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Chamber demands action on labour shortage

VERNON – The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is urging senior government to take bold and decisive action to address the labour shortage experienced by business owners.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier John Horgan and their respective finance and economic development ministers, the Chamber insists there is an urgency to filling the employment gap if communities and the economy are to succeed.

“We frequently hear from our membership that the most significant operational challenge is access to labour, and the while the situation existed prior to the pandemic, Covid-19 has only heightened the crisis,” said Krystin Kempton, Greater Vernon Chamber president.

“Many vacancies go unfilled, meaning some businesses have reduced hours or are unable to complete orders. This scenario is particularly common within the manufacturing, agricultural and retail sectors in the North Okanagan.”

Among the factors responsible for the labour shortage are cost of housing; lack of affordable, accessible childcare; an aging population and access to training and education.

In the case of housing, the increased cost of renting or purchasing makes it difficult for many employers to attract and retain staff.

“While progress has been made by government and non-profits in constructing housing for those at the lower end of the financial spectrum, many individuals and families in the middle-income bracket find it difficult to rent or purchase a home in the current market,” said Kempton.

The Chamber understands there are no easy answers to any of these issues, but it has made several recommendations to government as a starting point for discussion. The recommendations include:

  • That a labour study be conducted to determine why individuals are not pursuing employment opportunities and, particularly with Covid-19, what barriers exist to returning to work (health concerns, CERB, reduced hours, etc.).
  • That Federal and Provincial immigration programs not be restricted to specific sectors. Allow local communities to pursue skilled labour or investors based on local needs.
  • Enhanced focus on skills training, particularly among women, indigenous, people of colour and those with disabilities.
  • Government at all levels be provided with the tools to encourage development of housing for middle-income wage earners, whether it is through planning mechanisms or financial enticements.
  • Work with large local employers to subsidize employee designated housing.
  • Include “tiny homes” as an appropriate use within subdivision planning.
  • Government at all levels provide messaging to existing residents in a community as to the benefits of having diverse housing options available (ie. Multi-family next to single-family).
  • Funding for private and non-profit childcare operators to provide care for children under the age of three and care that corresponds with shift or evening work.
  • Funding that encourages individuals to pursue early childhood education, and wage subsidies that allow private and non-profit childcare centres to employ staff.
“There is a need for government, employers, labour and communities to come together and determine solutions that allow business and communities to thrive,” said Kempton.

To read the full letter, go to
Dan Proulx, General Manager   
Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce
P: 250-545-0771              E: