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




Washroom Woes

Brace yourself. You are about to read something not often discussed in polite society. The human body has some routine functions including menstruation, urination, and defecation, which are not magically optional when outside the privacy and comfort of one’s own home. The lack of public accommodation for these activities in most cities and towns world-wide, Sidney included, is perhaps due in part to the fact that no one likes to think about or discuss what people do in the privacy of a bathroom, but also because there are costs and politics associated with building and maintaining public facilities.

The Sidney BIA does a tremendous job of organizing events that attract thousands of people to downtown Sidney. The same can be said of the popular Sidney Street Market. As the crowds have grown, so have the numbers of complaints about the dearth of washroom facilities. The tourists visiting our Information Centre on the highway years ago, educated the Chamber on our responsibility in this regard and public washrooms were built.    (more…)

2019 Crystal Award Finalists


Finalists (in alphabetical order)

Business of the Year (1-15 employees) – sponsored by TELUS PureFibre

McTavish Academy of Art

Business of the Year (16+ employees) – sponsored by Island Savings

All Care Canada Sidney
Casman Group

Not-For-Profit Organization sponsored by Casman Properties

Mount Newton Centre
Sidney Museum

Contribution to the Community -sponsored by Flader Chartered Professional Accountant and Peggy Yelland & Associates Inc.

All Care Canada Sidney
Sassy’s Family Restaurant

Green Business  – sponsored by Peninsula News Review

Monk Office
Parsell Vineyard

Entrepreneurial Spirit – sponsored by Camosun/UVIC Co-op & Career programs

Empire Hydrogen
Saanich Peninsula Hospital & Healthcare Foundation

New Business, Product or Service – sponsored by Hughesman Morris CPA

Fresh Tandoori
The Cut Cartel

Employer of the Year – sponsored by Canadian Tire, North Saanich

All Care Canada Sidney
BMT Group Services

Outstanding Customer Service-sponsored by Victoria International Airport 

Bayside Diesel & Marine
 Coastal Heat Pumps

*Limited tickets still available for the awards. peninsulachamber.ca or call (250) 656-3616

Awards presented at Blue Poppy Restaurant, Butchart Gardens October 17, 2019









Mission Possible

What does your Mission Statement say about you?

Is the mission of your business to benefit all stakeholders or to create profit for shareholders? The term “stakeholder” was originally coined at Stanford Research Institute in 1963 to describe “those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist.”  (more…)

The Power of the People

The cult of celebrity has been responsible for the rise in power of many people who were unsuited to, or abused, their leadership roles. Often the word used to describe these leaders is “charismatic”, as if that one trait alone were enough to qualify the candidate for the position. Sociologist Max Weber pointed out that “charisma” is a quality given to leaders by their followers, rather than it being something intrinsic.

Perhaps now more than ever, courageous followers have a job to do in standing up to our leaders. Ideally, we would have compassionate people leading us but every leader needs courageous followers to point out their blind spots. We have a responsibility to be critical thinkers, to actively challenge our leaders and to contribute positive energy and constructive alternatives. We can be courageous followers even from behind our keyboards and screens.   

It is a delicate balance as a follower to serve and support the leader while not competing for the lead role. There is no greater responsibility than speaking truth to power. Great followership can be more challenging than leadership – the rewards are less, the role can be more dangerous and must be exercised with incredible tact and finesse. 

Rather than blindly endorsing and being subservient to toxic leaders, we are called to seek out and support constructive, compassionate leaders. Edith Wharton wrote ‘There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.’ When considering the candidates who put their names forward for positions on your board or as leaders of our country, I encourage you to first identify and support the worthy servant-leaders and then, post-election, continue your important work by being a courageous mirror and reflecting the light.    


Denny Warner,

Executive Director  




Trust Before Truth

I was fortunate to have participated in an industry tour recently attended by local Indigenous leaders and representatives from some of the region’s largest employers where the goal was to get to know each other and begin to work together to identify and solve our respective employment challenges.

