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.
Tables are selling fast for the upcoming chance to attend in-person the Bank of Canada's Economic Progress Report in Victoria.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has secured the Victoria Convention Centre to ensure we have a large enough facility to meet anticipated demand for our June 8 event. The last time the Bank spoke live in Victoria, a sold-out Crystal Garden was filled with business and community leaders who had high praise for the experience.
"Our event is the day after what could be a crucial rate announcement, and we know many will want to better understand how the Bank makes its decisions," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "It's not easy to secure an event of this importance. Business people across the country will have their eyes on Victoria, and it's pretty cool that we get to experience it in-person."
The Economic Progress Report will be broadcast live on. A press conference for national media will take place after the speech and Q&A session with Deputy Governor Paul Beaudry.
Big decision looms for Bank of Canada
With the next announcement on interest rates set for June 7, there are mixed opinions on what the bank will do.
Some analysts are calling for another rate hike to help mitigate the risk of high inflation, while other market strategists say they don't forecast an increase next month.
On May 18, the Bank of Canada's Financial System Review found three areas of concern in the economy.
The next scheduled event, after the interest rate announcement June 7, is the Economic Progress Report speech in Victoria on June 8.
Are you ready for the digital dollar?
The Bank of Canada is in the news this week, after announcing they're working on something called a central bank digital currency or a digital Canadian dollar. The Bank wants to be ready, though there are still plenty of questions to answer before it becomes reality.
"If a digital Canadian dollar were issued, it would be money that every Canadian could use every day," Bank Governor Tiff Macklem said.
A digital dollar wouldn't replace bank notes, and like paper bills, it would not accrue interest or change in value. If the federal government asks for a digital dollar, the Bank wants to be ready to issue the currency. They're asking Canadians for feedback through a survey running from May 8 to June 19.
"I'm sure the topic of a digital dollar will come up on June 8, in what's shaping up to be a really exiciting and historic event for Victoria," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
The Chamber hosts the Bank of Canada's Deputy Governor Paul Beaudry as he delivers the next Economic Progress Report from Victoria. The reports earn national coverage and offer insight into the Bank's analysis of where the economy is heading. See more details under Upcoming Business Leaders Luncheons below.
As Greater Victoria municipalities reveal their 2023 budgets, many businesses are finding out if they'll face higher taxes this year.
Victoria, for example, has seen operating costs surge due to inflation and new spending. City council tried to scale back but businesses and residents are still facing hundreds of dollars in new costs. The typical business property assessed at $714,000 will pay an extra $445 despite getting few of the services or benefits provided to residents.
It's much worse for industrial lands, which face a 37% increase that could add hundreds of thousands to major operations.
"It's clear that we have work to do to help many of the new councillors in our region understand why reducing business taxes is an investment in community," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said, noting that businesses need cost certainty and many were hit with rising inflation as they were beginning to return to normal after the pandemic.
"These businesses provide goods and services as well as jobs for their owners and employees. Jobs that are at risk of going away if the business is unaffordable," Williams said. "And in the case of industry, these new taxes effectively replace good jobs with money for the city to spend. That's wrong. We need to invest in our marine industries, especially, to preserve the value they add to our region."
If you enjoy understanding the policies behind decisions that impact our daily lives, you'll want to read the Bank of Canada's latest report released today. The Summary of Governing Council deliberations offers a glimpse behind the scenes of why the Bank chose to pause interest rate hikes on April 12.
The council expressed concern about public perceptions fueling higher inflation and, after discussion, chose to signal that though the rate is unchanged it could go up if needed.
It's a fascinating read that offers great insight into why the cost of borrowing will remain high until inflation can be tamed.
Ahead of The Chamber hosting a high-profile visit from the Bank of Canada's Deputy Governor on June 8, there are signs that high interest rates have done their job.
This morning, the Bank of Canada announced it was holding its overnight rate at 4.5%. It's the second month in a row the rate has stayed the same after rising eight times since March 2022. The move suggests the bank is seeing the impact of higher interest rates reflected in cooling inflation. The bank is now forecasting inflation to drop to 3% by mid-year and slowly fall to the target rate of 2% by the end of next year.
