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

 

One Day at a Time in the Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic

Our Place
Our Place closes Drop In centre today, leaving hundreds of vulnerable people with reduced services and no where to go.

NB At the end of the post is general information we’ve been providing to residents by email. Note the useful links for up to date information from the provincial and federal governments.

Today, many businesses voluntarily closed to help keep the community safe, temporarily laying off hundreds of workers. Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry declared a Provincial Health Emergency. She also ordered that all bars and nightclubs be closed. The declaration of a provincial health emergency gives her the ability to ask police to enforce these and other orders. Today Our Place closed its doors. And CBC has just announced that Canada and the US are preparing to close borders to non-essential travel. We’re moving further from business as usual every day.

In response, I’ve been working hard with staff and Council today to respond and do our part to support the community and help us all get through these extraordinary times.

This morning I convened a phone call with business owners, and representatives to find out what business needs immediately. We heard lots of good idea and staff in our Business Hub are working to provide much-needed information to businesses right away at the same as we plan for short-term actions we can take over the coming weeks and months. The Business Hub website will soon be a central clearing house for all relevant COVID-19 business information. Restaurant owners also had some creative ideas about how they might be able to help out and also keep their kitchens running in a scaled back way. We’ll meet again by phone Thursday afternoon.

This afternoon I convened a phone call with BC Housing, Island Health, the Coalition to End Homelessness and City staff to help get a plan in place for those in the community who don’t have homes and therefore can’t “stay at home”, as the Prime Minister urges. They also cannot quarantine or self-isolate. And many of them have underlying health conditions.

We must rise to this challenge and act quickly. This is why staff are working to bring a report to Council Thursday to take decisive action with our partners at Island Health, BC Housing and the Coalition to create pods of service and shelter across the city and to free up spaces for quarantine and self-isolation for those who will certainly need it. The worst is before us yet.

Councillors have been working hard to prepare for Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting writing motions with proposed actions for the City to take as well as advocacy motions for the federal and provincial governments. They have also been working hard to share information with the public and keep people informed and engaged. I’d like to thank Council for their leadership at this time.

If there’s one thing that I’ve been reminded of today it’s that relationships are everything. It’s the pre-existing relationships we’ve built that we are now relying on, working together – City, business, health, social services, provincial and federal ministers – to address the crisis we find ourselves in. It’s only this continued spirit of working together – as things get worse before they get better – that will see us through this.

Information from City of Victoria

The City of Victoria is actively monitoring information provided by Federal and Provincial authorities with regards to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is continually reassessing the health risk for Canada as new information becomes available and residents are encouraged to stay up-to-date by regularly visiting these Federal and Provincial links:

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/stories/2020/information-on-novel-coronavirus

What the City of Victoria is Doing:

The City of Victoria has closed the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre and a number of its facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community. This follows the Provincial public health direction to cancel gatherings of 50 people or more.

Recreation Programs, Community and Seniors Centres

City of Victoria recreation programs and services offered at the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre and Royal Athletic Park are closed until further notice.  Refunds will be issued for anyone affected by programs cancelled during the closure. 

The City is advising City-owned community and seniors centres, which are run by independent non-profit societies, to close. People registered for programs at community and seniors centres should contact those centres for more information.

Victoria City Hall

Victoria City Hall will be open by appointment only starting Tuesday, March 17 for accessing City services. We encourage the public to use MyCity Onlinefor many online payment and services. The public can call 250-385-5711 for general information. To make appointments with respect to development applications or building permits, please call the Development Service Centre at 250-361-0382. Visit the City’s websitefor full details.

Council and Committee Meetings

Council’s Committee of the Whole on Thursday, March 19 will proceed. The public can watch the live webcast, beginning at 9 a.m., to follow the proceedings. Information regarding upcoming Council meetings and public hearings will be available soon.

All Advisory Committee, Board and Task Force meetings and any other meetings scheduled to be held at City Hall have been cancelled, until further notice.

2020 Municipal By-Election

The Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health has recommended that the April 4 by-election be postponed until the coronavirus pandemic is declared over. The City’s Chief Electoral Officer has requested an order from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to authorize the postponement under the Local Government Act.

