Well-Being and Prosperity

Because of private sector investment, the creativity and innovation of Victoria’s entrepreneurs, a City Hall that now works with business, and strong regional cooperation, Victoria’s economy is flourishing. We will continue all our efforts to support sustainable economic development. And, at the time we’ll ensure that even as Victoria grows and changes, everyone’s well-being is enhanced.

Economic prosperity is only one part of the puzzle. To build a truly resilient city, we must also focus on individual and community health and well-being. Emerging research in the science and economics of  happiness and well-being clearly lays out the benefits of such a policy focus for governments.  Policy and practice from around the world show that cities have a leading role to play.

We need to:

  1. Support, celebrate and collaborate with Victoria’s entrepreneurs, businesses and creative sector
  2. Address the mental health and addictions crisis in the region through partnerships and collaboration
  3. Invest in health, wellness and community building opportunities
  4. Make significant investments to create more vibrant and welcoming public spaces
  5. Improve individual and community health and well-being

What We’ve Accomplished, 2014-2018

  • Reduced downtown Victoria’s retail vacancy rate from 10.2 to 3.8%
  • Reduced processing times for all development applications and initiated tracking and annually reporting on processing times
  • Created a five-year economic action plan, Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential
  • Opened a Business Hub at city hall to support small businesses and cut red tape
  • Hosted capital missions to showcase Victoria as a great place to invest
  • Nurtured a more diverse and inclusive economy, in which all local industries invest sustainably to protect our environment and create permanent, well-paying jobs
  • Helped Victoria’s tech, tourism, and creative industries achieve significant growth and prosperity
  • Adopted Create Victoria, City’s first arts and culture masterplan
  • Created an Artist in Residence program to have in-house expertise to assist departments and engage and support the arts and culture community
  • Overhauled City’s budget process making it more transparent, thorough, zero-based, and kept tax increases to no more than inflation plus 1%
  • Helped establish the South Island Prosperity Project, now in the process of attracting $10 million dollars through the Smart Cities Challenge
  • Created the Growing in the City initiative and increased support for local food production on public and private land

Wellbeing and Prosperity Step 1: Support, celebrate and collaborate with Victoria’s entrepreneurs, businesses and creative sector

Wellbeing and Prosperity COMMITMENT: We will continue to make Victoria a great place to do business

Year one: Convene a Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity 2.0 to build on the Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential plan and ensure Victoria hits its Official Community Plan (OCP) target of 10,000 new jobs by 2041. Between 2012 when the OCP was adopted to the first five year report in 2017, there was only job growth of 2% – approximately 1100 new jobs or 220 jobs per year. To hit the 2041 target we need to ensure job growth of close to 400 jobs per year. This will require a systemic and comprehensive approach.

Year one: Work with the DVBA to develop a downtown retail strategy.

Year one: Create a one-time fee rather than an annual fee for business licences as Langford and Colwood have done.

Year one: Secure provincial, federal, foundation and philanthropic funding for the Bastion Square Creative Hub located in the old courthouse building in Bastion Square. This will be an affordable space for artists, makers, innovators and tech businesses that have crossover potential with arts and culture. The Hub will also be an economic development driver including job creation for cultural industries and cultural tourism.

Year one to four: Continue to implement Create Victoria Victoria’s Arts and Culture Masterplan to ensure that Victoria’s arts and culture scene continues to flourish, artists are supported and the public has a wide variety of arts and culture events and activities to choose from on any given night at any given time of year.

Year one: In partnership with post-secondary institutions create a permanent home and sustainable funding source for City Studio Victoria  to integrate post-secondary students into the community and the economy.

Years one to four: Continue to hold an annual development summit, continue to implement policies that further reduce and track development processing times, expand digital submission capacities for more types of applications.

Years one to four: Continue to support the Business Hub and the Manager of Business Development and Strategic Relations to streamline and de-mystify all business and development processes at City Hall, make it easier to do business in Victoria, advise on how to reduce unnecessary red tape, connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need, and accelerate the development of a vibrant downtown. The Business Hub has been a huge success in getting more businesses open more quickly.

Years one to four: Support Victoria’s two largest economic drivers – the tech and tourism sectors by continuing to build a vibrant downtown with businesses that provide top-notch goods and services. Work closely and collaboratively with Tourism Victoria and others to promote Victoria as a sustainable destination that provides authentic, meaningful experiences to tourists. Tourism supports and grows local business.

Years one to four: Continue to break down silos between sectors and play a collaborative, convening role to bring together a diversity of people and organizations to co-create opportunities.

Years one to four: Work with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations on First Nations led economic development initiatives. The two Nations are key partners to the City of Victoria economically and culturally and play an important role in the history, present and future of the City and the region.

