Wednesday October 20, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [Latest update: 5:11 pm October 21, 2021]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
BC’s Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Minister Ravi Kahlon addressed the Victoria Chamber of Commerce membership yesterday about current economic conditions during COVID, and things the BC government is doing to help with economic recovery.
The Chamber lunch-time event was held at The Union Club in downtown Victoria. About 80 people attended, including staff. All COVID protocols were followed.
Minister Kahlon spoke about government is “working to build a more inclusive, innovative and sustainable economy for all”. Born and raised in Greater Victoria, Kahlon understands how the region can contribute to building a stronger BC.
Business members who attended were glad for the in-person opportunity to do some business networking and hear from the jobs minister in person, after such a long pandemic period of Zoom calls and virtual events online.
Questions from business:
Questions from business leaders to Minister Kahlon included the challenges to find and keep workers as the pandemic continues as well as the parameters of lining of post-secondary skills training with the needs of the workforce.
The topic of foreign-worker immigration came up, as well as how to support full workforce participation of Indigenous workers, people who have disabilities, and racialized workers. The topic of child care was also raised, that being an economic support mechanism for facilitating full workforce participation by parents.
Questions and concerns from the membership had been compiled by Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams, aligned with businesses who are aiming to achieve fuller potential in the present economic circumstances.
BC leads Canada in pandemic job recovery:
Following the event, Minister Ravi Kahlon provided this statement to Island Social Trends:
“B.C. leads Canada in growth and pandemic job recovery, and Greater Victoria in particular stands out with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, at 4.2%. On Vancouver Island, there are over 14,000 more people working today than at the start of the pandemic.
“But it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because Vancouver Islanders and British Columbians came together and supported quick action by our government to help people, communities and businesses pull through. I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting with members of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce in-person and learning more about how we can support their successes and address their challenges.
“We recognize that employers are having a hard time finding enough workers to fill vacancies. As we continue to recover from the pandemic, it’s critical that we give people the skills they need to succeed. That’s why we’re working with universities and colleges to create 2,900 new tech spaces.
“We are allocating $95 million to organizations throughout B.C. to provide skills training and employment services for more than 9,000 British Columbians whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19 and those facing barriers to employment.
“We are also asking the south Island business community to join us in creating a long-term economic plan, which will set the direction for ensuring B.C.’s economic prosperity over the next 10 to 15 years. We will work together to ensure that our economy is more resilient than ever.”
Appreciating the Minister’s accessibility:
“It was a great, very upbeat event, says Williams. “There were clear emotional reactions among our members as people saw friends in person for the first time in so long. We made sure everything was done safely, but there’s no replacement for connecting with friends face-to-face,” Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said.
“We appreciate that Minister Kahlon has made himself very accessible and was able to speak with us directly.”
“I gathered questions by speaking with our members, including great input from our Chamber Champions,” Williams said. “I’m confident that this opportunity to connect with community leaders has given Minister Kahlon a better understanding of how government can play a role in helping businesses lead our economic recovery.”
Back to business during COVID:
The COVID pandemic has significantly impacted businesses in BC. Getting back to an in-person event was important to Chamber members, said the organization’s communications rep, Jim Zeeben, in a followup with Island Social Trends yesterday. “It’s good to be where we’re at,” said Zeeben, regarding the BC Provincial Health Officer’s announcement yesterday that groups can gather up to 100% capacity if fully vaccinated.
The Chamber is holding an in-person mixer tomorrow as well, as part of getting back to their “core business of connecting people”, said Zeeben. “That’s the way forward,” he said.
“Wearing masks is still part of what we do,” said Zeeben, with the assurance that people’s safety comes first as businesses begin to reconnect.
Small Business Week 2021:
This event was held as part of celebrating Small Business Week (October 17 to 23).