Richard Michaels has been named chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s newly formed Committee for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion. The committee will reach out to better include communities that have faced systemic marginalization due to race, ethnicity, gender, physical capabilities or other factors.
“I am proud to be the first chair of this new committee, which recognizes that the demographics of Greater Victoria are evolving and that adapting to this change is fundamental to the sustainability of our region’s economy,” said Michaels, president of MACCRIM Solutions and a member of The Chamber’s Board of Directors. “The Chamber is working to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment that engages businesses owners and entrepreneurs who reflect the full spectrum of our region. This strengthens our organization and ensures everyone in our region’s business community is represented by The Chamber.”
The purpose of the Committee for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion is to offer advice and guidance to help The Chamber create a more inclusive and welcoming business community. The mandate is part of the work the organization has been doing to achieve its vision of being “the region’s most diverse and influential business association.”
In June, The Chamber also announced the creation of an Indigenous Business Task Force to work toward reconciliation by engaging with Indigenous-owned businesses and First Nations to ensure they have access to all opportunities available to help them flourish.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we know things will not be as they were before it started,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “This is the time to take what we’ve learned from successfully adapting to challenging times and make our economy more sustainable. Good business really does build great community for all.”
Finding staff is a major challenge for businesses, especially in the hospitality sector. The issue is affecting businesses across the province, and, on the Sunshine Coast, one group seems to have found a temporary solution. Coasters helping Coasters is a group of mostly retired seniors who are filling in at restaurants and cafes in Sechelt. Their aim is to help keep their businesses open, but they say the idea could work anywhere.
What do you think about seniors stepping up to help fill vacancies in Greater Victoria? Tell us your thoughts and share your solutions by emailing email@example.com.
Greater Victoria employers continue to struggle finding and keeping workers, and The Chamber continues to advocate for help. With limited immigration during the pandemic, Canada experienced its slowest population growth since 1916. That is expected to change this year, as the federal government has increased immigration targets for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Greater Victoria employers will also get some relief with the return of post-secondary students to our region this fall.
"Finding and keeping workers was an advocacy priority before the pandemic and will be even more so as we emerge from restrictions and the economy recovers," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who recently spoke to CBC and CFAX about this issue.
Many employers in Greater Victoria already pay above minimum wage but will continue to face challenges as our region also deals with a limited supply of affordable housing and child care.
"We're working with our partners and government to address the housing shortage and challenges with child care," Williams said.
Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams has been named to the inaugural Canadian Chamber of Commerce BIPOC and Inclusion Council.
Diversity initiatives across the country are playing a part in creating a more socially inclusive economy. Small businesses play an important role, but often don’t know where to start.
"Chambers are experts at building connections and bringing people together," Chamber CEO Bruce Willams says. "We talk about being more inclusive and diverse, and we also need to walk the walk by hearing directly from voices and lived experiences that will guide us in making meaningful change."
The new council will inform the Canadian Chamber’s initiatives in supporting BIPOC, drive meaningful action to address the identified challenges and opportunities BIPOC face in participating in the Canadian economy, share and recognize best practices and advocate for changes that facilitate diversity and inclusion.
The Chamber has repeatedly advocated that inclusion is a key economic driver. Across Canada, improved participation rates could add 2.2 million workers to the labour force by 2040, including more women, Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities, thereby growing our economy by $101 billion.
The pandemic has made it clear that affordable and accessible child care is needed to ensure employers can access the talents and skill sets of parents. Last week, the federal government announced that BC will receive $3.2 billion over five years to improve access to child care for kids under six years old. The provincial and federal governments say they are working toward $10 per day child care, with BC also committing another $2.5 billion over three years. The agreement is expected to lead to 40,000 new child care spaces in the next seven years.
"Studies show that for every dollar invested in early childhood education, the broader economy receives between $1.50 and $2.80 in return," states the federal government news release.
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.
The Chamber has submitted a request to speak to BC's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. The annual process helps the provincial government plan for its next budget.
As our economy takes flight and the pandemic recedes from view, we need government to focus on being fiscally responsible and enable growth to be led by the private sector. Government has tools to encourage an increase in housing supply and more efficient transportation options for our region. We need to attract more workers and keep them here. Immigration will be key. And we need to do better at including Indigenous businesses and workers.
Another focus will be on investing in economic opportunities that create jobs and improve food security as one way to mitigate climate change through innovation.
Do you have questions or concerns about the next provincial budget? Send us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday, The Chamber celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day on social media, and we continue to look for new ways to support Indigenous-owned businesses in Greater Victoria.
Next week, we will announce a special initiative to help more Indigenous businesses benefit from being part of our region's business community. The Chamber is committed to being an inclusive organization and making sure we live up to our vision of being the region’s most diverse and influential business association.
There are many reasons why Inclusion is an advocacy priority for The Chamber. We know we need everyone in our region to participate in our economy to meet challenges facing our workforce and to embrace new opportunities in a changing world. In Greater Victoria, local First Nations have much to contribute and The Chamber is actively working to ensure Indigenous people are engaged in our business community.
"We can learn so much from our First Nations, but we need to make the time to listen," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "Reconciliation is not simple, and The Chamber is committed to doing all we can to help this process. Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam and Esquimalt Nations Chief Rob Thomas have written a powerful commentary I encourage all of our members to read."
The essay, We are stronger together only if guided by respect, was published in the Times Colonist on June 15.
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.