A program to get more people out of their cars and onto e-bikes is proving popular for the District of Saanich.
The Community E-bike Incentive Pilot Program launched Oct. 12. It's aim is to provide 300 people with between $1,600 and $350 toward the purchase of an e-bike. As expected, the $200,000 allocated for the program is being claimed quickly. After the funds run out, the municipality will review the program to see how it fits with future climate programs.
The Chamber is lending our voice to a coalition working to protect the future of the cruise industry. The coalition, spearheaded by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, is calling on the federal government to immediately engage with the United States to ensure cruise ships continue to stop in Canadian ports such as Victoria.
The urgent effort is needed after the US Congress passed a temporary exemption to the US Passenger Vessel Services Act. The exemption was a response to Canada closing its ports in May 2021, and effectively allowed cruise ships to bypass Canada.
Until that exemption was signed into law, the PVSA had required foreign-flagged ships sailing from US ports to stop at an international port. The law has helped grow the Canadian cruise ship industry as BC ports have become a popular stop for ships on the way to Alaska.
However, there are new threats to permanently end the requirement for ships to stop in Canada on the way to Alaska. This could be devastating for places such as Greater Victoria, which has many businesses that cater to the cruise ship season.
A pilot project could help working parents of school-aged kids. The Seamless Day Kindergarten project, announced Monday by the BC Ministry of Education, will provide before and after school care in the same classroom that children are in for their school day. The pilot is being tried at 21 BC schools, including Millstream Elementary in the City of Langford.
The program requires no new construction and can be set up quickly. It potentially could help more parents contribute to the work force by providing quality and convenient child care at the beginning and end of typical work days.
A new report reveals that 43% of office space being built outside the region's core is already pre-leased. One of the examples cited is Plexxis Software, which is constructing a six-storey concrete and glass headquarters in the City of Langford. The 60,000-square-foot office next to Langford Lake is expected to be finished by 2023.
A return of office workers from their home offices is also expected to reduce vacancy rates in downtown Victoria.
News that the US will open its land borders to fully vaccinated Canadians within a few weeks is being welcomed by businesses who depend on the flow of goods and people between countries.
In Greater Victoria, the move helps create certainty for marine passenger services Clipper Navigation Ltd. and Black Ball Ferry Line and helps them plan for a successful return to service.
"We know COVID will remain a concern for some time but we also know how to safely reduce our risks," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "Businesses in Greater Victoria have had more than their share of challenges during the pandemic. They're
poised and ready to help our region's economy take flight. As the world begins to re-open and opportunities for economic growth return, we will continue to call on government to take measured steps based on science that allow us to welcome more of the world back to Greater Victoria."
The cost of housing remains a sore spot for Greater Victoria, but the quality of life, economy and other factors helped the region earn a B grade from the Victoria Foundation's 2021 Vital Signs report.
"The Chamber was happy to sponsor the section of the report that looked at Greater Victoria's economy," Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said. "The grades helps us understand the state of our region, where we're doing well and how we can improve going forward."
The 18th edition of the annual report measures our region's wellbeing through qualitative data as well as stories and graphics to provide snapshots of the year that was.
This year's theme explores equity and inclusion. The pandemic has emphasized that we might be in the storm, but we're not all in the same boat.
The report looks at 12 areas, with grades ranging from a B-plus for Learning and Sports and Recreation, to a D-plus for Housing and Getting Started. The Economy rated a B-minus.
As well as The Chamber, other Vitals Signs sponsors include Coast Capital, CHEK News, Page One, Black Press, Tecnet, Maycock Eyecare, Urban Sytsems, Oakcrest Park Estates and CIBC.
The federal government has work to do after Alaskan politicians proposed changing an Act that has been a keystone in the development of Greater Victoria's cruise ship industry.
The Chamber continues working with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and other community partners to make sure all levels of government are prioritizing this issue.
The federal and provincial governments responded to our earlier calls to action, ending the prohibition on cruise ships in Canada on Nov. 1 instead of waiting until next year. The industry contributes $130 million annually to our region's economy and provides more than 800 jobs.
There is a new timeline for the E&N Rail corridor. The BC Court of Appeal has given the federal government 18 months to get rail service back. The last passenger service ended in 2011.
Larry Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation, told CHEK the court ruling is good news but it will take time to understand all of the implications of the court's more than 100-page decision.
After 18 months, the court said it would be open to re-examining the future of a 10-acre right-of-way running through the Snaw’naw’as First Nation near Nanoose Bay.
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was proud to offer leadership and advocacy in collaboration with Destination Greater Victoria, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority as well as Island chambers of commerce and our regional municipalities. As the voice of business, The Chamber continues to work tirelessly on behalf of our members to make a difference in public policy through advocacy.
“Our marine border is a vital link for our region and we’re thankful the Canada Border Service Agency has found the capacity to staff ferry terminals in the Inner Harbour as of Sept. 7,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
“The Victoria Clipper and Coho Ferry connect Greater Victoria with Washington State, which is extremely important for our tourism sector. When land and air borders were initially opened to Americans on Aug. 9, we were alarmed that our marine borders were not included. On behalf of our community partners, The Chamber reached out directly to the federal government and Prime Minister’s Office to make sure they knew how important this link is to our region’s economy.”
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.