Council considers recovery actions for business and residents

City COVID-19 Update, May 12 2020

I apologize for not posting Friday’s Facebook live address here. If you missed it and you want to catch up, you can view it here on the City’s Facebook page.

Today is International Nurses Day. More than ever, I know we are all so keenly aware of the amazing work that nurses do in our community. I hope at 7pm today – for those who are still out there cheering – we gave an extra loud shout out to the nurses in our community. To all of the nurses working hard out there, thank you, on behalf of myself and council, for all that you do.

News from the federal government

Today, the Prime Minister announced additional supports for seniors. Old Age Security recipients will receive a one-time payment of $300. Guaranteed Income Supplement recipients will receive a one-time payment of $200, and some people will get both payments.

There were also be $20 million in additional funding for the New Horizons for Seniors Program to support organizations that offer community-based projects that reduce isolation, improve the quality of life of seniors, and help them maintain a social support network. We hope that some of this funding flow to our amazing senior’s centres here in the City of Victoria who do such great work keeping seniors connected.

News from the City

Youth Poet Laureate

The City of Victoria’s Youth Poet Laureate, Neko Smart, is looking for artists to participate in a new workshop series called Youth Verses. Youth Verses is a series of FREE virtual workshops for youth aged 14 to 19 who identify as visual and performance artists to take part in conversations about harnessing creativity while navigating mental illness.

Facilitated by Neko, these workshops will take place in a collaborative and safe space, where teenagers will feel supported and inspired to create art without judgement. At the end of the series, participants will get the chance to publicly display the art they’ve created in a virtual showcase.

For more information and to apply, you can head here. Applications are due by Monday, May 25 at 4 p.m. If you have any questions, please email culture@victoria.ca.


Council

This Thursday at Committee of the Whole we’ll be discussing what COVID-19 recovery could look like in the City of Victoria. Council members have brought their ideas, along with staff reports on creative ways the City can look at doing things differently in our new normal. You can read all the reports here on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting.

Staff will be bringing us new options for holding public hearings and adapting the My Great Neighbourhood grants program – staff are proposing a new category for recovery and resilience. And staff will also be reporting back to council on what the City is already doing to support small business, arts and culture, and the visitor economy.

Myself and council are bringing forward proposals including a new economic action plan for the city, Victoria 3.0, support for allowing restaurants, cafes, and retailers to expand into public spaces, grants specific to the arts community and grants specific to COVID-19 recovery projects, and increasing physical distancing space for pedestrians in public spaces throughout the city.

They include extending parking fee reductions downtown through the summer and being more flexible with our commercial loading zones, expediting housing security actions in the City’s Housing Strategy, looking at food security options for renters, identifying priority capital projects so we are ready for federal and provincial stimulus funding, advocacy for increased sheltering options, supporting the travel and tourism industry,  and endorsement of a community recovery plan.

If you’re interested in watching Council’s debate You can tune in to our livestream at 9am on Thursday. I’m really excited to see some of these ideas come to life quickly to support residents and our small businesses during the recovery period.

News from the community

Exciting news today from The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria: The Art Gallery will re-open their doors to the public on May 19th. And, to offer the public an opportunity to spend time with  art and to celebrate the re-opening, the gallery will be offering free admission to all visitors until July 5, 2020. That’s amazing!

Visitors to the re-opened AGGV will now find the two largest galleries hung with works from their collection – one space focused on historical artworks, the other on contemporary. During their closure, the art gallery has offered a wide range of virtual programming to engage the public. Many of these virtual programs, including the nationwide on-line program FieldTrip.art will remain in place.

The gallery will be following policies and procedures for re-opening put into place by WorksafeBC, the Provincial Health Officer and the Province of British Columbia. Thanks to the Art Gallery for taking a lead in re-opening we know that our other arts and cultural institutions are also turning minds to this and will hopefully be open soon as some of these restrictions start to lift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Victorians for all the work you’ve done to flatten the curve and care for each other

For those who want to stay up to date with what’s happening in the City on COVID-19, please join me Mondays and Fridays on the City of Victoria’s Facebook page at 2:30pm. And please share this link and information with your friends and neighbours. This video is my address from Monday. 

For those who have been tuning in since I began live addresses five weeks ago, you’ll know that I’ve opened by thanking different departments in the City for the creative ways they’ve been carrying on with the business of the City in challenging times. We’ve now made it through every department of the City.

So today, I want to say thank you to you, all of our City of Victoria residents. Together we’ve flattened the curve and – according to all signals coming from the provincial government – will soon be able to live a bit more freely and easily, albeit with lots of measures in place to keep us safe. Thanks for physical distancing. For staying at home. For washing your hands! Thanks for supporting our local businesses whether by ordering takeout, buying gift cards at SupportLocalYYJ for shopping online as our local businesses work hard to digitize.

Thanks for helping your neighbours, running errands for those who need that, and for checking in on each other. Thanks for your generous donations to the Rapid Relief Fund and Boxes of Hope too. These are both making big differences in the lives of people who are struggling right now. A heartfelt thank you to all of you, for all that you have done, are doing, and will continue to do as we walk forward together on this unknown journey.

News from the Province

On Friday, the provincial government announced new guidance for cities to hold public hearings electronically. As you may know, local governments are required to hold public hearings for some housing and other building projects so that Council can hear from the public before making a decision.

Many rental and affordable rental buildings are ready – or close to ready for a public hearing – and we are excited to keep things moving. This new order enables local governments to use creative ways to allow people to participate without having to come to City Hall in person.  With a rental and affordable housing crisis still on our hands, housing projects are critically important. Building them also keeps people working, putting money in people’s pockets that they can spend to support our small business community. This is a major step forward in keeping our economy moving and looking to recovery.

News from the City

Traffic Changes

City staff are continuing to create physical distancing zones across the City. These zones target pinch-points in sidewalks and provide a safe space for people when they are out getting fresh air or when picking up important items. Starting this week in Hillside-Quadra, the City will be temporarily restricting on-street parking on Fifth Street, between Hillside and Kings next to the Quadra Village Shopping Centre to create more room for pedestrians. Next week, temporary measures will be installed around the Fairfield Shopping Plaza along St. Charles Street.

The two new zones will be defined with bollards, signs and paint markings to make them easy to locate. Staff are delivering letters to all residents and businesses along the affected areas to make them aware of the temporary measures and to thank them for their cooperation. The City is also working with the neighbourhood associations to help notify residents.

Reconciliation Dialogues

The fifth session of our Reconciliation Dialogues series was due to be held tonight. Needless to say, the event has been postponed. We hope we can bring the series back at some point. It’s been very well attended and the sessions we have held have engaged and educated all of us in important ways. The first four dialogues are online here and you can watch them if you missed them, or if you’d like to see them again.

Recovery and Reinvention

We need to find our way forward in a post-COVID world. To get the ball rolling, I’ve asked Council to submit reports for our May 14th Committee of the Whole meeting that propose ideas for recovery. We know the Province has been talking about easing restrictions. We also know that this time has been difficult for many, and we’ve all had to adapt. I’d like Council and staff to think about changes we’ve made and lessons learned from the pandemic and what we need to do going forward to continue high quality of life and well-being for our residents and to ensure that our businesses can re-open successfully.

News from the community

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. We know that at this time with so many people out of work and struggling financially, giving is really difficult. This call to action is coming from the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. He says any act of generosity counts. Financial donations, acts of kindness, volunteering, posting colourful art and chalk drawings around your neighbourhood. There is no wrong way to give.

So tomorrow, use #givingtuesdaynow and share your acts of generosity to inspire others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID Safe Pedestrian Crossings Implemented at 25 Victoria Intersections

 

On Friday the Province launched the portal for the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers. This is a one-time worker benefit that provides additional  support for those who aren’t working due to COVID-19. It’s a $1000 tax free benefit to those who are eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Visit here to find out if you’re eligible and to apply. What better day to launch this than on International Workers Day. A special thanks to all those who are working so hard right now, and especially to front line workers.

And on another note of Provincial news, we know that in this time of being at home more, there are people for whom home is difficult, and for some home is dangerous. This week, the province secured nearly 300 additional shelter spaces across British Columbia including some in Victoria for people leaving violent or unstable situations, with more spaces to come. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence or abuse, please contact VictimLinkBC at 1-800-563-0808 or by email at VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca. Services are available 24/7 in various languages.

Here in Victoria too, a reminder that the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC) continues operations. They’re there to help and respond through the Sexual Assault Response Team. VSAC provides non-judgmental support and options. They respect your confidentiality and choice at each step. They are also offering a series of fireside chat videos about their work and how they are addressing the challenges of COVID-19. Visit them here to learn more about their services and supports.

