This post was originally published the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce's Spring/Summer 2019 edition of Business Matters magazine.
Members of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce heard firsthand from six federal ministers in the first five months of this year.
Weeks before the federal budget, Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Chamber CEO Catherine Holt and Chamber members engaged in a conversation about the state of the economy, housing affordability and money laundering.
Minister Morneau was candid about the trials of working with the U.S. under the Trump administration, and how Canada could be impacted by Brexit.
On Feb. 11, The Chamber hosted federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. After a short speech, McKenna and Holt talked about different approaches to taxing pollution, why we need to speak clearly about the risks of climate change and the opportunities for business to lead through innovation.
While in Greater Victoria, Minister McKenna announced a $1.25 million investment over five years in the University of Victoria’s Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium.
On March 15, The Chamber hosted Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
At the luncheon, which was well-attended by local Chamber members and chambers across the Island, Wilkinson addressed concerns about the future of whales, salmon and ocean-based businesses. The minister spoke about his government’s efforts to protect salmon and orcas by managing threats such as noise, interference, pollution, climate change and lack of food. During the Q&A, the Minister and audience members talked about the need to strike a balance between protecting salmon and whales and ensuring coastal communities have access to needed resources.
Wilkinson was clear that his ministry’s primary objective is ensuring the survival of the southern resident killer whales, and that a concerted effort is needed.
The meeting foreshadowed an announcement one month later when Wilkinson’s ministry introduced new regulations that require any Chinook salmon caught before mid-July to be released back into the ocean, with limits on the number of Chinook that can be kept after that date.
On March 26, a group of Greater Victoria business leaders and Chamber board members met with Joyce Murray, President of Canada’s Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government. Murray answered questions about public-sector hiring policies, recognizing foreign certification, the Canada Summer Jobs Program and why government believes prioritizing debt to GDP and signing free-trade deals is the best way to encourage investment.
On April 25, Chamber members with an interest in Canada’s immigration system were able to ask tough questions of federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.
Minister Hussen was pressed to increase the available pool of foreign workers to help businesses deal with our region’s labour crunch.
WorkBC is predicting 150,000 job vacancies on Vancouver Island in the next 10 years, while the Conference Board of Canada says immigration will account for 100 percent of the country’s population growth by 2034.
Improving Canada’s immigration system is one of The Chamber’s advocacy priorities for 2019.
While Minister Hussen was in Victoria at the invitation of The Chamber, he was able to use the visit to meet privately with community leaders and attend a swearing in ceremony for new Canadians.
On May 13, Chamber members were able to be part of a discussion with Mélanie Joly, federal Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie.
Minister Joly spoke about the future of tourism in Canada, and what that means for Greater Victoria.
Our region is one of the country’s top destinations for tourists, and the industry generates more than $2.3 billion in economic activity and employs more than 23,000 people.
Joly spoke about her work in Ottawa to have tourism seen as a major economic driver for the country.
Six ministers, six opportunities to ensure the concerns of Greater Victoria businesses are heard in Ottawa.