The organizers behind the newly proposed regional strategy and model for economic development hopes it will do for Greater Victoria what the Halifax Partnership did for its region from 2008 to 2015.
Halifax grew its gross domestic product from 15th among 28 major metropolitan regions in Canada to 10th in 2008, eighth in 2014, and is projected to be first of the 28 in 2015, according to the Victoria group’s report submitted to Saanich council.
Last week Saanich council voted unanimously to support the proposed South Vancouver Island Economic Development Association (an interim title for the group), and 11 of the 13 regional municipalities are now on board. North Saanich votes on the matter this week while Metchosin has declined to participate.
“We saw the success that Halifax has had, they have some of the smartest economic development people in the country out there,” said Dan Dagg, a lead on the SVIEDA proposal. “We asked what went well, what would you do differently, and we’ve adopted a lot of that.”
Dagg chairs the Greater Victoria Development Agency, which will effectively be replaced by SVIEDA. He presented the proposal with Dallas Gislason, an economic development officer with GVDA, to Saanich’s planning, transit and economic development committee on Nov. 12.
Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes, who chairs the planning, transit and economic development committee, is amongst the most excited to support the SVIEDA model.
“With some 360,000 residents, the significant lifestyle advantage of our West Coast location, excellent educational institutions and our existing diverse, dynamic economic base, we can anticipate success from a well planned and executed strategy,” said Haynes.
Saanich would start with payments of $27,800, redirected from the $30,000 it had planned to pay towards the GVDA in 2016, and a new sum of $81,868 in 2016. Saanich’s portion would stabilize at $184,462 per year from 2017 to 2020, as the total fund grows to $9 million.
Hayes said regional coalitions are a requirement if the agency wishes to procure any meaningful federal or provincial funding.
One of Haynes’ sticking points is that every day about 30,000 residents travel outside of Saanich for work, representing almost half the Saanich workforce.
Coun. Vic Derman noted nearly one-third of the region’s employment is along the Douglas Corridor of Victoria and Saanich.
“We live in an amalgamated regional economy,” Haynes said. “To do this as a single municipality is exceedingly difficult, perhaps impossible. We are competing with the economic coalitions of metropolitan areas across North America.”
SVIEDA held its first meeting Dec. 10, bringing together the mayors (or appointed councillors) of all 11 members plus 13 non-municipal members, with representatives from Camosun College, Royal Roads University, University of Victoria, and several for successful Greater Victoria businesses such as Wilson’s Transportation and Knappett construction, and the heads of ViaTEc, Tourism Victoria, the Victoria Real Estate Board, Victoria Harbour Authority and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We have all these groups focused on the good cause of regional development,” Dagg said.
The biggest challenge SVIEDA has overcome so far is the collaboration among municipalities in the private sector, Dagg said.
“People didn’t think we’d get the majority of municipalities to work together towards this goal, but the majority of the 11 voted unanimously. That’s a signal, a sign of a new spirit of co-operation.”