Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Grace Lore is hosting an online information session on Dec. 4 that is open to Chamber members interested in learning more about Victoria's Community Led Crisis Response team.
The special unit responds to calls involving people experiencing a mental health crisis. It's an alternative to having police attend these calls. Instead, trained health professionals use their expertise to de-escalate the situation and provide needed care. The Chamber supports efforts to make our community safer for everyone.
"My office team and I are working with AVI and Canadian Mental Health Association to provide an opportunity for more people in the city to learn about what they do and how to access support, whether for themselves, a loved-one, or someone who they interact with at their business," Lore said.
The info session runs 7- 8:30pm, Monday Dec. 4. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a link to attend the virtual session.
Businesses can begin applying for the $10.5-million Securing Small Business Rebate Program as of Nov. 22.
Eligible organization can receive up to $2,000 for the cost of repairs due to vandalism, and up to $1,000 for prevention measures such as security cameras or gates.
Applications are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023, to help businesses recoup costs incurred this year.
The Chamber strongly supports safe communities. Everyone needs to feel safe at home, at work and in our communities.
Last week, new legislation was introduced to ban the use of illicit drugs from:
The legislation attempts to address concerns raised now that personal possession of small amounts of illegal drugs is permitted. The rule change is part of a pilot program to reduce stigma, cited as a barrier holding people back from seeking help.
If passed, the legislation will allow police officers to stop people from using drugs if they don't move to a supervised consumption site or other appropriate area.
A proposal to keep communities safe from the small group of people responsible for repeat criminal activity is a step in the right direction.
Bill C-48 was given its first reading in the Senate yesterday. The Act to Amend the Criminal Code (bail reform) aims to keep violent offenders behind bars instead of being released before trial. The amendments were supported by BC's provincial government, and reflect a public frustration with feelings that some areas are becoming more unsafe.
"The Chamber strongly advocates for safe communities as fundamental to good business," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "That said, we've also heard from experts on criminal law in Victoria and know that real change will require investing in the court staff and infrastructure needed to keep the system working as intended."
New law prohibits drugs near parks
In related news, the federal government also approved this week a request by the province to prohibit illicit drugs in areas frequented by kids and families.
As of Monday, it is illegal to possess controlled substances within 15 metres of a playground, wading pool or a skate park.
“Decriminalization is one part of a complex response to the toxic-drug crisis," Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto said in a news release. "As the longer-term effects of decriminalization are assessed, and more addictions and mental-health services are established, it’s important to consider and take steps that specifically protect children.”
Schools are back in session next week and that means it's time to slow down. Last year, the Victoria Police Department teamed up with the Greater Victoria School District SD61 to remind drivers that a change in speed limit takes effect on many streets in Greater Victoria.
Police are typically out in force to ensure motorists slow down so that the walk to school is safer for students. With more families embracing active transportation, this message is more important than ever.
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."
Travel restrictions are being lifted tonight for many areas of Interior BC devastated by wildfires, but for people and businesses forced to flee their homes recovery will take time.
“The emergency order we put in place on Saturday has had the effect we required and thousands of hotel rooms were made available for people forced from their homes, as well as the many firefighters and emergency crews who are protecting us during the worst wildfire season in our history," BC's Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness said in a news release.
The Chamber has been in conversation with affected chambers to offer support during this difficult time.
"We know that Greater Victoria is an exceptionally compassionate and generous community," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "There are ways to help now, and there will be a need to help communities as they work to recover from so much loss."
How to help:
Housing supply is at the core of Chamber advocacy. Greater Victoria, like much of North America, is facing a crunch — not enough homes are being built to meet demand. This affects the cost of living for employees, delays people from starting a family and impacts the availability of shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
A group of Canadian housing sector organizations recently released the National Housing Accord: A Multi-Sector Approach to Ending Canada’s Rental Housing Crisis. The report offers 10 solutions that aim to focus the efforts of all levels of government and industry on policies to support more building.