"Inflation in many countries is easing in the face of lower energy prices, normalizing global supply chains and tighter monetary policy," stated the bank's news release. "At the same time, labour markets remain tight and measures of core inflation in many advanced economies suggest persistent price pressures, especially for services."
The bank will make its next rate announcement on June 7, followed by the release of its latest Economic Progress Report on June 8 in Victoria at an event hosted by The Chamber. See below for more information on this special Business Leaders Luncheon, sponsored by Odlum Brown.
The minimum wage in BC is going up to $16.75 an hour starting June 1. The increase is expected to affect 150,000 employees in the province. The current minimum wage is $15.65 an hour.
The new rate was brought in to reflect the high rate of inflation in 2022. After the change, BC will have the second highest minimum wage in Canada after the Yukon, where it is $16.77 an hour.
"The Chamber is concerned about how businesses will be affected by this decision, which was made without adequate consultation," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Most of our members pay their employees higher than minimum wage but this increase has the potential to create a domino effect that will add unexpected costs for all businesses as well as for consumers who ultimately pay the price."
On Monday, the Bank of Canada released its Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectations as well as its Business Outlook Survey. Both are for the first quarter of 2023.
The surveys show that many Canadians are concerned about how high levels of government spending will impact inflation.
Consumers are optimistic that costs will come down eventually but are reducing their discretionary spending for the time being. The survey found that low unemployment was giving confidence to workers, though there was some concern about the quality of jobs related to the quantity available.
Businesses are planning for sales to grow at a slower pace than the exceptional growth many experienced in the past year. As supply chains continue to normalize, businesses said they expect the prices of their services and products to stabilize.
The Chamber is thrilled to welcome the Bank of Canada's Deputy Governor to Victoria on June 8 to deliver the bank's next Economic Progress Report. See below for more information.
Seeing tiny buds turn to bright blossoms is a sure sign of spring. Another, at least in Greater Victoria, is the growing buzz around the region's real estate. Sales in February were up 65.5% from the month before — though still down from February 2022.
"The market is seeing some positive growth as we move into springtime, which is traditionally the busiest market for home sales," Victoria Real Estate Board Chair Graden Sol said in a media release. "Inventory levels are starting to increase, a welcome trend when compared to the record lows of last year. We're also seeing a stabilization at some price points and properties that are priced in accordance with current market conditions are selling at a good pace."
There were 1,809 active MLS listings for sale in Greater Victoria at the end of February. That's up from 849 for the same period in 2022. The benchmark value of a single family home was $1.25 million in February, down from $1.32 million in February 2022. Benchmark value for a condo dropped from $580,900 to $568,200.
As expected, the Bank of Canada held off on changing its target interest rate. The move signals that efforts to curb inflation are working. The forecast is for inflation to keep falling and reach 3% by summer. Statistics Canada will provided its next update on the Consumer Price Index on March 21.
It's Budget Season for all levels of government. After the province reveals BC Budget 2023 on Feb. 28, the federal government will announce its own budget at some point in the following weeks. Municipalities in BC don't have the same flexibility, with legislation requiring financial plans be adopted by March 31 and tax rate bylaws before May 15.
The Chamber is working to remind Greater Victoria municipalities that they need to support their community's businesses through fair taxation. We encourage Chamber members to get involved with their local government through however they can. In the City of Victoria, for example, Council is asking The Chamber for member feedback on a 6.96% increase to residential property taxes that's largely the result of inflation. While that's down from the almost 9% increase initially proposed in January, there might be more opportunities to find efficiencies.
Businesses that pay property taxes in Victoria are urged to voice their formal feedback by:
If you have questions or concerns about municipalities outside Victoria, please let us know by emailing email@example.com. And watch for more coverage on The Chamber's budget advocacy on social media and in upcoming editions of BizNews.
Could this be the end of interest rate increases? The Bank of Canada increased its rate today to 4¼%, but softened the language it uses around future increases.
