No news for business in BC budget
Yesterday's provincial budget had mixed reviews.  
Read KPMG's report on BC Budget 2019 here. 
"There was really no focus on business in this budget," said Catherine Holt, Chamber CEO. "The government rolled out a lot of big changes last year. Some were good for employers - like the investment in child care and housing to help workers afford life in Victoria.  Some were bad - like the Employers Health Tax. In this budget, the government appears to be staying on the same path and continuing to roll out these changes."
The NDP theme of affordability was central to the budget - with an emphasis on making life more affordable for individuals. 
"However, there are a lot of issues the government is wrestling with that will  make life less affordable. And they were not addressed,'' Holt said. "For example, the government is still trying to manage the financial mess at ICBC, which will inevitably mean higher premiums. There will be increases in BC Hydro rates to cover debts created by years of dividends being transferred from BC Hydro to the previous government. And the government has exposed the extent of money laundering going on in BC and its connection to real estate speculation and fentanyl importation, but they said nothing in the budget speech about what they are going to do about this open-ended risk."
In addition, the provincial government announced a larger than expected surplus in the fall and we were hoping some of it could be used for relief on the Employer Health Tax, which came as a shock to private sector employers and municipalities in the last budget.  Removing the double dipping in 2019, when employers will pay MSP premiums as well as the EHT, would have been a much appreciated gesture.
Federal budget date set
The federal budget is set for March 19, Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced today. We will be looking for the measures that he described in his address to The Chamber this month. Unlike the provincial budget, which is legislated to be delivered the third Tuesday in February each year, the federal budget does not have a legislated annual date.
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Provincial surpluses targeted in 2019 BC budget
With a strong economy running on cruise control and optimism continuing around projected growth of key financial indicators, the provincial government has begun doling out goodies even though we're still more than two years away from the next scheduled election.
BC Budget 2019, unveiled yesterday, makes it clear that the provincial government intends to spend as much revenue as it can, rather than boast about how large of a surplus it amasses each year. It's a much different approach than British Columbians were used to under the former BC Liberal government.
The province has a $58-billion budget for 2019, and a forecasted surplus of $374 million for the current fiscal year.  
The 2019 BC Budget included a number of spending initiatives for low and middle income families. The BC Child Opportunity Benefit won't be implemented until October 2020. But, once it's in place, the province will pay about $250 million per year to provide tax-free subsidies to families with children up to 18 years old. The former early childhood benefit stopped once kids turned six-years-old. The new benefit scaled for families that earn more than $25,000 per year until it is eventual eliminated for families earning above certain thresholds.
Other highlights from the budget include:
  • $31 million to provide relief from federal and provincial student loan interest
  • $902 million over three years for Clean BC, which will provide incentives for people to buy zero-emission vehicles or other energy saving technology
  • An additional $1 per hour wage boost for early childhood educators, building on last year's announcement of $1 billion to help create additional child-care spaces.
Read more coverage here:
Feb. 19 - Times Colonist, B.C. government unveils budget big on social spending, low on new taxes
Feb. 19 - BC Government, BC Budget 2019
Feb. 19 - CBC Radio, On The Coast with Gloria Macarenko
One week after the budget, join us to hear Premier John Horgan speak on his government's vision for the Province of British Columbia as well as regional priorities.

Table sponsorships available. More information here.
Sponsored by: 
Tue, Feb 26 | 11:15 am-1:15 pm 
Victoria Conference Centre
720 Douglas St.  

Table sponsors: Bayview Place, Global Public Affairs, Destination Greater Victoria, Royal Roads University, Wittich Environmental Services Ltd, CGI Information Systems & Management Consultants, Knightsbridge Capital Group, YMCA - YWCA of Vancouver Island and University of Victoria 
Victoria council votes against police budget increase
Victoria's police board has been sent back to the drawing board, after city council voted last week to deny a request for a 6% increase to the police department's $54 million annual budget.
Without the increase, Victoria Police Chief Del Manak says he'll have to cut the equivalent of nine officers and civilian employees.
Chief Manak said the 3.4% increase that council wanted to implement would mean the police department would not be able to keep pace with costs such as retirements, salary increases and other expenses. The new Employer Health Tax alone will eat up nearly $700,000, budget documents show.
Check out the articles below for a few ideas on how the city might be able to find money to pay for the police department's EHT. 
Also, make sure to read Chamber CEO Catherine Holt's recent Times Colonist column about why the BC government needs to change the governance model of police boards in the province.
More on the topic:
Is fast tracking bike lanes the right priority?
Victoria taxpayers might want to put the brakes on this news.

City Council asked staff to crunch the numbers on speeding up the bike lane project.
Staff reported that it will cost an extra $350,000 to complete the City of Victoria's 32-kilometre bicycle network by 2022, instead of the anticipated completion in late 2023  
or 2024.    
Maybe that $350,000 is better spent on speeding up hiring of more police officers? 

Say goodbye to free Sunday street parking in downtown Victoria 

Victoria city council has voted unanimously to end free Sunday street parking starting May 1. The motion not only directs staff to begin charging for parking on Sundays at regular rates but to also use the revenue from Sunday street parking to fund bus passes for Victoria youth.  
Based on city staff estimates, which take into account the number of businesses that are open on Sunday, and the reduction of cars parking due to the rate increase, staff believe charging for on-street parking will generate $600,000 in revenue a year.
Add that to the $350,000 the City would save if they don't accelerate the bike lane project, and the police could pay their EHT bill! 
Members Around Town
Royal BC Museum upgrades 
The provincial government has committed to modernizing the Royal BC Museum, acknowledging that its collection of seven million artifacts is imperilled by buildings that need repair and that are at risk of being heavily damaged in an earthquake. The museum complex, at 675 Belleville St., has 10 buildings on 2.6 hectares. It is home to the Provincial Archives, the largest known collection of artist Emily Carr's work and a large collection of First Nations artifacts. 
Royal BC Museum: member since 1994
Youthful Cities Survey 
The South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP) is working with YouthfulCities to launch the Canadian Urban Issues Survey. The survey asks young people across Canada how important a list of 21 attributes are on a scale of 1-10, as well as how well they think their city is doing on each, also on a scale of 1-10. The results of this national survey will be used to create the 2019 Canadian Index. SIPP is hoping to see Victoria in the rankings this year as a way to attract more young people to the region.  
South Island Prosperity Project: member since 2017   
The Inclusion Project  
Royal Roads University is hosting The Inclusion Project on Mar. 30. It will engage all stakeholders in critical conversations about diversity, equity and inclusiveness across civil society, and public and private sectors. The project will cast a global lens on local issues and address the challenges faced by newcomers - immigrants, refugees and international students.  
Royal Roads University: member since 1996   

March Business Leaders Series
This series features informative breakfast or luncheon presentations by business, government and institutional speakers on various topics.   
BC Ferries has a lot on the go for 2019. For more information on the future of Swartz Bay and on BC Ferries' plans to evolve our coastal ferry system, come to this lunch!  
Sponsored by:
Wed, Mar 6 |11:30 am-1 pm 
Hotel Grand Pacific
463 Belleville St.

South Island Prosperity Index Update
The South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP) Prosperity Index was developed in 2017 to measure indicators like employment, education, governance, affordability, and innovation. Come and hear what those indicators tell us about 2018.

Tue, Mar 12 | 11:30 am-1 pm  
Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour
728 Humboldt St.
2019 Business Awards finalists
Congratulations to all the finalist for the 2019 Greater Victoria Business Awards!
See the complete list here.  
From start-ups to local legends, the awards shine a light on hard-working businesses, business people and community leaders in 14 categories worth celebrating. Finalists were chosen by an independent panel of prominent business leaders who served as judges.
The 2019 Greater Victoria Business Awards will be held May 16 at the Fairmont Empress. Tickets go on sale Feb. 28.

BC Transit Updates
BC Transit is planning a $21-million upgrade to its fare system, with the goal of allowing passengers to use their smartphones as tickets and eventually adding debit and credit card options as well.

A smartphone app would be created to store purchased fares. When boarding, a fare would be deducted via a bar code or a tap function.

The pilot program will start late this year or early 2020, with the Victoria region (with 315 buses) being one of the first to have the fare system. It is expected to be completely rolled out in 23 regional transit systems in 2021.

Victoria Regional Transit Commission's new members
Following municipal elections last fall, five new members have been appointed to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. The commission decides on routes and fares as well as funding from local governments needed to run the region's bus system.

New members

Fred Haynes, mayor of Saanich

Kevin Murdoch, mayor of Oak Bay

Geoff Orr, mayor of North Saanich

Rob Martin, mayor of Colwood

Sharmarke Dubow, councillor of Victoria

Existing members
Susan Brice (chair), councillor of Saanich
Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria
Maja Tait, mayor of Sooke

BC Transit: member since 1999
Online Directory Listing Check-Up
In honour of Chamber Week, let's make sure you're putting your best self forward by updating your online directory listing ! Through search engine optimization, a ton of people are visiting our member directory every month! So we made an easy checklist for you to make sure your listing is stellar.
Online Directory Listing Checklist:
  • Your logo, pictures and YouTube video are all up-to-date
  • All your social media channels are listed
  • Your listing description reflects your brand
  • All relevant keywords are added
It's easy to make changes to your listing - simply login here . To update your logo, photo or video, select the Media Update button listed at the top of the page. To update your listing description, keywords and social media channels, select the Profile Edit button. You can always email us the changes you would like to see and we can make them for you too.  
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