April DRA Board Meeting Highlights
[Thanks to Cathy Brankston for this content - Editor]
Murray Rankin, MP
As announced in our April newsletter, our Federal Member of Parliament, the Honourable Murray Rankin, came to speak with us at our April board meeting.
As a 35 year resident of Victoria, Mr. Rankin spoke on the concerns facing the City, business owners, and residents. He expressed concern over the moving of Federal Government offices from downtown and the downsizing of ministry staff and office space.
He feels that technology firms are a good fit for the downtown core, as employees are likely to be younger and would embrace the vibrant lifestyle of restaurants, night life, easy access to transport, etc. He noted that VIATeC has purchased 777 Fort Street which will house their start-up accelerator program for new tech companies, and that Portland and Seattle have similar “Incubator” projects, providing workspace and mentorship to new companies. DVBA, Shop Local Group and many business owners are very supportive of initiative to attract more tech companies.
Mr. Rankin also addressed the ongoing issue of housing affordability facing local residents. He feels that the Federal Government should have more flexible options for helping to solve this issue in our most expensive cities, i.e. Victoria and Vancouver. Recent proposed changes to Canada Post, service cuts and delivery methods, are a concern for all CRD residents. Safety, security and lack of easy accessibility are major items to address. Chair Wendy thanked Mr. Rankin for speaking to the board.
Elected to office in November 2012 as the MP for Victoria/Oak Bay, Mr. Rankin's constituency office is located at 1057 Fort Street. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
with any questions, comments or suggestions that you feel we should share with MP Rankin. We hope that his visit will be just the beginning of a healthy dialogue between downtown residents and our Federal MP.
Ismo Husu, Manager of Parking Services
At our April board meeting, we had a second visitor, Ismo Husu, Manager of Parking Services for the City of Victoria.
Parking Policy has been under review by the city for the past year and a half. Reviewing the rate structure was one of the first steps, while a focus on improved customer service is ongoing.
Primary goals of the city's Parking Services department are:
- To provide efficient parking for business, residents, shoppers and visitors
- Managing traffic and higher turnover of on-street parking
- Greater utilization of the city’s five parkades, possibly through better way-finding signage. Note: Parkades are open 24/7, free after 6 pm and all day on Sundays
- Increasing parking rates in certain high demand areas to encourage greater use of parkades, bicycles and pedestrian traffic.
Under the proposed changes, on-street parking rates would increase in 835 spots in the downtown core, and decrease in 2350 spots outside of the core. Pay for parking is a way of having others from outside the core pay for upkeep and use of the services. Wendy thanked Mr. Husu for keeping the DRA up-to-date on this relevant concern. Details of the proposed changes to parking can be found here
Next DRA Board Meeting
Our next board meeting will be held on Tuesday May 27, 2014 at 5:30 pm, DRA Board meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Silver Threads Centre, 1728 Douglas Street. Board meetings are open to all DRA members.
Sewage Treatment Plan Options Need An Independent Assessment. What Are The Odds?
[Many thanks to local author John Farquharson
and Open Victoria
for allowing us to republish this independent review of the DRA's most recent Victoria Matters: Sewage Treatment in the CRD - Editor]
John Farquharson reporting:
The moderator of the Downtown Residents’ Association April 2nd public forum
on sewage described the panel as being of “rock star” calibre: Albert Sweetnam, Seaterra Project Director; Geoff Young, Victoria Councillor, Chair of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee; Richard Atwell, Director, Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG); and, Vic Derman, Saanich Councillor, CRD Board Director. Indeed, the Association couldn’t have done a better job in securing the key representatives to address the sewage issue at this critical stage in its development.
Mr. Sweetnam and Director Young made a case for why the CRD’s secondary treatment plan must proceed without delay and why a distributed tertiary system (a.k.a. the RITE Plan) isn’t viable. Mr. Atwell advocated for the tertiary option and pointed out the shortcomings of the CRD’s proposal. Director Derman maintained that due diligence had not been done in determining the best approach for sewage treatment.
The format provided each panelist with a five minute opening statement. This was followed by two rounds for panelists to provide additional information and respond to that of the others. The final phase was a question and answer period, with the moderator reading out written questions from the audience. Although the format didn’t allow for any direct exchanges among panelists, one did take place, when Director Derman directly apologized to Mr. Sweetnam during the Q&A session for having accused him (in an earlier round) of being “misleading” on the issue of ocean outfall and back up requirements for a distributed tertiary system.
Similar accusations — misinformation, untruth, incorrect, wrong, inaccurate, propaganda, etc. — were lobbed back and forth during rounds two and three. The line Director Derman appeared to cross was accusing someone of misleading, rather than that his information was misleading. The distinction, if it existed at all, seemed irrelevant to the audience. And by 9pm, they were still left with an overwhelming amount of contradictory information and no way to separate the complete, reliable and trustworthy from the misleading and biased.
