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.
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.