It’s been 155 years since Victoria’s Chamber of Commerce began advocating for our region’s economic prosperity and building good business. Starting with only 44 members when we launched on February 9th, 1863, one of our first goals was making sure our city benefited from the Caribou Gold Trade.
We’ve led the charge on a few issues since.
We were part of the early development of Greater Victoria and Canada’s Pacific coast by pressing for a steamship link to Asia, as well as improved steamer service to California, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia.
In 1895, The Chamber helped make Victoria the top outfitting port for Klondike gold miners.
In 1903, Victoria’s Chamber entertained delegates from across the British Empire. This was an early example of promoting our region as “open for business.” That same year, we lobbied the Canadian Pacific Railway to build a large hotel in Victoria. Five years later, the Empress opened.
Over the course of The Chamber’s existence, we have fought to preserve the local shipbuilding industry (1919), backed plans to rehabilitate armed forces personnel so they could rejoin the workforce (1946) and challenged the Province to fast track road work on the Pat Bay Highway (1990) and more recently the McKenzie Highway Interchange (2016). We supported the transfer of the Victoria International Airport to local control and management (1997), and advocated for local businesses by urging the city to allow 90-minute parking at meters, rather than 60 minutes (2001).
In 1978, the region’s first Economic Development Commission was created after The Chamber presented a brief to the Capital Regional District. The goal was to identify what can be done to create opportunities in our region. However, over the decades, it became clear that not just business but the many municipalities had to embrace a regional approach to economic development. This drove The Chamber and its members to take a new approach. We led the discussions and meetings between the 13 municipalities and key regional stakeholders that ultimately resulted in the creation of the South Island Prosperity Project in 2016.
The Chamber has been a constant advocate for better governance through fewer governments in an effort to reduce the frustration businesses feel about the duplication of services and lack of accountability that comes with trying to operate in a patchwork of municipalities. We are happy to report that, just last month, the mayors of Victoria and Saanich jointly requested that the Province establish a Citizens’ Assembly to identify workable options for improving local governance. It may be the start of a real solution.
There is plenty to celebrate about our history, but we know there is much more work ahead. Our now 1,400 members have been loud and clear that they want us to speak out about the big challenges facing our region. Right now, that means doing what we can to advocate for employers having difficulty attracting and retaining employees in our low unemployment, high cost region.
We will continue to work productively with our members, other community stakeholders and governments of all levels to help deliver the services and solutions Victoria needs and in 2173, we hope to celebrate another 155 years of Building Good Business.