Victoria Chamber of Commerce wooing civic candidates

Big-city budgets need business experts: Chamber chair

Capital Region municipalities are multi-million-dollar businesses that need experienced business leaders at the helm.

That’s the message from the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, whose members are launching a series of workshops and training sessions to help business leaders run for elected office.

“Running a campaign and winning a seat on council requires a skill set that most candidates don’t understand,” said Frank Bourree, chair of the chamber’s board of directors.

“We’re always involved in local elections, but this time we’re stepping up to engage good candidates.”

Dubbing its campaign Our Vibrant Community, the Chamber hopes to woo some of its more hesitant members to seek a council seat.

Bourree stressed the organization won’t endorse political parties or put forward an organized slate of candidates for this November’s municipal elections.

“This community has tremendous potential that we at the Chamber feel we’re missing out on,” he said.

“The City of Victoria has a budget of (nearly) $200 million, and having councils that are adept at dealing with those budgetary levels is very important.”

The chamber’s Feb. 26 event, “So you want to run for elected office,” is already attracting a lot of interest, Bourree added. He hopes business leaders will learn successful municipal campaigns are about more than advertising and understanding the issues, he said.

“It’s very competitive to seek office and it’s very much a ground war and a lot of door-knocking.”

The Chamber is advocating four “good governance pillars” for the 2014 local elections. They are keeping tax increases and spending within local means; building quality of life and saving for the future; actively and clearly communicating municipal business, and working individually and with regional stakeholders to deliver efficient and effective services.

The events are only open to Chamber members.

“Lots of people in the past have given up out of frustration because they don’t have the machinery behind them,” Bourree said.

“This is about engaging good candidates to run.”