A round or two of direct exchanges between panelists may have helped a bit in this regard. But just a bit. A much more significant intervention seems necessary at this point to assess the conflicting claims and determine the best way forward. It’s along the lines of what Director Derman has been after for some time. As he requested, just before the Q&A session, “Let’s stop throwing out all these red herrings and open up the process to an independent comparison.” If, he continued, the CRD plan is deemed the best, then “… so be it.”
It’s a move that STAG director Mr. Atwell would certainly welcome. It was also behind the final written question from the audience that the moderator used to wrap up the evening: “How has the CRD validated that this is the best plan in terms of value for money and environmental impact?”
It’s unclear what else has to be in place for a third-party independent review to be initiated. There’s definitely time for one in light of the assurances from the Minister of Environment that funding would be secure with a deadline extension to 2020
(see Fact #3 in link). Maybe determining the costs of a review, both direct and indirect, would be a reasonable next step.
As for future developments that could put further pressure on the CRD to conclude that a review is essential, two are on the near horizon. One is the April 7th rezoning decision by Esquimalt Council on the CRD’s application for the McLoughlin Point treatment facility. The other is a petition calling for a review, that will be presented to the provincial government before the end of the current legislative session.
Then again, there’s the definitive development on the far (but getting closer) horizon — November’s municipal elections. If the pro-Seaterra view prevails at the polls, then that should end the debate. If not, however, CRD residents may finally get the independent review of the $780-million dollar project they have demanded.
Bicycle Master Plan - Have Your Say!
"Victoria’s first ever Bicycle Master Plan was created in 1995 and has guided the development of Victoria’s cycling infrastructure since then. The updated Bicycle Master Plan will take into account changes that have occurred in Victoria over the last 19 years, including a growing interest in cycling, an expanded regional cycling network, plans for future growth and new regional and City plans and policies."
The City is hosting several workshops to gather ideas on how to improve cycling in Victoria. Two of the workshops are designed for those who already cycle, and one is for those who currently do not. All three workshops take place this month, and the details can be found here
Interestingly enough, the workshop for those who are not currently cyclists is being organized in conjunction with SFU Carbon Talks
. This free event will take place May 26, 2014, from 5:00 to 8:30 pm, at Fairfield United Church (1303 Fairfield Road). As a complimentary dinner will be served to the attendees, registration is required by May 9th. Register by email
, or by phone (250) 361-0288 (Melinda Jolley, City of Victoria).
Whether or not you attend the workshops, the City would like to hear from you. To that end, please consider completing this short survey
, the results of which will impact the updated Bicycle Master Plan.
Bike to Work Week 2014
May 26 - June 1, 2014 is Bike to Work Week
, and this year is Greater Victoria Bike to Work Week's 20th anniversary!
Greater Victoria Bike to Work Society
, the organizers of Greater Victoria Bike to Work Week, are planning special events throughout the week to celebrate this major milestone. Bike to Work Week is one of the capital region's most supported and recognized free community events attracting over 7,000 commuter cyclists, including 12,000 new cyclists since inception.
Their 20th anniversary campaign will feature 20 celebration stations, their annual launch event and a live concert on Saturday May 31, 2014 closing the week.
Unique to the Greater Victoria Bike to Work Society are their cycling skills courses for children and adults which are sponsored by the Capital Region District. The Ride On! program offers courses that are fun, informative, build confidence and introduce participants to the cycling community. Learn more and register
Harbour Dialogue Invitation
The Community Planning Division of the City of Victoria is inviting the public to share their ideas for enhancing and revitalizing three key sites along the Inner Harbour.
Harbour Dialogue Open House
Friday, May 9, 2014
3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (drop-in)
Ship Point Plaza (946 Wharf Street)
This open house provides an opportunity for the public to view project information, talk to City staff and provide ideas for improving Belleville Terminal, Ship Point and the Lower Wharf Street site. Representatives from Tourism Victoria, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Downtown Victoria Business Association and the Royal BC Museum will also be in attendance. This is a drop-in event. Pre-registration is not required.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Victoria Conference Centre (720 Douglas Street)
Carson Hall – Salon C
Session One: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Session Two: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Please register and join us at the Ideas Forum where we will present detailed information and facilitate round table discussions exploring key questions relating to each site. To register, please email your name and the preferred session to email@example.com
. Reserve your seat early as each session is limited to 80 participants (Note: both sessions on Saturday will cover the same material).
Questions about the above two events should be directed to Robert Batallas at (250) 361-0286, or via email
Are You Prepared for an Earthquake?
A sidebar in the current edition of the city's newsletter Connect
asks, "Are You Prepared for an Earthquake?" Most of us are not, but to ensure that we become prepared, the Victoria Emergency Management Agency
(VEMA) offers free Emergency Preparedness Workshops on an ongoing basis.
The next workshop scheduled for downtown is Monday May 26, 2014, from 1 - 3 pm, at City Hall. Learn what you would need to protect your family, and cope for several days without outside assistance. Complete this online form
, or phone VEMA at (250) 920-3373 to register for one of their workshops
Victoria Harbour Floating Boat Show
The British Columbia Yacht Brokers Association (BCYBA)
presents the 2014 Victoria Harbour Boat Show, May 1 - 4, 2014. Experience life on the water at Vancouver Island’s premiere in-water boat show set in Victoria's beautiful inner harbour, featuring over 200 new and pre-owned boats, and much more! Advance tickets
are available online - adults: $8, students & seniors: $6 / under 16: free. Ticket prices slightly higher at the door.
Short Circuit Film Festival
Short Circuit is a two evening celebration of Pacific Northwest short film, May 2 - 3, 2014, at The Vic Theatre
, 808 Douglas Street. Come expecting to see dazzling short narrative, experimental, and documentary films from Alaska, BC, the Yukon, Washington, and Oregon.
Short Circuit is presented by Victoria's CineVic Society of Independent Filmmakers. Tickets are $10 per night or $15 for both, and are available in advance from CineVic
and Lyle's Place
, or at the event. Doors open at 7:00 and show begins at 7:30pm each night. 19+ (no minors).
A Town Hall Dialogue
Open Victoria is hosting a Town Hall Dialogue on Tuesday May 13, 2014, from 7 - 9 pm, at the Cook St. Activity Centre (1-380 Cook Street), the title of which is, How to Safeguard Transparency, Openness and Accountability in Municipal & Regional Governments
According to the flyer for this event, "The bedrock of a healthy representative democracy is open, free and fair elections. Between elections, transparency, openness and accountability safeguard its well-being. The media, civic organizations, think tanks, FOI officials and others play an important role in maintaining these conditions. With elections less than a year way, it’s time for CRD residents to have an informed and critical conversation on the state of regional and municipal transparency, openness and accountability."
The Moderator of the Town Hall Dialogue is Christopher Causton
, former mayor of Oak Bay. Panelists for the event include:
- Leslie Campbell - Editor, Focus Magazine
- David Flaherty - Former BC Information and Privacy Commissioner
- Kevin McArthur - Vice President, Open Data Society of BC
- Mat Wright - Press Secretary for BC MLA Andrew Weaver
For more information and to RSVP, please visit the Open Victoria
Royal McPherson Centennial Festival
2014 is the 100th anniversary of both the Royal Theatre and the McPherson Playhouse, and their birthday bash runs from May 18 - 25, 2014.
To honour this pair of landmark buildings and the extraordinary impact they have had on Victoria’s cultural life, the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society (RMTS) is presenting a weeklong Centennial Festival.
The Royal and McPherson Theatres Society is a not for profit organization that manages all operational aspects of the Royal Theatre and the McPherson Playhouse. As the managers of the two Historic Theatres in the City of Victoria, we are proud to be able to host this unique event. Our mission is to enrich the cultural life of the region, by operating and maintaining the civic theatres of the Capital Regional District. Performance schedules and ticket information can be found here
Vancouver Island Pet Expo
The 4th Annual Vancouver Island Pet Expo
is on May 24 - 25, 2014 at Pearkes Recreation Centre
The Vancouver Island Pet Expo is a two day consumer event for pet lovers. Whether it's a dog, cat, fish or bird, the Pet Expo will provide an opportunity to shop for products for your pet under one roof. Guests will also have an opportunity to talk with professionals who can answer your questions or provide advice about your special friend. Subscribe to their e-newsletter
to stay up to date with what's happening with the 2014 Vancouver Island Pet Expo.
Victoria International Kite Festival
The first annual Victoria International Kite Festival
takes place May 31 and June 1 at beautiful Clover Point, just minutes from downtown. This free-to-attend weekend festival presents fun for the whole family and features some of the world’s top professional kite flyers, large colourful kites, free kite making for children, an open sky event for the general public and much more!
Event organizers are looking for "enthusiastic volunteers" to help out at the children’s kite making tent, which runs both days. For more information, or to volunteer, visit the festival website
and Facebook page
The Markets at Bastion Square
The 2014 Bastion Square Public Market
opens for the season Thursday, May 1st, and is open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 am – 5:30 pm, and runs until the end of September.
The market turns 19 this year! Stretching from Victoria’s waterfront on Wharf Street to Government Street, this colourful open-air market brings a vibrancy to Bastion Square with its wonderful array of locally produced arts, crafts, and entertainment. Watch artisans as they create their crafts, or sit and enjoy the market atmosphere at one of the local outdoor cafes.
The Sunday Market at Bastion Square
opens Sunday, May 4 from 11 am – 4 pm, and will run every Sunday through September, except June 1. This well-known market features an eclectic mix of arts, crafts, imports, and entertainment. The Farmers’ Market will feature farmers selling their locally grown produce and fruits; homemade breads and pastries; preserves, chutneys, and relishes and free-range eggs.
Throughout the summer, the Sunday Market will host an Artist of the Day, This new event has been designed to profile local artists from all corners of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. The Art Walk begins May 18.
Victoria Flea Market Square
An authentic flea market, a free social activity that appeals to all ages and walks of life, is coming to Market Square. Being part of the downtown community is a goal of the Victoria Flea Market, so the organizers have decided to move to Market Square for the summer season. Beginning Sunday May 4, 2014, this open air event will recur every Sunday from May through September, from 10 am to 5 pm, with the aim of encouraging the downtown public to use and enjoy "The Square".
Flea markets, with their vintage, recycled, repaired or revamped goods are the original green business. Not intended to appeal to tourists, the flea market at Market Square will offer locals, especially downtown residents, a place where they can come together in the community to share ideas and exchange goods in a safe, attractive and relatively protected spot. Admission is free and there will be up to 50 sellers with everything from postcards to estate jewelry, retro home furnishings, vintage clothes and textiles, ceramics, home decor, art and luxurious junque from Victoria's glorious past.
Everyone is welcome to participate in the Victoria Flea Market Square (VFMS), and the organizers hope that downtown residents will use the VFMS as their garage sale
venue. The table fee is $20.00 (table not included), and booking is on a week by week basis. For further details, and application forms, visit their website
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®
"Originally created as a walk to bring men together to end sexualized violence, Victoria's Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®
asks men alongside their communities to walk one mile wearing shoes of their own (or fancy shoes with heels if they choose) to raise funds and awareness for the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. It’s fun and it gets everyone talking about something that’s really difficult to talk about: sexualized violence."
The Victoria Sexual Assualt Centre and Vancity invite you to the 8th Annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event, Sunday, May 25, 2014, from 2 - 4pm at Spirit Square. Register here
Tax me, I’m a Victorian
How do taxpayers feel about giving away millions in freebies?
Local Citizen Opinion by Stan & Anne Bartlett:
Spring is in the air, and local taxpayers are again bemoaning a proposed tax increase of almost double current inflation. But they may want to cast some blame on the Province and the Capital Regional District (CRD).
Under provincial legislation, the Legislature, Government House and other properties are exempt from paying property taxes. In 2013 that was about $1.5 million, according to City of Victoria figures. There are also provincially owned park spaces and water lots that are exempt, totalling $500,000 annually. The Victoria Police and Fire Departments are also obliged to provide services to the Legislature, likely a tidy sum considering the number of protests and demonstrations.
The clincher: we are the only provincial capital, next to St. John’s, Nfld., where the province does not provide grants in lieu to offset the loss of property taxes.
This impact is felt in a balkanized region where the City of Victoria jurisdiction has a population of just 82,000. It’s not widely known that the city has the lowest median household income in the CRD - lots of clerks, baristas, and seniors - which is also lower than the provincial average. But things have improved compared to years past when city taxpayers also paid water and sewer bills for the Legislature. The CRD also owns a number of properties within the City of Victoria including their headquarters next to city hall. Were they taxable, they would generate about $950,000 annually.
In sum, more than $3-million worth of freebies every year are given to the province and the CRD, money that would have come in handy for financing upgrades to the Crystal Pool or Fire Hall No. 1. With the burden set to increase in 2014 with subsequent tax increases, the loss will only get worse.
Even the federal government has long recognized the need to compensate local municipalities for federal and Crown corporation offices, national parks and other buildings within their jurisdictions. The township of Esquimalt, for example, stands to receive $11 million in revenue from the federal Property in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program in 2014. This amounts to more than 40 per cent of their annual revenue. A grant in lieu of taxes is helping them freeze property taxes for the second consecutive year.
So what are bedevilled City of Victoria taxpayers to do? It would be nice to see the amount of annual ‘freebies’ posted on property tax bills to heighten awareness of the issue. Short of placing a lien on the Legislature building itself or leaving the CRD, voters must demand equal tax treatment.
[Note: Opinions expressed in the "Local Citizen Opinion" column are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of the DRA or its members - Editor]