Province Secures Safe Shelter, Supports for People Living in Topaz and Pandora Encampments

Press availability, media Q and A. Saturday April 25th.

I’d like to thank the Province for their announcement today and for working in partnership with the City to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in our communities. In particular, it was was terrific to hear the approach taken by Ministers Farnworth, Simpson and Darcy this morning.

Minster Farnworth said, “We cannot leave our most vulnerable behind.” Minister Simpson said directly to the people living in the encampments, “We will do this with care and compassion, you will not be abandoned.” And Minister Darcy talked about the stigma associated with addiction and emphasized that the government is taking this action to keep people safe with the two public health emergencies that currently exist.

To these ministers, to the entire cabinet committee and to the Premier who brought them together, on behalf of myself and Council and all the residents of Victoria – housed and unhoused – I want to say thank you for using your powers under the Emergency Program Act and your resources to address this critical situation. I also want to say thank you to all of the City of Victoria staff who have been working hard with this Province this past week and who will continue their work in the weeks to come.

Between Topaz Park and Pandora Ave there are 360 people living outside. Today the Province committed to ensuring that each of these people are housed indoors. Minister Simpson also said, “We have no intention of putting these people back on the street when this pandemic is over.” I am grateful to the Province for their commitment to providing long-term housing.

We know there is still more work to do, there are more people who will need housing and supports in the weeks and months to come, and we will continue to work with the Province to help ensure that everyone’s needs can be met. The reason the Province is starting with Topaz Park and Pandora Ave is because – as we are all aware – there have been significant challenges to mitigating the health risks in these dense encampments.

In response to today’s order from Minister Farnworth that these sites be evacuated by May 9th, BC Housing is leading a plan to coordinate a move for those living on Pandora Avenue and in Topaz Park into more secure temporary housing, primarily in motel rooms. This fits with what Council has asked the Province to do and what is recommended by Island Health.

This important action will provide secure housing, enable appropriate physical distancing measures and improve access to hygiene facilities, healthcare and social supports. BC Housing is building on the work that has already begun. They are now rapidly deploying outreach workers, and frontline staff to work with the people living at the camps and as well as with onsite social service providers to implement a plan for both of these sites.

I want thank all the frontline workers who are working at these temporary sites while we’ve been waiting for sheltering indoor options and who will continue to work hard as people move indoors. It will take weeks to move everyone off of Pandora Avenue and out of Topaz Park, but the work is already underway. It’s going to take everyone working together to get our most vulnerable residents into indoor living situations with the help and support they need.

BC Housing has successfully moved people and closed encampments many times over in recent years and they will be applying that experience to ensure that the decampment of these two locations is done in a way that meets the needs of residents currently living there.

Working together with the Province we can create a community where everyone feels safe, where everyone’s needs are met, and where everybody can live well and can live well together.

 

#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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Convert Your Oil Heating to Heat Pump – Big Subsidy Now Available

Daily address Thursday April 23rd. We’ll be back Friday at 2:30pm.

It’s been another long day and it’s too late to still be working. Instead of transcribing my speaking notes here as I’ve been doing each evening, I’m taking an easier path and sharing the text of the City’s daily media release. Apologies to those who like the regular format! There are some great links at the end of the video in the News from the Community section. Please skip ahead in the video if you’re interested.

For those of the Muslim faith, Ramadan will look different this year due to the pandemic. I know I will very much miss the annual Ramadan iftar, fast-breaking dinner we host here at City Hall with the Muslim community. To all those celebrating, Ramadan Mubarak!

Today the Prime Minister announced a $1.1 billion medical research strategy to fight COVID-19. It will include money for vaccine and treatment research, clinical trials and an expansion of national testing and modelling.

The provincial government announced today its Emergency Benefit for Workers (BCEBW), a one-time, tax-free $1,000 payment to help British Columbians whose ability to work has been affected by COVID-19. Starting May 1, those eligible to receive the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit can apply for the BCEBW. For more information, visit gov.bc.ca/workerbenefit.

