Actions needed to restore public trust

Guest Column

I believe there has been an erosion of public trust in Victoria. To restore public trust, this is what I would do if elected mayor:

Place neighbourhoods first
At the doors, I have heard very rational, thoughtful, knowledgeable people say they are open to more people moving into their neighbourhoods. However, in some cases, they’ll say that while the city is trying to put too many units/people into too small a lot, they point to the streets, filled with parked cars behind me, saying, “where is everyone going to park?” These people are not greedy, nor ignorant of the changes around them–they are just being realistic and are sick and tired of fighting arbitrary numbers that greatly interfere with the character of their neighbourhoods. I will talk to Victorians about the actual issues they face when it comes to more density and work with them to be part of our city’s reasonable growth, instead of feeling they have to constantly fight it.

Listen to all Victorians
I’d listen to all Victorians affected by decisions of the city and council. While I am more than happy to listen to those with special knowledge about issues, no decision will be made behind closed doors or at someone’s “kitchen table.” Of course at the end of the day I, along with council, will make decisions that will please some people and displease others, but people will be able to say, “I was heard.”

More inclusive voices on the Macdonald statue
I will bring about a more inclusive group to discuss the fate of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue. Some will say move it back, but I’m not going to waste more of your tax dollars to haul it back without knowing the desired result. When you have Senator Murray Sinclair, the former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, saying tearing down statues is “counterproductive” to reconciliation because it “smacks of revenge,” I know we can do better. We want to honour our Indigenous People at the same time we explain our history, all of it. Many people have made great suggestions, so let’s hear them in public.

Audit of Johnson Bridge before Crystal Pool construction
I will ask the Office of the Auditor General for Local Government to conduct an independent audit of the Johnson Street Bridge before another thing is done with the massive capital project of the Crystal Pool (estimated at $70 million to $80 million thus far). I will also ensure all options are given equal importance of refurbishing the existing facility, building a new one, or even creating a recreation centre with the Curling Club across the street (disclosure: I curl at the club). I’d like to hear all options instead of forging ahead with a select group calling the shots. And I will assure the residents near Central Park that we will have a plan for the park, instead of having a plan to have a plan (I kid you not). An audit is not to lay blame; it’s to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes yet again.

(BTW, even though Mayor Helps, has said, “I don’t know that we need to keep looking back” regarding an audit of the bridge, she miraculously concluded five weeks before the election that she now wants an independent audit. Better late than never.)

An alternative to tent cities
In 2009 the BC Court of Appeal said the City of Victoria had to allow homeless people to have “temporary overnight shelter” in city parks to ensure they did not perish due to being outside overnight. However, the court also wrote:

“We consider that the appropriate manner of dealing with this problem is to allow the City to apply to the Supreme Court for a termination of the declaration if it can demonstrate that the conditions that make the Parks Regulation Bylaw unconstitutional have ceased to exist.”

So if the city can show there are sufficient shelters for the homeless (housing, temporary shelters, etc.), then we can go back to the court to say we have met our obligations. The Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness had a mandate to “end homelessness” in Victoria by 2018. With the best of intentions, this clearly isn’t working. If we want to end homelessness in our city, we’ve got a lot of work to do. I will work with all the stakeholders, with the end goal of going back to the court because we have provided appropriate shelters. It will take years, and lots of money from the province to get housing and proper supports for those inside facilities as well as outside.

Stephen Hammond is a candidate for mayor of Victoria.