Opinion: In tough times, focus on what we can control, Victoria Chamber CEO says

Photo of Bruce Williams, CEO, Victoria Chamber of Commerce
Bruce Williams, CEO, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce

In some ways, we’re back where we started in March 2020, when we first began to understand the severity of the novel coronavirus spreading across the planet. We don’t really know what the next two weeks will hold. And while it’s natural to feel fed up with our situation, we have the benefit of experience. Let’s focus on what we can control in the moment, not on what we can’t in the future.  

This was good advice in the spring and even more vital now. Let’s ask ourselves how we plan to support a small business today. What we can do to safely get some fresh air and exercise? How can we check in with friends and family while respecting the physical distancing that’s still needed? There are plenty of things happening in the world and our communities right now to occupy our minds. 

The final stretch will be difficult, but with every passing day we get closer to better days. Here’s a look at a few things keeping us busy at The Chamber right now.

Will Biden help Canadian businesses? 

On January 20, shortly after Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, I hosted a virtual event with Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Perrin held several senior Cabinet positions in the Government of Canada including Minister of Revenue, Solicitor General, Minister of National Defence and Secretary of State for External Affairs. He understands Canada-US relations.

Perrin was optimistic that Biden will get the U.S. on track to end the pandemic much sooner than his predecessor. However, Beatty pointed out that Canada will have its work cut out at the negotiating table. Biden was not elected to look out for Canadians first, as shown by the cancellation of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion and an order for the US government to buy American. The federal government will need to be on its toes, and work with our national chamber network to protect the interests of Canadian businesses. Of course, that’s easier when you’re not dealing with tantrum tariffs and chaotic ranting. That behaviour over the past four years created a lot of uncertainty and was not a good way to conduct trade. 

To watch the full conversation between Bruce Williams and the Honourable Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, click here.

What’s BC’s plan to help local businesses?  

The provincial government doesn’t have the same financial tools as the federal government. BC can’t print money, but there are plenty of other ways the province can create a more supportive climate for business. In the next month, The Chamber is hosting three provincial ministers, so we can hear directly from them about plans to address the short-term and long-term health of BC’s economy.

On February 18, I’ll be speaking with the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, Ravi Kahlon, about what he’s doing to help our hardest hit sectors — retail, tourism and transportation companies. We want to know what the province will do to ensure an inclusive economic recovery, and how The Chamber can contribute to the discussion.  

On February 23, David Eby, BC’s Minister for Housing and Attorney General, will be our guest to talk about finding long-term solutions for people living in our parks and on our streets. We’ve seen the damage done to small businesses as the population of people experiencing homelessness becomes unmanageable for existing services. We are witnessing the impacts created by the core issues of this crisis — housing and mental health. This has been a priority for our communities for a long time, and we need proven solutions to get the resources needed to be successful.  

Our third event is on March 2 with Rob Fleming, BC’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Commuting has been one of the daily activities profoundly changed by the pandemic. We believe government has a role to invest in innovations that are driven by business, and certainly addressing the future of transportation will be key to fighting climate change. I’m looking forward to talking with all three ministers about problems and solutions as we buckle down and ride out any new setbacks. When we get through this, I’m confident we’ll be proud of our resilience. The days are getting longer, and soon it will be time to plan the biggest celebration of our generation.