2020 in the Rear View

Well that was a year to forget that will never be forgotten. It seems fitting we experienced a pandemic in 2020 – the year of numbers representing the standard for good vision. It will be some time before we will be able to see all the lessons clearly but there were some doozies.

Screens. The experts were telling us our screen-time was excessive and to limit it significantly. Then the pandemic hits and all of us, including grannie, are learning how to use new applications to spend more time than ever to communicate with people on screens. How could a platform with such a zippy name like Zoom deliver us so many hours of boring meetings?

Science and technology got hacked by keyboard warriors who had a lot of free time on their fingers. Despite this large-scale attempt to counteract facts and to minimize the credibility of experts, those on the front lines of science and technology, focused on their work to develop vaccines and many other solutions to the world’s problems.

Clearly the pandemic has been devastating to many who experienced loved ones getting sick and dying and others whose financial security was breached and who are facing ruin. On the flip side, there is nothing like the prospect of your own or a loved one’s death to reorient you to what’s important.

We were reminded of how critical touch and face-to-face connection are to our human experience. How a dinner out with friends can bring immense joy. Marking occasions in groups like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings will, at least in our time, no longer be taken for granted. How our enjoyment of life is enhanced by watching live musical performances. There is so much more we learned we don’t wish to live without and will cherish when access is again granted.

And in the quiet pause, people rested, created, considered, dreamed, slept, planned, organized, cleaned, cooked, connected, and reflected. It was never time wasted.

Denny Warner,
Executive Director



Seeking Young Entrepreneurs for Mutually Beneficial Relationship

As an international organization that has been around for more than 420 years, we have a lower than preferred profile with a certain demographic. Younger folk, to be specific.

That we remain largely unknown to young entrepreneurs presents a huge opportunity for us and for them, because of our many shared interests and values. What Chambers have always excelled at is in connecting members. We provide educational opportunities but our deep understanding of the business community allows us to put members in contact with others who can provide the strategic advice and support new entrepreneurs seek. Our community is highly resourced. Every sector is represented and business leaders are willing to assist when asked. Networking and collaboration can be done on and offline. We offer both.

Young people are highly idealistic and in supporting local they use their resources for the greater good. That we prioritize local businesses and make communities better places for people to live, work, and play, appeals to them. Our off and online branding and promotion creates a platform for new businesses to be noticed and for young entrepreneurs to gain credibility by association. And that includes their local appeal as well as their Google ranking. Also important are the opportunities to develop leadership skills through committee and board positions.

Some of the “perks” of being a chamber member include our cost savings programs. Extended health care coverage and savings on payment processing are only the tip of the discount iceberg. Financial capital is precious and we can help them save some money that will be put to good use elsewhere.

We welcome young entrepreneurs to bring their energy and business interests to our well-crafted, highly-functional, antique table. We have much to accomplish and learn from each other.

Denny Warner,
Executive Director



Winterizing Outdoor Seating and Lineup areas

The Town of Sidney is looking for comments and feedback on options for weather protection of outdoor seating areas for restaurants and cafes as well as line up areas for businesses, given the ongoing pandemic and its impact on local businesses. Some key considerations are:

Protecting outdoor seating areas and lineups from wind and weather would require an awning or a structure with a roof and side walls. Sidney’s current Sidewalk Café Regulations Bylaw No. 2177 allows tables and chairs for outdoor seating of customers on specified areas of public sidewalks but no shelters or forms of weather protection are permitted. The bylaw was amended earlier this year to allow roadside café seating (again, tables and chairs but no weather protection) in on-street parking spaces, with conditions. Allowing shelters in sidewalk cafés or roadside cafes would require an amendment to this bylaw.

Many commercial buildings have limited space on private property at the front lot line which means that these awnings or structures would extend out onto public property if they are to be constructed at the front of the business. This would require that the property owner enters into an Encroachment Agreement with the Town for occupying the public space with an awning or structure.

Either an awning or structure would have to meet Building Code and Fire Code requirements and have the design approved by an Engineer. A Building Permit would be required to install either of these options.

Shelter structures could be permitted on public property through a Right of Way Permit instead of a Sidewalk Café or Roadside Café permit. The cost of a Right of Way Permit is $200/month plus $15/day for each parking space that is occupied either by a structure or a rerouted pedestrian sidewalk area. A Building Permit would still be required, and the structure would still have to meet BC Building and Fire Codes and be approved by an Engineer. Right of Way permits allowing shelter structures for outdoor seating would only be considered during the pandemic, and these would be temporary in nature with a maximum time frame stated in the permit.

