April 2, 2024


VICTORIA – This is a provincial election year, which means it’s an excellent time to get the ear of candidates who will represent British Columbians in the 43rd Parliament of B.C.

What do you want to hear from government, and better yet, what do you want done to improve life in this province?

It is a challenging time for many businesses. Rising costs are squeezing already tight margins and high interest rates have made it harder to invest in the new equipment and staff necessary for staying competitive. I speak with business owners daily and hear their stories about how they’re working hard to make ends meet. Thankfully, there is good news on the horizon as many economists, including the team at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, are optimistic that better days await.

We can all help make sure conditions improve by continuing to call on our elected officials to understand what businesses need to innovate and create jobs. Last month, I was thrilled to see the province finally listened to The Chamber and B.C. business associations who have been calling for an increase in the exemption to the Employer Health Tax. The 2024 B.C. Budget changed the EHT to only affect employers with payrolls above $1 million instead of $500,000. We’d like to see the exemption even higher, or the EHT removed completely, as there’s good evidence showing that productivity increases when businesses can increase wages or promote staff without concern of triggering a higher tax bill.

Another concern for our business community and our region in general is the lack of success the government is having addressing street crime and toxic drug overdoses. Currently, we’re working with more than 90 organizations concerned with the state of downtowns across the province. The Save Our Streets coalition recently released a statement calling on the province to heed the findings of B.C.’s Auditor General. The report by Michael Pickup found that decisions regarding harm reduction programs were being based on outdated information and did not accurately reflect the shift in dangerous street drugs. That, as well as other concerns, led the AG to suggest a policy rethink is needed.

We agree it’s time for a new approach. Anyone who has spent time with Greater Victoria’s business community knows how incredibly compassionate and caring it is. Businesses are often on the frontline of street disorder. They are the ones who interact directly with people in distress outside their storefronts. We hear daily about how aggressive shoplifting and senseless property crime shatters the sense of safety people need to have in their workplace.

We’ve been calling for government to fix our broken legal system to make sure repeat offenders are kept off our streets. We also want adequate investment in addiction treatment facilities so they can be accessed faster, as well as involuntary care made available for people who are unable to care for themselves. Yes, these are complicated solutions, but the alternative has proven devastating. If the public wants this change, there is no better time to give our public officials the mandate to do so than an election.

You can hear more about work being done to promote Safe Communities and how supporting employee mental health can increase productivity at The Chamber’s AGM on April 16 featuring Jonny Morris, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C.; Carolina Ibarra, CEO of Pacifica Housing Advisory Association; and Chief Del Manak, Victoria Police Department.

You can also join me for a seat at the table with B.C.’s Premier, as The Chamber hosts the Hon. David Eby on April 30 for a breakfast and discussion about business in B.C. Our members have many questions for the Premier, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to get answers and learn more about the government’s plans to help the private sector strengthen our economy. Register at

Bruce Williams is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce

Share This