This is bound to be an extra lively year as The Chamber rolls up its sleeves on behalf of our members. The Chamber’s theme for 2018 is Building Good Business, something we’ve done for the last 155 years.
Adding to the usual mix of lively issues, the region goes to the polls in October to vote for our respective mayors and councilors. There is power in numbers so we’re asking our members to vote for the candidates you think can address the following three issues:
First, employers are having a hard time finding and keeping workers to keep their companies going and our economy healthy. We need commitment to:
• Market our region to attract people from other regions, provinces and countries and then help them to get here and fill a job.
• Housing is expensive and rentals almost non-existent. Part of attracting workers is ensuring they can find and afford a place to live - workforce housing developments need to be fast tracked. More student housing is needed on campus to free up rentals.
• After housing, child care is the second most expensive thing for a young family – if they can find it. We need affordable, quality child care, so parents can work. Employers need them.
• When living costs are high, we need cheaper transportation options. Workers need public transit to be affordable, frequent, speedy, and to go where they need to be.
The second issue is our long-standing need for better governance through fewer government. Amalgamation may be the means but ultimately the outcome needed is better service for our tax dollars. I recently learned from one of our distinguished governors, Terry Farmer, that in 1959, Eric Charman, legendary Victoria mover and shaker, and Stuart Keate, then publisher of the Victoria Times, hired J.J Deutch, a UBC faculty member “to do a study on the possible amalgamation of Victoria and the surrounding municipalities”. That was 60 years ago. We are encouraged that Victoria and Saanich both passed motions in January asking the Province to create a Citizen’s Assembly to examine the same issue, but we need to seriously speed up the timeline.
Third, safe communities are a critical cornerstone. We all pay the price when parts of our city become associated with homelessness, anti-social and criminal behavior. Safe communities require the rule of law, adequate police resources, the active participation of citizens and adequate housing and services to care for those who cannot care for themselves. We are encouraged again, by motions passed by Victoria and Saanich councils in support of a regional police force comprised of Victoria/Esquimalt, Saanich, Oak Bay and Central Saanich. The combined resources would enable a big step up in public safety.
Finally, there are new and disruptive technologies and public demands for change that mayors and councilors must assess. The public should have access to innovative services and products as long as those companies operate under the same rules as existing businesses. In other words, they don’t avoid tax, public safety requirements, or fair employment standards. We’ll be watching to see how the cannabis industry is regulated, how retailers are affected by the plan to reduce plastic bags, how short term vacation rentals are managed and how ride sharing rolls out.
This will be a year to set expectations for what we want from government. Let’s use it to Build Good Business.