What’s Next in the City of Victoria – COVID-19

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We know Victorians are feeling anxious about the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. As a city government, we are too. We want to do everything we can to protect Victorian’s health and well being. That’s why we’re relying on the advice of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer to guide our actions.

We’ve received calls today to close recreation centres, libraries, restaurants, schools, casinos, to stop the Clipper and Coho coming from Washington State, to mandate and monitor social distancing. Some of these things we as a city government have power over, many of them we don’t. We need to act rationally, calmly and thoughtfully and to ensure there are no unintended consequences to our actions. We also need to take time to put in place proactive measures to take care of our most vulnerable residents and find ways to keep people connected even as we all practicing social distancing.

Tomorrow morning, the federal government will be giving an update at 10am and the provincial government will give an update at 11am. We hope that both levels of government will give clear direction and take all the necessary measures to #flattenthecurve After receiving the advice of the federal and provincial officials, we will keep Victorians up to date on any new proposed actions, directives or requirements here on the City’s website.

 

 

Our Local Businesses Need Us: Let’s Show Them Our Love

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NB We have received new information from the federal and provincial health authorities since this was posted originally on Saturday afternoon. Extraordinary social distancing measures should be put in place. The Prime Minister is encouraging people to stay home if possible to help flatten the curve.  Instead of visiting your favourite restaurant right now, considering buying a gift card (this can often be done on line) to help them through a cash flow crunch right now so they’ll be here for the long term.

NB This post was written after the update from Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Medical Health Officer at noon on Saturday. Her next update is at 10am Monday. We can adjust our behaviours then as needed according to her advice.

The City of Victoria has been following all the health protocols required by the Provincial government and keeping our residents up to date by email, website and social media. We hope that all Victorians are following the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry to keep themselves, their families and our communities healthy. She’s calm, measured and thoughtful.

We know that in addition to worrying about the health of themselves and their employees, some of our small local businesses are starting to worry about their survival. We’re already seeing a massive slow down in visitors to Victoria. People aren’t traveling, conferences have been postponed, and the cruise season is delayed until July 1st at the earliest, taking another swath of potential customers away.

I’m starting to get emails from small businesses. I got this one just now:

“I am hearing a great deal in the media about the growing fear among the public.  This is despite the fact that there are currently no health advisories against participating in many of the tourist activities in Greater Victoria—only those of gatherings of greater than 200 people.  Yet, we are seeing the public reacting with fear and making irrational decisions, such as not patronizing local businesses or cancelling existing bookings for activities.

“What I am not hearing is any of our government officials or local community leaders using their voices to help calm those fears and encouraging individuals and local businesses to support one another in order to help us all weather this storm—particularly in light of the profoundly negative impact decisions, such as cancelling cruise ships, is having on the local tourism industry.”

Let’s support this business owner and others through these hard times. Let’s eat out. Let’s drink some great local beer. Let’s stop buying online. Let’s shop local. Heck, let’s even do some of our holiday shopping now, really, really early.

As a city government, we want to provide as much certainty and hope as we can to our small business owners. That’s why Councillor Loveday and I are bringing an emergency motion to Council this Thursday asking staff to “examine all of the City’s fiscal, legislative and legal powers to support small businesses and jobs, arts and culture, and the visitor economy in order sustain the local economy during the pandemic and recover stronger and more resilient than before.”

For sure, senior levels of government have more tools at their disposal to support jobs and workers and we will continue to advocate to and partner with them. However, it is also incumbent on local governments to take action to support our local economies. There may be small things the City can do – or not do – to stimulate and sustain the local economy so that we can prepare for economic recovery in a sustainable and resilient way.

While we’re debating these issues and looking for solutions at City Hall, I hope we see Victorians out in the city, enjoying all of the wonderful experiences our small businesses have to offer – of course practicing the social distancing that Dr. Henry recommends. Now’s the time to show them our love.