News from the City

Pedestrian crossings

In response to COVID-19, the City has now automated pedestrian movements at 25 intersections near high-activity areas like grocery stores, pharmacies and also on greenways connecting parks and recreation centres. This means that much like in the downtown core, people walking and rolling no longer need to push the pedestrian signal button at these intersections in order to get a walk signal when the traffic light changes.

Staff have installed signs these intersections to advise people that the walk signal will come on automatically. Not only does this change help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but is also a benefit for accessibility for those with mobility challenges.

Garden Waste Drop Off

It’s the second week since reopening garden waste drop off and we intend to keep the service operating on Saturdays going forward. You can expect longer than normal and slower moving lines as we add in additional steps for physical distancing for the you and for our staff. The garden waste drop-off is available to residents of Victoria from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Saturday.

City staff will be present at the garden waste drop-off to direct traffic, but residents will need to unload their own garden waste. We’re glad to be able to bring back this much loved and high-in-demand service and to do so in a way that keeps you and our staff safe.

Kathryn Calder Performs Live

The City of Victoria’s Artist in Residence, Kathryn Calder, performed her second live stream concert last night. Missed it? Not to worry, you can find it here. The 40-minute solo set on the piano included some of Kathryn’s favourite songs written by others, including Kate Bush, Queen and Joni Mitchell and more.

Kathryn is a Victoria-based musician, songwriter/ recording artist and recording studio owner who was selected as the City’s Artist in Residence last year. For the past 15 years, she has been recording and touring as a vocalist/ keyboardist with indie rock group The New Pornographers. She has also released three solo records, five albums with Immaculate Machine, and one album with her latest project, Frontperson.

The Artist in Residence program aims to ‘keep art in mind’, providing the opportunity for a professional artist to work collaboratively with City staff and the community to identify and develop creative artwork projects to enhance city projects and public space. We are really lucky to have Kathryn with the City, and sharing her talent with us at this time.

News from the community

I wanted to let you know about some supports in our community for new Canadians.  Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS), with the support of the Rapid Relief Fund, is offering an Emergency Food Delivery Program for Immigrants and Refugees. If you are a Refugee or Immigrant who is in need of this support – or know someone who is – please contact VIRCS by phone: (250)361-9433 or by email at info@vircs.bc.ca. Thank you to VIRCS for ensuring no one is left behind.

I also wanted to let you know about the Inter-Cultural Association’s (ICA) homework help service!  Youth and Family Services Team is supporting students in high school and college. If you’d like help, give the ICA your subject, and they will match you to a volunteer. Contact: Nabeela, nramji@icavictoria.org and she’ll get you connected.

And finally – its Neighbour Day in this of Victoria this weekend. Although we’re all doing our part and staying apart, this doesn’t mean we can’t do something for and with our neighbours. We’re hearing wonderful stories of neighbours chipping in and running errands for each other. Or having front yard happy hours over the fence. And we read in the Victoria News that on Chamberlain Street, they’re singing together!

A Victoria Foundation survey found that Victorians only knew four neighbours well enough to ask a favour of them. Mabne a simple act for Sunday’s Neighbour – if your street doesn’t have anything planned – is just to say a friendly hello and introduce yourself to your neighbours you don’t yet know if you see them out and about.

Email us mayor@victoria.ca and send photos or videos of what you get up to on Sunday and we’ll share them on the City’s Facebook page or the City’s neigbhourhoods page.

#NovaScotiaRemembers and We Remember With You

For those who want to stay 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. This video is my address from Friday. We’ll be back Monday at 2:30pm.

Tonight a virtual vigil took place in honour of the tragedy in Nova Scotia earlier this week. Put together by volunteers, the vigil featured community leaders, musicians, and others paying tribute to those who lost their lives and people in the whole province who are hurting so much right now.

The vigil, called Nova Scotia Remembers, was hosted through the Colchester Supporting our Communities Facebook group and was also broadcast widely on news networks. In case you missed it, you can catch it here.

One of the most moving moments of the vigil is when Nathalie MacMaster played a duet with a recorded performance by 17-year-old, Emily Tuck, who was one of the victims. You can watch that moving performance here.

