Social media platforms have revolutionized the way businesses market their products and services. And while a new study shows a growing disaffection with some of the toxic traits of social media, it's clear the Internet is firmly cemented into our everyday lives.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority's recently published Canada's Internet Factbook survey found that people are finding social media less beneficial. In 2023, only 18% said there was a benefit to social media compared to 25% in 2022 and 35% in 2020. Facebook continues to be the most popular platform, used by 65% of British Columbians. YouTube is used by 54%, Instagram by 43% and LinkedIn by 28%.
British Columbians also report a preference for patronizing Canadian retailers when they shop online (67%) and 43% say they primarily shop locally or equally between local and chain stores.
"It seems highly unlikely that our dependence on the internet will decline anytime soon," states the survey's Executive Summary. "In the meantime, the best course of action is to accept the many positives we derive from this indispensable technology while taking whatever positive and intentional actions we can to reduce the impact of the negatives—or even avoid them altogether."
Phase 1 of a project that shows how innovation led by business can help with some of our community's most complex challenges has officially opened.
The Dalmation, located at 1021 Johnson St., was built by Jawl Residential Ltd. (Dalmation Developments), and features 130 rental units, office space and a new firehall for the Victoria Fire Department within an eight-storey building. The homes will rent for between $375 and $2,900 per month based on unit size and resident income. The next phases of the project will include more than 480 market-rate rental homes and a diverse mix of commercial, retail and restaurant space, as well as dedicated public spaces, including a 250-square-metre public plaza.
“We are very proud of the work that went into developing and constructing The Dalmatian and Victoria Fire Department Headquarters," Director of Development for Dalmatian Developments David Jawl said in a news release. "The completion of this project is a wonderful example of how partnerships between the private and public sector can succeed to deliver much-needed housing and safety infrastructure in our communities.”
The project is a partnership between BC Housing, the City of Victoria, Pacifica Housing and Dalmatian Developments. It is the largest purpose-built affordable rental project of its kind in downtown Victoria.
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.
The Chamber takes its role as the voice of business seriously. When our members ask us to speak up on their behalf, we listen.
The power of that unified voice was on display last week as Chamber CEO Bruce Williams collaborated with the Downtown Victoria Business Association, Destination Greater Victoria, the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria and the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association to call on the province to keep government jobs in Greater Victoria.
A letter sent to the Deputy Minister to the Premier, Shannon Salter, expressed the concerns of Greater Victoria's business community about a directive taking effect April 1. The BC Public Service, like almost every employer, is struggling to find and keep staff. A proposal to hire workers who would report to offices in other BC communities and connect with co-workers virtually was being touted as a modern solution.
The Chamber celebrates change — specifically those "pivot pilots" who quickly found new ways of serving customers and showed the way forward during the pandemic. However, we also can't stand by and watch good jobs be removed from regional economy — particularly our regional downtown that drives a significant share of that economy.
Public sector workers are protected from recessionary pressures that face most private sector workers. Having that as a foundation is one of the keys to allowing a relatively small city like Victoria develop an internationally envied tourist economy and high tech sector.
"The Deputy Minister wrote back to us four days later to reassure Chamber members that government has heard our concerns," Williams said. "All we want is government to consider the impact of any directive on business before the harm is done."
A transformative housing development is going to the City of Victoria for approvals this week. The proposal for Harris Green Village includes 1,500 suites and more than 100,000 square-feet of commercial and retail space.
The neighbourhood, adjacent to downtown Victoria, is considered an up-and-coming-area of the city. The proposal by Starlight Investments goes to Public Hearing on Feb. 9, for council to consider an amendment to the Official Community Plan and rezoning for 1045 Yates St. and the 900-block, as well as a development permit for Phase 1.
"We know our region needs housing supply and this is a significant opportunity to create much needed rental homes in an area that has a lot of appeal," said Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who is speaking at the hearing via video on behalf of the need for housing.
Canada's economy continued to grow in November, although at an almost negligible rate of 0.1%, according to the latest report from Statistics Canada.
Many economists are calling for a brief recession this year as higher borrowing costs are starting to impact consumer spending and business investment. The Bank of Canada said that it expects inflation, currently about 6.3%, to return to its target rate of 2% later in 2023. That will enable the bank to lower interest rates and stimulate the economy with less risk of overheating.
"Greater Victoria has traditionally fared better than many regions during recessions due to our large public sector." said Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who also spoke to CHEK News about the need to consider broad implications before making quick decisions on future of public sector work. "Those workers are very important customers to many local businesses. They've created a synergy over many decades that can't take be taken granted. We need decision makers in government to understand how important it is to keep workers in Greater Victoria for the stability of BC's capital city."
There is something truly spectacular about seeing the lights of Victoria dancing on the waters of the Inner Harbour. That experience is about to get even more impressive as a new attraction is set to debut Dec. 2.
Spearheaded by the Ralmax Group of Companies, the Victoria Harbour Lights: A Winter Dream will feature interactive lights, sounds and animations. The displays will be visible from the shore and on the water, with a special tour available for Victoria Harbour Ferries passengers.
The displays will serve as a draw for people to go downtown, and will help more locals experience the uniqueness of our region's working harbour.
“We have something that is very special, very unique and we should certainly embrace it,” Ralmax founder Ian Maxwell told the Times Colonist.
Lights of Wonder
And while the Inner Harbour is set to shine from the water, the Downtown Victoria Business Association is planning to add their own magic to the city. Starting Dec. 15, Lights of Wonder will transform Centennial Square into a holiday wonderland. Light exhibits and a 40-foot tree will be on display until the end of the year, providing a festive backdrop for live entertainment, food vendors and more.
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."
Housing remains a drag on the vitality of our region, though overall quality of life in Greater Victoria has improved.
According to the 2022 Vital Signs Report, released this week, Greater Victoria's grade has moved up from a B grade last year to a B+ this year.
Housing earned an F grade this year, a significant drop from a D+ last year.
"Vital Signs is a great check up on our region's economy, and The Chamber was happy to contribute as a community partner this year," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The grades are a good way to illustrate concepts that contribute to our overall quality of life."
It's the 19th edition of the annual report, which uses surveys as well as stories and graphics to provide snapshots of the past year.
This year's theme asked What Does Community Mean To You? Respondents rated the natural environment and climate as the best things about Greater Victoria. The aforementioned Housing crisis and cost of living were the two most important issues, according to the survey.
The report looks at 12 areas, with grades ranging from a B-plus for Learning and Sports and Recreation, to an F for Housing and a C- for Health and Wellness.
Access to primary health care is an important element of safe communities. The Chamber applauds news that the provincial government is taking serious steps to retain existing family doctors and attract new ones to the province.
A new payment model will be available for family doctors starting in February. The deal will change how patients interact with their doctors, allowing for more focused visits. The current model has been criticized for emphasizing the number of patients seen per day rather than the quality of the visit.
Chamber CEO Bruce Williams gathered at Refire Kitchen with Downtown Victoria Business Association CEO Jeff Bray and Grant Thornton LLP partner Kyman Chan to officially launch Small Business Month in Greater Victoria.
You can check out the Chamber's video of the event, at right.
Throughout October, The Chamber is working with Grant Thornton to provide opportunities and resources for small businesses in our region.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and heartbeat of our downtown,” DVBA CEO Jeff Bray said. “Small Business Month provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the unique, vibrant and creative businesses that make up our downtown small business community.”
To learn more about the events and activities The Chamber has planned for Small Business Month, go to victoriachamber.ca. Also, watch for next week's Chamber Chat with Kyman Chan of Grant Thornton.
“Small business month is an important time to reflect on the importance of and to double down on supporting our amazing small businesses,” outgoing City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said. “Our small businesses are a key character-defining feature of our downtown and our city. This month and always I encourage residents to pop in and visit them in person and resist the temptation of the online non-local alternative.”
Throughout October, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce will be celebrating Small Business Month, sponsored by Grant Thornton LLP.
“Small businesses empower our community by bringing people together, creating jobs, and helping our economy thrive,” Grant Thornton LLP partner Kyman Chan said, noting his firm is helping small businesses weather the current inflationary storm and plan for future growth. “We’re proud to support the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and businesses within the region during Small Business Month, and beyond.”
We often hear small businesses called the backbone of a community. The fact is there is nothing small about businesses that employ more than half of all British Columbians. When you shop at a locally owned business, you are investing in the quality of life of your hometown. The dollars that go to local businesses recirculate in the community about 4.6 times more than the same money spent at corporations that have head offices far away or even in other countries.
“We really experienced how important it is to spend locally over the last two years. Our support of businesses operated by friends and neighbours made a real difference in helping many make it through challenging times,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. “This October, I encourage everyone to express their support by doing business locally — and by expressing gratitude to business owners for all they do to support our community.”
To learn more about the events and activities The Chamber has planned for Small Business Month, go to victoriachamber.ca.
The Chamber applauds the decision by the City of Victoria to extend its Business Recovery from Pandemic bylaw into the spring. The bylaw was set to expire at the end of October. The bylaw temporarily allowed businesses to use outdoor spaces for patios and other commercial activities.
"Businesses are always at the forefront of innovations that move our economy forward and build resilience," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We're happy to see local governments working with businesses to include initiatives that are being asked for by the public."
The deadline extension potentially gives city staff time to look at individual situations to ensure they're safe and accessible, as well as their impact on parking in downtown Victoria.
The pandemic showed that government support has an important role in helping business. As the economy recovers, the lessons learned should help the public and private sectors find more efficient ways to work together.
To that end, Innovation Canada is hosting an event at 10 am on Sept. 14 for entrepreneurs interested in government investment. explain what programs are available to help businesses scale their growth
The free session includes a chance to ask questions. Register here.
Changes are coming to one of downtown Victoria's most celebrated boulevards. The City of Victoria has been working on a redesign of Government Street, which has retained much of its streetscape for 50 years.
Last week, Victoria's Committee of the Whole set a date to vote on approving the redesign for July 28. The Chamber worked with members and partner organizations to provide input on the proposal.
"Government Street is an attraction for residents from around our region and visitors to our destination," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Investing in a refresh helps build economic resilience, but we'd like to see the businesses that have made Government Street so attractive steer this project to make sure it has the best chance of success."
Starting Canada Day, the provincial government will require "marketplace facilitators" charge the PST for the purchase of certain online good and services.
BC defines a marketplace facilitator as a person who:
Businesses with annual sales of less than $10,000 are exempt.
Greater Victoria will be the first region in BC to benefit from access to TELUS premium 5G spectrum. The company announced Friday it was rolling out the high-speed network in select cities across Canada.
“The deployment of our 3500 MHz spectrum is an important step to unlocking the potential of 5G, particularly as it fuels innovation across different industries," Tony Geheran, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operations Officer at TELUS said in a news release. "We believe that Canada should follow international best practices to ensure enough spectrum is available as quickly and affordably as possible so that all Canadians have access to the social, environmental and economic benefits that 5G brings, which is why we continue to advocate for responsible, strategic and predictable regulatory policy as a critical opportunity to drive timely and ubiquitous availability of 5G.”
Digital platforms allowing people to book short-term rental accommodation have been one of the disruptive innovations that will define the past decade.
As with many technological changes, there are pros and cons, including a loss of long-term rental housing for locals and unfair competition for traditional accommodation providers.
The Chamber advocates for Fair Rules for new and established businesses and supports new initiatives to level the playing field. One proposal is to require companies promoting short-term rentals to share information with local governments. This would help municipalities track and ensure all businesses providing accommodation are licensed.
People looking to buy a home in Greater Victoria have more options to choose from as there were 30.1% more listings in May compared to April.
"The real estate market in Greater Victoria is returning to a steadier pace following the strange two years we experienced over the course of the pandemic," Victoria Real Estate Board President Karen Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "While inventory is still below historical levels for a spring market, it is now within our pre-pandemic five-year average, which is good news for buyers."
The cost of a single family home continued to increase, however, with the benchmark value for May at $1.446,400. That's up from $1,424,900 in April.
The minimum wage in BC increased June 1 from $15.20 to $15.65 per hour. The increase is based on the average annual inflation rate of 2.1% in 2021.
"According to the province, the increase helps workers but if governments really want to tackle affordability concerns they need to address the fundamental reasons affecting the cost of living," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. " We need more housing, which requires a concerted effort to allow builders to build — less red tape and more help attracting workers and getting materials to our region."
The Chamber continues to advocate for real solutions that add to Greater Victoria's workforce housing and reduce costs of other major expenses, such as child care and transportation.
"Raising minimum wage can hurt the economy by making it harder for some of our major employers to get high school and college students into the workforce," Williams said. "We'll keep working with our partner organizations to make sure employers have a say on any future increases to minimum wage — especially with atypical factors affecting inflation right now. Government needs to understand that increasing the cost of doing business affects affordability for everyone."
The Chamber hosted BC Ferries President and CEO Mark Collins last week, with more than 60 business leaders at the Coast Victoria Hotel & Marina by APA.
“We had a highly engaged audience who learned about ongoing efforts to electrify the ferry fleet and reduce greenhouse gas and noise emissions," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said, adding that many employers in the room were also keenly interested in BC Ferries work to find and keep workers. The recent addition of 500 new employees helped the corporation add more than 100 extra sailings for the Victoria Day Weekend.
City of Colwood Mayor Rob Martin, who attended the meeting, stood up to eloquently ask everyone in the room to call on the province to fund a formal study of a commuter ferry between Royal Bay and downtown Victoria. The concept is supported by BC Ferries and The Chamber, and now requires political will to become a reality.
“The Chamber has a long history of working with BC Ferries to connect this vital Island link with leaders in Greater Victoria’s business community and it was great to hold another successful in person meeting,” Williams said of the May 12 Business Leaders Luncheon, sponsored by Seaspan Victoria Shipyards.
The City of Langford is looking at plans for two 20,000-square-foot sound stages at the former Western Speedway property, reports the Times Colonist. The project would be a boon to Greater Victoria's burgeoning film industry, which is also anticipating three sound stages at Camosun College's Interurban campus and a potential film studio on Malahat Nation land.
"We need these investments in infrastructure to take the industry to a new level," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who recently hosted a Chamber Chat with Camosun's Geoff Wilmshurst about their plans.
Record low unemployment in Canada was reflected in Greater Victoria as the regional rate dropped to 4.1% in March. That's down from 4.2% a month earlier.
“We’ve had one of the lowest unemployment rates for years, which is a mixed blessing for our regional economy,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist. “We are fundamentally sound and many sectors have rebounded from the pandemic, but the challenge facing all employers, including our members, is finding and keeping the right staff.”
Statistics Canada figures show 229,800 people in Greater Victoria were available to work in March, up 4.3% from March 2021.
"That’s welcome news as people need jobs and employers need people to achieve their economic potential. But people also need homes and our region’s population is growing faster than we’re able to add new homes," Williams said. "The Labour Market numbers really highlight how urgently we need a concerted effort by all levels of government to increase housing supply.”
It's time to get the Citizens' Assembly process back on track. In 2018, voters in the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria gave a mandate to their respective councils to explore the pros and cons of merging the two municipalities. The good faith discussions were interrupted by the global pandemic, but they're far from forgotten. In fact, recent news about policing challenges shows how vital a Citizens' Assembly might be for the future of our region.
The Chamber has long advocated for Better Regional Services. We don't know what a Citizens' Assembly will find, but it is the right approach to get answers to questions about governance — and merging services such as policing — in Greater Victoria's largest municipalities.
As the province moves closer to Step 4 of the BC Restart Plan on Sept. 7, it's time for the Citizens' Assembly process to get back on track.
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.