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BC Chamber of Commerce Week celebrates hope, resilience for business

This year, BC Chamber of Commerce Week is being proclaimed from Feb. 15 to 19
Garry Shearer
Garry Shearer is the Executive Director of the Delta Chamber of Commerce.

This year, BC Chamber of Commerce Week is being proclaimed from Feb. 15 to 19, and rather than celebrating progression and growth presented through opportunities created by chambers of commerce as we traditionally would, we celebrate resilience, adaptability, and courage to fight against the odds, encouraged by this powerful business network.

Every year the Delta Chamber of Commerce and our fellow chambers of commerce and boards of trade work tirelessly to help grow the people who power B.C.

Here in Delta we advocate on behalf of more than 450 member businesses to all levels of government. When combined with the collective insight and influence of the others in our provincial network, that advocacy represents more than 36,000 businesses in B.C. and 200,000 across the country. However, 2020 was far from normal, and in fact one of the most difficult challenges in our collective history. Despite being founded in Delta in 1910 – prior to the last global pandemic – COVID-19 has brought about new and devastating effects on the families, communities, and businesses across the province.

Despite these extraordinary circumstances, businesses here in Delta have persevered and the grassroots network of chambers worked to gather insight from businesses of all sizes, from all sectors of the economy, and in all corners of the province.

We spent 2020 connecting with business owners and leaders; in town halls, one-on-one Zoom and phone calls, by email, during virtual networking sessions, in province-wide “pulse check surveys,” and through in-person visits to businesses to provide information on government resources and to ensure they had access to necessary supports.

Coalescing the insights and data into a voice that speaks for business, we advocated as a local chamber and through our senior chambers on the issues that businesses were facing in Delta and what was needed to address them. What we heard was a story of hardship but also one of tremendous resilience.

During this tumultuous year, the provincial government recognized the reach of the B.C. Chamber’s network by inviting it to sit on the provincial Economic Recovery Task Force. This task force was formed to ensure the province’s economic response to COVID-19 was effective and responsive to the needs of British Columbians.

Likewise in Delta, the Delta Chamber was invited by the City of Delta to sit on its Community Resiliency and Economic Recovery Support Team (CRERST.) The collaborations that have taken place on the provincial and local levels highlighted the benefits that healthy relationships between chambers of commerce and government can bring to a region.

While chambers and government do not always see eye-to-eye, they did in B.C. when chambers backed their proposal for a national paid sick leave program during COVID-19. The province agreed with that we needed to protect our employees without strapping the cost of such a program onto the already bending backs of businesses. With both parties united in their efforts, we soon saw a national sick pay program developed, saving B.C. businesses millions of dollars while allowing employees to safely stay home when they needed to.

The Chamber network in B.C. continued to join forces with government on a number of programs and initiatives throughout the onset of COVID-19 and into the fragile recovery stage; urging government to set aside measures that may increase costs, add to the regulatory burden, or create further uncertainty for B.C. employers during this already ambiguous time.

These efforts resulted in more wins for business like when the government changed their stance on the temporary lay-off provision, allowing employers more time to make final decisions to rehire laid off employees or pay them severance and allowing businesses to keep their valued workers connected to them while they worked to bring operations back to the point where they could re-call all staff to active duty.

It’s now been over a year since the pandemic first arrived in our province. Many of the business support programs have remained in place and more than 70 per cent of companies in B.C. are accessing them to continue their operations.

The Delta Chamber of Commerce is continuing to provide one-on-one COVID-19 support to all businesses across Delta and advocating to all levels of government on the issues that matter here in Delta. A vaccine is starting to be distributed and slowly, but surely, hope is being restored. As we re-establish balance and health in our communities and economies, your Delta Chamber of Commerce and our network of fellow chambers and boards of trade continue to work for B.C. as the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter.