City Council Takes Local Action on COVID-19

If nothing else, please watch this video. There’s a moving moment in it where someone who is homeless comes to talk to me and asks the very same questions the media is asking. We are working as hard as we can and as fast as we can to address her concerns.

Today at City Council we passed a number of important measures to support residents, local business and the non-profit sector facing hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To further protect residents and City staff from the current threat of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Council also amended the way it will conduct Council meetings until the health emergency is declared over by the Provincial Health Officer.

I want to thank Council members and staff for their proactive leadership for bringing forward these measures today. And I’d like to thank staff in advance for their hard work on implementation.

Some of the measures outlined here have already been implemented by the federal government. I am grateful to both the federal and provincial governments for their financial assistance to residents and businesses and the guidance and advice of both the federal and provincial medical health officers.

In the coming weeks, Council will continue to take actions within our jurisdiction to help alleviate the suffering of our residents and businesses in these uncertain times. I also know that Victorians are working hard and displaying extraordinary generosity to help each other out and to get through these difficult times together.

Business
Council has directed staff to examine all of the City’s fiscal, legislative and legal powers to support small businesses and jobs, the non-profit sector, arts and culture and the tourism sector in order to sustain the local economy during the pandemic and recover stronger and more resilient than before.

Council has also authorized the City’s Real Estate staff to look at potential options to provide relief for businesses located in City-owned properties on a case-by-case basis, and encourages all landlords to work with their tenants to explore options that work for both parties.

Financial Hardship
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing substantial economic hardship for many people, businesses and community organizations in the City of Victoria as a result of reduced economic activity and compliance with directives of public health officials and government entities.

To support the well-being of individuals and safeguard the economic base of the community, Council is initiating the following actions:

  • Direct staff to prepare bylaw amendments to allow for the temporary waiver of financial penalties for non-payment of municipal utilities fees and taxes during provincially declared emergencies.
  • Direct staff to develop an Action Plan, without delay, identifying measures within municipal jurisdiction to reduce economic hardship on individuals and organizations impacted by COVID-19, including consideration of the following measures:
    1. Repurposing under-utilized facilities for emergency shelter and healthcare for the unhoused, to allow for social distancing, proper care, harm reduction, and recovery.
    2. Emergency regulations to restrict evictions of tenants who have suffered a loss of earnings due to quarantine, self-isolation, layoff or declining economic activity.
    3. Temporary deferral of fees, taxes and other payments owing to the City from those suffering hardship.
  • Advocate to the Governments of British Columbia and Canada for immediate action on:
    1. Emergency housing and healthcare for the unhoused through the retrofitting of underutilized facilities to allow for social distancing, proper care, harm reduction and recovery.
    2. Income support through Employment Insurance, statutory Paid Sick Leave provisions and/or other programs to replace earnings that have been lost as a result of COVID-19, with immediate and retroactive effect, including eligibility for precariously employed workers in the service sector and “gig economy”, self-employed workers and small business operators.
    3. A temporary moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and payment of debt and utility fees.
    4. Support for Indigenous communities that are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to substandard health, housing, water and social service systems.
    5. Temporary deferral of payroll deduction remittances (i.e. EI, CPP, Income Tax) and income tax instalment payments where necessary to reduce pressure on business cash reserves and maintain payment to employees and suppliers.
  • Request that the Mayor write, on behalf of Council, to the Premier of British Columbia and the Prime Minister of Canada, requesting immediate action along the lines outlined above, and indicating the City of Victoria’s willingness to cooperate with those orders of government to ensure an integrated and effective response to COVID-19, including reducing economic hardship on individuals and organizations and safeguarding the economic base of the community.
  • Request that staff consider initiating emergency childcare services for essential services workers during the COVID-19 public health emergency, either as a City-operated service or in partnership with external childcare providers.
  • Request that the University of Victoria reconsider the displacement of students currently living in student housing who have no alternate housing options.
  • Council requests that landlords not increase rents at this time of crisis and defer rents for those in need.

Council Meetings and Public Meetings
To protect the public and City staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, City Council has adopted amendments to its Council Procedures Bylaw to adjust the way Council meetings are conducted.

Based on recommendations by public health officials, Council suspended the holding of public hearings in accordance with the Class Order on COVID-19 from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer until further notice. Council also suspended the question period sections of Council meeting agendas for in-person participation.

Requests to address Council will be limited to six delegations through either telephone participation, where possible, and the reading out of submissions and/or broadcasting of recorded submissions, if necessary.

 

Help on the Way for Businesses, Workers, Canadians

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Prime Minister Trudeau during his most recent visit to Victoria.

NB There is A LOT of detail below on the federal financial aid package for Canadians announced today. I wanted to make sure that people have all the information. Use what you need and feel free to share.

This morning Prime Minister Trudeau announced $82 billion in financial aid for Canadians. When he spoke following Trudeau, Bill Morneau said that as Finance Minister he’s used to worrying about macro economic factors and keeping the economy strong. But today he said, “Right now, I view my only job as being able to make sure that Canadians can keep a roof over their head and food in their fridge.”

I found my self choked up by this statement, listening to the announcements on my walk to City Hall this morning. All the way out here on the west coast I feel the care that the federal government is taking of Canadians, putting everything they’ve got into helping us get through this challenging time.

The financial support for Canadians announced this morning will help Victorians a lot. Importantly – and as City Council is calling for in a motion tomorrow – there is support for people who aren’t eligible for EI. CBC has put together a good piece on how to apply for COVID-19 Emergency Benefits. There are also tax relief measures, deferral of mortgage payments, increased funding for shelters and much more. We expect an aid package soon from the Province which will build on the federal measures and hopefully include support for renters and further relief for small businesses.

Here’s a full synopsis of the federal aid package. There will be more details in the days to come. As Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freedland said this morning, sometimes they won’t have all the details worked out when they share these big plans with us, but they want us to know what the plan is and that the details will come as soon as possible.

Key Details from Technical Backgrounder

  • The EI Emergency Care Benefit will be available through CRA beginning in April, and is worth up to $900/two weeks for up to 15 weeks. It will not require a medical attestation, application will be simple. Will have to attest to eligibility every two weeks.
  • The implementation timeline for the special COVID-19 Emergency Support Benefit is still unclear, but the value of the benefit will be the same as EI benefit and it will provide 14 weeks of support.
  • The GST credit increase for low-income earners will flow by early May, and is a one time payment to double the value of the program in fiscal year 2019/20.
  • The wage subsidy for small business employers is effective immediately. The subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
  • The Reaching Home initiative will be topped-up with $157.5 million. The funding could be used for a range of needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce overcrowding in shelters.
  • $50 million will be allocated to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities.
  • The Federal Tax Filing Deadline: is extended until June 1, for both individuals and businesses, and any money owed will not be due until September 1.
  • Many further details in the backgrounder below – particularly on monetary policy and business supports.

Minister Morneau Press Conference Summary

  • The Federal government has the fiscal space to support the economy and we are going to do so – $27 billion in direct support to Canadians and businesses and deferring $55 billion in Federal taxation, leaving that money in the economy.
  • The monthly minimum withdrawal from registered retirement income accounts will be suspended for six months and “I assure you” that social security payments will continue to flow.
  • We are prepared to provide more supports for small businesses as necessary. We have freed up a lot of lending capacity for small businesses through commercial banks and Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank.
  • Emergency legislation will be tabled to enact these measures.
  • When the time is right, we will announce measures to help the economy bounce back in the long-term from the effects of COVID-19.

Minister Morneau Q&A (Relevant Questions)

  • Do you plan to provide support for self-employed people that wish to stay home to respect social distancing, but don’t have COVID-19?
    • Minister Morneau: Those people would be eligible for the special COVID-19 benefit. Details to come.
  • Some analysts talking about unemployment reaching 20%. Comment?
    • Minister Morneau: It’s difficult to forecast as the situation changes continually. We intend to provide broad support, and if people are facing challenges we will help them and their family.
  • What is the purpose of the Indigenous Community Support Program and how will it be broken down between communities?
    • Minister Morneau: More details to come.
  • Any specific measures for seniors – i.e. changes to OAS? Did you consider direct cheques to all Canadians? Allowing people to delay mortgage payments, but what about renters?
    • Minister Morneau: The measures we have taken will help all Canadians, while targeting those that are most vulnerable or lose their jobs due to COVID-19. We wanted to deal with vulnerable populations first – i.e. people who are not eligible for EI. We will continue to think about other ways to get money to people and who needs help?
  • Are you expecting a worse economic downturn than in 2008?
    • Minister Morneau: We can’t know that for sure. We are taking measures to bolster the economy, and we will always be telling Canadians exactly what we know and don’t know about the challenge at hand.
    • Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz: The Minister is correct. We have a strong banking system. I have great confidence in our capacity to deal with this situation, and to be nimble to whatever we face. In 2008, we were not prepared for the other side of the crisis. Today, we know that this is temporary and that our economy was really strong going into the crisis – that will make a difference to the recovery.

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses

FromDepartment of Finance Canada

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action to help Canadians facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

On March 18, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new set of economic measures to help stabilize the economy during this challenging period. These measures, delivered as part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses.

Support for Canadians

Income Support for Individuals Who Need it Most

Flexibility for Taxpayers

Mortgage Default Management Tools

Role of Financial Institutions

Support for Businesses

Supporting Canadian Businesses Through the Canada Account

Helping Businesses Keep Their Workers

Flexibility for Businesses Filing Taxes

Ensuring Businesses have Access to Credit

Supporting Financial Market Liquidity

Economic Response Plan – Cost and Implementation

Temporary Income Support for Workers and Parents

For Canadians without paid sick leave (or similar workplace accommodation) who are sick, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children, the Government is:

  • Waiving the one-week waiting period for those individuals in imposed quarantine that claim Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits. This temporary measure is in effect as of March 15, 2020.
  • Waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.
  • Introducing the Emergency Care Benefit providing up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. This flat-payment Benefit would be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provide income support to:
    • Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
    • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not quality for EI sickness benefits.
    • Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.

Application for the Benefit will be available in April 2020, and require Canadians to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements. They will need to re-attest every two weeks to reconfirm their eligibility. Canadians will select one of three channels to apply for the Benefit:

  1. by accessing it on their CRA MyAccount secure portal;
  2. by accessing it from their secure My Service Canada Account; or
  3. by calling a toll free number equipped with an automated application process.

Longer-Term Income Support for Workers

For Canadians who lose their jobs or face reduced hours as a result of COVID’s impact, the Government is:

  • Introducing an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the CRA to provide up to $5.0 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
  • Implementing the EI Work Sharing Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process. This was announced by the Prime Minister on March 11, 2020.

Income Support for Individuals Who Need It Most

For over 12 million low- and modest-income families, who may require additional help with their finances, the Government is proposing to provide a one-time special payment by early May 2020 through the Goods and Services Tax credit (GSTC). This will double the maximum annual GSTC payment amounts for the 2019-20 benefit year. The average boost to income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. This measure will inject $5.5 billion into the economy.

For over 3.5 million families with children, who may also require additional support, the Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment. In total, this measure will deliver almost $2 billion in extra support.

Together, the proposed enhancements of the GSTC and CCB will give a single parent with two children and low to modest income nearly $1,500 in additional short-term support.

To ensure that certain groups who may be vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 have the support they need, the Government is proposing targeted help by:

  • Providing $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.
  • Placing a six-month interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for all individuals currently in the process of repaying these loans.
  • Reducing required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) by 25% for 2020, in recognition of volatile market conditions and their impact on many seniors’ retirement savings. This will provide flexibility to seniors that are concerned that they may be required to liquidate their RRIF assets to meet minimum withdrawal requirements. Similar rules would apply to individuals receiving variable benefit payments under a defined contribution Registered Pension Plan.
  • Providing the Reaching Home initiative with $157.5 million to continue to support people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The funding could be used for a range of needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce overcrowding in shelters.
  • Supporting women and children fleeing violence, by providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities. This includes funding for facilities in Indigenous communities.

Flexibility for Taxpayers

In order to provide greater flexibility to Canadians who may be experiencing hardships during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Canada Revenue Agency will defer the filing due date for the 2019 tax returns of individuals, including certain trusts.

  • For individuals (other than trusts), the return filing due date will be deferred until June 1, 2020.  However, the Agency encourages individuals who expect to receive benefits under the GSTC or the Canada Child Benefit not to delay the filing of their return to ensure their entitlements for the 2020-21 benefit year are properly determined.
  • For trusts having a taxation year ending on December 31, 2019, the return filing due date will be deferred until May 1, 2020.

The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020. This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.

In order to reduce the necessity for taxpayers and tax preparers to meet in person during this difficult time, and to reduce administrative burden, effective immediately the Canada Revenue Agency will recognize electronic signatures as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act, as a temporary administrative measure. This provision applies to authorization forms T183 or T183CORP, which are forms that are signed in person by millions of Canadians every year to authorize tax preparers to file taxes.

The Canada Revenue Agency is adapting its Outreach Program to support individuals during COVID-19. Through this service, the Canada Revenue Agency offers help to individuals to better understand their tax obligations and to obtain the benefits and credits to which they are entitled. Traditionally available in-person, this service is now available over the phone, and through webinar, where possible.

The Canada Revenue Agency fully expects that many community organizations are considering whether to significantly reduce or perhaps cancel the provision of services provided under the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. Additional efforts to encourage individuals to file their tax and benefit returns electronically, or where possible, through the File My Return service, will be put forward.

Role of Financial Institutions

The Minister of Finance is in regular contact with the heads of Canada’s large banks, and continues to encourage them to show flexibility in helping their customers whose personal or business finances are affected by COVID-19. The Superintendent of Financial Institutions has also made clear his expectation that banks will use the additional lending capacity provided by recent government actions to support Canadian businesses and households.

