GREATER VICTORIA – I still catch myself whenever I hear someone note that we are now in 2023. It seems like a year from the future and, I guess, in some ways it is. There has been so much anticipation for this year.
It’s the first January since 2020 that businesses aren’t facing major public health restrictions. A weird sense of normalcy is returning, though we know the world will forever be much different than it was before the pandemic.
At the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, 2023 also marks the 160th anniversary of the founding of our organization. The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was Western Canada’s first Chamber or Board of Trade predating Confederation. That’s a long time to bear witness to history and a remarkable testament to the important role The Chamber continues to play supporting the business community. The secret to our successful longevity has been our willingness to adapt and grow with the times. And that can be directly accredited to the amazing board of directors who are elected each year by our members.
This year, we welcome Kris Wirk as our new board chair. Kris is a partner with Dusanj + Wirk Chartered Professional Accountants and takes over from John Wilson, of the Wilson’s Group of Companies.
John served stoically over the past three years, and I can’t thank him enough for his guidance and steady hand during turbulent times. There is no one who cares about our community more than John, who remains with the board in the role of past chair. I know he’s looking forward to passing the torch and Kris brings a vision that is laser focused after three years as an understudy. He is clear eyed about the challenges facing our regional economy, and, after three years as chair of The Chamber’s Public Policy and Advocacy committee, Kris is well-positioned to drive positive changes.
Christina Clark of the Indigenous Prosperity Centre steps into the role of vice-chair. Christina is a determined and focused businessperson who understands the work and benefits of Indigenous reconciliation. The Chamber, on behalf of our members, is committed to working with First Nations and Indigenous business owners to facilitate connections that will improve life for everyone in our region. Our forward-thinking approach is being adopted by chambers across Canada due to my active participation in the national chamber network. Our initiative to create an Indigenous Economic Reconciliation Table has resonated with Canadians who want to do better. We have embraced the value of diversity and inclusion — and our economy and society have benefited as a result. We’ve seen this firsthand as The Chamber’s board has become much more reflective of the community at large. The other members of our board are: James Gatsi, CEO, CL Web Developers Inc., (secretary); Moira Hauk, Regional Manager South Island, Coastal Community Credit Union (treasurer); Rose Arsenault, Branch Manager, Agilus Work Solutions; Judith Ethier, CAO, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority; Fallon Lindsay, Director of Finance and Administration, Kinetic Construction; Pedro Marquez, Vice President of Vice-President, Research and International, Royal Roads University; Richard Michaels, President, Maccrim Solutions; Ann Squires Ferguson, CEO, Western Interior Design Group; Jessica Stigant, Associate Director of Government Relations and Partnerships, Ocean Networks Canada; Capt. (N) Jeff Hutchinson, Base Commander, CFB Esquimalt and Josue Dubon, DesignWealth, Co-Founder and Chair of the Emerge Committee (ex-officio).
So, as we prepare to celebrate 16 decades of serving Greater Victoria’s business community, I look forward to working with our tremendous board, committee members and our general membership to build connections with every energetic entrepreneur attracted to this amazing region we are grateful to call home.
Bruce Williams is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce