Affordable Home Ownership Key Priority

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I’ve received emails recently asking for Victoria City Council to implement a 15% foreign buyers tax. Council cannot do this. What seems to be missing from public understanding is that the foreign buyers tax was implemented by the Provincial government for all of Metro Vancouver. And that it’s Provincial legislation. The City cannot enact the tax.

Council could lobby for the tax to be implemented here, but where exactly is here? The Finance Minister created the tax for Metro Vancouver not the City of Vancouver. If the Province implemented a foreign buyers tax here it would be for the entire Capital Regional District.

That fact changes the nature of the City’s lobbying efforts. At a recent meeting, Council postponed until April a motion to ask local governments from across the region, and the CRD itself, to request the Province to introduce legislation mirroring that passed for Metro Vancouver in the summer – a 15% foreign buyers tax and vacancy taxation authority.

If we have any hope of a foreign buyers tax in the Capital Regional District, the request has to come from the CRD Board.  And, in order for CRD directors to consider such a request they’ll likely need a bit more data. By April, we’ll have eight months of data since the tax was implemented in Metro Vancouver.

If implementing a foreign buyers tax is beyond municipal and regional authority, what can we do to address affordable home ownership?

The City of Victoria recently held a workshop on affordable home ownership programs from Calgary, Canmore, and BC Housing. The Canmore Community Housing Corporation delivers one to four bedroom townhomes and condos from between $145,000 and $400,000. That is affordable home ownership. Calgary has a similar program, as does Toronto. And BC Housing provides low-cost financing to developers to help with affordability. The workshop was packed by both for profit and non-profit housing developers wanting to be part of the solution.

The good news is that when faced with a crisis, the regional government can respond swiftly. Last year, the CRD acted quickly to set up the $60 million Regional Housing First Program to build affordable workforce rental housing and supportive housing for those who are chronically homeless.

We must now act quickly as a region on affordable home ownership. We need to look at what’s working elsewhere and design a made-in-the-CRD solution to address local market conditions. The affordable home ownership solution we implement must not further burden already burdened taxpayers.

And then we need to implement quickly. What’s at stake if we don’t make affordable home ownership a top priority? The wellbeing of our citizens and the economic prosperity this region is currently experiencing. In order to keep the economy strong, working people and their families must be able to afford to live here.

Originally published in the Victoria News.

 

We stand together in love, against Islamophobia

imamspeaking1Thousands gathered today on the steps of Victoria City Hall and into the street to come together in solidarity with Victoria’s Muslim community after the horrific events in Quebec City on Sunday evening.

Ismail Mohamed Nur, the imam for Victoria’s Masjid Al-Iman mosque spoke courageously about the rise of Islamophobia around the world and in Canada. He said, “We live in a time when people try so very hard to divide us, but it only brings us closer and makes us stronger.” CHEK News covers his moving remarks.

To our Muslim friends, neighbours, sisters and brothers: We love you. We support you. We stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder with you. You belong here. We are your community. And now, more than ever, it is important to stand here together, to say this and affirm this publicly, loudly and clearly.

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In these uncertain times with the volatility that is happening in the United States, in Canada and around the world and with the rise of Islamophobia which Imam Ishmail spoke so courageously about today, we all have a big responsibility. Yes we can protest. And that is important. But we can and must also take a lesson from those at Standing Rock North Dakota who have declared that they are not protestors, they are protectors.

We have a responsibility, each of us, to protect our democracy, to protect our community and the values of difference, diversity and inclusiveness that define us.

But most of all, in these uncertain times, the most important thing we can do, the greatest responsibility we have is to treat each other with kindness and love each other well even when, and especially when it feels hard.

For those of you who asked at today’s gathering, “What’s next?” Here’s one workshop,
Anti-Racism & Anti-Hate Initiatives – Supporting the Integration of Refugees in Our Communities coming up that is now open for registration. There will be more opportunities to get involved, take action, and move from standing on the steps at City Hall to continued solidarity and connection building. Stay tuned here and on my Facebook page and I’ll share information as it is shared with me.

Thank you Victoria.

Local News Coverage of Today’s Gathering
I have proof my community loves me, says Muslim solidarity rally participant
– CBC.ca
Victoria sends Muslims message of hope with vigil at city hall – Times Colonist
Victoria holds public vigil in honour of Quebec mosque victims – CTV News
Thousands at Victoria vigil after mosque shooting – Globalnews.ca
Thousands show support for Victoria’s Muslim community – CHEK News

 

Where to Park in our Downtown

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From the Downtown Victoria Business Association

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Last week, the complexities of transportation editorial launched what the DVBA is currently partnered and working on. The initial 28 action items have now grown to 31 and we are working diligently to bring some or all of the ideas to fruition.

Part one was to produce an interactive map of every possible parking lot/structure and on-street parking space in the Downtown core that we will continue to update. Some of these facilities are privately owned and some are city owned. We have broken them up by parking type and added whether they are monthly, hourly, or weekly.

When you use our map you can click on the pins to get full details, including the number of spots, location and who manages the lot. We have also included how much it costs to park in each facility as well as the hours of operation where applicable and whether there is a waitlist or not for monthly parking. When you click the on-street parking lines, the map will zoom you into the streets themselves so you can conveniently see where the best parking areas are for your daily needs. This map is available in both a digital and pdf version on our website that you can print and carry with you as well.

The digital link will live on our website, so you can access it at any time – with the legend outlining the different kinds of parking on the parking home page.  Most people are unaware there are 16 parkades, nine customer parking lots, more than 40 surface parking lots, and over 1,000 on-street parking spaces in or within a short walk of Downtown Victoria.

Most people are also unaware of the fact Modo Co-operative is in three of our downtown parkades for use when you sign up with their program.

We are continuing to work behind the scenes to bring more private lots online as they become available and continuing talks with developers for public parking within their new buildings.

It is this kind of incremental change and information sharing that keeps the public up to date on where to go and how to get there.

We know how valuable your time is and we want to make it as easy as possible to continue to come downtown to work, shop and play. Our vibrant downtown economy is continuing to grow and we are here to support the businesses throughout the changes.

Parking is only ONE piece of our complex transportation system, but if we can make it one step easier to locate for consumers, shop owners, commuters and residents than it is one step forward in a positive and productive way.

Where to park in Downtown Victoria:
http://downtownvictoria.ca/play-downtown/parking-downtown-victoria

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Media Contact

Kerri Milton
Executive Director
Downtown Victoria Business Association
250-386-2239
kerri@downtownvictoria.ca

Task Force Seeks Input on Draft Action Plan: Good Jobs + Good Business = Better Community

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Date:  Thursday, January 19, 2017
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC — The Mayor’s Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement is seeking input to help shape its draft action plan, Good Jobs + Good Business = Better Community, which will be introduced at the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Victoria mixer tonight from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority at Ogden Point.

The actions in the plan are meant to help people who are out of the workforce get to work, and to grow a strong, inclusive economy at the same time. The plan identifies three sets of recommendations that will strengthen the City’s procurement practices to maximize community benefit as well as support small business and social enterprise sectors. Using an ecosystem-based approach to community economic development, the draft action plan focuses to a large degree on efforts to get the unemployed, underemployed and marginalized into employment.

“The Task Force members believe that in order to truly build a sustainable economy, we must create an inclusive economy which provides opportunities for everyone to succeed, including those who are often left behind such as youth, First Nations people, those with mental health and addictions challenges, those without homes or with disabilities, and people released from prison,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

The draft recommendations include: Leading Economic Change – make the mainstream economy more inclusive to ensure there is always an opportunity for everyone to prosper; Community Benefit Procurement – purchases should be leveraged to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being
of the community; and Social Enterprise Development – strengthen and grow businesses already doing business with community benefit in mind and grow the social enterprise sector.

Each of the three recommendations has a set of actions and tasks to be implemented over the next five years
to achieve prescribed outcomes. Leads and supports in the community to help achieve these outcomes are also proposed and include the City of Victoria, local organizations, agencies and business.

The Good Jobs + Good Business = Better Community draft action plan is available at victoria.ca/economicchange.

There are a variety of ways for the community to provide feedback, including completing an online survey, emailing input to economicchange@victoria.ca or tweeting to @CityofVictoria #EconomicChangeVic by Sunday, February 12, 2017. Public input will help inform the draft action plan that will be presented to City Council for consideration in March.

The Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement was a recommendation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity, which with input from the community, developed the City’s economic action plan, Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential in 2015. The economic action plan identifies six engines to drive economic prosperity, generate jobs and raise household incomes. One engine that encompasses the rest is entrepreneurship and social enterprise.

“Creating Prosperity Through Economic Development” is a key objective of the City of Victoria 2015-2018 Strategic Plan for focus and investment. Appointed by City Council last April, the Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement is chaired by Mayor Lisa Helps and includes Councillor Marianne Alto and First Nations representatives, as well as leaders in social enterprise, community and economic development, and business. For more information, visit: victoria.ca/economicchange.

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For More Information:
Mayor Lisa Helps
Chair, Mayor’s Task Force on
Social Enterprise and Social Procurement
250.661.2708

 

Do 3 Things for Canada to Celebrate our Country’s Birthday!

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC — Imagine if every Canadian did three things for their neighbourhood, their nation, and their world this year. This would equate to more than 100 million acts of community building. To celebrate Canada’s 150th, Canadians are invited to give a gift of three things — three acts of service, large or small, to help their community. The City of Victoria is joining the 3 Things for Canada initiative to mark Canada’s 150th birthday this year.

“We are honoured and excited to be participating in a national campaign that inspires acts of community service to mark Canada’s 150th,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “We invite Victoria citizens to do three things to support or improve their neighbourhood in 2017 and inspire others to do the same.”

3 Things for Canada is a national campaign created by the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee of The City of Calgary after a challenge from Mayor Naheed Nenshi to get all Canadians to become more involved in their communities.

“I am thrilled Victoria is joining us in our birthday gift to the nation,” said Mayor Nenshi. “If everyone just thinks about what they are passionate about and what they can do to help and then does just three acts of service, we can change the world.”

Examples of what people may choose to do include holding a neighbourhood BBQ or block party, getting to know neighbours at a coffee gathering, initiating a little library on a local street, volunteering for a non-profit organization, bringing a hot lunch to a senior in need, and more. Citizens are encouraged to be creative as they do these acts of service for their neighbourhood, their nation, or the world.

In addition to doing three acts of service, citizens are asked to share these good deeds and spread the word, whether it’s posting a photo, video or comment on the 3 Things for Canada Facebook page, using the hashtag #3ThingsforCanada on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or sending a digital postcard to a friend.

In October 2016, Mayor Naheed Nenshi visited Victoria to participate in the Victoria Foundation-led panel discussion Wellness Matters: A Dialogue on Connection, Belonging and the Power of Well-being, moderated by Mayor Helps at the Victoria Conference Centre. At the event, Mayor Nenshi spoke of the success of his 3 Things for Calgary volunteer-based campaign, on which the 3 Things for Canada national initiative is based.

For more information, visit: www.victoria.ca/3thingsforcanada and www.ThreeThingsforCanada.ca

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For More Information:
Mayor Lisa Helps
250.661.2708

Victoria Is Part of a Growing Movement to Put Spending Decisions in Hands of Taxpayers

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Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2017
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC – Victoria’s first participatory budgeting process kicks-off Thursday with an opportunity for residents to learn more about participatory budgeting and begin to design a process where the community decides how to spend $60,000 in Victoria.

 PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING KICK OFF

Thursday, January 12, 2017
5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Foyer of the Atrium Building at 800 Yates Street

The launch event will be facilitated by the Participatory Budgeting Project, a non-profit agency from New York that works to empower people to decide together how to spend public money. They have supported participatory processes across North America through which over $200 million dollars have been allocated. Shari Davis, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Participatory Budgeting Project, will lead the Thursday session. During her time at the City of Boston, Shari launched Youth Lead the Change, the first youth participatory budgeting process in the US.

Participatory budgeting, commonly known as PB, pushes traditional public engagement and traditional budgeting methods to the limit by empowering citizens to design a decision-making process and choose how the funds are spent. The municipality becomes the facilitator of the community and supports the citizen efforts, implementing what the community decides they want for the community. This is the first participatory process led by a municipality on the South Island, and one of the first in BC.

Responsive to citizen needs for greater involvement in government decision-making, participatory budgeting was originally introduced in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and is now common across the globe in varying forms and deliberative processes. In North America, cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, Toronto, Guelph, and closer to home, Tofino, have introduced participatory components to their annual municipal budgets. In terms of financial allocations in other cities, they range from nominal amounts in small centres, to millions of dollars in large cities such as Chicago and New York. Canadian examples include Toronto ($450,000), Guelph ($125,000) and Tofino ($20,000).

The $60,000 earmarked in Victoria applies to the entire community rather than one specific neighbourhood. It is an important principle of participatory budgeting to reach all demographics and neighbourhoods in the community. Accordingly, efforts are being made to reach neighbourhoods and groups not typically active in the budget process (e.g. youth, seniors, new residents, new immigrants).

Everyone is invited to participate. It’s important there is participation and views from groups across the city. The event will also be of interest to government, school, and community organizations looking to introduce participatory budgeting processes.

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For More Information:

Mayor Lisa Helps 250.661.2708

Shari Davis, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Participatory Budgeting Project, is available for interviews January 11 and January 12.  Interviews can be scheduled by calling 250.661.0085

Why I love to drive my car and Modeshift 2017

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It was the day after boxing day. Tired of turkey, we wanted Pad Thai for dinner. The Baan Thai on Blanshard St. was closed. The Oak Bay location was open. It was rainy and dark and cold. As I drove to the Victoria-Oak Bay border down Fort Street to pick up the warm delicious food, I felt happy and thankful to be driving my car.

In the future, I likely won’t have a car. I’ll order a self-driving car using my smartphone app to arrive at my door and pick me up to go get the food. But that’s a little ways off. In the meantime, people do drive and we’ve got some work to do on transportation solutions.

We’ve had lots of feedback about #Biketoria. Some people love it. Some people hate it. It has become a polarizing issue in the community. And when the community is polarized, it’s hard to move forward.

When the city builders of the 20th century started to build the road network, they did not call it #Cartoria. They just built the infrastructure for the emerging transportation technology, the car. And there was likely much protest and complaint from carriage drivers, horse riders, and people who walked and rode bikes. But the city leaders at the time could see the future.

In 2017 I think we need to ditch the car-bike polarity that has plagued us in 2016. We need to work towards something much more inspiring as a community that other cities in the 21st century are so far ahead of Victoria on. We need to set a transportation mode shift goal and work to meet it.

A few years ago, Vancouver set a goal that by 2020, 50% of all trips in the city would be by transit, cycling or walking. Last year they hit their 2020 goal!

We don’t have a Skytrain but the Smart Bus is coming; you’ll soon be able to see on your phone, in real time, when the bus is arriving. And this federal government is committed to transit. Yes not everyone can walk, bike, or take transit. But what if as a community we tried a bit harder. I drove my car to get Pad Thai that night, but most days I either walk or bike to City Hall so that I’m freeing up a parking space for someone else. What if those of us who could did this even a few days a week to start.

Why should we care about aiming for a 50% mode shift to walking, cycling and transit? To make parking easier for those who need it. Because it’s good for our health and makes us happy to get fresh air and exercise. Because cities are ground zero for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking climate action. But most of all, simply because it’s the future.

Thanks to the Victoria News for originally publishing this piece and also to the Times Colonist for their coverage today of the topic. And thanks also to Eric Haight President and Co-founder of Kano Apps for both the push and the inspiration!

Year of Reconciliation Proclamation

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Whereas for thousands of years the Lekwungen people have lived, loved, raised families, fished, hunted and traded on these their traditional territories, and;

Whereas much more recently the City of Victoria was founded upon these territories, and;

Whereas the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report set out 94 Calls to Action, many of which can be actioned by municipalities, and;

Whereas the City of Victoria has adopted some of these Actions to begin a journey of reconciliation between settlers and the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, and;

Whereas reconciliation begins with listening, with truth telling, and with acknowledging past wrongs, and;

Whereas reconciliation can be painful, uncomfortable and re-traumatizing, and;

Whereas reconciliation means honouring the truth, reconciling the future, and taking meaningful action for change, together, on shared terms, to create a bright future;

Now Therefore I do hereby proclaim 2017 as the Year of Reconciliation, on the Traditional Territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, in the City of Victoria, the Capital City of the province of British Columbia.

CHEK News and the Times Colonist both provided great coverage of the Proclamation at City Hall today. Thank you.

 

New Year’s Message 2017, Year of Reconciliation

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I’ve just returned home from the First Night celebrations downtown. It was so wonderful to see Victorians together, at the inner harbour, marking the turning of the year to Canada’s 150th birthday.

As I was reflecting in advance of this evening, I thought about other places in the world where gatherings in the streets are broken up by gunfire, where girls still don’t have a right to education, where the air quality is so bad it’s difficult to breath sometimes. And then, I thought about Canada.

Canada’s not perfect. We need to close the gap between rich and poor, reconcile with  First Nations, and grow our economy in a truly sustainable and inclusive way. But in Canada, we’ve had 150 years of relative peace, prosperity and acceptance of diversity. Tonight as I gathered with Victorians, and as other Canadians gathered in cities across the country, I realized, once again both my blessing and my luck in being born Canadian.

But we’ve still got lots of work to do. To mark Canada’s 150th in a meaningful way, tomorrow morning at City Hall, the City of Victoria will officially proclaim 2017 as the Year of Reconciliation. We will begin a journey of truth telling, deepening understanding, healing, and moving forward together with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations on whose homelands the City of Victoria was founded.

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For Canada’s 150th the City of Victoria will also be participating in 3 Things for Canada, inspired by my colleague Mayor Nenshi in Calgary. We’ll launch this early in the new year and hope you will join us.

In closing, my wish for Victorians in 2017 – and the very best birthday present we can give to Canada for her 150th birthday – is that we treat each other with kindness, and love each other well. Happy New Year!

 

 

Join Us for First Night – Downtown December 31st

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Join Us for Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night, A Family Friendly, Multicultural Celebration at Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Date: Wednesday, December 28, 2016
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC — Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night will be the place to be on New Year’s Eve. On Saturday, from 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., Victoria’s iconic Inner Harbour will be the backdrop for a family-friendly, multicultural celebration, featuring festive lighting displays, live performances, local food vendors and spectacular fireworks to launch Canada’s 150th in 2017.

“We invite the community to bundle up and join us downtown to enjoy the free family-friendly festivities and ring in Canada’s sesquicentennial together,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “Victoria’s Inner Harbour is rich with First Nations history, and with the City of Victoria having declared 2017 a ‘Year of Reconciliation’, it feels right to begin our reconciliation there on the eve of Canada’s 150th.”

The City of Victoria in partnership with the Greater Victoria Spirit Committee is hosting the event, made possible by $224,000 in funding from Canadian Heritage’s Canada 150 Fund. The City of Victoria is one of 19 municipalities across Canada to receive support from the Canada 150 Fund, designed to create opportunities for Canadians to participate in local, regional and national celebrations that contribute to building a sense of pride and attachment to Canada.

“I would like to thank Canadian Heritage and our many sponsors for making Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night possible,” said Alan Lowe, Chair of the Greater Victoria Spirit Committee. “We have an exciting line-up of multicultural festivities planned that end early enough for families to enjoy, while enabling others to visit downtown venues after the fireworks to ring in the New Year.”

Fronting Government Street, the First Night Main Stage will be stepped back from the corner of Belleville and Government Streets, between the Royal BC Museum and the Legislature Building.

Emceed by local radio personality Robyn Burns and Vancouver film producer Bruno Baronet, Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night will kick-off with a First Nations Welcome Ceremony and performances by the Lekwungen Dancers and the Esquimalt Singers and Dancers on the First Night Main Stage, followed by École Campus View Elementary School’s children’s choir singing the bilingual version of the Canadian anthem.

The First Night Main Stage will feature a diverse range of regional and local talent. Headlining the First Night celebrations will be Vancouver-based Dear Rouge, the husband and wife Juno winning duo of Drew and Danielle McTaggart. Their song, “I Heard I Had” peaked in the top 10 of the alternative and rock charts in Canada.

Also taking the Main Stage will be BC resident and Cuban-born, Alex Cuba. Harnessing the sugarcane-sweet melodies and pop-soul hooks, Cuba has won multiple awards including two JUNO Awards and a Latin Grammy Award.

Franco-Manitoban band, Jérémie & The Delicious Hounds, from St. Boniface, will also grace the stage. New to the Winnipeg music scene, these dedicated Francophone musicians gather the sounds of their instruments and their eclectic tastes around leader Jérémie Brémault’s smooth, smoky voice, dynamic range, and earnest stage presence. The Hounds have an inclusive style, and the band pools together into a symphony of soul, funk, reggae, and blues-rock.

Creative projections on buildings surrounding the Inner Harbour and lighting displays will provide a welcoming, illuminated event. In addition to the Main Stage performances, family-friendly activities will include Victoria Harbour Ferries performing a special, festively-lit evening ballet in the Inner Harbour, and the trials bike demonstration featuring the Beshano Bike Trials Club. Children will have the opportunity to meet larger-than-life illuminated puppets roaming the festivities. Canada 150 tattoos and flags will also be available.

The community will be able to warm up with a hot drink and enjoy a delicious meal or snack from one of a dozen of Victoria’s most popular food trucks along Belleville and Government Streets. Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night will culminate with spectacular fireworks at 9 p.m. set to music over Victoria’s Inner Harbour, timed with fireworks in the nation’s capital viewable on large screens. The event will end at 9:30 p.m.

Transit will run on its usual Saturday schedule on New Year’s Eve, and service will be free after 6 p.m. Additional buses will be added to the regular service to assist those who wish to head home after the firework show.

“The entire Commission and I are happy to support people celebrating the New Year with a free and safe ride home,” said Susan Brice, Chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. “I hope everyone in Victoria has a great time ringing in 2017, and I look forward to another productive year of collaboration in delivering transit solutions for our city.”

VicPD officers and reserves will be greeting the public and ensuring Spirit of 150 Victoria – First Night is a family-friendly event that is fun for everyone.

“Our officers will be on site to support a safe, family-friendly kick-off celebration to Canada’s 150th year,” A/Chief Constable Del Manak said. “Our officers are looking forward to this historic event for our community and our country.”

Roads around the Inner Harbour will close at 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in preparation for the event to start at 5 p.m.

The public can learn more about what’s planned by visiting the event’s interactive website at Spirit150victoria.ca, the one-stop resource for all Canada 150 events taking place in the Capital Region in 2017. In addition to First Night, 11 days of multicultural programming are planned leading up to Canada’s 150th on Saturday, July 1, 2017.
ATTACHED: Schedule of Events and Road Closure Map