last week. The service was paused in December as the company needed to shift to a seasonal approach to stay sustainable. The drop in passengers taking the bus over the winter was too much for the company to subsidize the service based on summer revenue.
The Tofino Bus and Vancouver Island Connector service will re-start with weekend service from Thursdays to Mondays, and could ramp up to seven days a week in June. “We expect to see lower passenger counts to start, however, we typically see a rise around the May long weekend which lasts throughout most of the summer” Wilson’s Group of Companies Brand Manager Samantha Wilson-Newton said.
The Chamber applauds the increased connectivity for Island communities, and continues to call on government to invest in safe transportation options.
The Chamber's 160th annual general meeting took place April 18 at the Inn at Laurel Point.
After making sure operations and financials were in order, members in attendance were treated to a frank discussion with BC's Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon. Chamber CEO Bruce Williams emceed the session and asked about the provincial government's plan to increase housing supply.
The minister noted that legislation had been introduced that morning that will help projects avoid time-consuming delays.
Among other topics was a discussion about the need to remove barriers for skilled workers coming here from other countries and provinces. Delays in the recognition of credentials has been an ongoing concern for newcomers wanting to work in their chosen professions. Minister Kahlon encouraged The Chamber to continue advocating for change, noting the message is being heard. He pointed to efforts to increase BC's health care workforce that are beginning to pay off.
Also discussed were increasing student housing to free up rental properties for workers, strategies to house the homeless and using public land to build non-market housing following models that have proven successful elsewhere.
"The Chamber is grateful to Minister Kahlon for sharing his time with our members to talk about the many challenges facing housing in Greater Victoria and the province," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "This year's annual general meeting was the 160th time we've reported to our members and we are working to make sure the next 12 months are successful for our organization, for all our member businesses and for everyone in our community."