Engagement Events

Following the advice from BC’s Public Health Officer for social distancing and avoiding large groups, the City has decided to postpone all public engagement events until further notice. This includes any scheduled open houses, workshops, meet-ups, and the Mayor’s Community Drop-In. Check out the City’s engagement portal at engage.victoria.cafor the latest information.

Check Status Updates

For updates on the City’s response to COVID-19 and the status of programs and services, visit Victoria.ca. Residents are encouraged to follow @CityofVictoria on Twitter to stay informed.

 

Cruise ship industry:

Mayor and Council proactively sent a letter to Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau requesting that the Government of Canada follow the advice of the Provincial Health Officer and suspend authorization of international cruise ships to Victoria until risks associated with COVID-19 have subsided. The Federal Government announced on March 13, that boats and cruise ships carrying more than 500 people will be banned from docking at Canadian ports until July 1, 2020.

For more information and updates, please see the below links:

https://gvha.ca/

https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/transport-canada.html

Clipper/Coho Ferries

Council does not have any decision making authority in this regard. The mayor has been in touch with both Federal and Provincial authorities to put residents’ concerns on their radar. The Clipper Ferry has ceased operations. The Coho is currently running and is coordinating with Federal and Provincial authorities to ensure the health and safety of all passengers with respect to COVID-19. Please visit their websites for more information and updates:

Clipper Vacations: https://www.clippervacations.com/

Black Ball Ferry Line (Coho): https://www.cohoferry.com/

International Travel:

Citizens of Canada are asked to avoid all international travel. For more information and updates on travel please visit the Federal link below:

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html

Mass Gatherings:

At this time, Provincial authorities have directed no mass gatherings over 50 people. For more information and updates on Provincial recommendations please visit the below link:

http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/stories/2020/information-on-novel-coronavirus

Prevention:

Residents are also reminded and encouraged to take the following steps to stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • cough or sneeze into your sleeve and not your hands; and
  • stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to othersMore information on prevention can be found here:

    https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks.html

    Victoria Conference Centre:

    The Victoria Conference Centre is currently closed which is the standard protocol when there are no bookings in the facility.

City of Victoria COVID-19 #flattenthecurve Efforts

The City of Victoria is closing the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre and a number of its facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the community. This follows today’s public health direction to cancel gatherings of 50 people or more.

Federal and provincial health authorities have urged increased social distancing measures and today the Prime Minister told Canadians to ‘stay at home.’ That’s why today the City is taking the measures within our jurisdiction to limit contact between people and to keep our community safe and healthy.

We know these are challenging times for everyone and we all need to pull together to support each other in new and creative ways, while keeping the important social distances that the health professionals recommend.

Recreation Programs, Community and Seniors Centres
City of Victoria recreation programs and services offered at the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre and Royal Athletic Park will close at 5 p.m. today until further notice.  Refunds will be issued for anyone affected by programs cancelled during the closure.

The City is advising City-owned community and seniors centres, which are run by independent non-profit societies, to close. People registered for programs at community and seniors centres should contact those centres for more information.

Victoria City Hall
Victoria City Hall will now be open by appointment only starting Tuesday, March 17 for accessing City services. We encourage the public to use MyCity Online for many online payment and services. The public can call 250-385-5711 for general information. To make appointments with respect to development applications or building permits, please call the Development Service Centre at 250-361-0382. Visit the City’s website for full details.

Council and Committee Meetings
Council’s Committee of the Whole on Thursday, March 19 will proceed. The public can watch the live webcast, beginning at 9 a.m., to follow the proceedings. Information regarding upcoming Council meetings and public hearings will be available soon.

All Advisory Committee, Board and Task Force meetings and any other meetings scheduled to be held at City Hall have been cancelled, until further notice.

 2020 Municipal By-Election
The Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health has recommended that the April 4 by-election be postponed until the coronavirus pandemic is declared over. The City has requested an order from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to authorize the postponement under the Local Government Act.

 Engagement Events
Following the advice from BC’s Public Health Officer for social distancing and avoiding large groups, the City has decided to postpone all public engagement events until further notice. This includes any scheduled open houses, workshops, meet-ups, and the Mayor’s Community Drop-In. Check out the City’s engagement portal at engage.victoria.ca for the latest information.