In response, banks in Canada have affirmed their commitment to working with customers to provide flexible solutions, on a case-by-case basis, for managing through hardships caused by recent developments. This may include situations such as pay disruption, childcare disruption, or illness. Canada’s large banks have confirmed that this support will include up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products. These targeted measures respond to immediate challenges being faced across the country and will help stabilize the Canadian economy.

Mortgage Default Management Tools

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers offer tools to lenders that can assist homeowners who may be experiencing financial difficulty. These include payment deferral, loan re-amortization, capitalization of outstanding interest arrears and other eligible expenses, and special payment arrangements.

The Government, through CMHC, is providing increased flexibility for homeowners facing financial difficulties to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans. CMHC will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.

Support for Businesses

The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action to support Canadian businesses facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 13, 2020, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, Governor of the Bank of Canada Stephen Poloz, and Superintendent of Financial Institutions Jeremy Rudin outlined a coordinated package of measures to support the functioning of markets, the resilience of our financial sector, and continued access to financing for Canadian businesses. These actions will significantly increase the availability of credit to businesses of all sizes, sustain liquidity in key financial markets, and provide flexibility to businesses experiencing hardship.

On March 18, 2020 the government and its partners announced further measures to support businesses. These actions are part of Canada’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19, and the significant stimulus program developed to stabilize Canada’s economy, support businesses and to protect Canadians.

Supporting Canadian Business through the Canada Account

The government is changing the Canada Account so that the Minister of Finance would now be able to determine the limit of the Canada Account in order to deal with exceptional circumstances. The Canada Account is administered by Export Development Canada (EDC) and is used by the government to support exporters when deemed to be in the national interest. This will allow the government to provide additional support to Canadian companies through loans, guarantees or insurance policies during these challenging times.

Helping Businesses Keep their Workers

To support businesses that are facing revenue losses and to help prevent lay-offs, the government is proposing to provide eligible small employers a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Businesses will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration. Employers benefiting from this measure will include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.

Flexibility for Businesses Filing Taxes

The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020.  This relief would apply to tax balances due, as well as instalments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.

The Canada Revenue Agency will not contact any small or medium (SME) businesses to initiate any post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks. For the vast majority of businesses, the Canada Revenue Agency will temporarily suspend audit interaction with taxpayers and representatives.

The Liaison Officer service offers help to owners of small businesses to understand their tax obligations. Traditionally available in-person, this service is now available over the phone and will be customizing information during these challenging times by ensuring small businesses are aware of any changes such as filing and payment deadlines, proactive relief measures, etc.

Ensuring Businesses Have Access to Credit

The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide more than $10 billion of additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. This will be an effective tool for helping viable Canadian businesses remain resilient during these very uncertain times. BDC and EDC are cooperating with private sector lenders to coordinate on credit solutions for individual businesses, including in sectors such as oil and gas, air transportation and tourism. The near term credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will also be increased through Farm Credit Canada.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced it is lowering the Domestic Stability Buffer by 1.25% of risk-weighted assets, effective immediately. This action will allow Canada’s large banks to inject $300 billion of additional lending in to the economy.

The Bank of Canada also took a series of actions to support the Canadian economy during this period of economic stress, enhance the resilience of the Canadian financial system, and help ensure that financial institutions can continue to extend credit to both households and businesses. This included cutting the interest rate to 0.75% as a proactive measure in light of the negative shocks to Canada’s economy arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent sharp drop in oil prices.

Supporting Financial Market Liquidity

As a further proactive and coordinated measure to bolster the financial system and the Canadian economy, the government announced on March 16 that it is launching an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (IMPP). Under this program, the government will purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This action will provide long-term stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders, help facilitate continued lending to Canadian consumers and businesses, and add liquidity to Canada’s mortgage market. Details of the terms of the purchase operations will be provided to lenders by CMHC later this week.

The IMPP enhances the already substantial set of measures announced on March 13 to support the economy and the financial system. CMHC stands ready to further support liquidity and the stability of the financial markets through its mortgage funding programs as necessary.

Further, the Bank of Canada has announced that it will adjust its market liquidity operations to maintain market functioning and credit availability during the current period of uncertainty in which conditions are evolving rapidly.

The Bank of Canada also announced that it will broaden eligible collateral for its term repo facility to include the full range of collateral eligible under the Standing Liquidity Facility, with the exception of the non-mortgage loan portfolio. This expansion of eligible collateral will provide support to funding conditions for financial institutions by providing a backstop to regular private funding.

The Bank also announced that it stands ready, as a proactive measure, to provide support to the Canada Mortgage Bond (CMB) market so that this important funding market continues to function well. This would include, as required, purchases of CMBs in the secondary market. Similar to the increase in Government of Canada bond buybacks, this will support market liquidity and price discovery.

Economic Response Plan – Cost and Implementation

Economic Response Plan – Cost and Implementation
Measure 2020-2021 Cost/Impact Implementation
Emergency Care Benefit Up to $10 billion Early April
*requires Royal Assent
Emergency Support Benefit Up to $5 billion Early April
*requires Royal Assent
GST Credit $5.5 billion By Early May
*requires Royal Assent
Enhanced Canada Child Benefit $1.9 billion May
* requires Royal Assent
Temporary Business Wage Subsidy $3.8 billion Immediately
Supporting legislation to follow
Canada Student Loan Payments $190 million Early April
* requires Royal Assent
Support for Indigenous Communities $305 million April
*requires Royal Assent
Support for people experiencing homelessness (through Reaching Home) $157.5 million April
*requires Royal Assent
Support for women’s shelters and sexual assault centres including on reserve $50 million April
*requires Royal Assent
Lower Registered Retirement Income Fund Minimum Withdrawal Amounts $495 million Immediately
Supporting legislation to follow
Total $27.4 billion  
Other supports    
Flexibility for individual and corporate taxpayers (tax payment deferral until September) $55 billion Immediately
Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) through BDC and EDC $10 billion + Immediately
Credit and liquidity support through financial Crown corporations, Bank of Canada, OSFI, CMHC and commercial lenders (e.g., Domestic Stability Buffer, Insured Mortgage Purchase Program, Banker’s Acceptance Purchase Facility) In the range of $500 billion Immediately

 

Our Local Businesses Need Us: Let’s Show Them Our Love

Screenshot 2020-03-14 12.25.50

NB We have received new information from the federal and provincial health authorities since this was posted originally on Saturday afternoon. Extraordinary social distancing measures should be put in place. The Prime Minister is encouraging people to stay home if possible to help flatten the curve.  Instead of visiting your favourite restaurant right now, considering buying a gift card (this can often be done on line) to help them through a cash flow crunch right now so they’ll be here for the long term.

NB This post was written after the update from Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Medical Health Officer at noon on Saturday. Her next update is at 10am Monday. We can adjust our behaviours then as needed according to her advice.

The City of Victoria has been following all the health protocols required by the Provincial government and keeping our residents up to date by email, website and social media. We hope that all Victorians are following the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry to keep themselves, their families and our communities healthy. She’s calm, measured and thoughtful.

