The Chamber continues to spearhead advocacy efforts in Greater Victoria to help our members and the community recover from the COVID-19 crisis.
In this month's edition of Douglas Magazine, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams speaks about what we and other chambers in our region are doing to get back to prosperity.
“Businesses need certainty and they don’t have that when programs run month to month and extensions are granted at the last minute,” Williams said. “Businesses thrive when they can plan. A tiered system that gradually goes away is better for planning for a return to business that can be successful in the long term.”
Victoria is well positioned to become a centre for ocean innovation. A request for proposals has gone out to study the feasibility of increasing the value of the marine sector to Greater Victoria's economy.
The City of Victoria is working with the South Island Prosperity Partnership and the marine sector to explore the idea of an Ocean Futures Innovation Hub. It would be located in Victoria and foster an environment of entrepreneurship building off our region's existing marine industries and our location on the Pacific. Being home to Ocean Networks Canada, which yesterday announced a $29 million investment from the federal government, is a boon.
The Chamber supports innovation led by business. We look forward to helping build an Ocean Futures Innovation Hub in Victoria.
The pandemic is causing a rethink about many things, including what we need to do to solve homelessness and the delivery of police services in our region.
The Chamber has advocated for long-term solutions that are proven to work, such as the Therapeutic Recovery Community operated in View Royal by Our Place Society.
We understand the challenges facing businesses located near former hotel properties purchased by the province to house people who had been living in encampments. The move was initially made to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading among closely packed tents. The new locations include mental health and addiction treatment services. However, the problem is complex and concerns about safety and property need to be taken seriously.
The Chamber would like to see better enforcement of rules in place to ensure all of us can enjoy a safe community. Victoria Police Department Chief Del Manak has support from the city's police board to augment policing with civilian social services.
We know the roots of homelessness, mental health issues and addictions run deep and it's clear we need an innovative approach that can do more than push the problem between neighbourhoods.
“Greater Victoria businesses are known for their compassion and prove it by giving back, by investing in solutions to help people in need in our community," says Chamber CEO Bruce Williams. "They want real solutions and all of us deserve to feel secure at home and at work. The Chamber would like to see more options for long-term treatment, and we hope BC Housing intends to fulfill its plans to transform these hotel properties into affordable housing that includes homes for our workforce.”
The City of Victoria is looking at ending parking measures introduced during the early stages of the pandemic.
In April, Victoria council decided to reduce parking rates and stop enforcing time limits in most spots. As economic activity picks up downtown, parking is once again becoming scarce.
“It’s a sign of going back to what it used to be, in a way,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams told the Times Colonist. “It’s a bit back to normalcy. I don’t think it’s out of the question for them to be charging for parking. A lot of the parking when it is reduced like that is not being used by shoppers. it's being used by workers (who take up prime spots for an entire day).”
The city uses a formula to encourage turnover of parking spaces, making it easier for more people to access businesses downtown.
Council is expected to decide Thursday on the proposal, which would take effect Aug. 4.
Details were released on Friday about the federal government’s plan to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the plan was adjusted to make it easier for businesses to ramp up their growth as the economy gets back to speed. The proposed changes, which are expected to be approved by Parliament, help provide more certainty for employers.
The wage subsidy will be extended to Nov. 21 (with supports available until Dec. 19) and will be accessible to more businesses. The requirement to show a 30% decline in revenue has been tweaked to allow a gradually decreasing subsidy for businesses. This helps avoid the “cliff effect” that The Chamber voiced concern over, and which scared some employers away from the program.
Other changes include a top-up for employers in sectors facing the slowest recovery.
Employers can now extend temporary layoffs beyond the Aug. 30 deadline, but they need the support of 50% of their workforce.
The provincial government unveiled a new tool today, designed to streamline the process. An online application eliminates the need for printed documents and signatures.
Under B.C.’s Employment Standards Act, temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 can last up to 24 weeks, or until Aug. 30, before the layoff becomes permanent. At that point, employers face the daunting prospect of losing their work team and being forced to pay compensation based on length of service.
The deadline to get staff approval and apply for an extension is Aug. 25.
Farm sales reached record levels in 2019, and the provincial government says the growing sector could point the way to economic recovery.
BC reported $3.9 billion in farm cash receipts last year, with areas of growth including cannabis, dairy, beef and field vegetables.
“COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the importance of our province’s self-sufficiency," said Saanich South MLA and Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham. "I urge everyone to continue to show their appreciation for our farmers and support our local food system by making a special effort to Buy BC.”
The BC Farm, Fish and Food Job Connector was launched in May to help farmers find workers needed for this season's harvest. Last year's record represents on increase of $462 million in revenue from 2018.
To help Island farmers adapt to the changing climate, the provincial and federal governments have identified 11 strategies to increase resilience. With warmer and dryer conditions, new types of insects and more extreme weather events, farmers need to prepare for challenges and opportunities ahead, the report says.
Businesses across Canada are facing a difficult decision as they can’t afford to stay closed but are struggling with reduced revenue that doesn’t cover expenses. The paradox is reflected in the results of a survey released yesterday by Statistics Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Getting through this difficult phase will be critical for the economy and requires businesses to overcome three key challenges.
To help our members learn more about how they can benefit from the wage subsidy program, as well as its tax implications, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams is hosting Matthew Hohnsbehn, Liaison Officer at the Canada Revenue Agency, and Kris Wirk, Partner, at Dusanj & Wirk Chartered Professional Accountants, on Aug. 11.
To reduce the number of people living in homeless camps in our region, housing needs to be supported by mental health and addiction services that can address the root issues facing this population.
On July 13, the provincial government announced it was expanding the number of health care teams focused on helping people with addictions stay connected to treatment. Teams are tailored to their community and can include nurses, counsellors, social workers and peers. The goal is to reach people as individuals and help them stay connected to services and stay away from toxic street drugs.
In May, the BC Coroner's office reported 170 people died from overdoses. That was the highest monthly fatality rate in the province, and 90% higher than the same period last year.
Proposed changes to BC's labour law will give WorkSafeBC more power and increase compensation for workers.
The changes could also increase the cost of premiums for employers by about 1.4 cents for every $100 of payroll, Labour Minister Harry Bains said.
The proposal includes raising maximum insurable earnings to $100,000, allowing preventative medical treatments before a claim is accepted and making it easier for workers to access benefits if they catch COVID-19. WorkSafeBC would also be able to get warrants allowing them to search workplaces during investigations.
During the pandemic, WorkSafeBC has allowed businesses to defer paying premiums for six months without penalty or interest. As well, as an extra help for hard-hit businesses, WorkSafeBC waived premiums on wages paid to workers of employers receiving the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy for the duration of the program.