On the Tour, and in many other professional and personal settings, I have heard non-Indigenous people asking Indigenous people how we can create better working relationships with our Indigenous neighbours. What was clear during the tour, is that as a first step, we have a lot of listening to do. A lot of listening and a responsibility to educate ourselves. Working relationships are developed on a bedrock of trust. I found a jewel of a resource on allyship on the Animikii website. Animikii is an indigenous-owned digital agency based in Victoria. One of their employees, Robyn Ward, wrote a piece entitled “Building Trust Before Truth: How Non-Indigenous Canadians Become Allies” and I believe it should be required reading for every non-Indigenous person in Canada. https://www.animikii.com/news/building-trust-before-truth-how-non-indigenous-canadians-become-allies

Robyn has some suggestions for us budding allies: “… we build trust by respecting boundaries, being reliable and accountable, respecting the trust vault, showing integrity, showing non-judgment, and by being generous with your assumptions. We build trust in small acts of kindness and there are no shortcuts to building trust. If you are ever in doubt, educate yourself, ask questions, and seek answers from the right people whether it’s Indigenous Peoples or other respected allies within the community. True allies will see the value in relationship building by authentically gaining, building and maintaining trust.”

Please, read the article and make use of the excellent resources linked to it. Take the quiz to learn your level of privilege. Undertake the #Next150 Reconciliation Challenges. If you truly want to be an ally, begin by building trust. Listen, and learn, with your heart wide open. 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director           







Act like the house is on fire.

Sounds of Sirens

Climate scientists have been sounding the alarm for some time. Many of you will have heard of young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and her now famous speech to the World Economic Forum in January in which she urged us all to “… act as if the house was on fire. Because it is.” 

The acknowledged crisis-state of the environment has sparked activity at the local level, where municipalities, including the three on the Saanich Peninsula, as well as the Capital Regional District, have entertained (some have passed) motions declaring a Climate Emergency. Reaction at the municipal and regional level is highly appropriate given most of our country’s infrastructure is controlled by these levels of government and they/we have much to lose economically, environmentally, and from a community health perspective were damage resulting from climate breakdown to occur. Think of the devastation wrought by forest fires and flooding.   

The main goal of the local declarations of climate emergencies is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Is that enough? Cutting emissions is an important start. Influencing others to do the same is important. Recently, in Vancouver, Council adopted a climate emergency plan that arrived at “six big moves” for pollution reduction. The six areas of action are: 1) Walkable complete communities. 2) Safe and convenient active transportation and transit. 3) Pollution-free cars, trucks, and buses. 4) Zero-emission space and water heating. 5) Lower carbon construction. 6) Restored forests and coasts. In addition to these targets, Vancouver council also approved an impressive list of 53 “accelerated actions” that will ramp-up local action right away.  

Vancouver is an inspiring example of municipal leadership in this regard. Let us also be seen to be acting as if our house was on fire and use public money to support the urgent opportunity rather than subsidizing the economy of the past. 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director


We Are Blind to our own Blindness

I recently collaborated with a group of Chamber members to develop a member recruitment brochure. And while I don’t recommend design by committee as a method for getting things done quickly, it was an illuminating and rewarding experience. One of the components of the collateral we created, was to list the member benefits we offer that are most meaningful to our members. Our biggest challenge initially was in narrowing the list down to the number of benefits that could fit on the brochure.

One of the reasons it is challenging for me to answer the question of why people might want to join our organization is because every one of our members has their own reason(s) for participating. When we asked some members the question recently about why they are members, the answers were as varied as I expected, and also, more surprising than I anticipated. Whether it’s our staff and board thinking about our organization or our self-awareness as human beings, we are mostly blind to our faults, and to our brilliance.

I have written about the power of testimonials before. They can be compelling stories that speak to potential clients, or in our case, members. I was reminded of that, after making the difficult request of members to provide them for us. We are not wired to ask others to speak positively of us. And yet, what we received was so genuinely and generously provided, that I am beyond glad I asked.

It can be an incredibly humbling, instructive experience to hear the unvarnished truth from someone whose intent it is to be both honest and kind. The truth can be the juice that sparks you to continue what you are already successfully doing and it can send you in new and potentially more fulfilling directions.  

Give it a try. Find someone who has a useful frame of reference, whom you trust, to tell you the truth. Be prepared to hear that which might be difficult to hear. You might also receive surprising, wonderfully uplifting feedback that reaffirms your worth and the path you have chosen. Either will be a gift!  


Denny Warner,

Executive Director