Province Unveils COVID-19 Action Plan, City and Partners Take Steps Together to Address Health Needs of Unsheltered

Horgan-James
BC Government Photo

For those who want to stay right up to date with what’s happening in the City on COVID-19, please join me daily on the City of Victoria’s Facebook page at 3:30pm. And please share this link and information with your friends and neighbours. We’re getting lots of emails with lots of questions and we’ll do our best to keep you and the media up to date with these live daily updates. Here’s some of what I shared today. And more detailed information below from the Provincial Government’s important press conference.

We’re really encouraged to see the additional supports coming out from the Province this afternoon. Especially those supports for small businesses and people that work for them. And we’re  really happy to hear that more supports will be coming for renters, to be announced by the province on Wednesday. Premier John Horgan said today that no individual will be evicted due to COVID – 19. This is something that Council is very concerned about and I’m happy to see the Province take leadership. We hope the Province will do everything in their power to support renters – which comprise well over half of Victoria’s population.

We’re also happy to see the Province providing $500 million in tax deferrals. And creating a $1.5 billion recovery fund. At the beginning of an economic crisis is a good time to begin to prepare for recovery. I appreciate the Province’s foresight in this regard.

As for what the City is doing,  the City’s emergency planning protocol has kicked in, and our Emergency Operations Centre is up and running. This allows us to work closely with Emergency Operations BC, and respond to emerging needs. It also means the City can be reimbursed by the Province for expenses incurred to respond to the emergency.

We have closed all parks facilities, playgrounds in addition to skate and bike parks, basketball & tennis courts, sports fields, outdoor gyms.

The City has convened Island Health, BC Housing, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, the Dandelion Society and other local service agencies to identify and implement measures to help protect people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. These organizations will have additional supports for vulnerable populations including more places for people to shelter and self-isolate.

These measures include allowing temporary shelters at Beacon Hill Park and Topaz Park, where residents can access up to date health information, meals, washrooms and handwashing stations. BC Housing is working with Island Health to use the Royal Athletic Park as an outdoor shelter for the city’s most vulnerable residents. This location allows for social distancing measures. The Province has the power, under the provincial state of emergency, to use city facilities for emergency measures. In the coming days and weeks we may see more of this, as we work together to look after our residents.

Here is a powerful statement from Jim Swanson, General Manager of the Victoria Harbourcats who are the City’s main tenant at Royal Athletic Park. His response choked me up when I read it today. This is an example of true leadership:

“The Covid-19 pandemic is the most glaring example in history that we all, globally, need to stand together, and act together.

The Victoria HarbourCats fully support the measures so far being put in place by the Province of B.C., led by Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. The HarbourCats also support the new development that areas inside Royal Athletic Park will be used by the City of Victoria to create appropriate social distancing for the city’s homeless population, with the 900 block of Pandora becoming a problem area for us all to maintain space and give the best chance of everyone coming out of this healthy.

This is bigger than any of us individually, as people or as companies or government departments. Working with Mayor Helps, and with key City staff, this is the right thing for all to do. We all must do our part to flatten the curve, so this can have the least impact on life and health, and allow us to recover sooner.

Baseball takes a back seat right now, that’s for sure — and let’s focus on the HarbourCats only after we focus on each other. Our season doesn’t arrive until June, we have the luxury of time, let’s deal with now and worry about later, later.

When it’s time to play baseball, we’ll play baseball. When we’re able to gather again, and cross borders, we’ll play. Until then, the people in our organization will be dedicated to being part of the solution.”

In addition to the three temporary outdoor sheltering sites, 938 Mason Street, the old Girl Guides building, which BC Housing recently purchased, will be temporarily used as a triaging and testing site for members of the homeless community. Island Health is still working out all the details.

Moving forward – because we can’t have people living in tents for four to six months in a health emergency –  the City and our partners are exploring indoor options for residents to be assigned a bed in addition to essential services this could include BC Housing providing hotel rooms, and/or using other public facilities to turn into temporary indoor sheltering areas.

We will update you on plans at details as they become available on the City’s Facebook page at 3:30pm every day. Please tune in!

Further Details on Provincial Press Conference

Premier Horgan

  • Action Plan is focused on: Protecting British Columbians, direct immediate economic relief, and planning/funding for long-term recovery.
  • $5 billion dollar plan for British Columbians and businesses. This is a starting point and there will be more support if needed.


Minister James

  • $1.7 billion in investments for critical services – to be allocated in weeks and months ahead as needed (including healthcare, shelters, rental support programs, extra disability assistance, and support for individuals/families and businesses).
    • $1.1. billion specifically for workers and families: Emergency Benefit for workers will provide a 1 time payment of $1000 dollar to anyone who cannot work because of COVID-19. This is a first step – other measures may be needed later. Even those not eligible for EI can claim the payment.
  • An enhanced BC climate action tax payment will occur in July. Need to file taxes to determine eligibility, in order to receive payment.
  • Looking at details for how to support renters – including increased support for seniors and the working poor. Requesting that landlords halt evictions.
    • $50 million in added funding for United Way.
  • As of March 30, all student loan payments will be paused until September 30.
  • BC Hydro will work with customers to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payments without penalty. ICBC will offer more drivers license renewals online or on the phone and defer payments for 90 days with no penalty.
  • Deferring most Provincial tax filing deadlines (municipal and regional taxes, Provincial tax, carbon tax, and several others) until September 30
  • Delaying increase to carbon tax indefinitely, will review by September 30.
  • Establishing a recovery task force that will include members from business and labour. Have set aside $1.5 billion dollars for longer-term recovery – will be deployed when signs of recovery are apparent.

 

Q&A – Select Questions

  • What supports are there for renters and mortgage-payers? Is there a ban on all evictions in B.C.?
    • Premier Horgan: Nobody will lose their apartment because of COVID-19 (evictions for other reasons could occur). Further details on support for renters will be publicized on Wednesday. Joint Federal-Provincial support for mortgages are in place. We are working on common language for program delivery.
  • Is this package in addition to the Provincial budget and where is the deficit projection at?
    • Minister James: Yes, this spending is in addition to the budget – will be enacted by the legislation being passed today. Deficit will be impacted by COVID-19 spending undoubtedly. Right now we are focused on dealing with immediate impacts, but we will have a broader fiscal update in late summer/early fall.
  • How fast can you get the application process set up for COVID-19 funding and when will the money flow to citizens?
    • Minister James: We will get everything set up by May. The application process will be streamlined and as simple as possible.
  • Should small businesses stay open with bare bones staff or close completely and lay-off people so that they can collect EI?
    • Premier Horgan: It is a tough call. We’ve put in place as many incentives and supports as possible for small businesses, but each business needs to make their own call. I realize that is an imperfect message, and I sympathize with the predicament of these business owners. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide more support as needed.
  • Quebec and Ontario are going to a full shutdown of all non-essential services tomorrow. Are you considering that?
    • Premier Horgan: I’m considering it on some level, of course. But it’s easy to say “lockdown” or “shutdown”, but the lists of exceptions you end up seeing in those situations (i.e. in California) look similar to the limitations that we already have in place in B.C. I don’t want to create confusion by changing our terminology. We are taking a science-based approach to all this and also being mindful of the economy as well.
  • Do you see a need for municipalities or the Federal government to declare states of emergency to increase enforcement of social distancing?
    • Premier Horgan: They can do so if they want, but we have all the powers we need at the Provincial level to enforce social distancing. People need to do the right thing here.
  • How are you considering the impact of COVID-19 on other crises, like opioids abuse and homelessness?
    • Premier Horgan: I would also expand that to peoples mental health. We are putting more resources online.
  • Recession is virtually a given at this point? What are your projections saying?
    • Minister James: Right now we are focused on dealing with immediate impacts, but we will have a broader fiscal update in late summer/early fall – it’s too difficult to project at this point. That is also why we are setting aside funding for long-term recovery.

