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.

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.

Volunteer Victoria Stepping Up Big to Coordinate Helping Hands

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.

Today I had Mary Warner, a sign language interpreter arranged by Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre join me. She will now be interpreting my daily addresses. Thank you Mary!

Yesterday we saw the first two COVID related deaths on Vancouver Island. Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of the two people who passed away.

News from the federal government

This morning, the Prime Minister announced $100 million dollars to meet urgent needs food security needs across the country, to improve access to food for Canadians facing social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19. In addition he noted that the Canada child benefit that was scheduled for May will be sent out a month earlier, and GST credits will roll out sooner than scheduled.

News from the provincial government

Yesterday the province announced a new Economic Recovery Task Force to respond to emerging needs and to plan for the longer-term economic recovery that will be needed in the wake of COVID. The task force is made up of cabinet ministers, senior government staff, representatives from business, labour, First Nations, and the non-profit sector. I’m glad to hear that there is a dedicated team looking at this. We also look forward to the addition of some representation from Vancouver Island on the Task Force.

In addition, following yesterday’s announcement on emergency financial aid for students, today the Province is providing an additional $1.5 million to supplement the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund, which assists Indigenous students who are experiencing an unexpected financial emergency that may affect their ability to finish their studies.

Students who access the emergency funding do not have to repay it. Indigenous students can contact the Indigenous Student Service Centre on campus, which will help with the application process to receive the financial assistance.

News from the City

BC Housing has been working hard this past week along with community partners at the Coalition to End Homelessness. As of today, 102 motel rooms have been filled by people who were previously sleeping outdoors. BC Housing continues to look for more options to move folks inside where they can stay healthy and safe. This is a good first step, but as Dr. Richard Stanwick the Island Health Medical Health officer advised on our daily call today, the goal is to get everyone inside. This is important for the health vulnerable populations and the health of our community.

News from the community

I’d like to tell you today about the important work Volunteer Victoria is doing right now. They have a roster of trained, vetted volunteers working hard in so many ways. They’re helping families who can’t get out with chores and other tasks. They’re helping people get to medical appointments. And they’re helping when people just need someone to talk to.

As we’ve all seen, Victoria is really coming together and if you’re interested in volunteering got to Volunteer Victoria. We’ve heard from so many people with extra time on their hands who want to help out others in their community. Volunteer Victoria is the way to get connected. If you need help, please also go to Volunteer Victoria.

At the end of another long week, and on behalf of myself and Council please be in touch and let us know how you’re doing. Please hang in there. And please, this weekend, reach out to someone who could use a phone call or an e-mail. It is so important to stay connected. It what will get us through.