Our local businesses here in Prince George have been on a roller coaster of challenges and yet they persevere. They do it for their employees, for their customers, for their families, and for their dreams. Our businesses not only generate jobs and economic opportunities, but they also encourage volunteerism and support an incredible non-profit sector. We have a lot of amazing leaders and innovators in Prince George and they deserve hope and a path to economic recovery. The priorities of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce are to support our local business community and to advocate on their behalf.
There’s more that we can all do to #SupportPG and the chamber recently launched a new campaign to help our community to rally around our hometown businesses. Shop Local is an initiative funded by the federal government to encourage people to support businesses as they seek to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The program, delivered nationally through provincial and territorial chambers of commerce, provides grants for programs and campaigns that encourage Canadians to Shop Local. The Prince George Chamber was successful in receiving one of these grants and has been producing content and contests promoting our local businesses that started in December and will continue in the weeks ahead. Sometimes what we buy, and what we use it for, isn’t as important as who we bought it from. When we shop local, we support our hometown.
We’re not out of the woods yet with the COVID-19 pandemic and 2022 is already starting to look a lot like the last year. Some businesses are faced with closures even today. The chamber has been advocating that our businesses deserve better support from government and especially as businesses put safety plans in place and respond to provincial health orders that are outside of their control. This will be a continued priority over the next year and the chamber will be advocating for an economic recovery strategy that includes Northern B.C. issues and concerns. For example, in 2021 the chamber participated in a federal consultation on the creation of a new federal economic development agency just for B.C. and advocated for the head office to be in Prince George. This was a long shot, but can you blame us for asking? PacifiCan is now operational with a head office in Surrey and Prince George was ultimately selected for a new PacifiCan service location that can play a role in regional economic development. Collaboration between governments, Indigenous partners, and the business community can help to pave the way for economic recovery.
Businesses also deserve a safe community. Like many communities, Prince George is faced with a mental health and addictions crisis that is only getting worse. The opioid crisis affects families, co-workers, neighbours and fellow citizens. Too many lives have been lost, and people, communities and businesses face the spillover societal impacts of homelessness, property crime, violence, and open drug use, among other issues. These issues impact all of Prince George and all levels of government need to collaborate to improve health and social outcomes. Government is currently focused on harm reduction strategies, which are important for saving lives. However, we cannot create a safe, clean, and inclusive community without digging into the root causes of problems. Perhaps most importantly, more support is needed for mental health services, and certainly for addiction treatment and recovery. In the meantime, prolific offenses for drug trafficking, property crimes, and violence should be prosecuted appropriately by the Crown. The chamber will continue to collaborate with local partner organizations and to work with our MPs, MLAs, and local officials to bring issues and ideas to the table.
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen provincial and federal elections, and 2022 happens to be a local government election year. As always, the chamber encourages participation and debate in the democratic process. The chamber also hopes that voters consider candidates and policies that focus on creating an environment where our local businesses can succeed and thrive. Prince George has so much to offer, but we need a strong and healthy business community to realize our potential to be one of the best cities to live, work, invest, and raise a family. Supporting our businesses is supporting our hometown.
Kiel Giddens is the president of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce.