In 2019, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce embraced a new mission statement that helped define our approach to advocacy.
Our Board of Directors chose “Working together to build good business and great community.” There’s a lot going on in this phrase. The Chamber, as many people know, is the first choice for people looking to make business connections. Our many types of events allow our members — whether they’re from the private, public or non-profit sector — to meet others looking to work together. Doing so let’s them build good business — in more ways than one. When an organization is successful, it’s doing “good business.” But it’s equally important for our members to be a positive force in the world, to be “a good business.”
If we can do these things, everyone in our community benefits and we will have a “great community.”
So how does that translate to our advocacy efforts? Let’s look at the issue we hear about most often from members. Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate continues to be among the lowest in Canada. Our region’s employers, regardless of size, are struggling to find and keep workers due largely to the high cost of living in our region.
The Chamber took a multi-faceted approach to this issue. We have called for all levels of government to make workforce housing more accessible. This requires regulations that encourage builders to add to our supply of market housing, and for them to be creative in how they include lower cost housing in the mix. It also means we need public investment in non-market housing. We need homes that workers can afford, and for many this means rent that is tied to their income rather than market priced.
After housing, child care is the largest expense for working families. The Chamber applauded the provincial government for investing in 22,000 licensed child care spaces in the province. The Chamber has called on the province to deliver universal child care to ensure working parents can fully participate in the labour market. Again, we were happy when the province announced a pilot program to test $10-per-day child care at 50 sites.
Transportation planning is also key to affordability. The Chamber was one of the most vocal voices that led to the province’s work on a South Island Transportation Plan. We have 13 municipalities in Greater Victoria. We need to think regionally about transportation to make sure commuters can get to work quickly, and are not slowed down when crossing arbitrary municipal borders. Riding the bus needs to be convenient, reliable and fast across the region. And we need active transportation networks, such as bike lanes, that connect communities in the most efficient manner possible.
Other advocacy priorities, which we will continue working on in 2020, include safe communities — we need solutions for our homeless, adequately funded policing and enforcement of laws and bylaws and access to health care. The Chamber will also continue advocating for better regional services. Voters in Saanich and Victoria have mandated a Citizens’ Assembly, and we think this is great start to combining the best qualities of these two great communities. We also track how municipalities collect property taxes to make sure they’re fair to business, and we support innovations led by business to help find climate change solutions. All of these are ways Chamber members are “working together to build good business and great community.” We hope you join us!
Catherine Holt is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce