After years of flirting with football fans in Atlantic Canada, the CFL is turning its attention to the West Coast. The first Touchdown Pacific game will take place at Royal Athletic Park on Aug. 31 between the BC Lions and Ottawa Redblacks.
“As a lifelong fan of the CFL, I am thrilled to welcome Touchdown Pacific to Victoria," City of Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto said in the news release. "The passionate fans in our community, combined with our historic natural grass stadium, will make this Labour Day contest a classic football match, and a highlight of the 2024 CFL season, with family-friendly festivities beforehand.”
The stadium, which serves as the home of the Victoria HarbourCats, will be expanded to hold up to 14,000 fans, including standing room.
In 2023, Touchdown Atlantic generated more than $10 million in overall economic impact for businesses and communities in the Halifax region.
In Greater Victoria, sports tourism helps drive more than $100 million in visitor spending annually. Destination Greater Victoria and the Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission were key in bringing Touchdown Pacific to Victoria.
Advocacy efforts to extend the CEBA repayment deadline appear to be working. The Chamber and our national network along with many other business organizations are calling on the federal government to give businesses more time to repay without losing the forgivable portion of their CEBA loans.
Chamber Chair Kris Wirk said in a September media release that “The reality facing many small businesses — especially those in hospitality, tourism and retail — is that they have a viable path to making a full recovery but it’s going to take longer than expected.”
This week, federal Small Business Minister Rechie Valdez told BNN Bloomberg that she's heard the message and seen the struggles facing businesses firsthand. She promised to go back to government to do more.
Under the Canada Emergency Benefits Account, businesses that needed help during the pandemic were offered loans of up to $60,000. Part of the appeal was that one third of the loan would be forgiven if paid by the deadline, which was extended from Dec. 31 to Jan. 18. And while 2024 seemed like a long way off in the depths of the pandemic, unforeseen challenges with inflation and interest rates has kept many businesses from fully recovering.
Chamber member Megan Johns, owner of The Green Kiss explained the situation succinctly to CBC, noting that she was on schedule with her CEBA loan until operating costs began to soar faster than her business could grow.
"Margins are getting smaller and smaller and smaller due to the rising costs across the board," Johns said. "Every aspect of the business has become more challenging and it is more challenging now than it was in 2020 so far."
Greater Victoria has risen to the top of Conde Nast's annual ranking of the Best Small Cities on the planet. More than 520,000 people took part in the readers' choice awards.
Our region came close last year, placing second on the list, but this year we are at the top thanks to our proximity to Vancouver and "one of the world’s most scenic ferry rides."
The international travel magazine point out the "bucket list-worthy Fairmont Empress," and our reputation as the "most British town in Canada." Other factors were the fact our ancient rainforests are so accessible, as are many easy day trips on the Island.
Making strategic investments in the Indigenous tourism sector would generate an additional $684 million in tax revenue that would pay for those investments in five years, says a new report by the Conference Board of Canada.
The report found that recommendations made by the Indigenous Tourist Association of Canada would greatly increase the scale of Indigenous Tourism across the country. ITAC has proposed a $2.4 billion plan, including $1.75 billion for destination development.
Construction has begun on the Royal BC Museum’s collections and research building in the City of Colwood.
The 15,200 square-metre building will be a state-of-the-art facility using mass timber to house the Province’s collections and BC Archives. There will also be dedicated research labs and learning spaces.
“The provincial collections and archives help us to share the stories of our cultures and communities. It’s vital to ensure they’re kept safe for future generations,” said RBCM's acting CEO Tracey Drake in a news release. “This exceptional facility will also provide a window into the world of the museum, enabling visitors to see our paleontologists, entomologists, botanists, zoologists and more, engaged in active research projects.”
The $270 million project is expected to be substantially completed by fall 2025, a public opening is planned for 2026.
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 email@example.com for more information.
High-interest rates and uncertainty over the state of the economy are behind the tourism industry slowing down after its fast recovery from the pandemic. A report by TD titled "A Slow Road to Recovery for Canadian Tourism Spending," states the industry won't fully recover until about 2025.
Current tourism spending is at about 87% of where it was in 2019.
"Although more price-conscious tourists could weigh on profit margins in the sector, slower demand growth may allow the industry time to overcome labour shortages," the report states.
In BC, tourism employment is the highest its been since 2018 as employers work to overcome challenges finding and keeping staff.
Greater Victoria tourism earns environmental rep
Back in May, Greater Victoria received some love from a feature in Vogue about how we "became a sustainable travel hotspot." the article identifies a number of Chamber members who have helped make Greater Victoria green, including:
Some good news for Greater Victoria's tourism economy as the Victoria Airport Authority approved a proposal to build a 129-room hotel. The three-storey hotel, one of Marriott International’s extended stay brands, will be located on 3.5 acres of commercial zoned land at the corner of Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue West.
