Virtual Fireside Chat Series
As part of The Chamber's commitment to getting businesses back to work, Chamber CEO Catherine Holt will host a fireside chat with a series of experts on COVID-19 related to challenges and opportunities. This is your opportunity to get answers on pressing issues and information to help you manage through these unprecedented times.
Let's also 'flatten the curve' for business
Message from Catherine Holt, CEO, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
We've all heard Dr. Bonnie Henry refer to her goal of "flattening the curve" of COVID-19. That means reducing the impact on our hospitals, health care providers and suppliers of equipment by minimizing the number of cases at any one time. This will ensure the health care system can continue to function and that resources are available for everyone in need.
The same strategy is important for our economy. We need to flatten the curve of a financial downturn caused by consumers doing their public duty and staying home and by businesses being ordered to close by the government. The more businesses that remain viable — even at a reduced level of demand or in a maintenance mode — the sooner they can resume operations and we can get back to a new normal and start an economic recovery. This matters very much for business owners and also for the vibrancy of our community, the future of employees as well as the revival of tax revenue to governments.
Government investment now will help flatten the curve of business failures and will certainly contribute to governments' financial picture down the road, and their ability to continue providing public services.
The Chamber has vigorously advocated for the government to provide very generous support for businesses, as was done in many European countries. I was extremely relieved to hear the announcement by the prime minister that Canada will provide a 75% wage subsidy for small to medium sized businesses to enable them to keep their employees, or hire them back. This is a much better option as it leaves more money in the pockets of employees and enables employers to hold on to their teams.
Prime Minister Trudeau announced that GST payments due at the end of this month can be delayed until June, which helps businesses preserve more cash for longer. This is helpful, but The Chamber will continue to ask for a reduction in taxes from all levels of government and not just deferrals.
The prime minister also said businesses can access $40,000 in loans that will be interest free for a year. This is in addition to the measures announced earlier this month delaying income tax payments.
We have also asked for help with commercial rent, which is likely to be a provincial government measure. And we continue to call for a large recovery fund, which the federal government may act on when we are closer to recovery. At the moment they are rightly focused on business preservation.
On March 26, in response to our advocacy letter, I had a very good conversation with the federal Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Finance Minister, Mona Fortier. We had initially connected, courtesy of Mayor Lisa Helps, when the Minister was visiting Victoria back (in the good old days) on March 4. At that time, the Minister and I talked about the problems of a booming economy. That discussion resulted in the Minister asking me to talk with her about the current crisis, and helped make sure she understood the challenges facing our region.
I am impressed by the efforts of our federal, provincial and local government to respond quickly to the drastic loss of business due to public health measures to control COVID-19. I am optimistic this help will continue through our recovery which, based on countries ahead of us in this pandemic, is hopefully only a month or so down the road.
Chamber joins calls for rent relief for businesses
With rent due on the first of the month, many small businesses are struggling to come up with money for their landlords. It's a difficult situation for both parties, but we need to make sure our economy is in a position to recover as quickly as possible as soon as restrictions limiting business are lifted.
On March 29, The Chamber added its voice to a column that appeared on the front page of the Times Colonist calling on governments to help with commercial rents.
"The provincial government’s rent relief program for residential tenants could be scaled up for commercial tenants hit by the COVID-19 pandemic," the column states, offering examples of how other countries introduced measures to protect commercial tenants as well as property owners who don't have the means to offer rent relief on their own.
The column was co-written by:
Letters to government: Chamber calls for immediate tax relief for business
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce is advocating to the federal and provincial governments, asking for specific measures to help business. Our letters are co-signed by Destination Greater Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
Scroll down to read all the letters below:
How The Chamber is helping businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensure they're ready to thrive during the recovery
Rolling up our sleeves to do what we can to help, and showcasing innovative solutions from our members and our community
Resources to all of the information about new government programs and initiatives that can help you get through this crisis