Photo courtesy of Lindsey Blane
Celebrating our nation's 151st birthday
 
More than 3,600 people participated in this year's Coast Capital Savings Living Flag, on the lawns of the B.C. Legislature. This year marked the 12th year the event has been held to mark Canada Day in Victoria. 
An estimated 40,000 people gathered downtown to celebrate the nation's 151st birthday. 

If you haven't had enough fireworks, you can try catching a glimpse of tonight's Fourth of July celebrations across the Strait in Port Angeles.

Coast Capital Savings. Member since 2011

City of Victoria. Member since 1962
Province tweaks EHT, but businesses still left in dark 

Not-for-profits and provincial public sector organizations are getting some relief from the Employer Health Tax, but there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the private sector.

In its Employer Health Tax Notice issued today, the Province raised the level at which the EHT kicks in for charities and not-for-profits from a payroll of $500,000 to $1,500,000. As added relief, these organizations can also calculate their payroll separately if they operate at more than one location, which will result in more payrolls falling below the $1,500,000 threshold.

The provincial public sector will also now be exempted from its EHT burden, with the Province covering the $90 million it would have received annually.

However, there is no word yet about help for private businesses or local governments. That means local government will need to pay EHT by raising property taxes -- a further EHT hit to business.

There's more bad news for business as the tax notice defines a wide range of payments that will be included in the definition of payroll: bonuses, tips, RSP contributions, life-insurance premiums, stock option benefits, etc. 

And there is no opportunity for a private business to calculate its EHT bill separately for each location it operates.

The Chamber, along with Tourism Victoria, the Downtown Victoria Business Association, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the City of Victoria asked for improvements to the EHT in a letter to the Finance Minister. 

In addition The Chamber recently met with the Minister to reiterate this request. We are hopeful that there will be further modification to the EHT before the legislation is introduced this fall.

Please send your concerns directly to the Finance Minister at Minister@gov.bc.ca.
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Where has 'dirty money' moved on to?
A scathing report issued last week into money laundering at B.C. casinos is raising questions about why it was allowed to continue for so long. The Provincial government has started to remedy the situation  but there are concerns that criminals have already moved on.     
Hon. David Eby

The report by Peter German, the former deputy commissioner of the RCMP and Correctional Service Canada, estimates that more than $100 million in drug money was laundered by people exchanging bundles of small bills for casino chips. 

Criminal organizations have invested the laundered cash in luxury items -- including B.C. real estate -- claims the report, titled Dirty Money.

B.C.'s Attorney General David Eby says government will take action on the report. Though the bigger question remains what will be done to root out wherever the problem has moved on to.
SUMMER SOCIAL SERIES  
Brewmaster's Dinner

Join us for a fun evening featuring award winning beer from Lighthouse Brewing Company Inc. and a four-course BBQ dinner prepared by Jones Bar-B-Que served long-table style in one of downtown Victoria's most iconic spaces. Not a beer drinker? We will have non-alcoholic options at the event.
Gather your colleagues or friends and take advantage of group pricing!
Sponsored by:
Thu, Aug 16 | 5:30-9 pm
Market Square - Anthem Properties
39-560 Johnson St.


Electoral Reform advocates line-up for funds

The provincial government has set July 6 as the deadline for organizations to apply for public funding to run educational campaigns ahead of this November's referendum on election reform.
 
Elections B.C. expects to decide by mid-July on which organizations will receive $500,000 to advocate for either keeping our current first-past-the-post system, or for moving to  proportional representation. The groups can raise an additional $200,000 each, but need to do it through a maximum of $1,200 per person donations as unions and corporations are banned from contributing.

The vote will play out in stages. If more than 50 per cent of voters choose to keep the status quo, then nothing changes. However, if people choose a different system, the results of a second question will come into play. That question will ask voters to rank three different systems: dual-member proportional, mixed-member proportional and rural-urban proportional. If more than 50 per cent of voters are clear about which system they prefer, that system will be implemented. If none of the options receives a majority, the option with the fewest No. 1 votes is eliminated and the second choice on those ballots comes into play. In case of a tie, things get a little more complicated. You can read the rules for yourself here.
VicPD Chief Constable Del Manak shoulders his support for Pride Week.
Pride Week #LOVEISWELCOMEHERE
It's Pride Week in Greater Victoria and there is no shortage of activities and events happening around town this week! Tourism Victoria has compiled a very detailed Guide to Pride 2018 -- you can check it out here.
Some of the highlights include:
Wishing everyone a great and inclusive Pride Week!
Members Around Town
 
Scholarships
A new s cholarship fund breaks down barriers for Royal Roads University graduate students. The merit-based scholarships, administered by Royal Roads University, will support awards of $15,000 each for students pursuing graduate degrees in research-intensive or professional graduate-degree programs.
  
Top experience
Trip Advisor has rated Butchart Gardens one of the top-10 tourist experiences in the world.  The report is  based on an algorithm from the site's reviews. Other top experiences include a tour of Niagara Falls, cooking classes in New Orleans and the Vatican VIP experience.

Our Place
The City of Victoria is providing $25,000 to enable Our Place to keep its Pandora Avenue street drop-in centre open longer each day over the summer. The centre already has extended hours during the cold winter months.

Tourism Up
Chemistry Consulting reports that tourism is booming. Records have been broken at B.C. Ferries and Victoria International Airport. As well, U.S. visitation to B.C. is up 11.7 per cent. The report also notes Greater Victoria Hotel room rates are catching up to regional competitors.

New ferries
B.C. Ferries has issued an RFP to begin the process of constructing five new ships to replace existing C-Class ships, such as the Queen of Oak Bay. 

Chemistry Consulting: member since 2006  
Our Place Society: member since 2010

Royal Roads: member since 1996  
Butchart Gardens: member since 1976  

BC Ferries: member since 1983
The winner of the City of Victoria's BYO Bag Video Contest.

Has plastic-bag ban affected your business?

Now that the City of Victoria's ban on single-use plastic bags is in effect, The Chamber is wondering how this regulation is affecting businesses. As a retailer, has this had a negative or positive impact on your operations?  As a non-retailer, has this regulation helped with your triple bottom-line or your marketing? Let us know at communications@victoriachamber.ca.

Victoria's ban took affect on July 1, though enforcement won't begin until Jan. 1, 2019. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has said she hopes the bag ban is the beginning of a much broader strategy to reduce single-use plastic items.  The City will be looking south as Seattle, also on Sunday, became the first U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils.
 
Find out what regulations affect the sale of cannabis, what this emerging industry means for businesses in Victoria and what global opportunities are available. 
See the speakers  here.

Wed, Oct 10 | 11:30 am-1 pm
Hotel Grand Pacific
463 Belleville St.


Parents call for inquest into teen's death
The parents of an Oak Bay teen who died of an accidental drug overdose are calling for an inquest in an effort to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Elliot Eurchuk died on April 20 from a suspected fentanyl overdose. 

Elliot's mother and Chamber member, Rachel Staples, has asked for changes to the Infant Act so that parents can better participate in their child's health care. The Infant Act allows children to consent to medical treatment without telling their parents, as long as a health-care provider supports the treatment and the child understands any potential risks and benefits. However, using opioids to manage pain, has proven difficult even for adults. 

One of the Chamber's advocacy priorities is  Safe Communities and we agree with Elliot's parents that the Infant Act needs to be amended so families can better help children trying to manage potentially addictive treatments. 
Council right to be cautious about parking

Victoria City Council appears to be taking a cautious approach to a request to reduce the number of parking spots for a new development in the 900-block of Fort Street. 

Sakura Developments has asked the City for a parking variance for a proposed 13-storey residential building. The current requirement is for 62 parking stalls, but the company wants that reduced to 27 stalls. It has offered to provide secured parking for 160 bicycles as well as 62 car-share memberships.

Victoria Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said, in the past, when council agreed to reduce parking requirements, it was because there were other parking opportunities available.

"But now we're losing all that and I think, although we may say the residents might not have vehicles, I think it does impact on the rest of the neighbourhood as well. It affects the businesses in the downtown," Thornton-Joe said.

The Chamber is looking forward to the City's plan to ensure sustainable access to downtown, including parking, expected this fall.
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