Greater Victoria's business community has a well-deserved reputation for its compassion and generosity.
The Chamber is hearing from members who want to help people fleeing the ongoing war in Ukraine.
"We're connecting with our national chamber network and have reached out to the federal minister of immigration," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We want refugees arriving in Canada to know that Greater Victoria is a welcoming community."
Canada has approved more than 91,000 of the 204,000 applications it has received through the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel process. Less than 2,000 will likely be re-located to Vancouver Island. However, those that do will need housing and, in many cases, jobs to help them integrate into our community.
The Chamber is working with our community partners to identify potential opportunities for billets or temporary housing. Employers in Greater Victoria can help by posting any job openings to a special federal job bank for Ukrainian refugees.
"We know many of our members have opportunities for skilled workers and we will do everything we can to try and provide stability for Ukrainians who have been forced to flee their homeland through no fault of their own," Williams said.
A move to make it easier for skilled workers from other countries to continue their career in BC is welcome news.
On Tuesday, the province announced it will provide $12 million to help internationally licensed nurses get to work. It typically takes years for foreign-trained workers to get the recognition required to fill vacant positions in BC.
The new funding will consolidate various assessment processes, provide bursaries for internationally educated nurses and raise awareness about the process.
Nurses have been in high demand due to the pandemic and other health care challenges facing the province. There are also many other internationally trained workers who could help BC employers fill openings if a similar approach is taken.
"The Chamber has been asking for a streamlined process to recognize people who have the skills needed for BC jobs," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We know employers in Greater Victoria need solutions to help them find and keep employees, and we hope this announcement serves as a model for other trades and professional skills in high demand here."
Renowned lawyer Ron Lou-Poy — one of the inaugural inductees into The Chamber's Business Hall of Fame — has died. He was 88.
All of us at The Chamber want to express our deepest condolences to Lou-Poy's family and the many people who were touched by his generous spirit in life.
We are deeply grateful for the role he had in making our community a vibrant, inclusive and caring place to live. We hope the many happy memories of Lou-Poy's well-lived life can soothe some of the sadness.
The provincial government has passed legislation bringing in the controversial Skilled Trades BC Act. The hope for the plan is that it will address critical labour shortages, but there are some serious concerns being voiced by industry.
The current plan is focused on skilled trades certification that "will require people to register as an apprentice or be a certified journeyperson to work in one of the 10 initial mechanical, electrical and automotive trades."
Good intentions are admirable but there are structural issues that likely need to be addressed if the program is to succeed. We need more investment in trades training so there are spaces available for people who want to learn skilled trades.
And the business community needs to be included in the conversation so that innovations being used by industry are part of the strategy. We all share the goal of building up our skilled workforce and don't need inefficient bureaucracy to impede progress from being made.
February marks Black History Month and a chance to learn more about the stories, struggles and accomplishments of Black Canadians. Here's a look at some events happening around Greater Victoria.
As a positive step toward being the region's most diverse and influential business association, The Chamber launched a new committee this year. Initially known as the Committee for the Advancement of Diversity and Inclusion, one of its first decisions was to change the committee name to the Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advancement (IDEA) Committee.
The committee's mission is to foster diversity and inclusion and break through biases to achieve equity, which will only strengthen our business and community connections.
February marks Black History Month and The Chamber strongly encourages everyone to learn more about the stories, struggles and accomplishments of Black Canadians.
There have been Black communities in BC since 1858. In that year, Nancy and Charles Alexander were one of the first Black families in Greater Victoria. The Alexanders settled on the corner of what is now Douglas and Fisgard streets before relocating to the District of Saanich, where they farmed for 33 years and raised 10 children. Charles built the first school house in the area and served as a school trustee.
Finding and keeping workers continues to be a major challenge facing employers. The restaurant and hospitality sector estimates it's heading into a new year without 20% of the staff needed.
To try and help ease the crunch, the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association has asked the Provincial government to exempt BC employers from requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment for the next two years. The Chamber supports this move as well as a request that the federal government speed up the process to allow foreign workers to come to BC.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.
Another building has been purchased by BC Housing to provide temporary shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria. The province announced yesterday that 70 indoor spaces will be available after renovations to 225 Russell St. in Victoria.
“In order to hit our target of bringing everyone in tents in parks in Victoria inside by the end of April, this building is a necessary part of the plan,” said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, adding the plan is to renovate the site for use as long-term supportive housing.
Our Place Society will operate the shelter and help residents access support services as needed.
Make sure to register for our Business Restart Series with Shayne Ramsay, CEO BC Housing on May 11. Details below!
News that Greater Victoria is in line for 210 new licensed child-care spaces will be welcomed by parents. Many working families are often underemployed because parents are unable to work due to the lack of accessible, affordable care for their kids.
The provincial government announced the spaces yesterday as part of its Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, which has created 1,630 spaces in Greater Victoria since 2018.
When the time is right to welcome visitors back to our region, a new experience will be ready to share the story of the Lək̓ʷəŋən people's land and history. The Songhees Nation received $637,900 from the province's Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program to help build a 25-foot aluminum landing craft that can fit 12 passengers.
The vessel will take people on tours of culturally significant sites where the Lək̓ʷəŋən fished and gathered other food sources such as shellfish and berries. The marine trail runs from Colwood down past Victoria and up to Cadboro Bay. Tours are expected to begin next year.
Last week, the provincial government announced a new option for its workers who live on the West Shore. The Westhills ShareSpace office in Langford offers about 10,000-square-feet of offices that allow for co-working areas and private spaces.
"Having this hub in Langford will allow residents to work close to home, get out of traffic, and spend more time with their families, creating a better work/life balance,” Langford Mayor Stew Young said in the news release issued by the province.
About 2,000 BC government workers, or 20% of its Greater Victoria workforce, live in West Shore communities. The Chamber supports the move as a transportation solution that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, moving government workers out of downtown needs to be done in consultation with businesses.
On CBC's On The Island, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said it's vital we grow the economy without pitting communities in the region against each other.
"The workers downtown are a huge part of that downtown economy," Williams said.
A strong public sector and consistently low cases of COVID-19 helped Vancouver Island place six communities in the Top 10 Most Resilient Cities in BC, according to BC Business Magazine.
The City of Langford ranks No. 1 overall for its continued growth during the pandemic, with high volumes of residential home sales, housing starts and one of the youngest populations in the province. The move to employees working from home was another factor in Langford's favour, giving communities outside urban cores more points than in previous polls. Cities that rely heavily on tourism were typically farther down the list this year.
Greater Victoria's unemployment rate was 5% in January, down from 5.8% in December. The region's unemployment rate was 11% last July. The number of people in the labour force was 217,000 in January. That's down from 221,000 in January 2020.
"Our region typically has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, so it's good to see us getting closer to where we were before the pandemic," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "On the other hand, there are people who have left the workforce who will be needed as our economy recovers. Employment flexibility and accessible childcare remain key to bringing them back."
With the Victoria Film Festival in full swing, there's some good news from the film industry. MovieMaker magazine has named Greater Victoria the fifth-best small city to live and work as a movie maker in 2021. The magazine praises our region for its locations, which can "double for everything from Central Park to English castles to the French Quarter to Napa Valley."
The Chamber continues to work with the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission as well as Malahat Film Studios, Camosun College, the District of Saanich and all of our partners working on bringing production facilities to Greater Victoria.