GREATER VICTORIA – As we look ahead to the promise of an exceptional year, now is the time for bright-eyed clarity.
The fog of Omicron has broken, and businesses are doing what they do best. Entrepreneurs and organizations are rolling up their sleeves and rising up to the challenges and opportunities of a robust economy. Greater Victoria is growing, with almost 30,000 more people than 2016, according to the recent census. Our unemployment rate is back to pre-pandemic levels and pent-up consumer demand is keeping businesses busy as they go above and beyond getting people what they need.
Recovery is well underway, but the next few months will be critical to make sure we reach our potential. The private sector will do its part, but it will need government to ensure the right conditions are in place.
The province is set to announce its 2022 Budget on Feb. 22. The next day, Feb. 23, The Chamber is hosting a conversation with BC’s Finance Minister Selina Robinson. This is a great opportunity for chamber members to hear directly from the source about what government is doing to support the business community.
Minister Robinson’s previous portfolio was Municipal Affairs and Housing, so she’s well versed in the dire need for more homes in Greater Victoria, as well as other pressures facing the region.
Earlier this month, the Speech from the Throne gave us broad hints of what to expect in the budget.
Government says minimum wage increases will now be tied to the rate of inflation, but there are many unanswered questions. How will government determine the inflation rate, especially during a time of so much volatility? Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem spoke to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 8, noting that inflation has surged because of a demand for goods and not from “generalized excess demand in the Canadian economy.”
The forecast is for inflation to drop to about 3 per cent by the end of the year. Rising interest rates, which Macklem said are coming, will reduce inflation further to the target of about 2 per cent per year. Given that, it makes sense for government to keep its powder dry and not rush to add costs to business.
The Throne Speech also noted that we can expect a regulated “cooling off period” for home buyers, which will give purchasers a short window to rescind an offer to buy. While this is laudable for helping people avoid buyer’s remorse it doesn’t address the much bigger problem of housing supply. Greater Victoria simply doesn’t have enough homes to meet the demand of all the people who want to live and work here. We need solutions that allow builders to get the materials and labour needed to create new housing. We need the province to step in and make sure municipalities aren’t putting up obstacles that keep homes from being built. And we need transportation infrastructure that makes commuting more efficient and convenient.
A few other areas we want to see in the budget are investments in food security and supply-chain resilience, as well as reduction in red tape and taxes that unfairly burden business.
We’ve all been through a lot in the last two years. It’s time to soar, and The Chamber will be here to make sure government understands what business needs to achieve lift off.
Bruce Williams is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
Chamber Events for March:
Wednesday, February 23 BC Finance Minister – 11:30 am – 1 pm | Online
Wednesday, March 16 Membership 101 – 12 – 1 pm – Online
Thursday, March 17 March Business Mixer – 5 – 7 pm*
Thursday, March 24 – Member Breakfast – 7:30am – 9 am*
*Pre-registration and double-vaccination required to attend in-person events
*We look forward to hosting you on a new, interactive social webinar platform in February and will be launching new events as they are confirmed! Visit our website to find the most up to date event information