"It's a bit of a Catch 22 in that we need skilled tradespeople to build homes so that the market has enough supply for skilled tradespeople to be able to afford to live here," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The lack of housing affects people at all income levels but is particularly concerning for people early in their careers and those who have the added costs that come with raising kids."
The City of Victoria has added an electric fire truck to its growing fleet of electric vehicles. The Rosenbauer Revolutionary Technology pumper fire engine, currently being assembled, is expected to arrive by the end of the year. Funding from the provincial government allowed the city to purchase the electric fire engine for about the same cost as a typical fire engine.
Vancouver and Brampton are the only other fire departments in Canada that have ordered RT electric fire engines, which are in use in Los Angeles, Berlin, Amsterdam and Dubai.
A panel of experts has been tasked with developing a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan for the City of Victoria. The goal is to address multiple complex issues such as "declining civility and social cohesion, increasing social disorder, inadequate housing supply and homelessness, poverty, inequality, addictions, mental and physical health challenges, criminal activity and other factors."
The panel will work over the next 15 months to advise Victoria council on immediate interventions as well as long-term solutions.
"I’m in frequent contact with the business community throughout the downtown and beyond and I’m consistently hearing that the impact of the pandemic is far from over," Fort Properties Ltd. CEO/co-owner Suzanne Bradbury said in the city's news release. "I believe that this is the right initiative at the right time and I’m honoured to bring a small business perspective.”
Along with Bradbury, the panel includes:
The City of Victoria is considering a program that will help spruce up the look of businesses in the downtown core. The Business Façade Beautification Reimbursement Program is on the agenda for Thursday's council meeting. The city and the Downtown Victoria Business Association would split the cost of the program.
“This is an incentive to the property owners and the businesses on that block to join together and make their block look better," DVBA CEO Jeff Bray told the Times Colonist. "And I think when you do that over a handful of key blocks, it will be very noticeable.”
The Township of Esquimalt and the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce introduced the Business Façade Improvement Project this year.
"As the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, we support investment in our very important downtown centres," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "They're not all the same, of course, but they all need to be safe communities. The best way to do that is to support community pride led by local business."
How do we solve homelessness? There's no easy answer as cities across the world and particularly along the west coast of North America are experiencing a surge in people living on the streets. In Greater Victoria, parts of our regional downtown have become almost unrecognizable. A constant state of distress impacts everyone who experiences the scene of people suffering from untreated mental health issues and addiction.
"The Chamber is looking at long-term solutions that could take generations while also calling for immediate action that can make a real difference today," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We need to work with our community partners, specifically those who are on the frontline. Their experiences are vital to helping shape policies and programs that address the roots of this issue."
Partners such as Our Place Society and the Victoria Conservatory of Music, who recently co- authored an essay in the Times Colonist have offered a thoughtful four-point plan that deserves consideration. The essay is worth a read but The Chamber agrees that we need to:
Arriving at work to find your storefront window smashed or property vandalized can be a nightmare for business owners and their staff. Dealing with the cost of repairs or insurance paperwork can add to the anxiety.
A new provincial program starting in the fall will help businesses invest in preventative measures, and assist with the clean up if a property crime happens. The $10.5 million Securing Small Business Rebate Program will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023.
Businesses can apply for up to $2,000 to help cover the cost of cleaning up broken glass and graffiti and up to $1,000 for vandalism prevention such as security cameras or gates.
The Chamber continues to strongly advocate for Safe Communities. Everyone needs to feel safe at work, in their community and at home. The ongoing toxic drug crisis as well as a shortfall in available mental health care has contributed to a rise in the number of people experiencing profound distress in public places.
On Monday, BC's Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions announced the Westshore was one of the regions that will be getting a Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Team. The program has shown success in Victoria.
"We've called for the province to focus on the fundamental need to have the resources to help people when they need it," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "It's not enough to ask someone in distress to wait weeks or months for treatment. Too often this ends up with calls to the police and people going through the criminal justice system."
Crisis Response Teams provide on-site emotional and mental-health assessments, crisis intervention and referrals to appropriate services in the community. This helps people in need access treatment and frees up police resources to focus on crime.
For more on what's being done, check out the new series of Chamber Chats focused on mental health in the workplace and community.
Managing mental health in the workplace
Talking about mental health in the workplace
Making downtown Victoria cleaner and safer benefits our entire region.
Last week, the City of Victoria announced the Our Dwtn revitalization program to attract people back to downtown. The city has allocated $1 million for the plan, which includes a Feet on the Street program utilizing VicPD foot patrols and city bylaw officers to provide a more visible presence. The intent is to help people feel safer.
The program also includes a mix of cultural and retail programs to enhance the experience of being downtown.
In June, the city and the Downtown Victoria Business Association are hosting a Scrub-Up event to refresh the area ahead of the busy summer season.
Chamber op-ed calls for regional approach to Greater Victoria's collective downtown
By the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Downtown Victoria Business Association, and the Urban Development Institute – Capital Region.
There has been a lot of talk lately about downtown Victoria.
Some of the talk is positive. Greater Victoria often ranks highly in lists of desirable places to live, work and visit. Our region has a sterling reputation — especially to people who aren’t from here.
But it would seem many of us believe our own bad publicity. Have we taken on an inferiority complex?
Crime and violence are real but not rampant as some would have us believe. And at the root of these issues are housing and mental illness.
The Chamber has been working to advocate for investment and policy changes that make all of our communities safer. It's a complex issue that requires a major increase in resources to treat people struggling with mental health and addictions.
That said, we're please to hear that the federal government has proposed changes to Canada's bail system to keep violent repeat offenders off our streets. The shift comes after BC moved to use tools available to the province to address repeat offenders.
"This is a start, but we need to address bottlenecks with our court systems and the length of time it takes to provide treatment for people who want help with mental health or addiction issues," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "We don't have enough capacity in jails or treatment centres, and everyone requires a fair trial and can't be held on bail indefinitely."
The Chamber will continue calling on all levels of government to ensure resources are available for the adequate enforcement of laws and bylaws, as well as investment in long-term solutions that address the root of the issues. Everyone needs to feel safe where they live and work.
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.
The Tofino Bus is returning to service starting May 4, the Wilson's Group of Companies announced last week. The service was paused in December as the company needed to shift to a seasonal approach to stay sustainable. The drop in passengers taking the bus over the winter was too much for the company to subsidize the service based on summer revenue.
The Tofino Bus and Vancouver Island Connector service will re-start with weekend service from Thursdays to Mondays, and could ramp up to seven days a week in June. “We expect to see lower passenger counts to start, however, we typically see a rise around the May long weekend which lasts throughout most of the summer” Wilson’s Group of Companies Brand Manager Samantha Wilson-Newton said.
The Chamber applauds the increased connectivity for Island communities, and continues to call on government to invest in safe transportation options.
A fire at The Mustard Seed food bank on Queens Avenue has closed the much-needed service and left the charity seeking help to repair the damage.
The blaze occurred in the early morning on March 27, with CHEK News reporting that the Victoria Fire Department was called at 6:21 am. Crews were able to extinguish the flames quickly but smoke damage shut down operations. The Mustard Seed typically serves 3,000 hot meals every month, as well as distributing 1,200 food hampers. The organization said they will let the public know when they reopen by posting on their Facebook page.
Victoria has been chosen as one of 12 hubs in BC for the Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative, announced today by the provincial government.
The initiative will work to "identify cases for investigation and intervention, and provide documentation that will help prosecutors make informed decisions about charge assessments and prosecutions."
BC Attorney General Niki Sharma said the province is working with the federal government on legislative changes to the Criminal Code to toughen up laws around repeat violent offenders.
The initiative will be supported by the Special Investigation and Targeted Enforcement Program. The program will have a $16 million budget over three years to improve how police agencies share information around cases involving repeat violent offenders.
The province said it is consulting with Indigenous stakeholders to ensure the initiative is culturally appropriate.
The Chamber applauds the City of Victoria council for its willingness to listen and make decisions that contribute to a great community for all.
Victoria council has voted to approve the Harris Green redevelopment that will add 1,500 much-needed rental units. Council also agreed to restore funding for a late-night policing program that has shown proven results.