Check Status Updates
For updates on the City’s response to COVID-19 and the status of programs and services, visit the city’s website here.  Residents are encouraged to follow @CityofVictoria on Twitter to stay informed.

What’s Next in the City of Victoria – COVID-19

cityhall

We know Victorians are feeling anxious about the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. As a city government, we are too. We want to do everything we can to protect Victorian’s health and well being. That’s why we’re relying on the advice of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer to guide our actions.

We’ve received calls today to close recreation centres, libraries, restaurants, schools, casinos, to stop the Clipper and Coho coming from Washington State, to mandate and monitor social distancing. Some of these things we as a city government have power over, many of them we don’t. We need to act rationally, calmly and thoughtfully and to ensure there are no unintended consequences to our actions. We also need to take time to put in place proactive measures to take care of our most vulnerable residents and find ways to keep people connected even as we all practicing social distancing.

Tomorrow morning, the federal government will be giving an update at 10am and the provincial government will give an update at 11am. We hope that both levels of government will give clear direction and take all the necessary measures to #flattenthecurve After receiving the advice of the federal and provincial officials, we will keep Victorians up to date on any new proposed actions, directives or requirements here on the City’s website.

 

 

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

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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.

 

Affordable Housing: Watershed Moment of Community Support

These are my closing comments from the public hearing for Fire Hall #1 and Affordable Housing.

Something really remarkable happened at our City Council meeting last week. Or rather, it’s what didn’t happen that is remarkable and it gives me hope for the future of affordable housing developments in our city.

Last Thursday we held a public hearing for a new fire hall, 130 units of affordable housing for people living on very low, low, and moderate incomes to be run by Pacifica Housing and three additional market condo buildings. The proposed development borders Yates, Johnson and Cook.

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New Fire Hall #1, commercial space and 130 units of affordable housing on Johnson up from Cook.

The Council Chambers were packed. For some, it was a controversial development proposal because of the substantial amount of new density and height proposed on what is now a parking lot and one-story car dealership.

But the remarkable thing is that it wasn’t controversial because of the proposed affordable housing. In fact, it was quite the opposite. From Pacifica tenants, to business people, to students, to neighbours, person after person came up to the microphone and talked about how much needed this affordable housing is and how Council should support it.

It was only about halfway through the hearing that I realized something really special was happening. At every other public hearing we’ve held on new proposed affordable housing developments, there are people who come out and express their opposition precisely because of the affordable housing.

“We don’t need more housing of that kind in this neighbourhood.” “The crime in the neighbourhood is going to go up.” “This is a family neighbourhood.” And once, someone came and insinuated that all poor people are pedophiles and that there shouldn’t be affordable housing overlooking an elementary school. It’s gotten pretty nasty.

But last Thursday there was no discrimination expressed towards low-income people who need housing. Why was it different this time?

It could be because we’re starting to realize as a community that it’s good for everyone if people have the housing they need. There are at least 300 people sleeping outside in our city every night. And this is even with some of the seasonal shelters starting to open.

When people live outside they are vulnerable, get sick more easily, die younger, and have a terrible quality of life – not to mention the stigma and ill-will they face as people walk past them taking down their tents in the morning, or sitting with all their belongings on the sidewalk with nowhere to go. It’s good for all of us if people get the housing they need.

The other thing that was different, as was pointed out by one of the speakers, is the unique three-way partnership between a private sector developer, BC Housing, and Pacifica Housing. The developer is building the building. BC Housing is buying it. And Pacifica will own and operate it. So maybe the fact that all the parties are delivering the project together, based on their own unique expertise makes this different than a non-profit housing provider going it alone.

It was a watershed moment. And I hope we turned a page as a community that evening in terms of how we think about and talk about affordable housing, because there’s a lot more affordable housing to come. The Regional Housing First Program still has 1100 more units to build. The City of Victoria is buying land to partner to build housing. And the provincial government will be rolling out more money for housing in the spring.

All this housing is a good thing. One of the most poignant presenters at the hearing on Thursday was the Housing Placement Coordinator at Pacifica Housing. She told us that there are over 300 people on her wait list, that every day she has to say no to someone, and it’s heartbreaking. “This building,” she said, “is 130 yeses to the people on my wait list.”

