Published On: Thursday, 05 September 2019

West Shore Chamber: Let's Talk

On July 30th, I had the opportunity to attend a policy and positions meeting in Nanaimo. Hosted by the BC Chamber of Commerce, this meeting brought together 21 government staff across 11 ministries with representatives from 15 Vancouver and Gulf Islands Chambers. The Saanich Peninsula, Port Renfrew and WestShore Chambers attended from the South Island. This is one of a series of meetings happening all across the province, bringing Chamber and provincial representatives together with the aim of improving the business climate in every region. These meetings replace the previous practice of a written response by government to each of the policies adopted at the BC Chamber AGM in May.

The meeting was set up so that Chamber representatives provided short presentations on both pan-provincial and regional policies, which were then responded to by staff from the relevant ministry. All in all, we discussed 23 policies during the course of the day. The reason all of this matters, is because the policies represent issues that are having a real impact in our communities. For example, I presented on the Employers Health Tax and was able to outline that in its current form, the EHT is impacting on business capacity to grow, and to pay even cost of living increments to staff. This is in complete contradiction to the government goals of “creating jobs that are well paid” and making it possible for “the economy to grow in order to pay for services.”

As this is a completely new process, we will all have to wait to judge its effectiveness. However, I have to say that being able to meet in person and in a group felt like a really powerful way of moving our policies forward in a meaningful way. Responses varied according to policy, which is what we would expect. In some cases, provincial and Chamber policy were aligned, in others less so, and some clearly represented work in progress where further dialogue would be required. Connecting with people face to face can only make that dialogue easier. This meeting felt like the first step in developing more in-depth relationships that will be beneficial to all parties, and I look forward to what happens next. Thank you to the Ministry of Jobs, Trade & Technology and the BC Chamber of Commerce for making these regional meetings a reality!

Julie Lawlor is the Executive Director at the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.

You can reach her at jlawlor@westshore.bc.ca