Weather protection structures near a street corner or on public property, whether on a sidewalk or in an on-street parking space, can’t block sightlines for traffic. If located on a sidewalk, the pedestrian walkway may need to extend out into the on-street parking area, which may result in additional cost to the business owner. It would also result in a loss of on-street public parking. If a business is requesting to convert an entire block of on-street parking, this request must be approved by Council.

Installing an awning or shelter comes at a cost to the business owner or property owner and would likely result in an expectation that it can stay in place for a period of time to make the investment worthwhile. At this time, the Town cannot guarantee the future use of these shelters.

Given the considerable cost of constructing a sheltered area on the business frontage, if approved by permit, the Sidewalk Café Bylaw would give timelines for the length of time a structure could remain in place. The Town would retain the ability to remove a shelter at any time in case of emergency (i.e. infrastructure repair), and could not give an absolute guarantee on a timeframe.

Shelters must not cause damage to the Town’s infrastructure. The Town would require a security deposit for the cost of removing the shelter and repairing any potential damage prior to installation. This would be refunded to the business if the shelter is removed with no damage to municipal infrastructure. Shelters must not interfere with access to Town or third party infrastructure.

Due to provincial legislation that prevents a local government from providing assistance to a business, the Town is not able to cover the cost of weather protection for an individual business’s outdoor seating or lineup area.

The Town is not able to provide a list of recommended products or businesses to provide or install awnings or weather protection shelters.

Commercial areas in Sidney are designated Development Permit Areas where the form and character of new development is controlled by design guidelines. This is the case for Downtown Commercial, Industrial, Harbour Road Marine, and Neighbourhood Commercial areas. Weather protection structures or awnings being added onto buildings should be designed to complement the existing architecture and may be subject to Development Permit approval, depending on their location.

Options to consider:
Amend the Sidewalk Café Bylaw to allow shelter structures for sidewalk cafes and roadside cafes, subject to conditions (not blocking sightlines, meet Building Code and Fire Code, obtain a Building Permit, etc.).

Allow shelter structures on public property temporarily under the Right of Way Permit process, subject to conditions (same as option 1).

Waive Development Permit and Building Permit application fees for constructing an awning or sheltered area on the business frontage.

Allow sidewalk café areas to occupy the entire sidewalk area in front of a business premises with protected outdoor seating, approved by permit, and shift the pedestrian sidewalk space out into adjacent on-street parking areas. The cost of installing the new temporary protected pedestrian sidewalk would be covered by the business owner or property owner. As per the Sidewalk Café Bylaw, a 3 meter wide unobstructed accessible walkway must be maintained.

Would any of these options be helpful to you? Do you have other suggestions?

The Town has requested comments and feedback from commercial business owners and property owners. Please send your comments to developmentservices@sidney.ca by Thursday November 12. Town staff will review all comments and options, and will be reporting back to Council on this topic in late November.







Productive Engagement

I have been pondering the idea of public engagement recently. The three municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula are at various stages of updating their Official Community Plans and public engagement will be an essential component of their reviews. It is challenging to get wide-ranging participation in “normal” times but it will be even more difficult during a pandemic.

COVID-19 has driven us to meet, communicate, and debate online. The platforms we are using are in some ways inherently more inclusive than in-person engagement and in some ways are more problematic, especially to those who don’t have access to the technology. Location, lack of awareness, access, and the times events are scheduled can be barriers to participation.

Consultants will be soliciting the opinions of a wide range of stakeholders. Regardless of the consultation platform, I wonder if the stated preferences and opinions gathered will be useful as the subject is complex and the final product will be managed by experienced planners and engineers who better understand its context and application. Those who participate in stakeholder consultations assume their opinions matter, that their voice will be heard, and that their opinions will be acted upon but accommodating everyone is clearly impossible.

I will be watching with interest to see if consultants are able to solicit input from groups beyond the disproportionately influential. The views of residents are important as they are experts in knowing how they use the infrastructure in their community. So too, are the views of the business leaders who create employment and contribute to our economic vitality.