A statement from the bank said the bottlenecks that had been affecting global supply chains are loosening.
The Consumer Price Index was at 6.9% in October, though core inflation was 5% — much closer to the bank's target of 2%.
"Three-month rates of change in core inflation have come down, an early indicator that price pressures may be losing momentum," the bank stated. "However, inflation is still too high. The longer consumers and businesses expect inflation to be above the target, the greater the risk that elevated inflation becomes entrenched."
Make sure to consult with your preferred financial and mortgage advisors —The Chamber's Member Directory is a great place to find experts who can help you make your business thrive.
Businesses that service the real estate industry are a major contributor to Greater Victoria's economy. However, rising interest rates have slowed sales. Throw in the traditional quiet period around the holidays and fewer properties are changing hands. Only 384 sales were recorded in the region for November, down from 653 last November.
There are also concerns about potential unintended consequences of recent changes to the provincial Strata Property Act.
"It is an open question whether these changes will bring any additional rental stock to the market — with BC's complex Residential Tenancy Act not all homeowners of vacant strata homes have a desire to become landlords and current interest rates are less attractive to investors who may want to purchase strata rental properties," Victoria Real Estate Board President President Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "It is also possible that these measures will contribute further to eroding housing affordability as older stratas with rental restrictions were generally valued lower than their rentable counterparts."
Slower sales have also contributed to a slight dip in market values over the last few months. That could mean some property assessments — being sent out soon to homeowners from BC Assessment — will be higher than current market value.
“I want to emphasize that assessments are based on July 1 values of this year, meaning that when similar properties were sold up to and around July 1, those market value sales are used to calculate your assessed value," Assessor Bryan Mura said in a news release. “An increase in assessment value does not, however, necessarily result in an increase in property taxes. Taxes are typically only affected if you are above the average value change for your community."
Inflation has become the top concern for many businesses. The Chamber is hearing from many members struggling to balance higher costs by adjusting prices and raising wages to keep staff.
On top of this, the increased emphasis on tipping that took hold during the pandemic has created new challenges for employers, employees and customers.
The issues and a few solutions are the subject of a new series that recently ran in the Times Colonist. The articles shine a light on how tipping was affected by social changes over the past few years, as well as consumers reliance on debit cards and tax implications for people whose income relies on tips.
It's well worth the read as we head into the holiday shopping season!
Changing times create disruption but also present tremendous opportunities for forward-thinking organizations. The tide of high inflation has highlighted the need to create more resilient local production and supply networks.
Groceries are a good example of the need for investment in suppliers located closer to home. The provincial government's Buy BC program and the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance's Island Good shows the value of supporting innovation led by business.
On Monday, BuyBC hosted an event in Victoria called Every Chef Needs a Farmer, Every Farmer Needs a Chef. Among the exhibitors was Finest at Sea Ocean Products.
"There is clear evidence of the value that bring local brings to a community, but it's not always top of mind when we're at the grocery story purchasing produce for our families," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The Buy BC and Island Good programs makes it easier to remember the value in buying local, both in terms of freshness and health as well as in ensuring local farmers feel they are supported so they can take the risks needed to build their business."
To paraphrase that old Isley Brothers hit, it's not quite time to "Shout," but inflation is trending "a little bit softer now."
The latest figures from Statistics Canada show the pace of inflation slowed in September, with the cost of goods rising 6.9% from a year earlier. Inflation has been declining for three months, after peaking at 8.1% in June.
The sharp rise in costs was initially attributed to fuel shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, a super-heated housing market and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. However, fuel costs have stopped rising as sharply and supply chains are getting close to their typical efficiencies.
"However, these gains were largely offset by the continued rise of prices for food and services. Unfortunately, there was no progress on 'core' inflation, which held steady at 5%," Canadian Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Stephen Tapp said. "Today’s lack of progress on inflation — together with Bank of Canada surveys released earlier this week that suggested inflation expectations remain elevated — should be concerning enough to the Bank of Canada for them to deliver the 50 basis-point interest rate hike that the market expects (Oct. 26)."