“The addition of the TownePlace Suites Hotel at YYJ will provide travellers and visitors to the region with convenient access not only to the airport and Sidney, but also to the many amenities and services in the area and the Pat Bay highway into Victoria,” Victoria Airport Authority President and CEO Geoff Dickson said in a news release.
The all-suite hotel will have studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units with fully equipped kitchens, a gym, pool and 1,500 square feet of meeting space. There will also be a full-service restaurant.
Preparations for construction on site will begin in the fall and the hotel is expected to be completed in time for summer 2025.
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:
If the dialogue around remote work seems to have changed from "when is your team going back to the office to how can you adopt a hybrid workplace," you're not alone. The Canadian Chamber's Business Data Lab shows that North American cities are adapting to a new reality. Employers who are facing challenges finding and keeping workers are embracing workforce mobility as a solution. However, the change requires new strategies for ensuring the economic health and safety of urban cores that have lost jobs to the suburbs. The Chamber is working with our regional partners to rethink the role of Downtown Victoria so that it continues to be the vibrant centre of our regional economy.
"We know that our suburban downtowns are thriving, and that's good news for a lot of municipalities in Greater Victoria," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "What we also need to do is make sure that Downtown Victoria continues as a major draw for tourists and a great place to live for residents. Of course, the way we do that is making sure we have a great climate for businesses to thrive so they can provide the goods and services that attract visitors and support locals."
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."
The Chamber is calling on the federal government to give businesses who needed help during the pandemic more time to repay their Canada Emergency Business Account loans.
A letter to the federal Finance Minister was signed by more than 240 Canadian business organizations.
"Extending the repayment timeline for the CEBA loan without losing access to the forgivable portion would give many small-and-medium size businesses the stability and certainty they need to get back on their feet on a path to prosperity," states the letter.
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams spoke to CFAX Radio this morning to explain why many businesses need extra time. Across Canada. almost 900,000 CEBA loans were approved during the pandemic.
"Many businesses had no choice but to take on this loan due to circumstances beyond their control," the letter states. "This includes businesses in some of the hardest hit industries such as the retail industry and tourism sector. Mandatory business closures and other government health restrictions left businesses with severe income losses and cash flow issues."
Island communities cut off by wildfires received some good news as the province announced Highway 4 will reopen to limited single-lane travel starting this weekend.
Fallen trees and debris that had been blocking the route have now been cleared. As well, mesh curtains suspended by cranes are being deployed to protect passersby as the impacted slope continues to settle alongside the highway.
An alternate route continues to be used by about 1,000 vehicles daily, helping ensure essential goods are available. Tourism support includes increased flights so that visitors can bypass the affected road.
It's official. Hockey fans across Canada will have their full attention on the Inner Harbour as the City of Victoria plays host to Scotiabank's Hockey Day in Canada. The announcement was made by Hockey Night in Canada legend Ron McLean during a broadcast of the Stanley Cup Finals last week.
Hockey Day in Canada in Victoria will include about 14 hours of national broadcast time on Jan. 20. The event is being organized by the Victoria Hockey Legacy Society, chaired by John Wilson of Wilson’s Group of Companies,
All seven Canadian NHL teams, as well as the WHL's Victoria Royals, will be in action on the day. The games will be interspersed with live programming from Ship Point.
One of the physical legacies from the event will be a 24-by-12 metre synthetic ice sheet that will be available to the community for up to 30 years.
Want to have your say on the future of tourism in Greater Victoria?
Destination Greater Victoria is conducting resident engagement for a 10+ year tourism master plan. DGV recently wrapped up three town hall sessions and has an online survey open to residents until June 30.
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.
"Hello Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland."
That famous line will no doubt be repeated often between now and next January, when Greater Victoria hosts Hockey Day in Canada.
The formal announcement is planned for June 5, with Ron MacLean making the call at 4:30 pm during a Stanley Cup finals broadcast. A media conference will be held at Ship Point at 1 pm, and will include Chamber past-chair John Wilson, who is chair of the Victoria Hockey Legacy Society.
Hockey Day in Canada started in 2000, and moves to cities and towns across the country. The broadcast spans 14 hours and attracts millions of viewers annually.
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.
Making downtown Victoria cleaner and safer benefits our entire region.
Last week, the City of Victoria announced the Our Dwtn revitalization program to attract people back to downtown. The city has allocated $1 million for the plan, which includes a Feet on the Street program utilizing VicPD foot patrols and city bylaw officers to provide a more visible presence. The intent is to help people feel safer.
The program also includes a mix of cultural and retail programs to enhance the experience of being downtown.
In June, the city and the Downtown Victoria Business Association are hosting a Scrub-Up event to refresh the area ahead of the busy summer season.
Chamber op-ed calls for regional approach to Greater Victoria's collective downtown
By the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Downtown Victoria Business Association, and the Urban Development Institute – Capital Region.
