For those who want to stay right up to date with what’s happening in the City on COVID-19, please join me daily on the City of Victoria’s Facebook page at 2:30pm. And please share this link and information with your friends and neighbours. We’re getting lots of emails with lots of questions and we’ll do our best to answer them and keep you and the media up to date with these live daily updates. I’ll also post the videos here from now on. This video is my address from Monday We’ll be back Tuesday at 2:30pm.

Federal government updates

The application process for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is now open. In order to manage the volume of applications through the week, the system is open today only to those born in January, February, or March.

A reminder about eligibility: If you have already applied for EI, you do not need to additionally apply for the Emergency Response Benefit.

The CERB will support Canadians who have stopped working because of COVID-19 by providing $500 a week for up to 16 weeks. Some examples of support to workers provided by the CERB include:

  • Workers, including those who are self-employed, who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
  • Workers who have lost their employment, as well as workers who are sick, quarantined or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures; and
  • Workers who are still employed, but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.

Head here to apply.

Today Marc Garneau the Federal Transporation minister, announced new measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on commercial passenger vessels and ferries.

As of today some of the mandatory requirements include implementing alternative practices to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among passengers on board their vessels, such as keeping people in their vehicles, when feasible or enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures.

In addition to these measures, Transport Canada is issuing guidelines to ferry operators respecting health screening for all passengers before boarding to better protect their employees and passengers. These guidelines are based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The reminder for all of us is to keep traveling on ferries only when it’s essential.

BC Transit

I also want to bring you an update from BC Transit. BC Transit will be extending rear door boarding until at least April 30th . This will enhance physical distancing measures and safeguards transit drivers. This also means that fares will not be collected at this time. For passengers with accessibility needs, the front door and ramp are still available.

News from the City

Today we have nothing new to announce today but I want to clarify some of the measures we announced last week and tell you more about what’s coming this week.

Last week council announce an expanded Growing in the City program. There have been some questions about this program. I’d like to share some facts that help put it into context.

Our Parks staff will be growing vegetable plant starts and distributing them through the Urban Food Table and the community centre network to get them into the hands of people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford vegetable starts this year.

During the Depression and World War Two, Victoria City Council took similar actions. In the Depression, Parks workers grew thousands of pounds of potatoes in Beacon Hill Park and donated them to the Old Men’s and Old Women’s homes. In World War Two parks workers were involved in the Victory Garden movement.

Additionally, while the Provincial government is doing a good job with respect to the supply chain and grocery store shelves are relatively well stocked,  we don’t know how long this will go on so it’s important to be prepared. The expanded Growing in the City initiative is the City doing its small part.

There have also questions about why we did this before bigger measures or measures to support small business.

It’s easy to give staff direction to plant vegetables. It’s more difficult to cut millions of dollars from the City’s budget to grapple with falling revenues, trying to keep the tax increase as low as possible, preferably at zero, and looking at all measures to support both residential and commercial property taxpayers. This is the difficult work we’ve been doing over the past few weeks, there will be a comprehensive report for Council’s consideration on Thursday.

We know many people are really worried about their financial security. We hear you. That’s why we’re working as hard as we can to bring in measures to provide relief, even though we don’t have as many fiscal tools or powers as the Provincial and federal governments. We’re going to do the very best for you with the powers we have.

We’ve also had questions about how we are going to maintain transparency even while we meet less in person and more on the phone. Transparency is a key element of local government. The City of Victoria was one of first to go to webcasting years ago now. All our meetings are continuing to be web cast and include the public.

We have also created a mechanism for people to make presentations to Council via Youtube or in writing. Last week Council gave staff direction to look at ways to increase electronic participation of residents and committee members in land use decisions. Staff will be reporting back soon.

It’s important to me that we keep land use proposals moving forward – especially for rental housing, affordable housing, and commercial ventures. These will all be critically important to Victoria’s economic recovery. So we’re balancing public participation – including creative ways for people to participate online – with keeping the business of the city moving.

We’ll have more information on all of this soon and I’ll be happy to share it with you all.

News from the community

I heard over the weekend that Current Taxi – Victoria’s first fully electric taxi company – is offering free transportation to work for Island Health hospital employees in appreciation of those working to keep our community safe. Current Taxi is following strict disinfecting and social distancing protocols, and uses app based payment, so no cards or cash is exchanged. For all of the details, download the Current Taxi app. Thanks for doing this for our front line workers, Current Taxi.

And thanks to all of you who are helping out, in big ways, in small ways. I’d love to highlight what you’re doing to help out, or something creative your business is doing, so don’t forget to comment in the feed or drop me an e-mail at mayor@victoria.ca.

As we go into another week, I want to encourage you, as Dr Bonnie Henry says, to stay the course. We are in the thick of this, and if we keep doing what we’re doing, we WILL flatten that curve.

 

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