It’s Our Responsibility As Non-Indigenous People to Show that Reconciliation Is Not Dead

Photo credit: Colin Smith

This blog post is being written just as CBC announced that Wet’suwet’en, Canada, and British Columbia have reached a proposed arrangement

On Friday afternoon I visited the youth staying at the legislature. They are there to defend their lands, rights, and Indigenous title. I stood in circle with them and listened to their passion, their concerns and their fears.

I went to see them in part because I was on a panel on Friday evening at the Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogues hosted by the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. One of the questions that panel host Shelagh Rogers said she’d be asking us is about the role of Indigenous youth in the future of reconciliation. So I went down to the legislature to learn.

A key part of my role as mayor is to support and nurture our young people, the leaders of today and the leaders of tomorrow. When I heard these Indigenous youth say that they are afraid, when I heard them say that our country has failed them time and time again, when I heard about the sacrifices they are making – putting their own lives on hold and at risk – I am moved to speak up.

As non-Indigenous allies, we must speak up against the racism that is rearing its head in response to Indigenous people standing up across the country. We must denounce racism in all its forms. We must call it out. There is never, ever, any excuse or any “good reason” for racism.

When I met with the youth on Friday they told me that they think reconciliation is dead. I can see how they feel this way – it took more than two weeks of protests across the country to get everyone around the table in Wet’suwet’en territory just for the conversation to begin. And along the way there were arrests and further displacement of Indigenous people from their homelands. In a so called era of reconciliation, it shouldn’t have taken this long and it shouldn’t have been so difficult for the conditions for dialogue set by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to be met.

What I want to say to the youth is that it is our responsibility as non-Indigenous people to show them and their elders and all Indigenous people that reconciliation is not dead.

We do this by telling the whole truth about the history of our country: that it was built by the removal of Indigenous people from their lands, the tearing apart of Indigenous families, the obliteration of Indigenous laws and ways of knowing the world. We acknowledge that all of these things are still happening today and we do everything in our power to change this. Reconciliation is not dead as long as we are willing to name the colonial and painful truth of Canada’s origin story.

Reconciliation is not dead if we as non-Indigenous community members are committed to decolonizing Canada, to working together to create a new story. This means being committed to honouring Indigenous rights and title and ensuring that Indigenous legal orders can exist side by side with the Canadian one. For me, reconciliation is not dead but it is really, really difficult and painful work, for everyone.

After participating in the Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogues this weekend, I am also hopeful. As Shelley Cardinal, the president of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre said in her opening remarks on Friday evening, “Now when the discomfort is here is not the time to abandon each other, it’s the time to walk together.” And as Tsartlip Nation member and MLA Adam Olsen said in his opening remarks, at times like these “We need to call each other in, not call each other out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wet’suwet’en conflict puts “rule of law” in context

Wet'suwet'en Actions_GuilleIndigenous youth gathered in circle at BC Legislature.                     Photo credit: Jason Guille

This past week has been very challenging as a settler, ally, mayor and Canadian. Across the country, on the island, and here in our city, there have been protests and blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of land in northern BC, their homelands and traditional territories. Coastal GasLink also asserts authority to build a natural gas pipeline and their authority has been backed by the courts and enforced by the RCMP.

The protests are not surprising. To expect anything other than a vocal show of solidarity with the hereditary chiefs would be to have blinders on to the current historical moment we are in as a country. It’s complicated to say the least.

The federal, provincial and local governments are all talking about reconciliation. At the City, we moved a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the front steps of City Hall that caused pain and suffering to Indigenous people. We’ve created the Witness Reconciliation Program and the City Family – an Indigenous-informed governance body – to guide the reconciliation process. And we’re hosting a series of difficult but important conversations at the Victoria Reconciliation Dialogues.

The Province – by unanimous vote – adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into legislation. In his thoughtful statement on the protests earlier this week, Premier Horgan pointed to the complexity of implementing this legislation.

Trudeau in his mandate letters requests that minsters continue “supporting self-determination, improving service delivery and advancing reconciliation.” He directs “every single Minister to determine what they can do in their specific portfolio to accelerate and build on the progress we have made with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.”

What all of these reconciliation efforts will need to grapple with – and what the Wet’suwet’en situation has brought to light in a clear and practical way – are the multiple legal systems in conflict with one another. The Wet’suwet’en conflict between elected councils and hereditary chiefs isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. This a key issue. And this conflict is not new. It was created in 1876 with the adoption of the Indian Act, the reserve system and the imposition of elected band councils.

The residential school system tried to take the “Indian out of the child”, to erase culture, but it ultimately failed. Despite the harm and trauma that the school system caused, which are still felt across the country today, we see the proliferation of language revitalization programs, cultural resurgence, and youth – like those at the legislature this past week – proud to be Indigenous.

As the residential school system took aim at language and culture, the Indian Act aimed to obliterate thousands-year-old legal systems that had a different understanding of rights, responsibilities and relationships. But it didn’t succeed, entirely.

In 2018 the University of Victoria launched the world’s first Indigenous law program. Students of the four-year degree program graduate with professional degrees in both Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders. What we’re seeing alongside a cultural resurgence is the rise again of Indigenous legal orders and an assertion of their rightful place in establishing law and order in the lands we know as Canada.

In this context, the protests are not surprising. They are the result of tectonic plates of different legal systems grinding against each other.

When served with an injunction to clear the rail tracks near Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Andrew Brant said, “The [injunction] doesn’t mean anything; it’s just a piece of paper. To us, that is not our government; that’s not our law, so when they serve it to us, it’s just a piece of paper.”

If we continued to look only through a Canadian/colonial legal lens it would be easy to dismiss Brant’s point of view. It would be easy to dismiss the protests here in Victoria and across the country. It would be easy to point to the 20 band councils along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route and say that they have approved it and are seeking benefits for their communities.

This is true and important and clearly established within one legal order. And goodness knows economic opportunity for First Nations communities is a good thing. At the same time, to completely dismiss the established authority of hereditary chiefs in Wet’suwet’en territory or elsewhere puts one legal order over another. And pits Indigenous people against each other.

Moving statues, passing UNDRIP and giving strong mandate letters to Ministers are all important steps. For reconciliation to be successful we must find a way to have Indigenous legal orders side by side with the Canadian one. Until this is resolved – and it will take years, if not decades – we can expect the protests and resistance to continue.

This piece was originally published in the Times Colonist here.

Victoria 3.0 – Pivoting to a Higher Value Economy – 2020-2041

Close-up View
Expedition leader Adrian Round (left) and ocean operations staff member Jonathan Miller carefully monitor remotely operated vehicle operations on the seafloor more than 2 km below the vessel. Photo by Ed McNichol. Ocean Networks Canada

Today the City of Victoria released Victoria 3.0, an economic action plan that accompanies the City’s Official Community Plan to 2041. It’s a long-term plan and vision for a sustainable, growing city that will create high-value jobs now and for the future. The vision of Victoria 3.0 is that as the Capital City, Victoria is future-ready and globally-fluent. We use our status as a small powerhouse to build a high-value economy that meets our needs now and anticipates the future.

This action plan was developed based on the input of residents and business owners who participated in the fall economic roundtable sessions hosted by myself and city staff. And it has been shaped by the latest research and thinking in 21st century city building and economics.

We are making this plan now in order to:

  •       Stimulate and support innovation
  •       Build on the economic stability offered by our  public sector employment base
  •       Diversify our economy
  •       Respond to the big changes that will have an impact on sustainable economic
    growth, including automation and climate change

What if we told, and sold, a compelling story of Victoria’s high-tech sector nationally and globally? What if we had a large area of our downtown dedicated to innovation and we were solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, creating high-value jobs at the same time? What if we were globally recognized for pioneering solutions in the ocean and marine sector? What if we turned the Victoria Conference Centre into a facility that can hold more and larger conferences and also developed its international reputation?

And what if by 2030 everyone working in Victoria were making a living wage, not because this was mandated by any level of government, but because of an increase in high-value jobs and a strong, inclusive high-value economy.

Victoria 3.0 answers these questions with a resounding, “Yes!” and with a series of clear actions that the City and its partners will undertake over the next two decades to achieve these objectives.

A high-value economy has a diversity of household sustaining jobs available in a range of sectors, and the skills and training available for those jobs to be filled. It’s an innovative economy that develops solutions to pressing local and global challenges, sells these solutions globally, and brings the money back to Victoria. Developing this kind of economy will enable Victoria companies to attract talent from around the world to fill the high-value jobs being created, drawing a wealth of experience and diversity to the city.

Victoria 3.0 also takes seriously the reality of our existing small businesses. We heard from roundtable participants that some of our small retail businesses and restaurants have begun to struggle. In response, a whole section of the plan is dedicated to addressing their needs – from mitigating the impacts of city construction projects on business operations, to creating a Downtown Ambassador program to increase a sense of safety and welcoming in the downtown for all. Small businesses are key to providing the amenity-rich lifestyle that will help Victoria to attract and retain the workforce of the future.  

In addition to actions that the City can take to continue to support small business, Victoria 3.0 lays out a few big moves.

One is to establish an Innovation District in the north end of downtown. An Innovation District is a hub of cross-sector collaboration, a place where ideas are commercialized (turned into products and services), and where new high-value jobs are created. The vision of the Innovation District is to honour the current industrial land uses and to build for the 22nd century.

A second is to create an Ocean Futures Cluster. A significant and under-realized opportunity for Victoria is our location as a coastal and island community on the Pacific Ocean. Victoria is close to the shipping gateway to Asia-Pacific markets and a critical transit point to the Arctic Ocean.

The Ocean Futures Cluster and Marine Innovation Hub takes advantage of our geographic location and combines the region’s significant and emerging strengths in marine and maritime industries, ocean science, technology and environmental innovation. This will enhance the competitiveness of our region and of British Columbia in the global marketplace.

Taken together these big moves and others lay the groundwork for a strong, future-focussed economy in the city and in the region. If you’d like to learn more and provide input on the plan by January 30, please head here.

Victoria 3.0 is the work of many hands. And it will take many more hands, working together, to bring this plan to life over the next two decades.

 

Affordable Housing: Watershed Moment of Community Support

These are my closing comments from the public hearing for Fire Hall #1 and Affordable Housing.

Something really remarkable happened at our City Council meeting last week. Or rather, it’s what didn’t happen that is remarkable and it gives me hope for the future of affordable housing developments in our city.

Last Thursday we held a public hearing for a new fire hall, 130 units of affordable housing for people living on very low, low, and moderate incomes to be run by Pacifica Housing and three additional market condo buildings. The proposed development borders Yates, Johnson and Cook.

Harris Green project photo
New Fire Hall #1, commercial space and 130 units of affordable housing on Johnson up from Cook.

The Council Chambers were packed. For some, it was a controversial development proposal because of the substantial amount of new density and height proposed on what is now a parking lot and one-story car dealership.

But the remarkable thing is that it wasn’t controversial because of the proposed affordable housing. In fact, it was quite the opposite. From Pacifica tenants, to business people, to students, to neighbours, person after person came up to the microphone and talked about how much needed this affordable housing is and how Council should support it.

It was only about halfway through the hearing that I realized something really special was happening. At every other public hearing we’ve held on new proposed affordable housing developments, there are people who come out and express their opposition precisely because of the affordable housing.

“We don’t need more housing of that kind in this neighbourhood.” “The crime in the neighbourhood is going to go up.” “This is a family neighbourhood.” And once, someone came and insinuated that all poor people are pedophiles and that there shouldn’t be affordable housing overlooking an elementary school. It’s gotten pretty nasty.

But last Thursday there was no discrimination expressed towards low-income people who need housing. Why was it different this time?

It could be because we’re starting to realize as a community that it’s good for everyone if people have the housing they need. There are at least 300 people sleeping outside in our city every night. And this is even with some of the seasonal shelters starting to open.

When people live outside they are vulnerable, get sick more easily, die younger, and have a terrible quality of life – not to mention the stigma and ill-will they face as people walk past them taking down their tents in the morning, or sitting with all their belongings on the sidewalk with nowhere to go. It’s good for all of us if people get the housing they need.

The other thing that was different, as was pointed out by one of the speakers, is the unique three-way partnership between a private sector developer, BC Housing, and Pacifica Housing. The developer is building the building. BC Housing is buying it. And Pacifica will own and operate it. So maybe the fact that all the parties are delivering the project together, based on their own unique expertise makes this different than a non-profit housing provider going it alone.

It was a watershed moment. And I hope we turned a page as a community that evening in terms of how we think about and talk about affordable housing, because there’s a lot more affordable housing to come. The Regional Housing First Program still has 1100 more units to build. The City of Victoria is buying land to partner to build housing. And the provincial government will be rolling out more money for housing in the spring.

All this housing is a good thing. One of the most poignant presenters at the hearing on Thursday was the Housing Placement Coordinator at Pacifica Housing. She told us that there are over 300 people on her wait list, that every day she has to say no to someone, and it’s heartbreaking. “This building,” she said, “is 130 yeses to the people on my wait list.”

Cities Can’t Go It Alone, Need National Government Support on Climate Change: Climate Emergency Urban Opportunity Report

From left to right, Martha Delgado, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights for Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maimunah Sharif, Executive Director UN Habitat, Shipra Narang Suri, Coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch at UN-Habitat.

It’s not every day, as mayor of a small city – in the global scheme of things – to have an opportunity to speak at the United Nations. I was honoured to participate and to share the climate action we’re taking in Victoria. What’s more important is what I learned: climate change can’t be solved and 21st century prosperity won’t be created unless nations put cities at the heart of their climate agendas. This matters to Canadian cities in the middle of an election campaign where climate change is taking centre stage.

I got to attend the release of a ground-breaking report, Climate Emergency: Urban Opportunity. It lays out a clear path for how national governments can secure economic prosperity and avert climate catastrophe by transforming cities. It points out that only two in five countries have a climate strategy that explicitly involves cities. Canada does not.

Every week, somewhere in the world, a city the size of Paris is being built. In Asia and Africa, 2.5 billion more people will live in cities in 2050 than they do now. In Kenya, for example, 15 million people live in cities. By 2050, 44 million Kenyans will live in cities. Seventy-five percent of the infrastructure that will be needed to accommodate this urban growth has not yet been built.

And where do these materials for city building come from? I met Governor and Mayor Powes Parkop of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital city. Papua New Guinea is the first country to have environmental refugees. They also have the third largest tropical forest in the world which houses 10 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. Their forest is currently being harvested to export for city building needs in first world countries. Scott Francisco from Cities4Forests, shared in his remarks on a panel on Nature Based Solutions that New York consumes 50,000 hectares of forest per year.

Add to this the portion of people globally living in informal settlements or slums on the fringes of cities. Sheela Patel, Chairperson of Slum Dwellers International, told us that for people living in poverty – whether in the slums of Rio de Janeiro or on Pandora Street in Victoria – if you go and talk about climate change, they will say, we need food and shelter. How do we care about climate change when there is so much inequality?

Without climate action that puts sustainable city building at the centre, there will be an increase in urban populations and an increase in urban poverty, a decrease in biodiversity and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating the earth’s growing fragility.

The Climate Emergency: Urban Opportunity report addresses all of these issues and outlines a path forward to addressing climate change, inequality and sustainable development all at the same time. It shows that sustainable cities provide a powerful opportunity to reduce poverty, reduce climate risk, and increase economic opportunity.

The report, authored by Lord Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics, and a host of others from the 50 organizations that make up the Coalition for Urban Transitions makes six key recommendations:

  • Develop an overarching strategy to deliver shared prosperity while reaching net-zero emissions – and place cities at its heart.
  • Align national policies behind compact, connected, clean cities.
  • Fund and finance sustainable urban infrastructure.
  • Coordinate and support local climate action in cities.
  • Build a multilateral system that fosters inclusive, zero-carbon cities.
  • Proactively plan for a just urban transition.

Stern said at the launch that if we take the recommendations laid out here, we will have prosperity and resilience. If we don’t then we will have fragility and uncertainty. And he emphasized that, “We’re not going to get to zero by 2050 unless cities take the lead. Getting there is the inclusive growth story of the 21st century. The pathway will create great cities and great places to live.”

The report demonstrates that if – as cities and national governments – we follow the recommendations, there’s a $24 trillion dollar economic opportunity and the potential to create 87 million jobs globally by 2030. It will take investing roughly 2% of global GDP to get there; the return on investment will be three to four times that. Importantly, for those of us ready to act now, the report demonstrates that 90% of emissions can be reduced with technologies that already exist.

Martha Delgado, Undersecretary of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights for Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and president of the UN Habitat Assembly echoed the findings of the report. She said that, “you don’t adapt a country to climate change, you adapt communities to climate change.” She gave city leaders four key pieces of advice:

  1. Identify successful projects that can be replicated, city after city.
  2. Maximize the impact of your existing efforts.
  3. Allocate your resources wisely to projects that will have the greatest positive effects for climate action, resilience and community building.
  4. Motivate citizens to increase climate action.

But cities can’t do this alone. “Even the largest and most empowered city governments can deliver only a small share of mitigation potential on their own,” the report reads. “Governments of small and medium-sized cities, which are home to over half the global urban population and half the urban mitigation potential, have even less power and fewer resources to reduce emissions or enhance resilience.” Victoria fits into this category. For us, and other cities like us around the globe, “the support provided and standards established by national and state governments are particularly important.”

The role of cities and the relationship between cities and the federal government has received little to no coverage during this federal election campaign and doesn’t explicitly appear in the platforms of any of the parties. If Canada wants to continue along a path of prosperity, reduce inequality and seriously address our emissions, then cities and communities will need to be at heart of the government’s agenda.

To this end, the new government should consider appointing a Minister of Climate Change and Communities with a mandate of implementing a just transition for communities and workers in the resource sector and implementing the Climate Emergency: Urban Opportunity recommendations in urban areas. This will help to put Canada on the path to low-carbon prosperity that at least three parties have committed to and that the current climate emergency demands.

 

 

 

 

 

Roundtable Series to Inform City’s Economic Action Plan: Victoria 3.0 – Pivoting to a Higher Value Economy

earthquake-research-1280x720
Ocean Networks Canada launching B.C.’s megaquake sensor

Starting this evening and running for the next two months, the City of Victoria is hosting a series of roundtable discussions with people who do business in the community to inform our next Economic Action Plan, Victoria 3.0 – Pivoting to a Higher Value Economy.

I am happy to be facilitating all the round tables and warmly invite participation from a broad cross section of the community. Each roundtable contains two topics to allow for the cross-pollination of ideas. The first roundtable – tonight at City Hall from 5-7pm – is on high tech and advanced education, research and development.

We need input from people from a wide range of economic sectors and backgrounds. This input will help us develop a plan to position Victoria as an attractive place to invest and to start and grow a business over the next five to 20 years. The goal is for Victoria to become a small powerhouse that creates high-value jobs and builds a high-value economy that meets current, and anticipates future, needs.

I believe everyone in Victoria deserves a good job, a good home, and a sustainable community – and that the City has a role to play in making these things happen. That’s why this plan will use our status as a capital city and position Victoria as a globally-relevant and globally-fluent small powerhouse. This will help us to create the jobs of the future and an inclusive, sustainable, and high-value economy for the long term.

Tech, Advanced Education Research and Development
Monday, October 7, 2019 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for movers and shakers working in tech and research and development in industry or in post-secondary institutions.

Indigenous and Newcomer Businesses
Tuesday, October 8, 2019 from 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for Indigenous-run businesses and organizations that support Indigenous entrepreneurs. It is also for newcomer-run businesses and organizations that support newcomer entrepreneurs.

Ocean Futures Cluster Development
Friday, October 25, 2019 from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for anyone working in the ocean and marine sector, very broadly defined. NOTE: This workshop is by invite only in order to have a focused conversation on cluster development. If you or someone you know would like an invite please email kmoore@victoria.ca

Neighbourhood Business and Social Enterprise
Tuesday, November 5, 2019 from 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for people who run businesses in the City’s neighbourhoods and includes people who work from home in these neighbourhoods. It is also for everyone working in the social enterprise sector.

Small Business and Finance
Wednesday, November 20, 2019 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Victoria City Hall Antechamber
This roundtable is for anyone who runs a small business in Victoria, with a focus on downtown businesses. It is also for everyone working in the financial sector.

Input from the roundtable discussions will inform the draft plan that will be presented to City Council and the public for consideration in January 2020.

In 2015, the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity created the City’s first economic action plan, Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential. Almost all of the actions in that plan have been achieved. Successes include a decrease in retail vacancies downtown, an increase in the number of net new business licences, a low unemployment rate, and the amount of development underway.

Key questions for each roundtable discussion are available in advance on the City’s website. Click the session you’re interested in to see the questions for that session. The roundtables are free to attend and open to all. For more information and to register, head here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City to Ask Supreme Court of Canada to Rule on Municipal Power to Regulate Business Use of Plastic Bags

Plastic Bag Press Conference.jpeg

Earlier this week at the Union of BC Municipalities conference, the City held a press conference attended by local elected officials from across the province. We announced our intention to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the City’s appeal with respect to plastic bags and the authority of local governments to regulate businesses in line with the values of the community.

In July, the BC Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling and set aside the City’s Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw, which regulated businesses providing checkout bags to customers and included restrictions on the use of plastic checkout bags. The Court of Appeal ruled that the purpose of the bylaw was the protection of the natural environment and that it required approval from the Province of BC prior to being enacted.

After careful review, the City has decided to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the Court of Appeal decision to clarify a municipal government’s power to regulate unsustainable business practices that negatively impact the community.

The BC Court of Appeal decision goes far beyond the issue of plastic bags. It strikes at the heart of the power of local governments to regulate business practices in line with 21st century community values. If the decision is allowed to stand it can potentially be interpreted to severely limit the power of local governments. This is why the City of Victoria is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Court of Appeal decision – that the bylaw required provincial approval – runs contrary to a principle previously mentioned by the Supreme Court of Canada that law-making and implementation are often best achieved at a level of government that is closest to the citizens affected and therefore most responsive to their needs and to local distinctiveness.

At the press conference, two of my colleagues – who are also leading by creating business bylaws that reflect the values of their communities – shared their thoughts

“Large and small local governments across British Columbia are enacting bylaws that regulate the use of single-use plastics, in response to the strong wishes of their citizens and businesses. These local governments are not wavering in their commitment, but a review of the BC Court of Appeal decision is critical,” said District of Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne. “Most municipalities simply don’t have the resources to respond to legal challenges or take issues like these all the way through the court system, so I welcome the City of Victoria’s decision and deeply appreciate their leadership.”

“As Squamish works to develop a bylaw towards eliminating single use items, I wish to recognize the City of Victoria for taking continued leadership with the development of its original bylaw, and now as the City seeks leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Local governments of all sizes across Canada are grappling with complex issues such as climate change, environmental degradation, housing affordability, economic disruption, policing, and the list goes on,” said Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott.

“We engage with our citizens, businesses and others to find local solutions that work in our particular circumstances, and that can potentially inspire other communities to act. As the government closest to the citizens, it is critical that our power to implement bylaws and regulations, in line with a community’s values and long-term goals, is protected to the fullest extent possible.”