We know that in addition to worrying about the health of themselves and their employees, some of our small local businesses are starting to worry about their survival. We’re already seeing a massive slow down in visitors to Victoria. People aren’t traveling, conferences have been postponed, and the cruise season is delayed until July 1st at the earliest, taking another swath of potential customers away.

I’m starting to get emails from small businesses. I got this one just now:

“I am hearing a great deal in the media about the growing fear among the public.  This is despite the fact that there are currently no health advisories against participating in many of the tourist activities in Greater Victoria—only those of gatherings of greater than 200 people.  Yet, we are seeing the public reacting with fear and making irrational decisions, such as not patronizing local businesses or cancelling existing bookings for activities.

“What I am not hearing is any of our government officials or local community leaders using their voices to help calm those fears and encouraging individuals and local businesses to support one another in order to help us all weather this storm—particularly in light of the profoundly negative impact decisions, such as cancelling cruise ships, is having on the local tourism industry.”

Let’s support this business owner and others through these hard times. Let’s eat out. Let’s drink some great local beer. Let’s stop buying online. Let’s shop local. Heck, let’s even do some of our holiday shopping now, really, really early.

As a city government, we want to provide as much certainty and hope as we can to our small business owners. That’s why Councillor Loveday and I are bringing an emergency motion to Council this Thursday asking staff to “examine all of the City’s fiscal, legislative and legal powers to support small businesses and jobs, arts and culture, and the visitor economy in order sustain the local economy during the pandemic and recover stronger and more resilient than before.”

For sure, senior levels of government have more tools at their disposal to support jobs and workers and we will continue to advocate to and partner with them. However, it is also incumbent on local governments to take action to support our local economies. There may be small things the City can do – or not do – to stimulate and sustain the local economy so that we can prepare for economic recovery in a sustainable and resilient way.

While we’re debating these issues and looking for solutions at City Hall, I hope we see Victorians out in the city, enjoying all of the wonderful experiences our small businesses have to offer – of course practicing the social distancing that Dr. Henry recommends. Now’s the time to show them our love.

Victoria 3.0 – Pivoting to a Higher Value Economy – 2020-2041

Close-up View
Expedition leader Adrian Round (left) and ocean operations staff member Jonathan Miller carefully monitor remotely operated vehicle operations on the seafloor more than 2 km below the vessel. Photo by Ed McNichol. Ocean Networks Canada

Today the City of Victoria released Victoria 3.0, an economic action plan that accompanies the City’s Official Community Plan to 2041. It’s a long-term plan and vision for a sustainable, growing city that will create high-value jobs now and for the future. The vision of Victoria 3.0 is that as the Capital City, Victoria is future-ready and globally-fluent. We use our status as a small powerhouse to build a high-value economy that meets our needs now and anticipates the future.

This action plan was developed based on the input of residents and business owners who participated in the fall economic roundtable sessions hosted by myself and city staff. And it has been shaped by the latest research and thinking in 21st century city building and economics.

We are making this plan now in order to:

  •       Stimulate and support innovation
  •       Build on the economic stability offered by our  public sector employment base
  •       Diversify our economy
  •       Respond to the big changes that will have an impact on sustainable economic
    growth, including automation and climate change

What if we told, and sold, a compelling story of Victoria’s high-tech sector nationally and globally? What if we had a large area of our downtown dedicated to innovation and we were solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, creating high-value jobs at the same time? What if we were globally recognized for pioneering solutions in the ocean and marine sector? What if we turned the Victoria Conference Centre into a facility that can hold more and larger conferences and also developed its international reputation?

And what if by 2030 everyone working in Victoria were making a living wage, not because this was mandated by any level of government, but because of an increase in high-value jobs and a strong, inclusive high-value economy.

Victoria 3.0 answers these questions with a resounding, “Yes!” and with a series of clear actions that the City and its partners will undertake over the next two decades to achieve these objectives.

A high-value economy has a diversity of household sustaining jobs available in a range of sectors, and the skills and training available for those jobs to be filled. It’s an innovative economy that develops solutions to pressing local and global challenges, sells these solutions globally, and brings the money back to Victoria. Developing this kind of economy will enable Victoria companies to attract talent from around the world to fill the high-value jobs being created, drawing a wealth of experience and diversity to the city.

Victoria 3.0 also takes seriously the reality of our existing small businesses. We heard from roundtable participants that some of our small retail businesses and restaurants have begun to struggle. In response, a whole section of the plan is dedicated to addressing their needs – from mitigating the impacts of city construction projects on business operations, to creating a Downtown Ambassador program to increase a sense of safety and welcoming in the downtown for all. Small businesses are key to providing the amenity-rich lifestyle that will help Victoria to attract and retain the workforce of the future.  

In addition to actions that the City can take to continue to support small business, Victoria 3.0 lays out a few big moves.

One is to establish an Innovation District in the north end of downtown. An Innovation District is a hub of cross-sector collaboration, a place where ideas are commercialized (turned into products and services), and where new high-value jobs are created. The vision of the Innovation District is to honour the current industrial land uses and to build for the 22nd century.

A second is to create an Ocean Futures Cluster. A significant and under-realized opportunity for Victoria is our location as a coastal and island community on the Pacific Ocean. Victoria is close to the shipping gateway to Asia-Pacific markets and a critical transit point to the Arctic Ocean.

The Ocean Futures Cluster and Marine Innovation Hub takes advantage of our geographic location and combines the region’s significant and emerging strengths in marine and maritime industries, ocean science, technology and environmental innovation. This will enhance the competitiveness of our region and of British Columbia in the global marketplace.

Taken together these big moves and others lay the groundwork for a strong, future-focussed economy in the city and in the region. If you’d like to learn more and provide input on the plan by January 30, please head here.

Victoria 3.0 is the work of many hands. And it will take many more hands, working together, to bring this plan to life over the next two decades.

 

Cities Can’t Go It Alone, Need National Government Support on Climate Change: Climate Emergency Urban Opportunity Report

From left to right, Martha Delgado, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights for Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maimunah Sharif, Executive Director UN Habitat, Shipra Narang Suri, Coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch at UN-Habitat.

It’s not every day, as mayor of a small city – in the global scheme of things – to have an opportunity to speak at the United Nations. I was honoured to participate and to share the climate action we’re taking in Victoria. What’s more important is what I learned: climate change can’t be solved and 21st century prosperity won’t be created unless nations put cities at the heart of their climate agendas. This matters to Canadian cities in the middle of an election campaign where climate change is taking centre stage.

I got to attend the release of a ground-breaking report, Climate Emergency: Urban Opportunity. It lays out a clear path for how national governments can secure economic prosperity and avert climate catastrophe by transforming cities. It points out that only two in five countries have a climate strategy that explicitly involves cities. Canada does not.