It would seem the best, most inclusive, way to do public engagement is in public, in person. Watching how people move throughout the community. Listening to their struggles. People’s actions can often be more informative than their words. Context is everything.

Denny Warner
Executive Director




Where to now

And the award for Ultimate Disruptor goes to: Covid-19 – the game changing virus! 

As its effects began to be felt in our part of the world, we determined our organizational resources should be focused on supporting the entire business community, members or not. The slogan “a rising tide lifts all boats” was appropriately coined by a chamber of commerce and that sentiment seems to fit scenarios like this, and our marine environment, perfectly. People were looking to us to solve problems. Initially we were fielding many questions, and had precious few answers. There were many days we went home feeling the weight of this community’s economic survival on our shoulders. 

As time went on, we were no less busy, but became more comfortable in our role as a champion for our community, as a conduit for current and correct information, and as a catalyst for business change and growth. 

Now that we are all more knowledgeable about the changes Covid-19 has wrought in every aspect of our lives, our board and staff are considering how our organization will adapt. This wholesale examination of purpose and the value we bring to members will be conducted in consultation with our members. Initially, business owners were concerned about surviving the pandemic but the rude nudge prompted many of them to examine their operations critically and they made changes that have increased profitability. The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce turned 108 this year and you can rest assured we will make adjustments so we can continue to provide comprehensive value to members well into the future. 

What we discovered in the compulsory crash course in Coronavirus was that we are resilient, we are adaptive, and we are strong. Those who didn’t understand the value of  a chamber of commerce bore witness to our ability to mobilize resources to protect companies so owners could stay focused on keeping their business afloat. 

While our neighbours to the east and south have been dealing with instability and uncertainty, we had steady hands at the helm in our community, province, and our country. I could not be more proud of the work our chamber network has done in the last few months and of my colleagues across the Saanich Peninsula who work, arm in arm, with the rising  tide, to lift all boats.     

Denny Warner,
Executive Director



Media Release – From Farm to Flask







For Immediate Release
August 12, 2020

From Farm to Flask

(North Saanich, B.C.) The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is requesting the public contact their Member of Parliament and encourage support for amendments to the excise tax to achieve parity with the small distillers excise agreement enacted in the United States in 2017. 

In Canada currently, there is an escalator tax attached to the excise tax whereby domestic distillers pay $12.610 per litre compared to their counterparts in the U.S. who pay approximately $1.77 per litre.

This tax initiative is supported by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce as well as other chambers across Canada. The craft distilling industry is growing and plays a significant role in our economy. This is a true farm-to-table craft industry attracting residents and tourists to sample and purchase product from their distilleries. “To highlight how much of a driver every community’s local distillery could potentially be; each 200L barrel of Canadian Whisky produced requires 1 ton of local grain grown by local farmers, and every bottle of gin or vodka made requires 20 lbs of locally grown Canadian apples or fruit!”

Given the challenges Covid-19 has saddled business with we feel it is important to examine the barriers to success that can be easily removed. 

Please consider voicing your concern with your Member of Parliament and sign the petition started by Canadian Craft distillers: https://www.change.org/p/bill-morneau-support-excise-parity-for-canadian-craft-distilleries

Media Inquiries:

Denny Warner, Executive Director
Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce

Kirsten Titcomb
Devine Distillery & Winery

Tyler Dyck, President
Craft Distillers Guild of B.C.









Nominate your favourite business for the 14th Annual Business Excellence Awards

The Show Must Go On! 

If we have learned anything during this pandemic, it is that our business community is creative, supportive, and resilient.  Now more than any other time, it is vital that we recognize the strength of our community and showcase our mutual success.  

The Saanich Peninsula Business Excellence Awards  has been celebrating business excellence for more than 13 years, and while we may not be able to gather in person, we are so excited to once again host our 14th annual event, on Thursday, November 5th, from 4 to 6 pm live from the Mary Winspear Centre.  

Sheltering in place has given us an opportunity to get creative and this year we will host our annual sold out event ‘VIRTUALLY’, live from the Mary Winspear Centre.  We’ll broadcast the show to your entire team, so gather your colleagues and meet us on the big screen, the  Zoom screen that is, and join your amazing business community at The Ultimate Office party.