Victoria joins U.N. Challenge with 5,000 Tree Pledge

Today in New York City, I participated in the launch of the United Nations Trees in Cities Challenge hosted by the U.N. Executive Secretary, Under-Secretary-General Olga Algayerova.

As part of this initiative, the City of Victoria will work with the community to plant 5,000 trees on public and private land by the end of 2020. Victoria is the first city in Canada to join the pledge.

We know there is a climate crisis and we’re committed to doing everything we can as a City to mitigate the impacts. Participating in this U.N. Trees in Cities Challenge allows Victoria to join in a global movement of cites that are embracing nature based solutions to climate change. City staff are currently designing ways in which we can harness the power of our community to meet this goal.

Algayerova wrote to me in the summer; somehow she had heard about Victoria’s Urban Forest Master Plan and our renewed commitment to the urban forest in the City’s 2019 budget. “I believe there is a lot we can learn from the progress your city has already achieved in this area,” she wrote, “and I would like to help you share this achievement with other cities and allow them to learn from it.”

The City’s Urban Forest Master Plan identifies 26 recommended actions for the improved management of trees on public and private lands over the next 50 years. A new investment of $1 million annually will expedite implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan, to maintain the trees we have and to plant new trees. In 2019, a total of nearly $3 million will go to maintain and enhance the urban forest.

The wonderful and dedicated folks at the Community Trees Matter Network are exctied about the City’s commitment at the United Nations.

“We hope all Victorians are proud of our city’s leadership on the urban forest and we are delighted the City has accepted this challenge,” said Frances Litman, a spokesperson for Community Trees Matter Network. “Since three-quarters of our urban forest is on private land, we will certainly do all we can to spread the word and encourage homeowners to plant trees. Planting season is coming up soon – late fall is a great time to plant trees in Victoria!”

Trees are a critically important community asset providing a wide range of benefits, from positive mental health impacts, to environmental attributes such as regulating temperature, mitigating stormwater runoff, and providing wildlife habitat. The value of the urban forest will continue as the city adapts to climate change.

Planting more trees in urban areas holds a considerable potential to tackle effects of climate change. The United Nations has invited mayors around the world to join the Trees in Cities Challenge by making a pledge to plant trees in their city.

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Shaking hands with Under Secretary General Olga Algayerova at the announcement in New York today.

 

 

Victoria is a City that Looks to the Future

This blog post is short. The real meat is in this video. Please watch it!

Last Thursday evening, City Council held a public hearing for a 20-unit townhouse development at 1712 and 1720 Fairfield Road. Many people who live in the neighbourhood spoke with Council and shared their perspectives on the project. While more people were in favour than against, it was not only the opinions of the people who came out to speak that I considered when making my decision, but also what kind of city we want to be.

I believe that Victoria needs to be a city that looks to the future, readies itself for the future and builds for the future. In order to do this, we need to make sure that there’s housing for all. As you can see from the changing skyline in the downtown, there are lots of rental and condo buildings under construction, but what’s missing is the “missing middle.”

Missing middle housing is everything between single family housing and high-rises. It includes townhouses, row houses, multiplexes, garden suites, co-housing and probably more. Missing middle housing isn’t just an issue in Victoria, it’s a North America wide phenomenon.

As we learned at the public hearing from project proponent Luke Mari of Aryze Developments, less than five per cent of the city’s housing is townhouses. And in the Gonzales neighbourhood where his development was proposed, less than 0.8% of homes are townhouses, even though the neighbourhood accounts for nine per cent of the City’s land base.

Those are the facts. But it’s the stories beyond the facts that we need to listen to to shape the future of our city. We heard that night from people who were making enough money to buy a townhouse but simply couldn’t find one. So they’re renting and taking up a rental unit that someone who can’t afford to buy a home could move into. We heard stories of people leaving the city for the suburbs because their families are growing and they can’t find homes with enough bedrooms. And most moving of all, were the stories of parents whose children are leaving the region altogether and won’t be able to come over for Sunday dinner anymore.

As I said that night, I believe that Victoria is a place where everyone deserves a good job, a good home, and a sustainable community. The way we’ve been building the city – and the way cities across North America have been built for the past 100 years – is not sustainable. I’m so proud of Council for approving these 20 townhouses and signalling that we are a city – and that we are a Council – who looks to the future.

