Potential vs reality: Greater Victoria is at a critical turning point in bid to become a world class city

Yates Street, downtown Victoria BC
Image credit: Shutterstock.

“Most indicators are bright for Greater Victoria, but the region has to act decisively to address its deficits, or the risk is that it will go the way of other cities and regions that treated growth as an opponent of inclusion, failed to reinvest in the things that made the city great, and so eventually lost jobs, families and opportunities to other cities.”

These are the key findings by Dr. Tim Moonen, author of Greater Victoria’s Next Chapter: A Series of Special Reports on Shaping the Future of Our Regional Economy. Moonen, Director of U.K.-based urban intelligence firm The Business of Cities, was commissioned to research and write the reports by the South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP) and the City of Victoria, with additional funding from the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) and Aryze Developments.

His task was to provide an independent investigation into Greater Victoria’s strengths and weaknesses in markets outside of Canada, as SIPP works to help position the region as a world-class performer on the international economic stage.

The reports benchmark Greater Victoria against a peer group of international cities of similar size, assets and relationships, and identify strengths, gaps and opportunities that can make the region more internationally competitive based on the Brookings Institution’s 10 Traits of Global Fluent Metro Areas.

Greater Victoria is among other cities around the world, including Sunshine Coast, Australia, Oslo, Norway, and Providence, U.S., who see the need to reposition themselves amidst major economic and social shifts. Strengthening their global fluency will also strengthen their economies, increasing quality of life and household-sustaining jobs for residents.

According to Moonen, when ranked beside its international peers, Greater Victoria is ripe with economic potential but lags behind cities of similar size — and risks becoming a high-unaffordability, medium-amenity, low-productivity region unless critical steps, detailed in the reports, are taken. He says a larger innovation economy, more strategic anchor institutions, more magnetic commercial hubs and improved urban placemaking are essential for our economic growth.

“Global economic changes, accelerated by the pandemic, mean that Greater Victoria cannot rely on its past to navigate the future,” says Emilie de Rosenroll, CEO, South Island Prosperity Partnership. “We must become globally fluent to ensure we have prosperity for current and new generations. The alternative that Dr. Moonen paints is alarming — a medium-productivity, low-amenity, low-affordability region where our strengths begin to erode. But by working together now, we can and will create the sustainable and inclusive economy we desire.”

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • growing a diversified, innovation-led and green economy
  • attracting visible regional business headquarters and knowledge anchors
  • developing more magnetic commercial hubs and improved placemaking that fosters the experience economy
  • creating an outward-facing innovation and business brand to internationally communicate a new multi-sector narrative for the region
  • developing a clear and complementary role in the Cascadia (Pacific NorthWest) region so that Greater Victoria can share capability and engage in joint projects involving institutions across the region (e.g., universities, airports, businesses).

Gordon Fyfe, CEO, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), who helped fund the report, says “every parent in Victoria should eagerly support this vision and plan for our city’s economic future. Here’s a plan that increases the breadth and depth of our economy and the job and career opportunities for our children and grandchildren, allowing them to remain and build their lives here, in Victoria. No parent wants to see their child face the difficult choice between leaving to pursue their career dreams or abandoning their potential to stay here.”  

SIPP has convened a multi-sector Global Fluency Advisory Committee to work with regional stakeholders on developing a new, compelling narrative to represent the region’s business sector to an international audience and to support Greater Victoria’s outstanding tourism brand.

Greater Victoria’s Next Chapter Reports:

Report One: Global Benchmarking: Putting Greater Victoria’s Economy in International Perspective
Report Two: Case Studies in Economic Transformation and Change
Report Three: Greater Victoria’s Global Fluency: The Path to Sustainable Prosperity

Further Reading:

BC expected to outperform other provinces in economic rebound

Major plan to reboot Greater Victoria’s economy focuses on 10 critical areas