Years one to four: Create opportunities through trade missions for Victoria-based businesses to develop export markets for goods and services.

Wellbeing and Prosperity Step 2: Address the mental health and addictions crisis in the region through partnerships and collaboration

There are people living on the streets and/or occupying public spaces who have mental health and addictions challenges. Their challenges are sometimes very visible and because of early childhood trauma or brain injuries and resultant mental illness and/or drug-use can manifest in unpredictable ways. This situation makes many people vulnerable – people who have to live outside and who have no place to go are always vulnerable and continually exposed. Other members of the public can feel threatened by some of the behavior that they witness because it is unpredictable and unfamiliar.

The current situation is intolerable for everyone and cannot be allowed to continue; all the money being spent is not addressing the problem effectively. And because this is a Provincial responsibility, the City has limited influence on how Provincial monies should be spent. It is also a regional issue. While the most chronic mentally ill and addicted people may end up on the streets of downtown, there are people in every corner of our region struggling with mental health and addictions issues; just because they are not as visible does not mean that we can ignore their conditions. They too need support and attention before their issues become chronic. For more details on the current situation please read my blog post here.

Wellbeing and Prosperity COMMITMENT: Working in partnership, we will ensure that money spent by the Province in our region to address mental health and addictions gets people the supports and services they need at whatever stage or phase of their mental health and/or addiction they are in, from prevention to recovery.

Year one: Co-convene, with one mayor from the Westshore and one mayor from the Peninsula, a Regional Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions. The task force will be co-chaired by the three mayors and will be comprised of staff from Island Health, staff from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, service providers, members of the business community, police, bylaw, and people with lived experience of mental health and addictions. The scope of work for the task force will be to quantify the problem regionally and develop a business case for solving it. How much money is being spent by health, justice, policing, bylaw, parks, others on an annual basis per person for those living on the streets with mental health and addictions? How could these same monies be better spent to resolve the issue and get people the help and support they need?

Year one: Develop a scope of work to determine the current cost to all sectors of the mental health and addictions problem in the capital region. Meet with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to present this scope of work, clearly demonstrate how undertaking a one-year study of a small, well-designed sample of people from across the region (housed and unhoused) facing mental health and/or addictions challenges, that is efficient, defensible, and peer-reviewed will help the Provincial Government in the work it needs to do Province wide. Ask the Minister to fund and support this research.

Year two: We have quantified the costs/benefits against the current level of investment in addressing the mental health and addictions issues in the region and a clear case has likely developed that the status quo is unsupportable, unaffordable and ineffective.

Year two: We demonstrate to all parties involved on the Regional Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Health and Addictions the benefits of working together to implement the solutions identified in the study and secure a public commitment from all parties to do so.

Year two: The Captial Regional Hospital District Board develops a time-limited program or service at the CRD as an extension of the Regional Housing First Program that commits a small amount of CRD resources as a junior partner to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, determines which local governments want to participate in the program, and creates an evaluation framework for the program.

Year two: We have a proposed program at the CRD and a plan for ongoing evaluation that will inspire the Minister’s confidence to re-allocate resources in the region in line with the recommendations from the study and business case developed in year one. We have reached an agreement with the Province about which level of government is responsible for which part of the solution and a consensus as a region that we all must work together to be part of the solution in improving the health of our residents.

Years three to four (and beyond): We implement a new approach to mental health and addictions prevention and treatment in the region, regularly evaluate and share results – including both the treatment successes and challenges and the fiscal effectivness of this new approach and continuously improve the approach based on feedback.

Wellbeing and Prosperity Step 3: Invest in health, wellness and community building opportunities

Wellbeing and Prosperity COMMITMENT: Build Crystal Pool and support community and seniors centres

Year one: Secure Provincial and Federal funding for the Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre Replacement Project. We have saved $10 million, received $7 million in grants to date, and have the capacity to fund up to 33% of the project with existing resources. Break ground no later than March 2019. Starting beyond this date will increase construction cost by approximately $3 million over the $69.4 million budget. Please see photo for more details.

Year one: Bring forward a proposal to repurpose the Royal Athletic Parking lot, develop a business case to put public parking underground, affordable housing on top (through the $90 million Regional Housing First Program), and incorporate a community / welcome centre as part of the complex.

Years one to four: Continue to fund community and senior’s centres with an inflationary increase each year and continue to support the work done in and by these centres.

Wellbeing and Prosperity Step 4: Make significant investments in the public realm and create more vibrant and welcoming public spaces

Sometimes a vibrant public realm is seen as a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have” and Council can be criticized for spending money to beautify public spaces. There is also a tendency for City Hall to stifle citizen-led interventions in public space and tactical urbanism approaches.

We will overcome these obstacles and ensure that the City’s public spaces are key places for gathering, connection and the enhancement of individual and community well-being. People have a desire to gather in community, to dance , to celebrate, and for quiet spaces of reflection.

Welcoming, inclusive vibrant and green public spaces are important in all neighbourhoods. And they are especially important downtown. As more people and more families live in smaller, non-single family dwellings, public spaces become living rooms, dining rooms and backyards.

Wellbeing and Prosperity COMMITMENT: We will invest significantly and prudently in the public realm and public spaces

Year one: Incorporate “Create Vibrant, Welcoming and Inclusive Public Spaces” as an objective in the four year strategic plan.

Years one to four: Develop a plan including site selection, funding strategy, and partnerships to develop a new Central Library downtown.

Year one: Work with the Greater Victoria Placemaking Society and other interested stakeholders to create a tactical urbanism guide.  

Year two: Lower the speed limit on all neighbourhood streets to 30km/h in order to ensure safety, especially for children and elderly residents.

Years one to four: Hold tactical urbanism workshops and support citizens and businesses in taking small-scale actions to improve and activate public spaces. Make it easy to do so!

Year one: Finalize Songhees Park expansion (on the west side of the Johnson Street Bridge where the road used to be) design with the public and finish the park. Council has saved the money necessary for this purpose in the DCC Parkland Acquisition and Development Reserve fund.

Year one: Finalize Ship Point Masterplan with public, with detailed input from the Downtown Residents Association, and develop funding strategy for phased approach to implementation.

Year one: Work with the public, and in particular North Park residents, to make a plan for Central Park that meets the needs of a diversity of residents and park users.

Year one: Deepen public, Council and staff understanding of the positive financial, climate adaptation and well-being benefits of natural assets. Some members of the public have deep understanding of this; draw on their wisdom and experience.

Year one: Continue to implement the City of Victoria Urban Forest Masterplan by creating an Urban Forest Action Plan (see recommend Action B in UFMP)

Years two to four: Increase the City’s tree canopy by planting more trees everywhere. Draw on the City of Toronto and other inspiring initiatives to engage the public to help plant and maintain trees in public spaces. The City of Victoria has 33,000 trees in public space. In 2017 the City planted 328 new trees, removed 150 trees and inspected 760 trees. New trees have a 95% survival rate; they are a great investment as the climate continues to change.

Years one to four: Continue implementation of Victoria’s Parks and Open Spaces Masterplan

Years one to four: Continue to support the production of food on public and private land and urban food growing groups and initiatives.

Year one: Work with Lifecycles Project Society to bring back the Sharing Backyards Program to match people who want to grow food with people who have backyards available for food growing and are willing to share.

Year two to three: Work with Province, CRD and neighbouring municipalities to develop and implement a deer management strategy.

Years one to two: Continue the informal “900 block Pandora Task Force” and work to make the 900 block of Pandora as a welcoming, safe and inclusive space for everyone with a specific focus on Placemaking initiatives and public realm enhancements that benefit all users of that block.

Years one to four: Ensure there is sufficient capacity to support and maintain new investments in the public realm.

Wellbeing and Prosperity Step 5: Improve individual and community health and well-being

In the last 10 years, there has been a wealth of research done on the importance of policy-makers focussing on well-being as an outcome. Much of this work has come from economists. A key turning point in the economics of happiness and well-being was the publication of the first World Happiness Report in 2012. John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs argue in the introduction:

“Countries achieve great progress in economic development as conventionally measured; yet along the  way succumb to new crises of obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression, and other ills of modern life.”

Study after study in the field of happiness science and the economics of happiness show that even though GDP in Canada and the United States has grown consistently since the 1950s, our happiness as a population (both measured subjectively and objectively) has not increased and our well-being as a population has decreased.

The World Happiness Report grapples with the measurement of happiness on a global level across nations and across age and gender within nations. The annual Reports make a compelling case for a focus on happiness and well-being as the goal of politics and social policy.

As the 2015 report asks, “How to Make Policy when Happiness is the Goal?” The answer in two parts:

  1. Governments and NGOs organize themselves around that goal
  2. Create new policy options aimed at the creation of happiness

Wellbeing and Prosperity COMMITMENT: We will improve individual and community health and well-being and we will measure results

Years one to four: Take a change management approach that protects citizens well-being and ensure that key community values of quality of life and well-being are the focus of the city apparatus.

Years one to four: Measure well-being subjectively and objectively and make results public.

Years one to four: Ensure that results of measurement inform annual strategic plan review and budgeting process.

Keep Reading: A Sustainable City

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