Every week, somewhere in the world, a city the size of Paris is being built. In Asia and Africa, 2.5 billion more people will live in cities in 2050 than they do now. In Kenya, for example, 15 million people live in cities. By 2050, 44 million Kenyans will live in cities. Seventy-five percent of the infrastructure that will be needed to accommodate this urban growth has not yet been built.

And where do these materials for city building come from? I met Governor and Mayor Powes Parkop of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital city. Papua New Guinea is the first country to have environmental refugees. They also have the third largest tropical forest in the world which houses 10 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. Their forest is currently being harvested to export for city building needs in first world countries. Scott Francisco from Cities4Forests, shared in his remarks on a panel on Nature Based Solutions that New York consumes 50,000 hectares of forest per year.

Add to this the portion of people globally living in informal settlements or slums on the fringes of cities. Sheela Patel, Chairperson of Slum Dwellers International, told us that for people living in poverty – whether in the slums of Rio de Janeiro or on Pandora Street in Victoria – if you go and talk about climate change, they will say, we need food and shelter. How do we care about climate change when there is so much inequality?

Without climate action that puts sustainable city building at the centre, there will be an increase in urban populations and an increase in urban poverty, a decrease in biodiversity and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating the earth’s growing fragility.

The Climate Emergency: Urban Opportunity report addresses all of these issues and outlines a path forward to addressing climate change, inequality and sustainable development all at the same time. It shows that sustainable cities provide a powerful opportunity to reduce poverty, reduce climate risk, and increase economic opportunity.

The report, authored by Lord Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics, and a host of others from the 50 organizations that make up the Coalition for Urban Transitions makes six key recommendations:

  • Develop an overarching strategy to deliver shared prosperity while reaching net-zero emissions – and place cities at its heart.
  • Align national policies behind compact, connected, clean cities.
  • Fund and finance sustainable urban infrastructure.
  • Coordinate and support local climate action in cities.
  • Build a multilateral system that fosters inclusive, zero-carbon cities.
  • Proactively plan for a just urban transition.

Stern said at the launch that if we take the recommendations laid out here, we will have prosperity and resilience. If we don’t then we will have fragility and uncertainty. And he emphasized that, “We’re not going to get to zero by 2050 unless cities take the lead. Getting there is the inclusive growth story of the 21st century. The pathway will create great cities and great places to live.”

The report demonstrates that if – as cities and national governments – we follow the recommendations, there’s a $24 trillion dollar economic opportunity and the potential to create 87 million jobs globally by 2030. It will take investing roughly 2% of global GDP to get there; the return on investment will be three to four times that. Importantly, for those of us ready to act now, the report demonstrates that 90% of emissions can be reduced with technologies that already exist.

Martha Delgado, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights for Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and president of the UN Habitat Assembly echoed the findings of the report. She said that, “you don’t adapt a country to climate change, you adapt communities to climate change.” She gave city leaders four key pieces of advice:

  1. Identify successful projects that can be replicated, city after city.
  2. Maximize the impact of your existing efforts.
  3. Allocate your resources wisely to projects that will have the greatest positive effects for climate action, resilience and community building.
  4. Motivate citizens to increase climate action.

But cities can’t do this alone. “Even the largest and most empowered city governments can deliver only a small share of mitigation potential on their own,” the report reads. “Governments of small and medium-sized cities, which are home to over half the global urban population and half the urban mitigation potential, have even less power and fewer resources to reduce emissions or enhance resilience.” Victoria fits into this category. For us, and other cities like us around the globe, “the support provided and standards established by national and state governments are particularly important.”

The role of cities and the relationship between cities and the federal government has received little to no coverage during this federal election campaign and doesn’t explicitly appear in the platforms of any of the parties. If Canada wants to continue along a path of prosperity, reduce inequality and seriously address our emissions, then cities and communities will need to be at heart of the government’s agenda.

To this end, the new government should consider appointing a Minister of Climate Change and Communities with a mandate of implementing a just transition for communities and workers in the resource sector and implementing the Climate Emergency: Urban Opportunity recommendations in urban areas. This will help to put Canada on the path to low-carbon prosperity that at least three parties have committed to and that the current climate emergency demands.

 

 

 

 

 

Roundtable Series to Inform City’s Economic Action Plan: Victoria 3.0 – Pivoting to a Higher Value Economy

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Ocean Networks Canada launching B.C.’s megaquake sensor

Starting this evening and running for the next two months, the City of Victoria is hosting a series of roundtable discussions with people who do business in the community to inform our next Economic Action Plan, Victoria 3.0 – Pivoting to a Higher Value Economy.

I am happy to be facilitating all the round tables and warmly invite participation from a broad cross section of the community. Each roundtable contains two topics to allow for the cross-pollination of ideas. The first roundtable – tonight at City Hall from 5-7pm – is on high tech and advanced education, research and development.

We need input from people from a wide range of economic sectors and backgrounds. This input will help us develop a plan to position Victoria as an attractive place to invest and to start and grow a business over the next five to 20 years. The goal is for Victoria to become a small powerhouse that creates high-value jobs and builds a high-value economy that meets current, and anticipates future, needs.

I believe everyone in Victoria deserves a good job, a good home, and a sustainable community – and that the City has a role to play in making these things happen. That’s why this plan will use our status as a capital city and position Victoria as a globally-relevant and globally-fluent small powerhouse. This will help us to create the jobs of the future and an inclusive, sustainable, and high-value economy for the long term.

Tech, Advanced Education Research and Development
Monday, October 7, 2019 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for movers and shakers working in tech and research and development in industry or in post-secondary institutions.

Indigenous and Newcomer Businesses
Tuesday, October 8, 2019 from 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for Indigenous-run businesses and organizations that support Indigenous entrepreneurs. It is also for newcomer-run businesses and organizations that support newcomer entrepreneurs.

Ocean Futures Cluster Development
Friday, October 25, 2019 from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for anyone working in the ocean and marine sector, very broadly defined. NOTE: This workshop is by invite only in order to have a focused conversation on cluster development. If you or someone you know would like an invite please email kmoore@victoria.ca

Neighbourhood Business and Social Enterprise
Tuesday, November 5, 2019 from 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for people who run businesses in the City’s neighbourhoods and includes people who work from home in these neighbourhoods. It is also for everyone working in the social enterprise sector.

Small Business and Finance
Wednesday, November 20, 2019 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for anyone who runs a small business in Victoria, with a focus on downtown businesses. It is also for everyone working in the financial sector.

Input from the roundtable discussions will inform the draft plan that will be presented to City Council and the public for consideration in January 2020.

In 2015, the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity created the City’s first economic action plan, Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential. Almost all of the actions in that plan have been achieved. Successes include a decrease in retail vacancies downtown, an increase in the number of net new business licences, a low unemployment rate, and the amount of development underway.

Key questions for each roundtable discussion are available in advance on the City’s website. Click the session you’re interested in to see the questions for that session. The roundtables are free to attend and open to all. For more information and to register, head here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Election 2019 Candidates Listening Session: Focus on the Future

 

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“Choose forward.” “Not left. Not right. Forward together.”  “In it for you.” “It’s time for you to get ahead.”

