We’re all in this together

The third of our guest columns from mayoral candidates

For as long as anyone can remember, Victoria has been an open, inclusive, and engaged community with a genuinely compassionate heart. True, our beautiful environment and gentle climate are two of the things we love most and are known for around the world. But underlying these gifts has been our willingness to share our city and its resources with each other and with others, be they neighbours, visitors, the young, the not so young, the wealthy or the disadvantaged. This is what makes our community truly stand out: well-being and quality of life are core community values.

In a time when we find ourselves challenged by many complex issues like affordability, homelessness, mental health and addictions, climate change and traffic congestion, now more than ever, we need to bring that broad-minded inclusive spirit that defines us as Victorians back to the forefront of public discourse.

In his book, Out of the Wreckage, A New Politics in an Age of Crisis, George Monbiot makes the following observation:

“When I make the mistake of reading the online comments beneath my articles, or anyone else’s, the image that strikes me is of people trapped, alone in their cars, in a traffic jam, unable to see past the vehicle in front of them. Their anger and aggression is focused on the drivers ahead and they lean on the horn, blaring pointlessly.

Their isolation and frustration blind them to the wider context: the reasons for the jam, the reasons for their anger, the wider problems the snarl-up might reveal.

Alienation, separation and stress suppress empathy, understanding, curiosity and cooperation. Deep thought becomes impossible. Rather than deliberating together to solve our common problems, we shout and we shake our fists at each other.”

That’s not the kind of city that any of us wants or deserves. If we are going to solve the biggest challenges facing us, we need to create more space for deliberative democracy. What this means is that we need to have hard conversations with love, joy, compassion and open-heartedness, even when–and especially when–this feels really hard.

That’s what I’ve been doing every two weeks at City Hall since I took office. I hold a community drop-in. People come in, all together, they sit down, we pour the coffee and tea and I ask, “What is the agenda?” People give us their agenda items and then the person whose topic it is gets to speak, the rest of us listen and then we deliberate together as a group. For transparency, the agendas and actions items are recorded after the drop-in here on the City’s website.

One day, the first item on the agenda was “homeless people sleeping in parks.” The second item on the agenda was “homelessness.” The first woman spoke and she said she lived near a park where homeless people were sleeping; she had compassion but was also scared and worried. She shared her story. The next guy got up to speak to the second agenda item and said, “I’m homeless and I’m sleeping in a park.” And he shared his story. It was such a powerful moment because they could understand each other’s perspectives. It’s only when we understand each other’s perspectives, deeply like that, that we can solve big problems together.

And that is what we will continue to do, together. We have laid out a detailed plan in the “We’re all in this together” section of the platform.

These are my “We’re all in this together” commitments:

  1. Work closely with the public to co-create and co-deliver engagement activities.
  2. Strengthen inclusion and the social fabric of the city through engagement and restore civility to public dialogue.
  3. Strengthen the social fabric of our community through the development process.
  4. Continue the work of reconciliation with Songhees and Esquimalt Nations and the wider community.

I look forward to the opportunity to serve the community for four more years. I look forward to working together to solve the biggest challenges facing Victoria while, at the same time, strengthening our sense of connection and belonging to this place and with each other.