Chamber members are clear that safe communities and affordable housing, which helps employers find and keep workers, are among their top advocacy priorities.
Municipalities across Greater Victoria are working through their budget deliberations, and the decisions made by local councils often have a direct impact on our daily lives.
The Chamber acknowledges the work done by all of our region's mayors and councils, and we urge them to stick to the principles and values that create great communities. Taxes need to be fair and affordable, services need to meet expectations and people need to feel safe.
"I speak with our area mayors often and I know they understand the importance of business and they say they want to help and not unfairly add regulatory and financial hurdles," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "And I know that most of the business owners I speak with understand the importance of taxes and paying a fair share for operating in a municipality. In return they expect proper levels of policing to keep their employees, customers and property safe, and thoughtful investment in infrastructure, programs and services that improves everyone's quality of life."
Provincial legislation requires municipalities adopt their financial plans by March 31 and tax rate bylaws before May 15.
Registration is now open for organizations and individuals interested in taking part in this year's Moose Hide Campaign Day on May 11. There is also a separate registration for schools with K-12 classes looking to participate.
The Moose Hide Campaign Development Society helps promote safe communities by calling for all Canadians to speak out against violence towards women and children. Last year, more than 400,000 people took part.
This year's Moose Hide Campaign Day event will be held May 11 in Victoria and livestreamed across the country. The day begins at 7 am with a sunrise ceremony and ends with a fast breaking followed by Community Feast from 6 to 7 pm.
Almost everyone enjoys having the sun stick around a little longer in the evening. However, the switch to Daylight Savings Time this Sunday also creates challenges for many employers dealing with tired staff adjusting to the shift in routine.
WorkSafeBC issued a reminder that the change can create real risks for workers who drive for a living.
“Fatigue is a type of impairment that reduces mental and physical performance,” Road Safety at Work program director Trace Acres said, noting people who drive for work could be more at risk of crashing as body clocks take time to catch up with alarm clocks. “Research shows (fatigue) is a contributing factor in about 20% of crashes.”
Road Safety at Work suggests employers make sure their drivers know their responsibilities and procedures to deal with fatigue. The goal is to avoid risk by ensuring adequate breaks for fresh air, sticking to daylight hours when possible and scheduling outside of peak-accident time of 3 to 6 pm.
The Chamber has advocated for an end to shifting clocks and helped convince the provincial government to survey British Columbians. The result showed 93% support for stopping the twice-annual time change. To avoid cross-border confusion, BC has said it's now waiting for the Pacific US states to get federal approval to also put a permanent end to the switch.
Yesterday, the 2023 budget was released with a focus on addressing many of the symptoms of unaffordability affecting British Columbians. However, there was a lack of new investment aimed at improving the province’s business climate.
The Chamber is traditionally the first business association to host the finance minister after the unveiling of the province's annual budget and BC Finance Minister Katrine Conroy addressed more than 100 business and community leaders today at the Hotel Grand Pacific.
Among the highlights of BC Budget 2023 are $1 billion in new money for mental health and addiction services, new funding to improve food security and the $480 million Future Ready Plan, which will help employees gain the skills needed by employers.
The province is forecasting deficits for the next three years but has chosen to increase spending this year.
Minister Conroy said global inflation and the lingering effects of the pandemic are contributing to systemic challenges that make life less affordable for British Columbians.
In the next 30 days, the $3.6 billion surplus left over from last year needs to be spent and will be used for a number of projects currently in the works. Details of that spending will be made available in the coming weeks.
“The Chamber has heard from our members that they need help finding and keeping workers, and they want more done to ensure safe communities for all,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said, noting there are also annual increases to the Carbon Tax, which will add to the cost of doing business. “This budget will help by addressing symptoms of unaffordability through the renter’s tax credit, school food programs and a significant increase to healthcare funding. It’s a start but we would have liked to see BC Budget 2023 give a higher profile to the role business plays in improving the quality of life for all British Columbians. Businesses are the ones who make the investments needed to build resilience and create real solutions to affordability.”