Do we need a new chamber of commerce in Victoria?

Three years ago the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in killing one of the best transit projects this city has seen: the Douglas St. busway. They had this to say:

The Greater Victoria Chamber does not support the proposed plan for the bus rapid transit system on the Douglas Street corridor. While in support of bus rapid transit, the chamber is concerned that all the transportation modes included in this plan cannot be accommodated in the available space on Douglas Street. (from the GVCC’s policy page)

Worst of all, it was already paid for. After years of unfunded projects, they had to go and kill one of the few that was. Now, I fear they are going to do it again. The Victoria Regional Rapid Transit project is nearing completion and they have again selected Douglas St. as the corridor, as they should given it is the most logical route. Just like last time, the Douglas St. merchants are complaining

What the Chamber of Commerce should be doing is working on behalf of all their members, not just the blinkered ones on Douglas St. A new transitway will speed people into downtown, people who will spend money at chamber members. They are a business lobby group after all.

But all is not lost. The GVCC’s stubbornness isn’t unique; the US Chamber of Commerce is shedding members because of its opposition to climate change but an alternative has recently appeared: the US Green Chamber. An out-growth of the San Diego Green Chamber, this new group promises to be a forward-thinking business group, exactly what the US (and Canada, given our proximity) needs. Maybe what Victoria needs is something similar, something like the Values-Based Business Network — who are currently rethinking their mandate — but in a wider scope.

5 thoughts on “Do we need a new chamber of commerce in Victoria?”

  1. The following are my personal comments and I dont speak on behalf of the GVCC.
    I find your comments here to be uninformed. GVCC policy is developed by a board based on discusssions with ALL their members not just a select few. It is then discussed and debated in a formal fashion and then voted on. You should look at who makes up the board, especially from 3 years ago, I was a board member then, trust me, we did not take this decision ligtly. We had Transit present to us, the Mayor as well as other ‘experts’ over a period of several months before we drew up our position. At the time the most compelling argument was and probably still is, the Cambie St merchants and the resultant closures, bankruptcies etc. Even today I bet you will find that their business has not returned to previous earnings. These are typically small businesses, pay a lot of taxes, employ a lot of people and provide local services as opposed to ‘big box’. Their livelihood is threatened and yet comentators like you, that have never experienced what its like to sign a personal guarantee to the bank for a business loan where they stand to lose their house, stand up on your soap boxes and lecture the rest of us filthy unwashed masses about why our position is so wrong.
    So heres an option, why dont you put your money where your mouth is and open a small business on Douglas St and prove the rest of us wrong.

    I dont speak on behalf of the GVCC however I can tell you this, they dont take these positions lightly but someone has to stand up and represent the people that dont have a vote yet pay the most in taxes to the region. Just like you they have an opinion but at least theirs is based on research and discussions as opposed to yours

  2. Richard,

    I don’t disagree with anything you wrote save the Cambie St. comparison. Cambie St. was dug up for the construction of an underground rail line, not being restriped for a bus lane. There is at least an order of magnitude of cost between the projects, with the resultant effects on time.

    As for opening a business along Douglas, my inclination is not towards small business, at least in the retail sense. That doesn’t mean I don’t know how tough it is to be a small business owner and I am aware just how conservative (I use the term not in the political sense) a small business owner needs to be, especially in a neighbourhood as problematic as the stretches along that part of Douglas.

    However, my core two points still stand:
    1. The GVCC represents all businesses in Greater Victoria, not just those along Douglas. Speeding buses (or LRT) into downtown, like that project would have done would benefit a great deal of people, even if it did hurt a few businesses along Douglas (which I suspect isn’t the case).
    2. If the GVCC cannot see point 1, in my opinion it is no longer a useful voice for forward-thinking and progressive business and thus should be replaced as such.

  3. Perhaps if the members of the greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce were to travel to cities where public transportation plays a vital link in bringing customers to their businesses, a more informed position would be taken by them.

    Businesses with the best linkages enjoy the most vibrant economic activity. There is plenty of available research on the contributors to community economic vibrancy.

    It is incorrect to compare the plight of the Cambie Street merchants, who suffered through an unplanned cut-and-cover construction method (when they were promised otherwise) with the proposal for Douglas street fast busses and bike lanes. A subway is not being contemplated.

  4. Thanks for your comments Corey, have you spoken with the Chamber? If not you should contact Dave Marshall, he’s the current Chair, and is worth talking to. Like I said earlier, they dont take these positions lightly, they have significant debate and discussion and vote on a position. Anyway, it seems the Topic DeJour will be the Federal Election, but I’m sure they would be available to answer your questions.


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