The City believes that the Court of Appeal applied a very restrictive interpretation of municipal power to regulate business, which could potentially affect other municipal bylaws not only in Victoria but across B.C. and in other provinces that have similar municipal legislation. Therefore, this case raises issues of general importance and warrants consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The City of Victoria’s Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw came into effect on July 1, 2018 and regulated the types of checkout bags that could be offered by businesses to customers. The bylaw was developed with extensive input from local businesses, industry and the community during a two-year engagement period. The implementation of the City’s checkout bag bylaw in 2018 was enthusiastically embraced by both businesses and customers and was used as a model by a number of other B.C. municipalities.

The bylaw was challenged by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association, an industry lobbying group, that alleged the bylaw was not a valid business regulation but rather an environmental regulation that required provincial approval prior to adoption by the City.

The Association’s challenge was dismissed by the BC Supreme Court in June 2018 when the judge found that the bylaw was, in fact, a business regulation and that any environmental effect of the bylaw was merely incidental and secondary to its main purpose to regulate business checkout transactions. In July 2019, the BC Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s finding when it concluded that the bylaw was an environmental regulation.

Victoria has made sustainable business practices the new norm.  Since the bylaw’s introduction, the community eliminated 17 million plastic bags from the waste stream which will result in both short-term and long-term cost savings for waste management.  Although the Checkout Bag Regulation Bylaw has been set aside and has not been in effect since the Court of Appeal decision on July 11, most businesses in Victoria continue to operate as if the bylaw was still in effect – a testament to the wide community support of the bylaw.

Under the Supreme Court of Canada rules, the court decides whether or not it will hear the appeal. The City’s deadline to apply is September 30. It normally takes between four and six months for the decision on whether or not the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case.

 

Victoria joins U.N. Challenge with 5,000 Tree Pledge

Today in New York City, I participated in the launch of the United Nations Trees in Cities Challenge hosted by the U.N. Executive Secretary, Under-Secretary-General Olga Algayerova.

As part of this initiative, the City of Victoria will work with the community to plant 5,000 trees on public and private land by the end of 2020. Victoria is the first city in Canada to join the pledge.

We know there is a climate crisis and we’re committed to doing everything we can as a City to mitigate the impacts. Participating in this U.N. Trees in Cities Challenge allows Victoria to join in a global movement of cites that are embracing nature based solutions to climate change. City staff are currently designing ways in which we can harness the power of our community to meet this goal.

Algayerova wrote to me in the summer; somehow she had heard about Victoria’s Urban Forest Master Plan and our renewed commitment to the urban forest in the City’s 2019 budget. “I believe there is a lot we can learn from the progress your city has already achieved in this area,” she wrote, “and I would like to help you share this achievement with other cities and allow them to learn from it.”

The City’s Urban Forest Master Plan identifies 26 recommended actions for the improved management of trees on public and private lands over the next 50 years. A new investment of $1 million annually will expedite implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan, to maintain the trees we have and to plant new trees. In 2019, a total of nearly $3 million will go to maintain and enhance the urban forest.

The wonderful and dedicated folks at the Community Trees Matter Network are exctied about the City’s commitment at the United Nations.

“We hope all Victorians are proud of our city’s leadership on the urban forest and we are delighted the City has accepted this challenge,” said Frances Litman, a spokesperson for Community Trees Matter Network. “Since three-quarters of our urban forest is on private land, we will certainly do all we can to spread the word and encourage homeowners to plant trees. Planting season is coming up soon – late fall is a great time to plant trees in Victoria!”

Trees are a critically important community asset providing a wide range of benefits, from positive mental health impacts, to environmental attributes such as regulating temperature, mitigating stormwater runoff, and providing wildlife habitat. The value of the urban forest will continue as the city adapts to climate change.

Planting more trees in urban areas holds a considerable potential to tackle effects of climate change. The United Nations has invited mayors around the world to join the Trees in Cities Challenge by making a pledge to plant trees in their city.

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Shaking hands with Under Secretary General Olga Algayerova at the announcement in New York today.