There has been a lot of talk lately about downtown Victoria.
Some of the talk is positive. Greater Victoria often ranks highly in lists of desirable places to live, work and visit. Our region has a sterling reputation — especially to people who aren’t from here.
But it would seem many of us believe our own bad publicity. Have we taken on an inferiority complex?
Crime and violence are real but not rampant as some would have us believe. And at the root of these issues are housing and mental illness.
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.
It was a warm welcome on a cold morning as the first cruise ship of 2023 in Canadian waters pulled into Ogden Point yesterday.
“It’s great to have the cruise ships back because of the economic boom that it brings to the city,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told Black Press. “People disperse around the region — they stay downtown, they go to Butchart Gardens, they go to other attractions around (Greater Victoria) and they bring that whole energy that we need to get us back into the swing of things.”
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority expects 850,000 passengers will visit Greater Victoria aboard 330 ships between now and October. The 209-foot Sapphire Princess can carry 2,600 passengers.
The industry injects about $130 million into our regional economy, helping many businesses beyond those that cater directly to passengers.
The next ship arrives April 21. And regardless of the temperature, it's a clear sign that business is heating up for our hospitality and tourism sectors.
Last week, the province announced it was contributing $9 million for the GHVA's efforts to bring shore power to their facilities. That will allow ships to use electricity rather than generators, cutting down on emissions and noise in the neighbourhood.
In a big win for business, sustainability and Chamber advocacy, the provincial government announced today it was moving forward to bring shore power to Ogden Point.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, announced $9 million for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. The money will be used for planning and installation of infrastructure that will let cruise ships turn off their engines while docked by enabling access to electricity from BC Hydro.
GVHA expects 320 cruise ships this season, carrying 850,000 passengers.
“Innovation led by business is key to addressing the biggest challenges facing our community and our planet,” Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams said. “Adding shore power to Ogden Point benefits people living nearby. It also shows how the cruise ship industry is adapting to public demand and embracing new ways of doing business. The Chamber has a long history of working closely with all levels of government and the cruise industry. We are grateful for the work of Minister Fleming to help champion this important project for our region.”
GVHA has been working on plans for shore power with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, BC Hydro, the cruise industry and the City of Victoria.
“Today’s funding announcement by the Province of British Columbia is key to launching the next phase of this important initiative,” GVHA CEO Robert Lewis-Manning said. “Shore power is one of several initiatives supporting a sustainable working port cherished by the Lekwungen people, residents and visitors alike."
The end of Flower Count is a good sign that patio season is right around the corner. Last week, the hard work of business and industry associations was rewarded when the provincial government announced it was giving businesses more time to make outdoor seating permanent. The deadline has been extended to Dec. 31, 2024.
During the early days of the pandemic, many restaurants, pubs, bars and breweries found innovative solutions to create safe spaces for customers. These outdoor areas were well received by the public and helped economic activity thrive. To support the efforts of business, the province provided temporary expanded service area (TESA) authorizations to thousands of liquor-licensed businesses.
“Many licensees have not applied to make their TESA permanent due to the stress and pressure as a result of the effects of the pandemic and the unprecedented labour shortage," BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association president and CEO Ian Tostenson said. "We would like to thank government for being conscious of this and providing the much-needed extension.”
Meanwhile, the CIty of Victoria will have to decide tomorrow, March 16, how it will proceed with its new Patio Regulation Bylaw. The bylaw updates the emergency measures implemented during the pandemic to provide more municipal oversight. City staff have been engaging with businesses and neighbourhood groups to develop its rules before the provincial TESA program was originally supposed to end. Now that an extension has been granted, the City should have more time to ensure its changes are workable for businesses.
The Pacific Ocean wields immense influence over the weather, regulating Greater Victoria’s famous mild climate and warming the air deep into Central Canada. It’s why our region is typically the first in the country to experience the signs of spring. The phenomenon gave rise 48 years ago to a tradition that continues to this day.
The 2023 Greater Victoria Flower Count — which officially begins today — kicked off on Monday with speeches on the immaculate front lawns of the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
Flower Count only lasts one week: March 8 - 15, so we invite you to get involved!
Count your blooms to make sure your municipality becomes this year's Best Bloomin' Community, and enter our social media contest and #humblebrag with a pic of local flowers. You may even win Afternoon Tea for two at the Fairmont Empress! See below for more information.
The event was well attended by local media. You can read their coverage here:
Camosun College announced last week it has selected a company to be pre-qualified to design, build and fund a film studio with education components.
The Visionary Group of Toronto will now enter into discussions with Camosun to determine the scope, timelines and cost for the project.
In 2021, the province gave Camosun $150,000 to explore educational opportunities for students in the BC film industry and the potential development of an on-campus film studio. The project has been touted for land at Camosun's Interurban Campus in the District of Saanich.