Looking carefully at the slogans of the four main political parties in English Canada, it’s clear that this October’s election is about the future. Thankfully campaigns are about more than slogans. In my experience they’re about three things. First, listening. Second – based on what you hear – creating a shared vision for the future. And third, getting people who support that vision to go to the polls on election day and check your name.

But it begins with listening. This is why the City of Victoria has worked with some of its partners in delivering prosperity – the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Victoria Business Association, Destination Greater Victoria, and the Greater Victoria Harbour – to host a listening session for all candidates today from 5:30-7:30pm at the Victoria Conference Centre. This event is free and open to the public.

I won’t try to top Jack Knox’s insightful piece in yesterday’s Times Colonist. He does a good job outlining the purpose of our event: “Candidates will each get a couple of minutes to speak at the end of the forum, but the real idea is for the would-be members of Parliament to listen, not talk.”

As mayor I don’t endorse candidates or even quietly campaign for any party. What I will be campaigning for in this election is for the future of our city and our region. I’ll be highlighting priorities shared by our residents and business community about how to create good jobs, good homes and a sustainable community. These priorities – affordable housing, childcare, transportation, climate change, reconciliation and the labour shortage – will be laid before the candidates tonight. They are key to ensuring an inclusive, affordable and prosperous future for our city and for our region.

Please take the time to read through the details. There’s great background information here put together by the partners hosting tonight’s event as well as clear recommendations for the candidates.

Affordable Housing
Greater Victoria has a shortage of affordable housing – for both rental housing and
home ownership. This is an issue that affects Greater Victorians’ ability to find a place to live, as well as the continued growth of the regional economy. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,406.00, with rent increases outpacing wage increases. The Greater Victoria vacancy rate is 1.2%, which means many families are struggling to find adequate housing.

Greater Victoria has one of the highest benchmark prices for home sales in Canada. As of April 2019, the benchmark price for a home sale was $690,000. Rental housing and home ownership are out of reach for many residents.

The City of Victoria and Capital Regional District (CRD) are tackling the affordable housing crisis. Some of the initiatives are partnerships with other levels of government. For example, the CRD, Province and federal government are funding the Regional Housing First Program, which provides housing to those experiencing homelessness and are ready to live independently with ongoing supports as well as for working people.

Recommendations for candidates:

  • Continue to implement the National Housing Strategy. The budget for this program could be expanded in order to encourage partnerships with local governments and non-profit housing providers.
  • Create tax incentives to encourage private sector investment in the construction and operation of purpose-built rental housing stock.
  • Expand the support of culturally appropriate indigenous housing options.
  • Accelerate funding for the 2017 National Strategy to End Homelessness from a 10-year roll-out to a 5-year roll-out. This strategy should continue to adopt a “housing-first approach” and offer support to those that need it. Efforts must include work to
    destigmatize mental health and addictions, as well as better integrate prevention,
    treatment and recovery options.

Child Care
The 2016 Canada Census data reveals a gap between Greater Victoria’s regional population of children and number of child care spaces. The most acute gap is for infants and toddlers where there is roughly one licensed child care space for every eight children. This gap is also likely to expand. Between 2011 and 2016 Greater Victoria’s population of 25 to 39 year-olds grew by 9%, while the population of children under 11 also grew at the same rate. According to the Province of BC, there are licensed child care spaces for 18% of children aged 0-12 in the province.

A deficiency of affordable, high-quality child care spaces in Greater Victoria is having a direct impact on employers and workers. Workers are reducing their hours and modifying their shifts to compensate for the lack of child care. This is adding to the shortage of labour at a time when Greater have the lowest unemployment rate in the country.

A shortage of early childhood educators contributes (ECEs) to the lack of licensed spaces. Child care operators can only offer as many spaces as they can staff. According to Child Care Resource Centre BC, average wages for ECEs as of April, 2018, are $14.00 for a worker to $26.00 for a manager. In a labour market where there are opportunities for higher wages with similar education and experience, it is difficult to attract people to careers as ECEs.

The Province is investing a billion dollars from 2018 to 2020 in wage enhancements for workers, and fee reductions for parents, including a pilot project for $10 a day child care, and capital investments. The federal contribution to child care in BC is only $153 million over the same three years – 15% as much.

Recommendations for candidates:

  • The federal Government should enable working parents to contribute to
    Greater Victoria’s regional economy by matching the level of investment in child care being made by the BC government.

Transportation
Greater Victoria has traffic congestion issues caused by several factors, including
a reliance on automobile traffic and geographic constraints related to its location on an island. Greater Victoria’s population is forecasted to grow, resulting in increased emissions from vehicles idling in traffic unless further investments are made.

The Province of BC is committed to transitioning to electric vehicles for private and commercial use. Greater Victoria can take the lead in spearheading this transformation. The federal government can also play a role reducing emissions in Greater Victoria by continuing to fund projects such as the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, as well as incentives for businesses and individuals to make the transition to alternative forms of transportation.

Greater Victoria is also positioning itself to develop a smart cities and civic technologies cluster, focusing on areas that align with local academic/research priorities, Province of BC priorities (through the Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology’s Innovation Framework), and the Federal Government (through the priorities of Western Economic Diversification Canada and Canada’s Digital Supercluster).

Examples of these technologies could include (but not limited to): Internet of Things (sensors and data management), various application of Artificial Intelligence within
infrastructure to aid decision-making and responsiveness, Blockchain applications to address data security and land management, citizen participatory and response applications (smart wayfinding, technologies that aid citizens with special needs or with aging in place, and emergency response).

The majority of infrastructure management responsibility falls on municipal and First Nations governments. However, they lack the resources to go beyond basic maintenance and upkeep, and rarely move into deploying technological solutions that make infrastructure management more effective and responsive. Infrastructure Canada currently does not have any programs that aid in the capacity-building of modern infrastructure management solutions.

Recommendations for candidates:

  • Through the Standards Council of Canada, align manufacturers of electric vehicles on a common electric charging technology
  • Provide incentives for the electrification of commercial fleets including ferries, buses, trucks and couriers
  • Expand the number of electric vehicles charging stations in Greater Victoria and across Vancouver Island
  • Work with municipalities and First Nations in Greater Victoria to support a civic
    technology cluster strategy that will develop a best practice model of how municipalities and First Nations can better test, purchase and deploy new technologies

Climate Change
In October 2018 the scientists of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report giving the global community until 2030 to significantly reduce carbon pollution and to become carbon free by 2050. Cities account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. And by 2050, well over half of the world’s population will live in cities. In April 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada released a scientific report that shows Canada is warming at twice the global average.

Cities in Canada are already starting to feel the effects of climate change and facing the fiscal consequences. Here in Victoria we are seeing more severe winter storms and hotter, drier summers. Seventy percent of public street trees that have been removed in the past few years have been removed because of disease and stress due to climate change.

