Instead of looking back on 2021, let’s choose to focus on what’s ahead in 2022.
The new year is a time for hope and a chance to reenergize and prepare for the year ahead. If we’ve learned anything from the last two years, it is how to carry on when plans change. Immunization is helping us put the pandemic behind us, but we know better than to declare it’s over. Variants and vaccine holdouts continue to put pressure on our health-care system and our mental health. Let’s be ready for the curveball while also enjoying new opportunities.
With that said, here’s a look at a few things we’ll be watching.
Provincial funds for Citizens Assembly
The pandemic has understandably required everyone to focus on staying safe and finding ways to get back to business and reclaim our lives. However, it’s time to carry on with this important journey, which has already made historic progress toward examining a merger of Greater Victoria’s two largest municipalities. Voters in Saanich and Victoria have given their respective councils a mandate to cover the costs of a Citizens’ Assembly. The Chamber will reach out to the provincial government to encourage the third funding partner to ante up so that the process can continue as soon as possible. It’s time for a fresh look at the pros and cons of arbitrary borders that divide our region. Let’s work together to continue improving governance to make our streets safer and our economy more sustainable.
Climate change innovations
Businesses are responding to the public’s demand for sustainable goods and services. The Chamber continues to call on all levels of government to work with, and invest in, innovations led by businesses. We’ve seen this work well with regulations restricting the single-use plastics. Customers wanted alternatives to plastic shopping bags and throwaway containers that were ending up in landfills. Businesses responded by sourcing biodegradable packaging and providing reusable bags. When municipalities decided to create regulations, they smartly asked businesses what they were already doing. The result was a set of rules that worked with public demand rather than against it, and the outcome has been an outstanding success. Businesses are finding solutions — that work needs to be supported.
Action on Indigenous Reconciliation
Last summer was an awakening for many Canadians who had been unaware of darker chapters of our nation’s history. The Chamber is committed to acknowledging the truth of our relationship with First Nations. We have started to take action on reconciliation and will continue to do so in 2022. For our communities and our country to grow stronger, we need to take on our share of the burden unfairly placed on Indigenous people. We must act now to address centuries of discrimination and bias that has kept First Nations from fully participating in our economy. The Chamber’s Indigenous Business Task Force is being created by Indigenous entrepreneurs and local First Nations to provide direction on moving forward together.
Sufficient staffing for all employers
Before the pandemic, employers were having challenges finding and keeping workers. Forecasts by WorkBC showed that the combination of economic growth and a reduction in the eligible workforce will add to this challenge over the next decade. The last two years have greatly accelerated this issue. The solution is not simple, but it starts with governments doing more to increase housing supply so we can welcome new arrivals. We need homes for families and individuals at every income level. We also need transportation options for moving commuters more conveniently around our region. Attempts so far to address affordable housing by stifling demand through taxation haven’t lowered costs. It’s time to get building.
A secure and resilient supply chain
Living on an Island, we are always conscious of the precariousness of our connections with the rest of the world. Recent climate events have shown why we need to be prepared. There are opportunities to invest in the future of Vancouver Island by expanding transportation infrastructure. In 2022, the Greater Victoria Chamber will work with chambers across the Island to identify ways to make our supply chain more resilient. Some of the ideas include expanded port facilities, renewal of rail and — last but not least — local agriculture production, which is critical for our food security.
This column was originally published in the January 2022 edition of the Business Examiner.