It won’t surprise anyone that improving our regional economy is an important issue for businesses in Greater Victoria.

Having a strong economy was ranked as “very important” or “somewhat important” by 96 per cent of respondents who answered the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s annual membership survey.

Here’s a look at some of the other key issues as identified by businesses.

Our members clearly value our advocacy efforts on fair taxation, with 91 per cent stating this issue is important. The Chamber’s work includes calling out local governments that allowed business property taxes to creep higher over the years. As a voice for business, we worked with a number of Greater Victoria councils to help them understand why it’s short-sighted to appease residential voters by shifting the tax burden to businesses. It doesn’t take long for businesses to take their money elsewhere, leaving residents to wonder where their shops — and jobs — have gone. Councils can expect us to follow up every budget cycle to make sure they continue to “mind the gap” between residential and business property taxes.

On a provincial level, we have advocated for fair taxation by questioning the way in which the Employers Health Tax was rolled out last year. The first installment of the EHT in June hit employers hard, and we expect our voice will be joined by others opposing this tax as we head to the 2020 BC Budget.

Concern about fair taxation is followed closely by 90 per cent of our members who support us holding government accountable for being efficient with the tax dollars they do collect. And, related to that, 89 per cent say Greater Victoria needs better regional transportation. This is closely connected to the need to attract and retain workers, which is “very important” or “somewhat important” to 88 per cent of members. Having a plan for managing how people move around Greater Victoria, and ensuring there are convenient, affordable transit options for commuters expands the geographical range of our regional workforce.

Also related is the need for affordable and available child care — an important issue for 78 per cent of members who responded to our survey. After housing, child care is the second highest expense for working families. The Chamber continues to work closely with the Province and City of Victoria to ensure there are available staff, spaces and subsidies for families so that parents can remain in the workforce.

All of the above issues have increased in importance for our members and remain a priority for the Chamber’s advocacy efforts.

Curiously, there was a slight drop in the importance of advocating for safe communities, with 86 per cent saying it is an important concern this year compared to 90 per cent in 2018. This is a foundation issue for businesses as all of us need to feel safe in order to function in our daily lives and businesses. The opioid crisis continues to be one of the most serious challenges of our time, but there has been progress. The Chamber strongly advocated for the Therapeutic Recovery Community, which opened in View Royal last year and is operated by Our Place Society. This is a practical approach and a proven method to help manage this ongoing crisis.

Our survey shows that our members are concerned with climate change, both as an environmental threat and as a potential regulatory quagmire. Businesses are ahead of policy makers in coming up with solutions because they need to respond to public demand. We believe the best approach governments can take to mitigate challenges caused by climate change is to invest in business innovation.

Conducting a survey is an important tool for helping us align our public policy priorities with those of our member businesses. Apparently we’re doing a good job too! When asked, 96 per cent of our members indicated that they were likely or extremely likely to recommend The Chamber to a friend or colleague — a 5 per cent improvement over last year.

Catherine Holt is CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce

August Events:

Joint Business Mixer & Prodigy Group Mingle
Victoria Native Friendship Centre
Thursday, August 15th

Summer Social Series: Day at the Track
Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit
2:00-5:00 pm on Friday, August 16

Summer Social Series: Summer Roundup at the Roundhouse
The Roundhouse at Bayview
6:30 to 8:30 pm on Thursday, September 5