On behalf of City Council, I want to thank the federal government for this significant investment in the health of all Canadians. Also, it’s so good to see the collaboration between the Province and the federal government in providing the new Emergency Benefit for Workers as a means to top up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Today, Council allocated up to $52,500 to the Victoria Police to increase public safety in the area around Topaz Park, and up to $100,000 for City staff to continue to support vulnerable populations.

Since declaring a climate emergency in March 2019, the City has made progress in its work to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Victoria. The new Oil to Heat Pump Rebate that is part of the Climate Friendly Homes Program, became available as of April 1. Homeowners can receive up to $6,850 in rebates to switch from fossil fuel heating (oil and natural gas) to an air-source heat pump. This financial incentive is a combination of rebates offered by the City of Victoria, the Capital Regional District and the provincial CleanBC Better Homes program. For more information, visit: betterhomesbc.ca.

Now is as good a time as any to tackle climate change. The new Oil to Heat Pump Rebate is a significant investment that benefits homeowners, is good for the environment, and will provide an energy-efficient heating and cooling system for your home year-round.

To meet its climate targets, the City is also expanding the placement of electric vehicle chargers in Victoria and introducing charging fees and requirements for EV-readiness in all new residential and commercial buildings. A comprehensive EV Infrastructure Strategy will be developed later this year to guide the City’s investment in public and private EV charging stations.

For information on the City’s response to COVID-19 visit victoria.ca/covid19response.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Government Provides Further Funding to Charitable Sector, Clarifies Wage Subsidy

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 later time than usual.

News from the federal government

Today there were two more important announcements from the federal government. This morning the Prime Minister announced the Emergency Community Support Fund. $350 million will be allocated to community non-profits working with vulnerable populations, to be disbursed through large organizations like the United Way, Community Foundations of Canada and the Red Cross. These organizations fund established programs in communities across the country, including in Victoria, and can get money quickly into the hands of those who need it.

Today the Prime Minister and Minster Duclos shared more details on the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy. Businesses will be able to apply next Monday, April 27th. In the meantime, business owners can open a business profile on the CRA website so they’ll be ready to go when the application opens. There is also a calculator to help employers determine if they are eligible for the CEWS, who their eligible employees are, and what their overall payroll subsidy will be. This will help businesses plan for the coming weeks and months until the federal payroll subsidy arrives in bank accounts.

News from the City

On Saturday Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that there would be no large gatherings this summer. This means that the City’s usual Canada Day celebrations will not be held. Yet we know that this year is an important year for all Canadians as we struggle through these challenging times together. It’s more important now than ever to come together in new and creative ways.

We’re looking at what we might be able to do in Victoria. The federal government said that they are going to hold national virtual Canada Day celebrations. We partnered with the federal government and the Minister of Canadian Heritage in a national celebration called First Night when Canada turned 150. I’ve written to Minister Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage to see what Ottawa might be planing and how Victoria as a capital city can participate and support this effort.

News from the community

We know that our businesses are facing so many challenges right now due to the impacts of COVID-19. There is also a lot of information out there on programs and benefits from the federal and provincial governments.  There is a lot to navigate, and tough decisions to make.

That’s why next week, Community Micro Lending, with the support of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, is holding two free online COVID-19 “Ask an Expert Sessions” with lawyers, accountants, and human resource professionals. The sessions will be held on Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon of next week. All the information, times, dates and an invite is here. Please share widely with all small business owners you know who might benefit from this great, free service.

I also want to share another exciting and creative way that community members are coming together to mark important events. Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Earth Day. Creatively United for the Planet has organized a free online community webinar series EarthFest – Creative Solutions for a New World, from 11am to 12:30 pm daily, all week. Visit Creatively United for the Planet for a full lineup of amazing speakers. Check it out and you can also access any past webinars you may have missed.

City Makes More Room for Pedestrians on Neighbourhood Streets

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. 

There was no update from the Federal government today in light of the horrific tragedy in Nova Scotia. It’s hard to fathom that our current crisis could still come with additional challenges let alone one as monstrous as this. From our coast to theirs, and on behalf of all Victorians, I send me deepest condolences to everyone impacted by the mass shooting over the weekend. We have the Canadian flag at City Hall at half mast to mark this tragedy and the lives lost.

I also want to acknowledge  that today is Yom Ha’Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Today we remember the six million Jewish lives lost – along with millions of others targeted by the Nazis because of their ethnicity, sexual identity or disability – during the Holocaust. This is a solemn reminder of the horrors that can occur when we focus on what divides us, instead of what unites us as a human family.

News from the provincial government

Yesterday the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General has given police and other enforcement officers the ability to issue $2,000 violation tickets for price gouging and the reselling of medical supplies and other essential goods during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Province enacted these new measures under the provincial state of emergency, using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act. The Minister reminded all of us that, “these orders are not suggestions, they are the law.”

In other news from the Province today, they’ve developed a new collaborative framework will help ensure people living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities in B.C. have access to critical health care they can count on to meet their unique needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The framework was developed through a partnership between the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health and Provincial Health Services Authority.

It provides flexibility so local leaders in rural, remote and Indigenous communities can adapt it to meet their unique needs. This is important in an era of reconciliation and to the Indigenous communities here on southern Vancouver island.

News from the City

The City is creating more usable space for pedestrians along local streets to ensure people can practice physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting this Thursday in James Bay, we’ll will be temporarily restricting on-street parking on Simcoe Street, between Government and Oswego, and for half a block of Menzies Street approaching the Five Corners retail complex. We’re not closing streets in James Bay, we’re just making more room for pedestrians.

This will give people more space to practice physical distancing when out walking and shopping. Following the first location this week in James Bay, more space for pedestrians will be introduced in Quadra Village, Cook Street Village, Fairfield and Vic West in the coming weeks. Like everyone, this is a new experience for us. Our transportation staff who are  implementing these changes are learning as they go and will adjust accordingly

News from the community

This week is Volunteer Week. I can’t think of a time when volunteers have been more important. To those delivering meals to elderly and frontline worker, to those providing services to our most vulnerable populations, we are tremendously grateful to everhone who is giving of their free time to help others. If you want to volunteer, or need volunteers, you can head to Volunteer Victoria.

Every day during my Facebook live update, we ask people to send in their thoughts and ideas. Today, I want to thank the numerous people that have sent in their concerns and ideas for people in Victoria who are experiencing homelessness during this public health crisis. It’s a very complex situation that deserves the utmost thought and care. We’ve shared all the helpful comments with the Province to consider and we look forward to those ideas turning into innovative action to help the most vulnerable among us.

As I’ve said before, if the virus spreads among this population, they will end up using the very same health services we all depend on. It’s vital we do whatever we can to protect everyone. We’re in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

City Gives Downtown Victoria Business Association A Boost in Pandemic

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. 

News from the federal government

This morning the Prime Minister announced that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will become available to Canadians who have exhausted their Employment Insurance (EI) benefits since January 1st, seasonal workers who can’t find work because of COVID-19 and those who earn up to $1,000 a month.

With these changes, Canadians will now be allowed to collect the CERB even if they still have some earnings, as long as their monthly income does not surpass $1,000. The new rules will likely extend CERB eligibility to an estimated 1.1 million Canadians who are still working but saw their hours drastically reduced amid COVID-19.

News from the City

As I shared last week, we’ve deferred property taxes by a month as part of Council’s suite of relief measures. That would have left the Downtown Victoria Business Association without their annual funding which usually comes in July. So Council has decided this year to help the DVBA out by paying them their levy in July anyway. This is so the organization can continue its important work in supporting local businesses through the pandemic.

The DVBA is supporting their 1,500 business members to ensure they have all the information they may need on emerging programs and resources that can support them in the near term. They are also promoting ways the public can support local businesses by way of online orders, and take-out and delivery options for restaurants.

Currently, the DVBA is partnering with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness to help coordinate volunteers to distribute food at the temporary shelter at Topaz Park to help protect vulnerable populations

The DVBA Clean Team has also stepped up its efforts in helping keep downtown clean, sanitizing and cleaning all transit stops downtown, staying on top of graffiti, and being extra eyes on the street and looking out for downtown businesses now that there are currently few people downtown.

Today during my daily address, Jeff Bray the Executive Director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association joined me. This is some of what he said and the information he shared:

“Today is National Takeout Day. Check out your local restaurant online and order an extra take-out or delivery meal. You can also support local retailers by purchasing online gift cards now, putting much needed revenue into the pockets of businesses to help keep them going.

“You may even want to consider sending an email to your favourite retailer, to let them know you’ll be there for them. This will greatly help with the morale of downtown businesses that have had to let their staff go due to the pandemic.”

He also shared a range of online resources the community can access to support local businesses:

  • Gift cards for local businesses can be purchased online at Support Local Greater Victoria.
  • YYJLocalsForLocalsis a group of community-minded tech and marketing professionals offering pro-bono assistance to local small businesses, restaurants, and bars. Learn more at com.
  • Donate to Boxes of Hope. Every $10 donated provides a warm, healthy meal to someone in need and supports the local restaurant community by keeping staff employed.

The City’s Business Hub staff have compiled a comprehensive list of resources for businesses at victoria.ca/bizresources.

 

Arts, Culture and Events (of sorts) Help Victorians Get Through COVID-19

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 2:30pm. 

News from the federal government

Today, new federal regulations came into force that allow law enforcement agencies to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with orders under the Federal Quarantine Act. The Quarantine Act covers people arriving in or departing from Canada, providing measures for screening, health assessment and medical examination of travelers.

Also this morning Prime Minster Trudeau gestured towards help for small businesses with respect to rent relief and also supports for people who don’t qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. We were also glad to see the tourism sector mentioned in the Prime Minister’s remarks this morning. We’ll look forward to seeing what’s to come – hopefully well in advance of May 1st. I meet with business leaders twice a week; during this morning’s call they stressed that the pressure of rent coming due May 1st is  being felt keenly by business owners in the city.

News from the provincial government

The Province announced over the weekend that they are partnering with Creative BC to launch Showcase BC. Showcase BC will be an online hub to for live performances and entertainment. This program comes with new grants for BC musicians, including one-time micro-grants of $500 to emerging artists and $2,000 to established artists for livestreaming, songwriting and professional development. Head here to learn more and to stream, search for, and submit made in BC performances.

Last week the Province also invested $3 million in public libraries. While libraries are  closed digital resources are still available and growing – ebooks, audiobooks, and other content. The fantastic staff at the Greater Victoria Library are keeping the shelves well stocked and this provincial funding will provide a bit more assistance to do so. Don’t have a library card? Not to worry, you can head to the library’s website to sign up for a library card online and start reading, watching and learning.

News from the City

The City’s news today also focuses on arts and culture.  Although the world may look and feel different right now, art – whether visual, performance or music expression – will always be here to help us better understand ourselves, others and our surroundings.

Later this week the City will  be launching a call for entries to the 2020 City of Victoria Book Prizes. And currently, the City is looking for the eighth installation of artwork to be displayed in the Commercial Alley Art Gallery. The artist or artist team selected to present their work will be contracted from August 2020 to August 2021.

This competition is open to artists who are residents of the Capital Region, including the Gulf Islands. Visual and multi-media disciplines are accepted. Submissions closed at the end of today. What I find so wonderful is the significant amount of interest in the program this year. We’ve received more applications than ever – which speaks to the power of art to carry us through these challenging times.

News from the community

Keeping on an arts and culture theme, CHEK TV has announced a free online concert happening this Friday night featuring all Vancouver Island artists, including the City’s own artist in residence Kathryn Calder, and headlined by David Foster and Randy Bachman.

At 8pm on Friday CHEK you can tune in to ‘Rock for Relief: A Living Room Concert for Vancouver Island’ commercial free on TV, YouTube, and CHEK’s Facebook page. The concert will also raise funds for the Greater Victoria Rapid Relief Fund, and the Island Response Fund. Thanks in advance to all the artists (who we know are rehearsing hard right now) for generously donating their time and their talents to this important event.

Finally, a special thanks to everyone who was so respectful and thoughtful on walks in Beacon Hill Park or along Dallas Road this weekend. As I mentioned last week, city staff were on-hand in parks to talk to folks about physical distancing and recreation, and they reported back that residents are looking after each other out there. Let’s keep that up!

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.