Click here to Nominate your favourite Peninsula Business

The deadline to nominate is September 30, 2020 at 10:00 am







BC Government Listens to Urgent Business Feedback

As you may know on Monday, March 23rd the BC Government announced a COVID-19 Action Plan, which includes $5 billion allocated for programs that support businesses, workers, and economic recovery.

This announcement was directly informed by the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey conducted by our BC chamber network and partners, which ran from March 13-18.

Businesses said they need immediate relief and flexibility on tax remittance, specifically the EHT and PST. Today, the government promised deferred payments on these taxes, and many others, until September 30th, 2020. We also shared with government that property tax relief would be helpful for businesses right now, and they responded by cutting the provincial school tax on property in half for commercial and industrial businesses in Class 4, 5 and 6.

The BC Government also announced further wage replacement programs, as our network requested, including a tax-free, one-time payment of $1,000 to those whose ability to work has been affected by the outbreak. This benefit will be aligned with the enhanced EI eligibility put forward by the federal government.

While this isn’t yet a panacea to the crisis our members face – yesterday’s announcement will help you work through your business continuity and contingency plans. We know you’re eager to gain more clarity on how to access these initiatives, and the province will provide these details tomorrow.

Premier Horgan said that these announcements are “just the beginning,” so it’s imperative you keep using your voice. Sign up for BCMindReader.com to participate in future surveys. We’ll be using this platform to continue to ask what you need, so we can advocate to government on your behalf.

The BC Chamber of Commerce has created a page of resources for businesses affected by COVID-19. We’ll continue to update you as new resources and supports are added.

You’re not in this alone.

Denny Warner, Executive Director
Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce


Federal Package for Business and Provincial update – March 18 Eblast

Dear Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce member,

Federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, just unveiled the “first phase” of Canada’s “Economic Response Plan” – which includes $27B in direct support and aid to Canadians and $55B in tax deferrals.

The federal package includes a number of desired-actions you flagged in the network-wide COVID-19 Business Impact Survey the results of which were shared with both the federal and provincial government, including:

  • A reduction of 90% of payroll taxes for companies with payrolls under $1 million
  • Liquidity measures for business that will be available through banks, other financial institutions as well as BDC and EDC
  • An emergency support benefit for those who lose their jobs and don’t qualify for EI (this includes self-employed workers who have to close up shop)
  • Extending the tax filing deadline to June 1
  • Allowing taxpayers to defer tax payments until after August 31 (for amounts that are due after today and before September)
  • Temporarily boosting of the Canada Child Benefit payments, delivering about $2 billion in extra support.

Of note in this morning’s federal announcement is the new “Emergency Care Benefit” which offers up to $900 biweekly (for up to 15 weeks) to provide income support to workers who have to stay home and don’t have access to paid sick leave. The measure could disburse up to $10 billion. Also of note is a six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments.

More on this later today.

On the Provincial Front

Additionally, on the BC front, the Provincial Chamber President & CEO, Val Litwin, and Dan Baxter, Director of Policy, Government & Stakeholder Relations, met with Premier Horgan and Minister James yesterday morning.

During their time with the Premier and Minister they shared the preliminary results of the network’s province-wide COVID-19 Business Impacts Survey on BCMindReader.com – and that over 7000 businesses have now chimed in. Thank you for your engagement in this critically important survey. The data the BC Chamber shared painted a dire, real-time picture of SMEs operating in the province today. The full results will be released tomorrow, first thing.

The Premier and Minister confirmed that the insights our network shared will help them craft their stimulus/relief package, which they hope to unveil in the days ahead. As mentioned above, the federal government just announced its updated stimulus package – and we understand the province won’t be far behind.

How is BC tackling the situation? The Premier confirmed that the province has a “three stage” focus in these early days:

  1. The health and safety of BC citizens
  2. Support for people and businesses
  3. Economic recovery

On the subject of business continuity and recovery, the BC Chamber tabled our network’s key considerations around what the province should further consider as it crafts its package for businesses, including but not limited to:

  1. Being more flexible around tax remittances (including the EHT)
  2. Working with municipalities to allow for delayed property tax payment
  3. Working with credit unions to ensure zero interest loans, lines of credit
  4. Enhancing EI access and wider wage replacement options for employees
  5. Providing funding for business to work remotely

We will continue to provide information as it becomes available. Call or email us if you have suggestions for other ways we can be supporting you in this challenging time.

Denny Warner
Executive Director