By Roy L Hales
Campbell River is the central hub for rural communities like Cortes and Quadra Island. It is the seat of our local government. Though many island residents have shopped locally since the advent of COVID, others take advantage of the lower prices in Campbell River’s stores. Visits to more distant destinations usually start with ferry trips and a drive through Campbell River. So the well being of this northern metropolis is important to all of us. The city’s General Manager of community development, Ron Bowles, described how COVID is impacting Campbell River on three levels.
The City, Businesses and Residents
“There is how it has affected our residents, how its affected our businesses and how it has affected the city itself,” he said.
“The city of Campbell River was in a good financial position coming into the year and that was the catalyst for you calling me today – our press release on the annual report. We entered this COVID crisis with good financial systems in place. The city has done well and reacted well. Council had to make some tough decisions, but we are getting through it and we’ll come out the other side financially in a fairly good position, albeit changed.”
“… Many businesses shut down. Lots haven’t even opened yet. So it has been hard on businesses. At the same time, it’s a resilient community – as you know, you’re the same on Cortes Island – you adapt and change and move forward. Many of Campbell River’s businesses have figured it out. You are probably seeing that as well.”
“Residents – yes, it has been tough. We’ve all seen the financial incentive programs from the federal and provincial governments. That has helped people get by, personally. The statistics are telling us that these programs have worked, but that doesn’t mean that they worked for everyone. Yes, there are many individuals that are impacted.”
Bowles added, “In the city of Campbell River, that further reinforced the reason for me to have a really good eye on the services we offer, as well as the cost of our taxes.”
The Construction sector
One business sector that has not been impacted is construction.
Campbell River has one of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the province.
Three hundred rental units have been built to help address this problem. (More than 600 suites have been built across the city.)
“From a developing standpoint and tackling the housing shortage in Campbell River, especially the rental shortage, the business community and city of Campbell River really hasn’t skipped too much of a beat,” said Bowles.
“ … COVID – we probably stopped for a week to regroup in the development department, to figure out how we could do inspections and keep contractors safe and keep our employees safe … Same thing on the development side. How can we meet with developers when most of our relations are built face to face.”
“We have applications coming in and going out in a steady fashion. [We are] probably busier now than in past years.”
“We’ve had other implications, for example our recreation services. They were by and large shut down for a time. Then we had to regroup and go online and now we’re slowly starting to bring more and more programming online – but of course face to face now means six feet apart,” he said.
Financial Reporting Award
For the second year in a row, the city of Campbell River’s Annual Report just received a financial reporting award from the Government Finance Officers Association. This is the second year in a row they have achieved this, which shows that Campbell River is becoming a model for financial reporting.