It's a familiar story that has the statistics to back it up. Greater Victoria as a region is one of the safest places in Canada, but the downtown core in the City of Victoria faces challenges that require urgent attention.
A report released this week by Statistics Canada shows Greater Victoria has a Crime Severity Index of 71.5, which is less than the national average. However, there is a huge discrepancy between municipalities. With a CSI of 148, Victoria is an outlier compared to the region's other municipalities.
“If there’s any region that could benefit from amalgamation or a regional police force, it would be the Capital Regional District, given that we have the makeup of so many smaller agencies and the Victoria Police Department is carrying the lion’s share of the workload,” VicPD police Chief Del Manak told the Times Colonist.
The Chamber continues to call for Better Regional Services and Safe Communities as fundamental requirements for building good business and great community for all.
The Chamber has been effective in our work to keep lines of communication clear between government and the business community. BC's Attorney General David Eby responded to a letter by The Chamber, co-signed by the Surrey Board of Trade and the Alberni Valley and Campbell River and District chambers of commerce.
"We were clear that the Lobbyists Transparency Act as implemented is missing its intended mark," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We support open and transparent government but this is red tape that is casting a chill on many small chambers due to its heavy handed reporting requirements. Threats of fines and public shaming aimed at preventing conflicts of interest are causing collateral damage to non-profits working for the benefit of communities. This flies in the face of the work that chambers do to build connections that enable informed decisions and successful policies."
The Chamber will continue to work with the AG to refine the LTA to better achieve its intended outcomes.
Concerns over inflation and the resulting increase in interest rates sparked by the Bank of Canada have worked to cool down housing sales in our region. The Victoria Real Estate Board's latest statistical analysis shows 35% fewer homes were sold in June compared to the same month last year. There are more listings on the market allowing it to settle into a more typical pace than the frenzied conditions experienced during the pandemic.
However, the benchmark value for homes continued to increase to $1,464,400 in June from $1,446,400 in May.
"It may seem counterintuitive to continue to talk about the need for supply at a time when inventory is rising," VREB President Dinnie-Smyth said in a news release. "We must keep the conversation alive, and we urge all levels of government to continue to aggressively address the housing supply situation. We need more supply of all types of housing."
A lack of housing supply is a major factor in the challenge many employers face finding and keeping workers.
“We are always advocating for more affordable housing and housing supply, as well as security and sustainability in supply chains to get the needed materials in place to create housing,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist.
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.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce added our voice to calls from the Surrey Board of Trade, Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and Campbell River & District Chamber of Commerce to rethink new rules that are casting a chill on the traditional role of business as a trusted voice for decision makers. The new rules require communication with government officials to be logged monthly using a multi-step process.
“Chambers of commerce and boards of trade are embedded in the fabric of our communities," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Our mandate is to give voice to business. In healthy communities, the public sector and private sector co-exist in a balance that creates employment and healthy economies and enables sound policies. This isn’t new, but it is being threatened by onerous requirements that miss their target. We are putting historic relationships at risk with this paternalistic red tape that is effectively censuring important conversations.”
The organizations co-authored a letter to Attorney General David Eby requesting that chambers and boards of trade be exempt from the BC Lobbyists Transparency Act.
In 2020, significant changes to BC’s lobbyist registration regime came into effect creating confusion and concern for every business or organization whose role includes communicating with BC government officials.
Read the letter here: Letter: Re: Exempting Chambers and Boards of Trade from BC Lobbyists Transparency Act
An initiative that started in the City of Victoria, was supported by business and took root across Greater Victoria is moving to the national stage. As of the end of this year, the federal government is banning the production or importation of single-use plastic bags, straws, stir sticks containers and other items that clog up landfills and contaminate natural ecosystems.
The Chamber worked closely with local governments on the initial regulations to ensure government followed innovations already being introduced by business. This helped the implementation unfold smoothly as the rules were a response to public demand as identified by businesses, ensuring success. The best way to address the seriousness of climate change is by supporting innovations led by business.
As Chair of the Council of the Federation, BC Premier John Horgan will host his counterparts from across the country in Victoria on July 11-12.
Premiers from every province and territory in Canada are expected to debate in style at the Fairmont Empress. The premiers will discuss national issues, including a call for the federal government to increase health care funding.
“Canada’s public health-care system began as a 50/50 partnership, but the federal government’s contribution has shrunk to just 22%," Horgan said in a news release. "This is not sustainable for our health-care system and we cannot afford to wait. Today, I renew my call to the federal government to provide their fair share and cover 35% of the costs."
The Chamber is meeting with the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on Monday to offer guidance on the next provincial budget.
Chambers have a long history of being the effective voice of business in their communities. We've worked hard to earn the trust of decision makers as we advocate to make a real difference in policies that help business thrive.
"I'm available to our members any time they want to reach out and discuss concerns or seek support," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We don't always see eye to eye with government officials but we're always respectful and do the work needed to show why policies need to be implemented or changed. A robust and vibrant economy is good for business and everyone in our community."
Individuals can also share their views with the committee by filling out an online survey or sending in written comments by 3 pm, June 24.
BC Minister of Finance Selina Robinson met with Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce members today to address your questions about the province's 2022 Budget, unveiled yesterday.
Minister Robinson expects economic growth even as provincial debt increases.
This year's $71 billion budget is forecast to have a deficit of $5.5 billion, followed by a $4.2 billion deficit in 2023/24. Robinson said the main reasons for the deficits are the anticipated costs of rebuilding damaged transportation infrastructure to withstand future climate events.
Asked whether the province planned to ease the burdens of the EHT — which took $207 million more than anticipated from BC employers last year — or paid sick days, the minister defended the government's current policies. She also acknowledged concerns about linking the minimum wage to inflation and said she will work to make the change as smooth and predictable as possible for business.
Greater Victoria is getting two complex care facilities, though specific locations were not announced. The budget also includes $84 million over three years for planning and capital funding for upgrading the Belleville Terminal.
The tourism sector has been allocated $25 million to help with recovery efforts, though a further $915 million was set aside for potential pandemic-related expenses, including health care costs or economic recovery funding.
Greater Victoria is also in line for numerous “bus and shoulder” expansions to improve regional transit, and money has been earmarked for the transit hub at Uptown in Saanich.
“The Chamber has long advocated for child care as an investment in our economy, and we applaud the province’s commitment to adding 40,000 new spaces within seven years. We also are encouraged by some of the steps to address our lack of housing supply,” Williams said.
Throne speeches are typically more pomp than particulars, and yesterday's ceremonial start to a new session at the BC Legislature was no exception. However, there were a few items of interest to business in Greater Victoria.
Minimum wage, which went through a series of increases to reach $15.20/hour in BC, will now be tied to the rate of inflation.
The housing market, under pressure due to a lack of supply, will soon face a regulated "cooling off period" for buyers.
A new plan is being developed to train British Columbians to meet the one million job openings expected in the next 10 years.
There were also mentions of modernizing the Royal BC Museum, taking action on reconciliation and improving child care by making it a function of the Ministry of Education.
"What we didn't hear was an adequate plan to help business by reducing unfair costs such as the Employer Health Tax, or cutting red tape," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams says. "We're looking forward to hearing details next week about how government will help business and build resilience in our economy."
Chamber Event: A conversation with BC's Finance Minister on Feb. 23
A new state-of-the-art Royal BC Museum is being planned to replace the existing facility. The news was announced by BC's Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Melanie Mark.
The museum began operations 135 years ago and is a major attraction in our region. Minister Mark said the current facility doesn't meet modern safety or accessibility standards.
"A new and modern museum is long overdue, for the safety of all visitors, to remove barriers so everyone can access it and to keep our irreplaceable collections safe," Mark states. "Continuing on without a major redevelopment is not an option for anyone serious about the stewardship of BC’s history and culture. Our goal is to build a state-of-the-art facility that provides an educational and cultural legacy for the province while at the same time brings significant economic and social benefits to the region."
The provincial government's financial picture was better than expected in the first quarter, with the year-end deficit projected to be $4.8 billion — about half of what was initially forecast five months ago in the 2021 budget.
The Chamber recently presented to BC's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to advocate for policies that will help grow the economy and allow the province to return to budget surpluses.
The updated numbers show that BC's economy is rebounding, and that the province has the capacity to continue helping hard hit sectors, such as tourism and transportation, until they can fully participate in the recovery.
On April 27, BC's Minister of Finance Selina Robinson provided Chamber members with an overview of the recently unveiled budget and she answered questions about the state of the province's economy.
If you missed seeing it live, you can still watch a recording of the event to hear what Minister Robinson had to say about government plans to help business and families, and implement new initiatives to ensure our economic recovery continues.
Request Access to the Video
On Tuesday, The Chamber held our 2020 Annual General Meeting, sponsored by Fortis BC, with a special panel featuring mayors from four Greater Victoria municipalities.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin and View Royal Mayor David Screech spoke about affordable housing, amalgamation, the financial impact of COVID-19 and the need to provide mental health services to address homelessness.
"It was a great forum and truly illustrated what makes our region so diverse," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams, who moderated the panel. "We share a lot of challenges across Greater Victoria and there are definitely opportunities to adopt best practices. But there are also differences that we need celebrate as we continue to advocate for better governance for our region."
Election Panels a chance to hear from local candidates
The Chamber is proud to bring you a series of Election Panels featuring candidates running for the three major parties in five of Greater Victoria's electoral districts.
On Tuesday, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams moderated a panel for Victoria-Beacon Hill.
Earlier today, we featured Oak Bay-Gordon Head. Tomorrow, we host candidates in Saanich South. On Friday, it's Esquimalt-Metchosin and, next Tuesday, we have candidates from Victoria-Swan Lake.
"We're asking questions that reflect regional concerns, such as child care and transportation, as well as topics that are more specific to each electoral district," says Williams, who spoke to CFAX yesterday about The Chamber's efforts to host the 2020 Election Panels.
The Chamber is setting up Election Panels to help our members get information on candidates running in Greater Victoria for the provincial election on Oct. 24.
We'll be collaborating with community chambers so make sure to save the following dates and plan to watch via Facebook Live!
Candidates have until 1 pm on Oct. 2 to register, so keep reading BizNews for the latest on when the Election Panels will be held, and who is running in your riding.