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

Important Information – March 17 Eblast

Dear Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce member,
In the last two days, BC Chamber of Commerce has received over 2300 responses to the chamber network’s COVID-19 Business Impacts Survey on BCMindReader.com. (survey closes on March 18)
Above all else, businesses are asking government for three things:
  1. To work with banks and lending institutions to offer zero-interest loans, loan guarantees, or lines of credit
  2. To be more flexible around timelines for tax remittances
  3. To enhance EI access or wage replacement for employees
Over the weekend the feedback was taken to government. They are working to remove red tape and get cash flowing to the business community.
In the meantime, some immediate measures have been announced to assist with your liquidity, operational concerns, and business continuity plans.
A list of these measures has been compiled on the BC Chamber of Commerce website, and will be updated on a regular basis.
Here is a sample of what you’ll find there:
  • BC Hydro: The COVID-19 Customer Assistance Program provides the option to defer bill payments or arrange for flexible payment plans with no penalty. Call BC Hydro’s customer team at 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376) to discuss options.
  • CMHC is working to address mortgage payment difficulties. They’ve said on twitter that they are collaborating with lenders to allow payment deferral of up to six months.
  • Export Development Canada (EDC). In partnership with the federal government and Canadian banks, EDC will ensure customers impacted by COVID-19 have access to credit.
  • Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has resources available including:
  • Small Business Loan: Up to $100,000 can be obtained online in as little 48 hours from time of approval.
  • Working capital loan: Get extra funds to bridge cash flow gaps and support everyday operations.
  • Purchase Order Financing: Increase your cash flow to fulfill domestic or international orders with very flexible terms.
We are here to support you and will continue to share information as it becomes available.
Denny Warner
Executive Director

The New Entrepreneur

Last month I talked about how amazing this part of the world is in which to live and do business. Adding to our quite diversified, protected economy, we have relatively low crime, beautiful scenery, stable government, etc. and it is clear why this is a location of choice for many. 

Following on the heels of another successful Tour of Industry, our 11th, we once again heard loudly and clearly from the businesses who operate here, of the significant challenges to operating on an island that their competition elsewhere does not share. In spite of these unique challenges, the number one reason each of them states as to why they stay here is the exceptional “quality of life”. Putting aside concerns about higher taxes, much higher shipping and transportation costs, and a high cost of living, they stay for the lifestyle. 

Our diversified economy and this “quality of life” will stand us in good stead as we move into the future. Young companies, aged five years or less, are creating the majority of net new jobs. The new entrepreneurs are highly mobile, many of them are freelancers. They can and do choose to live where they are personally connected and there is a high quality of life. 

If we provide entrepreneurs what they need such as access to capital, talent, and technical infrastructure and assistance, we will continue to be a home for future business moguls. We must focus on attracting these entrepreneurs to our community (or grow our own) to maintain our economic diversity. 

Denny Warner, 

Executive Director 




We Are Amazing but Please Don’t Tell Anyone

In 2019, Macleans magazine ranked Canada’s best communities, and perhaps not surprisingly for those of us who live here (or those who choose to holiday here), the three municipalities of the Saanich Peninsula rank in the top 50 of the 415 communities they compared. In fact two of the three ranked in the top 30. The criteria they use is: wealth and economy, affordability, demographics, taxes, commute, crime, weather, health, amenities and culture and community. 

Their ranking found the “…best spots to live are communities with rural charm and access to urban jobs.” Many of the truly rural communities are struggling with a lack of job growth and access to health care and other amenities. While we definitely have issues around affordability and transportation, we are not prone to experience periods of volatility. 

We are blessed to live in a region with an incredibly diversified economy. A small list of the thriving sectors includes agri-business, the marine industry, air transportation suppliers and support services for the airport, advanced manufacturing, a charming retail zone in Sidney, a plethora of service businesses, and the tourism power-house, Butchart Gardens, which attracts more than a million visitors a year to this area. 

