Chambers of commerce from across B.C. have endorsed a plan to tackle key social and economic factors impacting cities, which they say will also support businesses attempting to recover from the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Build Back Victoria)

Chambers of commerce from across B.C. have endorsed a plan to tackle key social and economic factors impacting cities, which they say will also support businesses attempting to recover from the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Build Back Victoria)

B.C. chambers endorse pandemic-recovery blueprint for cities

Plan calls for addressing mental health, housing and public transit issues

Business groups across B.C. have endorsed a plan that tackles key social and economic factors impacting cities while also supporting businesses attempting to recover from the pandemic.

The B.C. Urban Mayors Caucus’ Blueprint for B.C.’s Urban Future is supported by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce as well as local chambers. The blueprint outlines four priorities for urban communities in the province, including mental health, substance use and treatment; affordable housing; public transit and a new fiscal framework.

“As local businesses and downtowns have been some of the hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic, the collective support of our chambers of commerce is essential in moving forward together with a collective voice to tackle these complex and overlapping issues facing our cities,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, the caucus co-chair.

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The blueprint calls for expanding substance use and mental health treatment and recovery options for youth and adults, and connecting those with complex needs with appropriate facilities. It also aims to improve access to safer alternatives to the toxic drug supply, and consider alternate approaches to how communities respond to mental health and substance use emergency calls.

The blueprint aims to see public transit ridership bounce back, and looks to support that through shifting funding models away from reliance on fares and local property taxes, while also investing in low-carbon fleets and long-term service expansions.

The plan also calls for investment in a range of affordable housing options and creation of a system that prioritizes housing for people who live and work in cities.

Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said one of the biggest challenges to the region’s pandemic recovery is finding and keeping workers.

“This is expected to become more difficult over the next decade in B.C.’s cities, where real estate attracts international investment and housing prices are not tied directly to the local economy,” Williams said. “The (chamber) supports the B.C. Urban Mayor’s Caucus calls for more affordable housing that meets the specific needs of people who require homes but, for various reasons, are not able to participate in the private real estate market.”

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