If you’d like to watch the full hearing and listen to the public and councillor comments, please head here and click on item F3.

For those who want to dig in more deeply, here’s a great article on exclusionary zoning and the need for missing middle housing in Seattle.

 

Ambrose Place: Love and Decolonizing Housing, Health and Wellness

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I had an incredible experience earlier this week that I’m really excited to share. I was in a situation where I was expecting one thing and something completely different happened. In the space between expectation and experience, there was inspiration, love and great deal of learning.

I was invited by Fran Hunt-Jinnochi, Executive Director of the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness, to tour Ambrose Place in Edmonton. She invited a dozen of us from Vancouver Island to join her to learn about the Indigenous-informed, culturally supportive housing site which includes a managed alcohol program. She wants to start a similar program on Vancouver Island, hopefully in the capital region, and she invited us to learn and to witness.

I was expecting a conventional facility tour and a series of PowerPoint presentations with governance models and funding charts. Instead, we began on Monday evening in circle with a local elder. He shared his songs with us and spoke for three hours about the importance of connection to one’s own spirit. “Human and spirit,” he said over again in many different ways as the sage burned and the day faded to night.

Tuesday, we learned about love and how a decolonizing approach to “harm reduction” works. Carola Cunningham, the CEO and founder of Ambrose Place said about the residents, “We just keep loving them. We’re all related.” Her staff who were there to share their experiences, echoed this. A staff member shared a story of a resident who told her that he was almost 50 years old and no one had ever told him they loved him. So now every day, at the end of their one-on-one meeting she says, “I love you.”

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Another staff member recounted her experience working at a hospital before coming to Ambrose Place. “The thing I love about working here is that we love our residents. When I worked at the hospital you weren’t allowed to love your patients. Here we are allowed to love them.” Another staff member told us that when she started working at Ambrose Place she had to get used to residents hugging her.

This tenderness, this Indigenous-centred, love-based approach continues through to end-of-life care. Ambrose Place was not originally set up for palliative care. Early on, one of the residents very close to death had gone to the hospital. He wanted to come home to die but they weren’t prepared. After he passed, Carola was determined that people should be able to die at home. And – just like much else that happens at Ambrose place – Carola made it so. “Now we do palliative care,” she said. “And we love people through to the spirit world.”

“In the regular system, at the hospital,” one of the staff members said, “when there’s a death and you cry, you’re seen as weak. Here we’re told, ‘Cry, let it out, tears are medicine.’ We accept our residents where they’re at. As staff we’re also accepted where we’re at.”

The longer people stay at Ambrose place, the more opportunity they have for sobriety, the closer their trauma comes to the surface. The residents work through their trauma in ceremony, in circle, and with an “Elders Review” – a practice where they walk through their lives chronologically with an elder and decide which parts they are ready to work on. What’s truly moving is that the trauma work doesn’t stop with the residents. Carola has created a social enterprise catering service and she uses the money to reinvest in trauma support for her staff.

Ambrose Place is remarkable. And it’s working. As it turns out, love and a decolonizing approach are saving the Alberta government a lot of money. In the first two years they were open, they saved $7 million in health care costs. Their residents have reduced their hospital days by about 90%. There has been a significant decrease in mental health and addictions emergency room visits. And this takes only health care into consideration. There’s currently a study underway to quantify the savings in policing and the justice system.

Niginan Housing Ventures, which runs Ambrose Place, has big plans for what’s next. Ninety-three percent of kids in care in Alberta are Indigenous. So Niginan is going to create a building for kids and parents together. Instead of removing the kids from their parents, they’ll remove the parents – but only to another part of the building. They’ll have “kookums” (grandmothers) and elders around to care for and love the children as well. By keeping everyone under one roof, they’ll ensure that the kids stay connected to their parents until the parents are ready to move back into a suite with their children.

A disproportionate number of people experiencing homelessness in Victoria are Indigenous. A disproportionate number of Indigenous children are in care in this country. Conventional approaches are not working to address these issues and are likely just making them worse. My key takeaway ­– and my reflection to the group in our closing circle – is that the decolonizing practices and loving ways of Ambrose Place have the power to transform the whole health and housing system, if only we are open to new ways of knowing.