Our Inner Harbour, a central feature of our downtown, is the point of arrival for many tourists and a source of pride for our residents. For this business and tourism district, higher sea-levels, especially when combined with storm-surge events, will mean huge economic cost.  It has been estimated that one metre of sea level rise in combination with a storm surge would result potential business disruption losses of Cdn $415,557 per day (based on annual averages).

Climate change mitigation and adaptation costs to cities are only expected to escalate in the coming decades across the country.

Despite the increased risks and costs that cities are already feeling and will continue to face, cities in Canada have had essentially the same funding formula since 1867. Cities receive approximately 8 cents of every tax dollar and the only means of revenue raising that cities have are property taxes, utility fees, and parking revenue. With the downloading of services to cities from senior levels of government over the past 150 years without any devolution of revenue-raising capacity, or predictable means of funding, cities are already pushed to the limit of their fiscal capacity. Mitigating and adapting to climate change has the potential to further tax cities fiscally with no way to offset these costs other than through property taxes

Recommendations for candidates:

  • Take an integrated, whole-of-government and multi-level government approach to climate action based on effective partnership between different levels of government and across sector silos
  • Develop a new fiscal formula that will enable cities to both mitigate and adapt to a changing climate
  • Formula should include predictable sources of funding tied to clear outcomes and / or a permanent increase of gas tax funding
  • Require cities to have climate action plans that detail how a local government will help the federal government to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) agreed to through the Paris Agreement and provide funding to develop these plans
  • Encourage provincial governments to give cities more authority to deal with climate change including but not limited to making loans to business owners and homeowners for retrofits and collecting repayment through savings on utility bills; the potential to incentivize reduction in carbon pollution through business licence fees, the potential to explore congestion pricing; other powers that give local governments the ability to mitigate climate change that fit into the current sphere of influence – but not currently sphere of authority – of cities.


Reconciliation
There are nine indigenous nations residing in Greater Victoria. These indigenous nations have unique histories, cultures and economies.  There has been progress towards reconciliation and local indigenous nations have demonstrated a cultural and economic resurgence, but inequality, inadequate housing and social services, and limited economic development persist as obstacles to achieving full reconciliation.

Various levels of government have committed to reconciliation with indigenous nations. The provincial government has committed to a broad range of actions, program and recognition ceremonies. The Capital Regional District (CRD) has reinvigorated its Indigenous Relations Division – building relationships and proposing a governance structure that incorporates indigenous nations. The City of Victoria works with the Esquimalt and Songhees Peoples through the Witness Reconciliation Program, bringing together indigenous and non-indigenous representatives to bring forward ideas and propose actions for realizing reconciliation.

Recommendations for candidates:

  • Allocate funding targeted to affordable housing on indigenous lands.
  • Change federal legislation to enable greater economic autonomy for indigenous nations, including incentives for non-indigenous businesses to partner with indigenous nations, and changes to the criminal code to allow more indigenous-owned gaming establishments on indigenous lands.
  • Develop training on indigenous history and rights for all public servants, with an emphasis on local indigenous history relevant to each federal government staff location
  • Fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
  • Establish and support a national council for reconciliation. This would include local/regional indigenous elder advisors as an oversight body to reporting on federal government reconciliation progress.

Labour Shortage
As of April 2019, Greater Victoria had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada at 2.8 per cent. This is well below the national average of 5.9 per cent. A recent labour outlook study released by the Province shows there will be 903,000 job openings between 2018 and 2028 province wide, including the creation of 288,000 new jobs due to economic growth. The portion of these openings on Vancouver Island is 17 per cent, or 153,820 openings.

Recommendations for candidates:

  • Increase the number of immigrants selected for economic factors.
  • Ensure the immigration system is client-oriented and services are delivered as
    efficiently as possible. Coordination with provinces is important in delivering support programs.
  • Expand temporary foreign workers (TFW) programs to fill labour market gaps as a short term solution, but also with the objective that immigrants can utilize this program as a pathway to permanency
  • Improve foreign credential recognition, access to language training, settlement services and opportunities to gain meaningful work experience.
  • Greater Victoria has thousands of international students. By expanding work experience and co-op programs to include terms after graduation, there can be connection and integration into the regional workforce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to Victorians: Let’s Choose the Future Together

An Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) camera like this one (left) allows for real time monitoring of the seabed (right). ONC has cameras like this one deployed all over the west coast, sometimes in partnership with First Nations communities. See more of their incredible photos here.

As I’ve been reading the headlines and letters to the editor over the past few weeks, I’ve felt a bit worried about the conversations we’re having about our city. Many ping-pong table related debates. And of course the endless stream of letters for and against bike lanes.

All these headlines and letters have been swirling around me as I’ve been immersed in reading and workshops on the role of cities and city economies in the 21st century. I’ve been doing this because I believe everyone in Victoria deserves a good job, a good home, and a sustainable community and that the City has a role to play in making these things happen.

This fall, my office will be leading the development of Victoria’s second economic action plan. We’re making this plan in order to facilitate an environment in which Victoria is an attractive place to invest and to start and grow a business. We’re doing this because we want high-value jobs for Victorians in a global economy with a rapid pace of change, when automation is on the rise, and where there is ample economic opportunity and job-creation potential in responding to the climate crisis.

In 2015, we created the City’s first economic action plan, “Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential.” Almost all of the actions in that plan have been achieved. Successes include a decrease in retail vacancies downtown, an increase in the number of net new business licences, a low unemployment rate, and the amount of development underway.

Our second plan, “Victoria 3.0,” needs to be even more focused and more ambitious. We need to use our status as a capital city and position Victoria as a globally relevant and globally fluent small powerhouse. This will help us to create the jobs of the future and an inclusive, sustainable, and high-value economy for the long term.

An ambitious and focused economic action plan will achieve three key goals at the same time as the City continues to support economic development and job creation in general.

One, we’ll build on the strengths of UVIC’s Ocean Networks Canada and all the ocean and marine related businesses in our region and create a 22nd-century-oriented ocean science and marine economic cluster. Ocean science and technology is a key space where Victoria is well positioned to lead globally.

Second, we need to learn from other cities that have created ‘innovation districts’ (hubs of cross-sector collaboration, commercialization of new ideas and job creation) and establish one of our own that is global facing, anticipates and solves the problems of the future and creates high-value jobs.

Third, we need to form economic development and innovation partnerships with other relevant small powerhouse cities around the world.

Of course issues like bike lanes, plazas and ping pong tables are important and help to create a safe, healthy and sustainable community. But the frame has to be wider than this. The role of cities in the 21st century has changed fundamentally. Cities are increasingly the primary locus of innovation, prosperity and problem-solving. Cities are the scale at which global problems can be seen and fixed.

Victoria can not only learn from the challenges other cities have faced and the innovative solutions they have created, Victoria can also lead.

In their compelling and provocative book, The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism, Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak say that cities must invest in place, find global economic relevance, work on inclusion and social cohesion, and develop creative mechanisms to finance the future.

They write that city leaders must “combine substantive knowledge of issues with a keen understanding of the interplay between markets, civics and politics. This,” they say, “is a far cry from the days when cities were seen as the backwater for pothole politicians and second-tier business leaders.”

