Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

City launches task force to get marginalized into the workforce

It was a sunny day in September when a number of strangers from various industries in Victoria met at the Victoria Conference Centre.

It was a sunny day in September when a number of strangers from various industries in Victoria met at the Victoria Conference Centre for the first time.

The sun was streaming through the windows when the group went to work, scribbling on a blank piece of paper, coming up with a set of recommendations to create a more inclusive and diverse economy in the city.

Six months later, the Mayor’s Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement released those recommendations as part of the Good Jobs + Good Business = Better Community action plan during a meeting recently.

“It was daunting,” said Mayor Lisa Helps of the task force’s first meeting, which came out of a recommendation from the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity.

“To see some short six months later a concrete action plan that if we take seriously, does have the capacity to change the way we do business, not just with the city, but also the economy.”

The plan focuses on helping people who are out of the workforce, such as youth, First Nations, people with mental health and addictions challenges, people who were homeless, those with disabilities and people released from prison, get back to work. It is also aimed at strengthening and rewarding the small business sector to grow a strong and inclusive local economy.

The task force includes representatives from youth, refugees and First Nations, as well as members from the financial, economic development, social procurement, community philathrophy, co-operative and social innovation and enterprise sectors.

Recommendations include a number of actions to be implemented over the next five years, such as making the mainstream economy more inclusive to ensure there is always an opportunity for everyone to prosper; leveraging purchases to improve the economic, social and envrionmental well-being of the community, and strengthening and growing businesses already doing business with community benefit in mind and growing the social enterprise sector.

“(This plan) truly was an example of the collaboration that we’re trying to achieve,” said Coun. Marianne Alto, vice chair of the task force. “It is a real action plan with very specific steps which will allow us to operationalize it and change how we do business at the city.”

But not all councillors were in support of the recommendation.

Coun. Geoff Young was in support of the values outlined in the report, which include community wellness, celebrating success and creating inclusive, sustainable economic growth, but he questioned the need for the city to change how it does business.

Helps noted the city is not leading the way when it comes to social procurement and that such policies already exist in both the U.K. and Scotland at the national level.

The next steps will be to develop a framework and work plan. Most councillors agreed public education is key to help residents understand the benefits of the plan.