Two other critical areas that impact diversity in an economy are the level of education attained by the population (yes that’s high here too) and the level of affluence (also high). The more people are paid, the greater their demand for services. 

Add to the above, the scenic beauty and it seems likely we will remain at the top of the list of best places to live for the foreseeable future. But we don’t toot our horn too loudly because we are modest Canadians who are somewhat averse to change.  

Denny Warner,

Executive Director



Time to Celebrate


It has been said that by the time we reach the age of eighteen, we will have been praised and encouraged 30,000 times (much of that happens before the age of three) and we will have been criticized over 250,000 times. Seemingly, a perfect demonstration that, as a culture, we are much more focused on what goes wrong. As an organization, it’s easy to move from one year or decade to the next without pausing to celebrate what is good and right.  

This has been quite a decade for our Chamber. Many similar organizations have seen a drop in membership and in event participation. Not ours. In fact our events are more popular than ever. Beyond the networking (or connecting as I prefer to call it), which happens on a grand scale, our members describe our events as fun. We offer member benefits people use. The demographics are changing within our membership and on our board. People are engaged. Excited. 

To what do I attribute the positivity that currently surrounds the Chamber and the work we are doing? I am biased, but the team in our office is rock solid. We work amazingly well together and we get stuff done. We could not do all we do without the support of our board. They provide stellar leadership and allow us to work to our potential. The setting contributes. We are privileged to live and work on the Saanich Peninsula, surrounded by natural beauty and boundless potential. There is an air of connection and collaboration in the community that is contagious.   

While we take this time to acknowledge the important work our organization has undertaken, there is so much more to do. Our future focus will be on transportation issues and on the important role of agri-business on the Peninsula. We will continue to provide support for our members as they struggle to attract and retain employees. We are excited to work with the wide-range of stakeholders who have identified interest in developing a truck stop at our site as well as a world class visitor centre that will welcome our guests to the Saanich Peninsula – the Gateway to Vancouver Island.

We have been building community through business for 107 years now. You don’t last that long without the guidance of dedicated people who have vision and an ability to change and grow. Stick with us. We aren’t a fad. 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director







Tenable Tourism

Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Many of us have taken this to heart. International tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950 to 1.32 billion in 2017. More than 10,000 people visit the Mayan Riviera every day; an area where there are no established recycling programs. The impacts of tourism on wildlife and habitat, water, climate, and humans, cannot be understated.

Canada is receiving an increasing share of the tourism pie. 2018 was a record year with arrivals reaching 21.13 million. Visitors love us because we have stunning scenery and are seen to be clean, green, safe, and relatively affordable. The cruise ship industry contributes significantly to our area’s tourism economy. According to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, 212 ships carrying 440,000 passengers arrived in 2010 and this increased to 243 ships and 640,000 passengers in 2018. The Saanich Peninsula is the gateway to Vancouver Island for millions of visitors each year who arrive by air and ferry.

For many years, communities losing their industrial base were encouraged to develop tourism as a “green” economic diversification strategy. Tourism has evolved in many ways that are not clean, green, sustainable or ethical. Anyone who has visited Venice lately can attest to the impact of overtourism.

As responsible hosts, we have a duty to be aware of and accountable for our impact on the environment and the community. We have an obligation to educate visitors about our expectations around limiting energy and water consumption, the 4 Rs of recycling, and about our culture and customs. We have a tremendous opportunity on Vancouver Island, to lead the world in offering travel experiences for visitors who are mindful of their carbon footprint and are seeking sustainable tourism options.

If you are interested in learning more about sustainable tourism, consider attending the 3rd IMPACT Sustainability Travel & Tourism forum, January 19-22, 2020 in Victoria. The laudable goal for this conference is to align the Canadian tourism industry, as well as stakeholders and communities touched by tourism, behind a vision to achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability. Registration information is available on the events page of our website.

Denny Warner,
Executive Director