News from the federal government

Today the Prime Minister announced that the federal government has reached an agreement in principle with all provinces and territories to implement the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. This program will lower rent by 75 per cent for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. This is a measure that myself and Council and many community and business leaders have been pushing for, and I know so many small business owners are relieved to see this development.

Eligible small business tenants are businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent and who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70 per cent drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues. This support will also be available to non-profit and charitable organizations. We’ve been in touch with the federal government today to get more details about how this will work. We will share more information here as we receive it.

We have so many much-loved local businesses here in Victoria. That’s why our Business Hub has remained active throughout this pandemic providing up to date resources for businesses on our Business Hub COVID page.

News from the City

The City of Victoria’s Poet Laureate, John Barton, has brought together local poets Terry Ann Carter, Christine Walde, and Derk Wynand for a virtual reading, called “The Worldliness of Poetry.” Originally planned as a reading to celebrate National Poetry Month at the Greater Victoria Public Library, The Worldliness of Poetry live in person was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until it is possible to reschedule, John invited the three readers to share their work virtually through poems connected to Germany, Portugal, France, and Japan in order to momentarily transcend social distancing and self-isolation.

You can read and listen to the poems right here.

News from the community

We have an update on Think Local First’s SupportLocalYYJ program, supported by VanCity. As a reminder, this program is a central place where you can buy gift certificates to local business for future use.

It is free for businesses to participate. 157 businesses are now taking part, and SupportLocalYYJ is heading to $16,000 in gift certificate purchases. This money is going right into the pockets of local business owners. These gift certificates are anywhere from $10 to $100 and it is amazing the number of businesses that are inspired to keep going when they see the moral and financial support from our community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government House Collaborates with City, Launches Victory Over COVID Gardens Project

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 Wednesday. We’ll be back Thursday at 2:30pm.

We have learned today that during the COVID-19 pandemic, four people living on Victoria’s streets and in parks have died of overdoses. It is tragic that two public health emergencies have converged and these lives have been tragically lost. We offer our deep condolences to the friends, family and communities of the four people who have died. And we mourn with you.

News from the federal government

Today the Federal government announced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, which will help students whose education and employment plans have been disrupted due to COVID. For those post secondary students who are eligible, there will be a $1250 monthly payment, available until the end of August, to make up for lost work. There will also be grants for students who will be spending the summer in volunteer roles.

Finally, the Prime Minister is allocating 76,000 additional summer jobs in essential services for students on top of Canada summer jobs program. This is really good news for all the students in our region who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

News from the City – Focusing on Earth Day

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and there’s a lot going on right now, even in the middle of this pandemic that residents can participate in that’s good for quality of life and well being, and good for the planet.

Get Growing Victoria!

Earlier this month, Council directed staff to use the existing municipal nursery and greenhouses in Beacon Hill Park to grow vegetable plant starts for distribution in the community. Since then, the City, in partnership with the Urban Food Table, has procured 100,000 local seeds from Southern Vancouver Island farms and through the BC Eco Seed Co-op.

The City is partnering with community organizations and non-profits to distribute the starts later this spring to those who need them most, and we’ll have more information up on our website soon about how that will work.

The program has garnered a lot of interest from right here in BC and across the country. One of the first people to reach out to us following our announcement was the Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin. Her Honour and her staff were keen to learn more about what we were up to as they, too, were looking at ways to put their large gardens and volunteer gardeners to work to help those in need.

This conversation has blossomed into a productive collaboration between the City and Government House. The Lieutenant-Governor is offering the resources of Government House to provide practical support to those in need through, what they are calling, the Victory Over COVID Gardens Project.

They will promote food security and engage students and local volunteers in growing fresh vegetables for distribution to food banks and non-profit organizations serving vulnerable populations in Victoria. This initiative builds on the long-standing history of community gardening at Government House and expands on the current vegetable garden that has been operational for more than a decade.

I look forward to our continued collaboration on this unique opportunity to support Victorians during these challenging times.

 Trees In Cities

It’s wonderful to see how so many people have been inspired to work outside and grow all sort of things during this pandemic. The United Nations Trees in Cities Challenge is another way to do that. Victoria has pledged to plant 5,000 trees on public and private property in 2020, and you can be part of this meaningful global effort by taking the pledge on our website, planting a tree sometime this year, and entering it into the tree tracker.

You can plant a tree now or later, but take the pledge today, on Earth Day! City staff have checked in with local garden centres and nurseries, and most have trees available. I encourage you to phone ahead to see what local suppliers can offer. As part of the Trees in Cities total, today and tomorrow Parks staff are planting 33 trees in Banfield Park in Vic West.

I encourage you to check out the online Tree Tracker map to see where trees have been planted so far. Together, city staff and residents have only planted 274 trees. We have a long way to go! Join us; you can get involved here.

Feedback on vulnerable populations

I want to also address some concerns we’ve been hearing from community about temporary outdoor sheltering for people without homes. First, I want to assure everyoe that myself and council hear and understand the concerns of people living around the areas where people are camping, and also the concerns of people who are living outside. No one benefits from the current situation of people living outside in a public health pandemic

That’s why, City staff and council have been working with our partners, tirelessly, to put in place ways that people can follow guidelines around social distancing and staying at home when they don’t have a home to go to. This problem got worse – early on in the pandemic, five weeks ago now – when some shelters closed, and others reduced their capacity to meet social distancing requirements.

This meant that there were people literally put out on the streets, with nowhere to go, joining those who were already there, as the shelters were already full. Early on, we engaged Dr. Stanwick, who is the Chief Medical Officer for Island Health. He was worried about the lack of social distancing on Pandora and the health concerns of those living outdoors.

That’s why we worked with BC Housing and the Coalition to End Homelessness to open Topaz park as a temporary sheltering area until indoor solutions can be procured by the Provincial government. It is an impossible situation for everyone involved. I completely understand the concerns of the community. This has been a difficult process and there are certainly challenges and no easy answers. These are unprecedented times, and we have all had to think differently and think and act quickly in the face of a public health emergency.

Thankfully, I know that BC Housing and partners are doing everything they can to secure more indoor options which will eliminate this temporary arrangement at Topaz. It’s really important to me that we all work together. There are no sides here, no us and them. We all want a healthy, safe community, for everyone.

 News from the community

We learned recently about and wanted to share a community initiative for seniors. It’s a website put together by seniors in Victoria called Well and Truly Grey. I have to share the website header here because I just love it!

Screenshot 2020-04-22 22.49.24

We know that a lot of seniors are feeling isolated. For these residents, Well and Truly Grey is a source for links to information about COVID-19 and government and community resources. The community members – all volunteers, all seniors – who created this website are aiming to provide free trusted information specifically designed for seniors in a kind of one stop shop.

There are also interactive bulletin boards to help people stay connected to one another. Do check it out and share it with seniors who you think might be interested and need the resource.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEA Hosts Global Storytelling Sessions Monday Evenings – All Welcome

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 Friday. We’ll be back Monday at 2:30pm. 

We learned yesterday that we have had one additional death due to COVID-19 in the Island Health region. On behalf of myself and Council, I want to offer our deepest condolences to the friends and family of this person.

News from the federal government

Today, the federal government announced more help for small and medium-sized businesses. The Government of Canada will provide $962 million to the Federal regional economic development agencies and to the Community Futures Network of Canada to provide help to small business that don’t qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) or the federal loan program.

The Government will also provide $270 million to Futurpreneur Canada and to the Industrial Research Assistance Program to support innovators who don’t qualify for these other funds. Both of these new programs are good news for Victoria businesses. We’ve heard from businesses that have fallen through the cracks. If you think your business might qualify for these new programs, please head to the City’s Business Hub website. It has has all the latest information on federal and provincial programs.

Today the federal government also announced funding for arts, culture and heritage.  The Government of Canada is providing $500 million to establish a new COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations to help address the complex financial needs of affected organizations within these sectors.

This fund is meant for organizations that can’t qualify for the existing Wage Subsidy because of the irregular nature of their revenues; it will also cover contract workers. The fund will also provide advances on future grants and contributions to help maintain liquidity as well as small subsidies to cover some fixed costs. We know that many people and organizations in Victoria will benefit from this. Minister Guillbeault’s office has already reached out to me to learn more about the need in Victoria.

As mayor I feel grateful that the federal government is working hard to ensure that the people and organizations that contribute to the cultural life of our city have some of their needs met and can stay afloat through this period and – with the support of the community – come back stronger than ever when this pandemic is behind us.

News from the provincial government

Yesterday I mentioned some great community resources for youth in our community. And yesterday the provincial government announced a new program to help post secondary students who are struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction or any other challenges at this difficult time.

Here2Talk is their new platform, available in English, Chinese and Punjabi. The platform offers free, confidential counselling for post secondary students by app, phone or online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with trained counsellors. There is a Here2Talk app you can download, or you can visit their website here.

News from the community

I want to mention just a few of the ways people are connecting in new and different ways online. We’ve heard that the Lindyhop dancers of Victoria are using Zoom to continue to meet and dance with each other!

We’ve also heard that VIDEA is doing a community storytelling hour every Monday night at 7pm, with the link posted on VIDEA’s Facebook page. People are connecting from all around the world to share stories in a celebration of global community. You can also just listen. What a beautiful idea.

We’re going into another weekend, and I want to encourage everyone to keep on doing what you’re doing – stay home, wash your hands, practice physical distancing. As we saw from Dr. Bonnie Henry’s updated modeling this morning, it’s working! But we must keep it up. Only if we keep it up will we see some restrictions lifted.

Council Provides COVID Relief to Residents and Businesses

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 Thursday. We’ll be back Tuesday at 2:30pm. 

News from the provincial government

Today the province announced an expansion of virtual mental health supports. Working with partners, this will include online counselling supports, including for youth and immigrant and refugee populations. There will be a lot of resources available, check them out on the province’s COVID 19 website. This is a really important resource. We know there are people who are struggling right now. Please reach out if you need help.

News from the City

Today, at our Council meeting we made amendments to the 2020 Budget to deliver a financial relief package to help those in the community who may be experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • There will be no property tax increase this year for residential or commercial ratepayers
  • The deadline to pay property taxes has been extended to August 4 and a reduced penalty has been put in place for late payment
  • The deadline for utility bill payments has been extended to 90 days

Council has shown leadership in making these important decisions. We’re making these significant changes, while continuing to provide the services our residents depend on and leaving a little bit more money in people’s pockets. We understand the challenges out there. These decisions will help in some small way to reduce the financial hardship many of our residents and businesses are currently experiencing due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Council will also advocate to the provincial government to reinstate the property tax deferment program and extend the program to commercial properties, as well as amend the homeowner grant program to increase amounts and create a new category of grant for those who have suffered financial hardship.

Most of the City’s capital projects will still go ahead as planned as they preserve existing infrastructure, are safety related or are already in progress. To take advantage of lower traffic levels, the City will accelerate some of its major capital projects slated for the downtown core.

While the City is reducing work in some areas, it has more than $80 million in capital projects moving forward supporting the local economy. The $21.8 million in capital project spending that Council has deferred as of today will serve as a stimulus during economic recovery.

To make it easier for those who need to come downtown and park, rates in City parkades will be reduced to a maximum of $5 per day and on-street parking rates will be $1 per hour with no time limits except for 30-minute zones. These rates will be in effect for as long as the provincial state of emergency is in place.

Starting tomorrow and for future weekends, Beacon Hill Park will be closed to public vehicle traffic. This will free up space so local residents can stay active while also maintaining safe physical distances. City staff will be out in parks to engage with residents about playground and recreation facility closures and remind park users about physical distancing.

In addition, parking along Dallas Road will be realigned from angle parking to parallel parking in order to maintain physical distances. Parking along Douglas Street and on Nursery Road will remain open with an increased number of accessible stalls.

Beacon Hill Park and Dallas Road are magnets for visitors from all over the region, however, it’s important right now that we stay close to our homes and not travel to parks outside our local neighbourhoods. The Provincial Health Officer has encouraged us all to stay home as much as possible, and when we do go out for exercise and fresh air, staying close to home is the best option.

News from the community

Today I gave a big shoutout to VIATEC. VIATEC is the umbrella body for the tech community in Victoria. It owns Fort Tectoria, which houses office space for local companies and an event and gathering space.

VIATEC let us know that they have waived rent for all Fort Tectoria tenants for April. They’ve also offered membership deferrals, provided their job board at no charge to ViaTec members, and donated $10,000 to the Victoria Rapid Relief Fund. Thank you VIATEC for being such an important part of our city, for supporting your tenants and for helping out the wider community at this challenging time.

