VICTORIA – Now that we are halfway through the year, it’s a good time to review the state of business on the South Island, where we’ve had success and what challenges lie ahead.
Back in mid-winter, when summer seemed so far away, The Chamber set out to define the advocacy priorities for the Greater Victoria business community.
In 2017, we identified access to quality employees as a major concern for employers in Greater Victoria. We’ve all heard how hard it is to attract great employees to this area, and to keep them once they arrive or even keep them in the workforce once they have children. There was good news on this front when the Province unveiled its 2018 budget. One of the highlights for business was the announcement of a comprehensive new plan for subsidizing child care in BC. On June 21, the Province followed up with $750,000 in grants to help unlicensed child care operators obtain certification. This will allow providers to expand from a maximum of two kids to up to eight children.
The spring budget also presented the Province’s plan to address the housing crunch that affects workforce retention. The proposed speculation tax remains controversial, though the dialogue has sparked discussion on other ways we can get a handle on our overheated real estate market. On June 20, the government announced a new public registry that would reveal who actually owns real estate, with the aim of ensuring appropriate taxes are paid. Businesses will need to keep an eye on how these initiatives play out.
And then there’s the Employer Health Tax, which continues to be a concern because of the damper it places on businesses of all sizes and in every sector of the economy. The Chamber recently submitted a formal call for action to the Finance Minister on behalf of the City of Victoria, Tourism Victoria, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the Downtown Victoria Business Association. This is an issue the entire business community needs to rally behind.
The provincial budget also included a two-cent sales tax on gasoline and diesel that will help fund expanded transit services in Greater Victoria. And last month, Premier John Horgan told a sold out Chamber Business Leaders Luncheon that, within this mandate, we will see the E&N corridor used to move commuters between downtown and the West Shore.
Looking ahead, another area business can be excited about is the work being done by Saanich and Victoria to start down the road to a single city by way of a Citizens’ Assembly. Better governance through fewer governments is needed.
With local elections set for October, The Chamber will continue working with the business community to identify concerns and opportunities we will expect serious candidates to address this fall.