In a global economy increasingly anchored by cities, I believe Victoria has a role to play in fostering a high-value and inclusive local economy that makes our city strong and sustainable. In order to do so, we must look up and see that there’s more to discuss than ping pong tables and bike lanes. We must look out and learn from other cities.

And we must look to the future and share a vision of Victoria as a small powerhouse, a future-ready and globally-fluent capital city. My challenge to Victorians is to share ideas that will help this vision come to life.

This piece was originally published in the Times Colonist here.

Climate Action, Active Healthy Transportation, and the Heidelberg Challenge

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Heidelberg where I attended ICCA 2019, an international conference on Collaborative Climate Action. The conference focused on the role of cities in the lead up to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ Climate Action Summit in New York this September. It was an honour to have been invited to Heidelberg to help shape the global conversation on cities and collaborative climate action.

Over 700 people from 90 countries attended the conference. It was heartening to learn that from Kenya to Sweden, from China to California, cities are taking climate action. Cities are ready to be strong partners to provincial and federal governments and can help federal governments meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. But, in order to do so, cities need more resources and more delegated authority from national and provincial governments. This is the key message from the conference that will be forwarded to the UN Climate Action Summit in September.

Another theme from the conference is the need for creative transportation solutions to decrease emissions in cities. Mauro Petrcionne, European Director General for Climate Action, was asked to sum up what he heard at the Mayors breakfast meeting, at which I was a panelist. He said that many people see individual cars as linked to individual rights. “Will we abolish this perception,” he asked. “No, but we can adjust it. In order to do so, we need to rethink the way our cities are organized.”

Petrcionne observed that if people are asked to choose what matters most, the end of the world or the end of the month, they will choose the end of the month ­– their own interests and survival – believing that someone else will take care of the end of the world. The advice he gave us was to avoid putting people in the position of making that choice; create climate solutions that also benefit people’s pocketbooks and their health and well-being.

Heidelberg is one city we can learn from when it comes to matching individual interests and quality of life with addressing the climate crisis. And they’ve done this by focussing on how people move around.

Heidelberg is currently where Victoria needs to be by 2030. Victoria’s Climate Leadership Plan aims, by 2030, to have 55% of trips made by walking and cycling (we are currently at 39%) and 25% of trips by transit (currently at 12%). This means that by 2030 only 20% of people will get around using a car. Sound impossible? Today in Heidelberg, only 22% of trips are made by car. Fully 38% are made on foot, 26% by bicycle and 14% by public transit.

They’ve achieved this by organizing the city around active and healthy modes of transportation. Almost every main street has as much space dedicated to transit, walking and cycling as it does to private vehicles. Walking and cycling are privileged. There are many pedestrian-only zones. And cyclists are allowed to ride both ways down one-way streets making them de facto bike streets; cars have to go slowly and yield to bikes going in both directions.

Side streets are narrow and have a maximum speed limit of 30km/h. I visited a brand new passive house neighbourhood (where all buildings are zero emissions) and the new streets there are as narrow as the streets in the 800-year-old city centre.

“Why did they make these new streets so narrow,” I asked former mayor of Heidelberg, Beate Weber-Schuerholz, who was kind enough to show me around. She replied, seemingly surprised by my question, “To limit cars so that children can walk safely to school of course.”

In Heidelberg it’s not bikes versus cars versus buses. It’s about the freedom for kids to get to school safely on foot, and for seniors to stay connected to their communities. The city is organized for better health outcomes, more money in people’s pockets and a stronger local economy. Heidelberg is alive, prosperous and thriving and their streets are for sharing.

Can we join them? This is the Heidelberg Challenge. Let’s step up our ambition as a community and work to overtake Heidelberg long before 2030. Will you join me? It doesn’t mean necessarily ditching your car (although car sharing is cheaper and gives more options) – it just means thinking differently about what it’s for and when you use it. And it means continuing to build a city that puts people first.

This piece was originally printed in the Times Colonist here.

The Future of Government Street and Other People Places

IMG_4979.jpgPhoto taken standing on the edge of the Hauptstrauss (highstreet) in the centre of town, Heidelberg Germany. 5:15pm on a Thursday evening.

I’ve recently returned from trip to Heidelberg where I attended ICCA 2019, an international conference on Collaborative Climate Action. The conference focused on the role of cities and was a key step in the lead up to the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in New York this September. It was an honour to have been invited to help shape the global conversation on cities and collaborative climate action. I learned a lot and will spend the next few blog posts sharing.

In addition to attending the conference, I had an opportunity to study the city while I was there. I made a particular study of the town square and the streets surrounding it. I did this both during early morning runs and in the late afternoon sunshine – between the conference ending and dinner meetings. And, if I squinted hard, I could see the future of Government Street and maybe the rest of old town too.

Cars aren’t banned from the area. It’s just that they aren’t the priority – people are. It was remarkable to see people in cars, people riding bikes, people walking, people drinking beer, all sharing the same space so gracefully. Jane Jacobs calls this kind of urban activity a “sidewalk ballet.” But amazingly in Heidelberg this ballet takes place in the middle of the streets. I sat and watched for a while and here’s what I saw:

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A young child walking her bicycle.

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Two young boys kicking a soccer ball. I didn’t get my camera out until they were a bit far away but they literally walked right past my table, there in the street passing the ball between them.

IMG_4983.jpgA catering truck delivering food to City Hall (building on the left).

IMG_4992.jpgA woman, child and dog standing in the middle of the street.

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A bike and a car sharing the road where only moments before the woman, child and dog had stood.

IMG_4989.jpg A server carrying a tray of beer across the road where only moments before a car had driven.

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And look, she made it without incident!

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I even spotted the mayor! Before our evening event, taking a break in the sunshine.

Remarkably, when I returned to this space one more time to see how it would be used at 9am on a sunny Saturday morning, I was in for a surprise. I expected to find tables full of people drinking their morning coffee. What I saw instead, where the night before had been a crowded street and square full of Friday evening revelers, were parked cars! The town square and streets surrounding it could even function as a surface parking lot if needed.

Businesses are flourishing. People are everywhere. The city centre feels alive! Heidelberg isn’t even a large city – the population is approximately 150,000. Their regional population is larger than ours at around a million people, but they get less tourists per year than we do. So what are we waiting for?

We don’t just need to “close Government street to traffic”, which is a 2020-2021 Action in Council’s Strategic Plan, we need to rethink the whole purpose of Government Street and maybe other streets too. Streets are for people. They are for kids kicking soccer balls and grandmothers bending down tenderly to their grandchildren without any thought of being run down by a car. Streets are for commerce – for the exchange of goods and services, for afternoon coffee, evening beer, for sharing a meal. Streets are for connection and joy.

The most remarkable and moving thing of all – considering the climate crisis we are in – is that running down the Hauptstrauss in the mornings, there were so few traffic noises that I could hear the birds singing, right there in the city centre. Streets can also be for nature.