I also want to let you know that the Dandelion Society is hiring Shelter Support Staff immediately to support people who are experiencing homelessness. A background in Social Work, Mental Heath, Custodial, Security or Customer Service desperately needed. Experience working with this population is an asset. This posting can be found on The Chamber of Commerce job board, and you can also e-mail expressions of interest to mforbesbc@gmail.com

Have a wonderful long weekend everyone. I’m going to try to take a bit of downtime and begin to reflect on what recovery looks like and how we’ll all need to pull together on the other side of this pandemic to ensure a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and low-carbon future.

Federal Government Funds 100 Per Cent of Wages for Canada Summer Jobs for Students

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 Wednesday. We’ll be back Thursday at 2:30pm

Update from the federal government

A reminder that if your birthday is in July, August, or September, today is your day to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The application process has been staggered to make it easier for people to apply. Earlier in the week I detailed who is eligible, but you can also learn more and apply here.

This morning the Prime Minister announced some good news for students and employers too – a boost to the Canada Summer Jobs program. This program funds student employment in the summer months. In response to COVID-19, the federal government will offer up to 100 per cent wage subsidy for employers, opening up the program to part time jobs, and will extend the end date for employment of February 28th, 2021.

We will await further details on this program expansion. If you are business planning to take advantage of the program, we’d love to hear from you. It’s so important that we share stories of how these additional funds and benefits are working in our community to give us all hope to get through this challenging time.

Update from the provincial government

All BC Parks are now closed until further notice, effective immediately. This temporary measure means public and vehicle access is prohibited. All trails, roads, day-use areas, beaches, lakes, boat launches, and backcountry areas are closed to the public. All camping is now banned until May 31st.

CRD and City parks are staying open at this time. As Dr. Bonnie Henry says, the risk of transmission outdoors is much less than the risk of transmission indoors. However, I urge you to follow all of the guidelines and orders currently in place to bend the curve.

If you are going for a walk in a park, don’t congregate. Don’t gather in groups. Keep your social distance and please be courteous of others. It’s going to be a beautiful holiday weekend and I understand the desire to get outdoors. We can get those walks in if we all do our part to look after each other and keep our physical distance.

For those around the region, please stay in your home municipalities this weekend. Leave Dallas Road and Beacon Hill Park for Victoria residents. Today at the CRD Board meeting, Chair Plant asked all residents to remain in their home municipalities and to use the parks and trail systems there.

BC Housing and Island Health update

In collaboration with the City of Victoria, BC Housing and Island Health will implement a model of temporary sheltering in Victoria and the CRD to meet the current COVID-19 health crisis. This model will prioritize temporary indoor sheltering across a variety of sites, consistent with the Province’s direction to provide safe spaces to self-isolate and enable physical distancing.

These sites will also provide services such as washrooms/hygiene, and social and health care supports as required, including harm reduction. With the focus on indoor spaces, Island Health has advised that Royal Athletic Park is no longer required as part of the coordinated action plan to support the vulnerable population in the CRD.

In partnership with BC Housing, the City of Victoria and Island Health, sites have been identified and will continue to be identified to support this population. We are doing everything in our power to try to prevent an outbreak in this community. That’s critically important not just for those who are living on the street, but for our entire community if we are going to flatten the curve and slow the pace of infection.

Health-specific messages from Island Health

The inside locations will support the Provincial Health Officer’s direction to better support social distancing and provide basic services such as food, washrooms/hygiene health and harm reduction for individuals experiencing homelessness. Island Health and BC Housing will work together to determine individuals’ needs and prioritize indoor shelter and housing accordingly.

Island Health will provide health care services and supports at these locations, including primary care, mental health and substance use and harm reduction programs. Island Health has identified sites where people experiencing homelessness who are COVID-19 positive will be able to self-isolate.

News from the City

flag at city hall heart

As promised, we raised the “we love front line workers Canadian flag” at City Hall this morning! They are available at the Victoria Flag Shop on Fort Street. Paul Servos the owner of the Flag Shop was inspired by the Victoria Rapid Relief Fund so they made a Canada Heart Flag and donated it to support the Fund and to thank essential workers.

The Flag Shop is now  making and selling the Canada Heart flags at lowest possible price so they can get wide distribution, and they are donating $5.00 to the local Victoria Rapid Relief Fund for every flag sold. By buying a flag you are also helping a small local business to stay afloat in these unusual times.

Many people have been asking  about parking. Last week Council asked staff to look at adjustments to parking fees due to COVID-19. Thursday, we will debate the options that staff have come up with. This is a balancing act – parking revenue makes a significant contribution to the City’s budget. And this revenue is down as people are working from home and not coming downtown.

However, we recognize that those working in essential services right now are still using parking and also facing additional pressures.  We’ll be considering daily and monthly parkade rates, on-street metered rates, parking lot rates, and enforcement of time-limited zones. To read the report and the staff recommendations, check out the agenda for tomorrow’s Committee of the Whole meeting at victoria.ca and tune into our live webcast at 9am tomorrow morning.

News from the community

Starfish Medical, based right here in Victoria, is helping to lead the production of made in Canada ventilators. Starfish is designing an open-source ventilator design for companies to produce, and will help connect manufacturers and suppliers to speed up production. The Times Colonist wrote a great story about this here.

And Camosun College – Camosun’s Innovation Centre will be manufacturing 9,000 face shields for frontline health care workers with Island Health in the coming weeks. This will fill an urgent need.

I’m so proud of the creativity and innovation that happens here in Victoria – we are helping each other and helping the national effort at the same time.

 

Dr. Henry Says Act as if COVID-19 is in Every Community in B.C.

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 Tuesday. We’ll be back Wednesday at 3:30pm. Note the new time for Wednesday.

News from the federal government

A reminder that if you need to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and your birthday is in April, May, or June, today is your day to apply. The application days have been staggered to make it easier for people to apply. Yesterday we detailed who is eligible, but you can also learn more and apply here.

News from the provincial government

Today Dr, Bonnie Henry wrote an op-ed which I encourage you all to check out, called, “No Boundaries with COVID-19″.  In it, she addresses how much information she discloses about the location of confirmed cases and why specific locations – neighbourhoods or cities – aren’t disclosed.

I want to share this important point from her article with you: “While I understand the desire to know and understand what the COVID-19 situation is in your community, I need to emphasize that knowing where the positive cases are does not protect you, your family or your community. The actions you take will do that. No one is immune from this disease, but everyone can make a difference. Every British Columbian has a part to play to flatten the curve.”

It is a good reminder for all of us who have not had the virus that we are not immune. We ALL need to commit and re-commit to the measures that will keep our community safe and healthy.

 News from the City

This Thursday at Council we’ll be re-opening the City’s budget in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Just like many businesses and households that have less revenue than usual and less cash on hand, the City’s revenue is also down, which means we have difficult decisions to make.

What some people might not know is that legally, municipalities have to balance our budgets. We can’t spend more in a year than we bring in. We are not permitted to run a deficit. This makes our work even more difficult.

But, we do have some ways we can help residents and businesses financially through the City’s 2020 budget. We are looking at potentially delaying significant capital projects and other new city initiatives in order to reduce the city’s 2020 budget.

If we reallocate over $11 million from those projects, as staff are recommending, then we can extend utility bill due dates by 90 days, and extend the property tax deadline to August 1st. Additionally, staff are recommending we create a larger operating contingency budget by deferring city projects and initiatives because we don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last. This will put us in better shape to provide stability for city services that we all depend on – like garbage collection and clean water – even if the crisis continues for some time.

We will also need to have a difficult conversation about the property tax increase. As of now, 2020 taxes are proposed to go up by 3.35% We could put less money in our reserves this year and lower the property tax rate. This will be another difficult conversation that Council has on Thursday.

In short – I hope we can make the most of our resources to help residents and business owners in this time, without reducing the services you all depend on. These will be extremely tough decisions, and we will be making these decisions publicly in our Committee of the Whole and Council meetings Thursday.

As I said yesterday, we don’t have the same tools as the province and the federal government to be able to provide big financial relief packages. That’s why staff are recommending that we ask the Province to:

    • Increase amounts for Homeowner Grants, and create a new category of grant applicable to people who have lost income due to the pandemic
    • Reinstate the financial hardship Deferment Program and extend the program to commercial properties
    • Change the date that we have to pay taxes to other agencies

You can read the full staff report here, which includes the lists of projects we are considering deferring. And you can, as always, watch our webcast as we hold our budget debate.

News from the community

The Rapid Relief Fund, started by the Times Colonist, the Victoria Foundation, and the Jawl Family Foundation have now set a target of $4 million in donations, and Victoria is really coming through. They are almost there! So many people have been helped already through this fund – every dollar raised goes to COVID relief in Greater Victoria. If you’re in a position to help them get to $4 million, you can do so here.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit – Applications Now Open

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.