Special to The Record
The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce takes being “The Voice of Business” very seriously. This was recently demonstrated when the Chamber board made advocacy one of three primary areas of strategic focus.
During my time on the board, I have had some amazing opportunities to advocate on behalf of Comox Valley businesses. In both 2012 and 2014, the Chamber presented to the BC Government Select Standing Committee on Finance. This committee is made up of MLAs from both parties and provides detailed recommendations to Cabinet with respect to the provincial budget. I was honoured to make the presentation in 2014 and briefed the committee on our local concerns around BC Ferries, the PST, building our renewable resource economy, ensuring credit unions operate on a level playing field with banks, improving local government finances, and supporting the B.C. arts and culture sector. Many of these issues are shared by the BC Chamber, and help amplify the voice of local businesses from the Comox Valley at the provincial and even national level.
The board has hosted local mayors, the chair of the CVRD board, the Chief of the K’omoks First Nation and our current MLA at our board meetings. We invite them to attend a meeting to ensure they understand the role the Chamber plays as the voice of business, to build relationship and connection and ensure our message is clear.
Former MP for the Valley, John Duncan, also visited the board and updated the Chamber on what was being done for local business on a national level. We are looking forward to hosting our two new MPs, Gordon Johns and Rachel Blaney, in March.
The Chamber is approached by the local municipalities for its position on issues that affect the business community on a regular basis. Having a dedicated advocacy focus allows us to provide input on subjects as various as the Regional Growth Strategy, whether or not food trucks should be allowed in the city of Courtenay (they should – with appropriate regulations), and how local government should be structured via the Governance Review Petition.
This May, I will be attending the BC Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting on behalf of the Comox Valley Chamber. We will be bringing a policy to this meeting to request that the BC Chamber ask the province for more incentives for businesses and homeowners to install grid-tie solar, wind and micro hydro power generation. The specific incentive we will be seeking is an increase to the rate at which BC Hydro buys excess power produced by businesses and homeowners. If this rate is increased sufficiently, it could create economic growth while at the same time increasing the amount of renewable energy the province produces. This would be a win-win for B.C. as renewable energy system installers would have more work, and homeowners and businesses would be able to lower their energy costs.
The Chamber will continue to show leadership by advocating on behalf of local businesses as it has done for almost 100 years. If you need help having your voice heard as a local business, the only question you need to ask is “are you a member yet”?
Andrew Gower is the current chair of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce