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DOWNTOWN DISCUSSION: Victoria harbour operations help keep businesses afloat

Jeff Bray
Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (

Jeff Bray

Downtown Victoria Business Association

We are all familiar with the activities of both Victoria and Esquimalt’s inner harbours. We see the MV Coho and Clipper ferries, Harbour Air seaplanes, pleasure crafts, and kayaks travelling in and out of these waterways. One of the key employers on Vancouver Island is the Department of National Defence. But do you know the significance of the various industrial activities that are the backbone of our working harbours?

The downtown economy relies on citizens within the region having steady, well-paying employment. Then they and their families can shop, dine, enjoy events, and procure services. In turn, these actions support business owners, their families, and the people they employ.

Here are some interesting numbers that reflect just how significant, and important, our working harbours are to both downtown and the region, (the numbers are pre-COVID but these industries, except for tourism-related operations, were largely untouched by COVID):

Businesses and organizations tied to the harbours spent more than $2.9 billion (the sum of all commercial activity and spending by these companies) in the region in 2019.

The value of what the harbours produce is $1.8 billion in Greater Victoria

There are nearly 15,000 people employed between Esquimalt and Victoria harbours

The combined payroll of the harbours was more than $953 million

The combined taxes paid by harbour organizations and businesses was $539 million

Beyond the wages and taxes paid, harbour organizations also contributed more than $1.7 million to various social, community and charitable causes through sponsorships, grants and in-kind donations to say nothing of volunteer hours committed to various causes

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These numbers are staggering and speak to a huge positive financial impact. However, they only tell part of the story. One of the reasons our region survived COVID better than many others in North America is our diverse economy. Of course, we have a large public-sector employment component in the capital, and we are very familiar with the significant contributions of tourism. The emergence of our leading tech sector further diversifies our local economy.

Through all of this, has been the industrial, shipbuilding, marine support industries that have operated within our harbours for decades. They provide highly skilled, high paying jobs that support families throughout the region. With a move towards expanding opportunities for the “blue economy” within our harbours, the opportunities to further benefit from our working harbours continues to expand.

Downtown Victoria wants to recognize the incredible contributions of our working harbours and the businesses and employees make to our region. As always, as we emerge from the pandemic our businesses are ready to welcome the over 15,000 harbour employees into one of the best mid-sized downtowns in North America!

Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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