How do we build the city we all want?

Home Together_Sacks

NB If you want to skip the theory and go right to the call to action, join us Saturday January 19th to ‘Give a Day to Your City!’ and help shape the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

In the past few years, there’s been a growing body of literature published that outlines the degraded state of civil society and what we can do about it. I’m reading as many of these books and articles as I can in order to understand my role as mayor and the role of local government in addressing some of the problems facing us today. I’m also reading them because it’s a pleasure and an inspiring journey!

In a magnificently argued book, The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society, drawing on a political reading of the Hebrew bible, British Rabbi Jonathan Sacks makes a strong case for the reinvigoration of civil society. He talks about the need for a “covenant” among people with different religions, ethnicities, sexualities, points of view, etc. This will allow us to create a shared understanding and work across difference recognizing each difference as a gift that can be contributed to the common good.

“Liberal democracy,” he writes, “has tended to concentrate on the individual and one particular power, the power to choose. Courtesy of the market, I can choose what to buy. Thanks to the liberal state, I can choose how to live. Surely everyone gains in such a situation. True, but only up to a point. We gain as individuals; we lose as a society. There are, we feel, things so important to human dignity that they should be available to all, not just those with wealth or power. That is when the concept of covenant comes into play: the idea that all of us must come together to ensure the dignity of each of us. Covenant is the politics of the common good.” 1

The main argument of the book is that the common good can best be stewarded through civil society. In other words, we have a profound responsibility as human beings to take care of each other and not only to rely on the government and the market to do so.

Since last January in my 2018 New Year’s blog post, and throughout the year, I’ve been talking about, calling for, and striving to demonstrate with my own actions the importance of a more civil public dialogue. Sacks suggests that it’s more complex than this; listening deeply even when we disagree is important, but just talking and listening is not enough for us to rebuild society together.

Citing research from 1954, in a strong and moving revelation, he asserts that the key to remaking civil society and a strong social fabric is not dialogue; it is doing or building things together. It “is a paradigm-shifting insight,” he says. “Side by side works better than face to face.” 2

This is key wisdom for all of us involved and invested in building cities, neighbourhoods and public spaces together. While not abandoning a more civil way of speaking with each other, and working through issues – particularly as different perspectives and strong differences of opinion arise – we need to do much more. As individuals and as a community we must make a renewed commitment to the common good and work – side by side – to build it.

And we can start right now with the next four years. On Saturday January 19th we’re asking people to give a day to their city and to work, side by side, with fellow Victorians, Council and staff on the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan. From 10:00am – 3:30pm at the Victoria Conference Centre we’re hosting an interactive workshop on the draft strategic plan. You can roll up your sleeves and dive deeply into the proposed objectives and actions. Our plan is ambitious and far-reaching. It takes seriously the multiple issues facing Victoria and many other cities across the globe: climate change, affordability, economic prosperity and inclusion, and reconciliation. You can sign up here.

Beyond creating a strategic plan together, there’s wisdom in Sack’s approach more generally. As mayor I’ll be looking for opportunities over the next four years, as we bring the strategic plan to life, to build the city together whether it’s neighbourhood plans, improving a public space, or developing housing policy. We have a huge opportunity to address the significant challenges ahead by working together in this new way.

300 New Affordable Childcare Spaces Coming to Victoria

Today, the Helps Campaign is announcing the creation of at least 300 new affordable childcare spaces in neighbourhoods across Victoria. Working with non-profit childcare providers, School District 61, and Island Health, a funding application has been submitted to the Province to fund the creation of new childcare spaces in Victoria starting in 2019.

This announcement comes after 18 months of work with an informal Childcare Solutions Working Group, led by Mayor Helps. In mid-2017, non-profit childcare providers working out of city-owned facilities came to the Mayor asking for help to create more childcare spaces. In response, Mayor Helps gathered Island Health, the provincial government, School District 61, the Chamber of Commerce and the childcare providers around one table.

Together, they developed a plan to be ready for the anticipated announcement of childcare funding in the 2018 Provincial budget.  

“We’ve worked hard together to put an initial plan to address the concern we’ve heard over and over from both parents and employers that access to affordable, high-quality childcare is a key priority for keeping life liveable in Victoria,” said Mayor Helps. “This application to the Province for 300 new spaces is a good start. We also need to develop a Childcare Solutions Action Plan so we can anticipate future demand and develop a plan to meet it.”

Last year, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce raised childcare as a key issue for its members. In Business Matters magazine, CEO Catherine Holt wrote, “The lack of affordable, government-regulated childcare spaces is having a direct impact on workers, families and our economy […] Childcare is a fundamental workforce requirement. But right now there is inadequate space and staff and it is too expensive for a working family.”

The plan for the 300 spaces is to work with School District 61 to provide modular learning units on school properties throughout the city. This will create ease for parents with a child in daycare and a child in school by creating one drop-off spot rather than two. It will also make an easier transition for young children from daycare to school.

Subject to Provincial funding, the plan is as follows:

  • Vic West Elementary School –  2019, Two units plus the gym divider (32 + 25 = 57). It could hold up to 75 new spaces depending on programming.
  • Fairfield Sir James Douglas – 2019/2020, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • Fernwood – George Jay – 2020, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • Oaklands – 2020, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • South Park – 2021, One unit (16 – 20  young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • James Bay – 2021, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.

Triathlon Canada Opens New National Performance Centre in Victoria

 

June 21 2017 – For Immediate Release

The City of Victoria and 94 Forward delivered the ultimate house warming gift to Triathlon Canada in the form of a new National Performance Centre, along with a major financial injection into the national body’s high-performance program. The announcements come as Triathlon Canada begins a new era by officially taking up residence at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.Mayor Lisa Helps and the City of Victoria are providing stability to Triathlon Canada with a long-term lease for office and training space at the arena, while 94 Forward has committed to providing a major boost in its base funding over the next two years – a necessary requirement for rebuilding the high-performance triathlon program in Canada.

“I’m pleased to be able to welcome Triathlon Canada’s high-performance athletes and support staff to Victoria,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “Victoria is synonymous with triathlon, and has been since the sport’s inception. With an ideal natural environment, and a new Crystal Pool training facility on the horizon, it is only fitting to have the national federation make Victoria its home base in Canada.”

Mayor Helps’ efforts were applauded by Canada’s National Team and National Development Team triathletes – many who have relocated to Victoria to take advantage of Triathlon Canada’s newly created National Performance Centre.

Led by Olympic pathway coach, Jono Hall, and Paralympic pathway coach, Carolyn Murray, the National Performance Centre in Victoria gives athletes access to the facilities and sport science staff at Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, while training alongside the nation’s best swimmers, rowers, cyclists and track and field athletes at Saanich Commonwealth Place and Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence (PISE).

“Our high-performance program is at the heart of the Triathlon Canada Nation. Developing a competitive culture of excellence where athletes can take advantage of world-class training facilities and resources is core to building a successful daily training environment that will foster podium results for this group of dedicated individuals who share a passion to swim, bike and run,” said Kim Van Bruggen, Chief Executive Officer, Triathlon Canada.

Thanks to the City of Victoria, Triathlon Canada also opened the doors on Wednesday to a 1,000-sqaure-foot training space on the main floor of their new office headquarters that will be used as a strength and conditioning gym for all of Canada’s high-performance triathletes and coaches.

94 Forward, the legacy organization from Victoria’s Commonwealth Games, will provide the financial backing in each of the next two years to aid in the implementation of a high-performance program for Canada’s development-level athletes who are accepted into the National Performance Centre. 94 Forward has also implemented a matching program to further support Triathlon Canada’s fundraising efforts over the term of the agreement.

“We understand the financial support young Canadian triathletes need, and deserve, to access the tools required to support their drive to compete with the world’s best,” said John MacMillan, President, 94 Forward. “We believe investing in the development of Triathlon Canada’s National Performance Centre athletes will have a long-lasting impact that dives deep into the Victoria region. As we have witnessed with the sport of triathlon in Canada, medal-winning athletes spark participation, which ultimately leads to a deeper athlete pool and event hosting opportunities, which presents tremendous benefits for a community.”

“The support and leadership demonstrated by the City of Victoria and 94 Forward ensures the road to the Olympic and Paralympic Games for Canada’s triathletes will continue to go through Victoria well into the future,” added Van Bruggen, who also rolled out a new brand that will guide Triathlon Canada into the future.

Victoria’s Matt Sharpe celebrated the news with his Canadian triathlon comrades by challenging guests in attendance at Wednesday’s event to a mini-triathlon relay race.

“Having access to cost-effective, elite-level training facilities at home is what Canadian triathletes must have if we truly want to re-establish ourselves as world-leaders in the sport and bring home more Olympic and Paralympic medals,” said Sharpe. “The National Performance Centre model provides Canada’s triathletes with the advanced resources we require – not to mention surrounds us with elite athletes from other sports. I know athletes for generations to come will thank both the City of Victoria for helping establish this much-needed training environment, and 94 Forward for financially backing our mission for medals. Canada’s triathletes are truly grateful for their support.”

Triathlon Canada is the governing body of the sport in the country. Triathlon Canada’s more than 22,000 members include athletes, coaches and officials from the grassroots to elite levels. With the support of its valued corporate partners –Project, Training Peaks, Zizu Optics, and Polar – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, and Own the Podium, Triathlon Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world Champions in all race disciplines. For more information on Triathlon Canada, please visit us at www.triathloncanada.com.

Megaphone – Change that works, one newspaper at a time

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Last week I had the pleasure of standing with Megaphone vendors during their annual “Big Sell” event in downtown Victoria. I joined the vendors on Douglas Street and saw first hand how hard they work and how vulnerable you have to make yourself in a business like street vending.

“Can we interest you in a Megaphone by donation?” I’d call out. Most people would just simply keep walking, sometimes without even acknowledging that we’d addressed them.  I wonder how it feels to experience this day in day out?  It felt so good when someone would stop and buy a paper and offer a kind word and a smile. Participating in the Big Sell event gave me a deep appreciation of the courage and tenacity of Megaphone vendors.

Megaphone is a magazine sold on the streets of Vancouver and Victoria by homeless and low-income people. Vendors buy the magazine for 75 cents and sell it for $2, keeping the profit and earning a sense of pride and dignity.  To start a business as a Megaphone vendor, low-income and homeless individuals need to complete a sales training session and are then provided with 10 complimentary magazines and the necessary gear to get started. Megaphone staff provide any necessary support to ensure vendors run a successful business.

Vendor Week

The Big Sell event was part of the International Network of Street Papers Vendor Week celebration. It’s an is an annual celebration of the 10,000 street paper vendors around the world. Each one of these men and women – in 35 countries – is using their local street paper as a way to work themselves out of poverty.

During the first week in February, the international program of events, activities and social media action pays tribute to their hard work, as well as challenging perceptions of poverty and homelessness.

You can find out where Megaphone vendors sell in Victoria by using the mobile vendor finder app Please support them!