Spring has returned to southern Vancouver Island!
The Chamber was proud to usher in the new season with the 48th annual Flower Count. This evolving tradition began as a fun way to market Greater Victoria to folks in Canada’s prairie cities. Over time, Flower Count has turned into a spirited contest between municipalities to earn the title of Bloomingest Community. This year, Sidney narrowly outpaced North Saanich to take the crown, while a Grade 4 class from Saanich won the elementary school challenge that runs concurrently.
Spring also means it’s time for The Chamber to review our own business and gather support from our board and members for the year ahead. The Chamber Annual General Meeting, sponsored by Fortis, is April 18. Our guest speaker is B.C.’s Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon, who was given a mandate in December to refresh the province’s housing strategy.
Many of the details in the mandate are also priorities for business, specifically the initiatives aimed at increasing the supply of accessible and affordable housing for people of all incomes. We know that the cost of paying rent or mortgage as well as the difficulty finding a suitable home are major deterrents for people who want to build careers and start families in our region. That’s a major concern for employers and the top advocacy priority for our chamber. The pressure is only going to build.
WorkBC’s 2022 Labour Market Outlook forecasts 176,700 new employees will be needed by 2033 to fill expected job openings on Vancouver Island. Some of those employees will find homes in existing housing stock as people move into different phases of life. However, with a current housing shortfall, we face a major challenge ensuring our region will have enough homes for every middle-income family and individual, including seniors.
Minister Kahlon is someone who knows Greater Victoria well having grown up here and attended UVic. I’m looking forward to hearing the government’s ideas for helping industry build more housing. We need more supply to meet demand for buyers and renters. I’m also interested in hearing more about the minister’s mandate to streamline housing approval processes. Talk to people who work in construction or development and you’ll hear maddening stories about the various levels of municipal red tape that can bog down projects. The idea for a one-stop shop for getting all provincial permits is a great idea. Working with municipalities to fast-track permit approval and construction is another.
It's going to be an informative event, and I hope you can join us. Until then, get outside and enjoy the feeling of renewal that comes with the blooming of flowers and the end of winter.
Bruce Williams is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
This column was originally published in the March 2023 edition of the Business Examiner.