 

Plan for People Living Without Homes – COVID-19 Pandemic, Victoria B.C.

homeless-on-the-streets

Our Place closed last Tuesday. They are still providing meals, paramedic services,  handing out blankets, tents and hygiene supplies and providing access to washrooms. But the need on the block is growing. This comes as other shelters have also had to lower their capacity due to social distancing requirements. This has left already vulnerable people even more vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BC Housing, Island Health, the Coalition to End Homelessness and the City of Victoria have been working around the clock to develop an emergency response for the people who are most vulnerable, living outside, and unable to follow any of Provincial Medical Health Officer Dr. Henry’s orders – social distancing, wash your hands, stay at home.

To start, since Friday evening the Coalition to End Homelessness has been providing evening meal and health information in Centennial Square. Sunday, City Bylaw staff and Reverend Al from the Dandelion Society will be working to identify people’s immediate needs on the 900 block of Pandora.

The Dandelion Society, the Coalition to End Homelessness and City bylaw staff have been working over the weekend to implement Phase One of the plan as soon as possible. In Phase One (starting Sunday March 22) people will select a location to go to in a number of parks around the city where there will be food, water, and washrooms. They will be able to stay in tents in the short term. The exact details and locations are still being determined.

The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness is playing a coordinating and communication role to ensure community members are aware of their emerging options for shelter, services, and health inquiries.

In Phase Two (which will take a little bit longer to roll out – we’re working as fast as we can) people will be assessed at these interim sites with particular attention to anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Based on need, preference, symptoms or no symptoms, and other criteria, people will move to appropriate indoor sheltering locations which will also be dispersed throughout the city.

BC Housing and Island health are working in partnership to ensure that there are spaces for self-isolation for those exhibiting symptoms. Island Health will play a role in assessing people’s health and symptoms at the assessment sites and will also identify health care staff to ensure health care professionals are available to support shelter sites.

The City of Victoria has asked that the Province use its powers under the Emergency Management Act to order that City facilities be used for the provision of services by BC Housing and Island Health. The Province has granted BC Housing the powers it requires to use City facilities for sheltering. Locations are in the process of being determined.

The Capital Regional District is leveraging existing and new emergency funding announced by the Government of Canada through the Reaching Home Program to support this important effort.

Laid Off and Looking For Work? Chamber Job Board Lists Employers Looking For Workers

Heart Pharmacy, Save on Foods, Island Health, Thrifty Foods, London Drugs – these are just some of the companies hiring right now.

Today the Chamber of Commerce repurposed their Jobs Board to serve the community. The Jobs Board connects employers looking for workers with workers affected by businesses that have closed in response to the shutdown of travel and the need for social distancing as mandated by government in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

After mandated restaurant closures today (now take out and delivery only) we know there will be more people looking for work. Pharmacies, grocery stores, island health and others are hiring right now. At time of this writing there are 37 jobs listed on the Jobs Board and more to come.

“There has been a lot of attention focused on layoffs but we’re also hearing from many employers who are struggling to fill positions in their organizations,” Chamber CEO Catherine Holt said. “The Chamber continues to call on all levels of government to provide immediate relief for businesses affected during this ongoing crisis. We also will do everything we can to continue connecting people to help sustain our economy and ensure all of us can recover quickly as soon as it is possible to do so.”

Workers in the hospitality industry have many transferable skills that are in demand during these extraordinary times. We need healthy people to help keep our grocery stores and pharmacies stocked and supplied, drivers to deliver goods to customers, cleaners to ensure our care homes and hospitals are safe. We are also seeing demand for people to assist accountants and financial institutions as they themselves try to help process a huge increase to their workload.

To access the Job Board as an employer in need of employees or as a worker able to fill a need, head here. At this time, employers are able to post at no charge by using the code SUPPORTYYJ.

Please share this post widely with anyone who needs a job or anyone who has a job to offer.

 

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

file8-1
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

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.