Bruce Williams is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
With election day set for Oct. 24 in BC, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce has a wish list for whoever forms the next provincial government.
As a non-partisan organization, we don’t endorse specific candidates or policies. Rather, our role is to help voters — specifically the business community — understand the positions of major candidates in Greater Victoria ridings. To that end, we’re hosting five Virtual Election Panels ahead of the election. These online events are open to the public and are being archived at victoriachamber.ca.
Questions for candidates reflect issues specific to ridings as well as concerns affecting all businesses. And because Greater Victoria is so interconnected, even issues specific to a single municipality resonate with people in others.
For example, we recently heard from BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins as part of our virtual Business Restart Series. It was a great update on the work being done so ferries can keep communities connected and vital supply chains intact. Mark was also very optimistic about the feasibility of running a commuter ferry between Royal Bay in Colwood and downtown Victoria. Will candidates commit to championing this option if their party forms government?
What about mental health and addiction supports for people experiencing homelessness? The pandemic brought this issue into sharp relief with encampments and the accompanying concerns dominating conversations in many urban neighbourhoods. The Chamber is calling on government to address the root issues behind why vulnerable people are ending up on the street. What are the candidates offering as solutions? How do we address the opioid crisis as well as the pandemic?
Businesses also face a huge challenge simply getting their revenue streams back to pre-pandemic levels. How will government help? And will candidates commit to opposing measures that increase the cost of doing business? What about relief for tourism and hospitality — the sector hit hardest by the pandemic.
At some point, taxpayers are also facing a financial mess that has seen record deficits adding to our debt. How will the next government start the work on digging us out from this hole?
And as we repair and restart our economy, what opportunities do candidates see for our region? How will they commit to delivering the necessary retraining and incentives to build more resilience into our workforce? How can we lessen our impact on the environment and develop innovations that address climate change?
The questions themselves are almost as important as the answers.
In the last few elections, The Chamber has worked with our community partners to host what we call “listening sessions” for candidates. These gave us a unified voice about what our region needed the new government to focus on. They also offered solutions proposed by people who are in the frontlines of these issues.
Everything looks a little different this year, but our mission remains the same. We are finding a way to work together to build good business and great community.
The Chamber 2020 Election Panels
The Chamber’s 2020 Election Panels can be viewed on our Facebook Live channel from noon to 1 p.m. on the following dates:
Chamber AGM and Mayors Panel
This column originally appeared in the October 2020 edition of the Business Examiner