‘Intentional transformation’: Mayor says challenging discussions to come on Victoria’s future

CHEK

CHEK News sat down with Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto to discuss a series of topics that’s been dominating city politics.

Against council’s pay raise

“That wasn’t something I could support,” said Alto.

On March 14, Victoria councillors voted themselves a 25 per cent pay raise in a 5-3 vote.

“You’ll know from the record that I voted in opposition to that, and have always voted in opposition of any motion where a body gives itself a pay raise that’s immediate,” said Alto.

“I fundamentally believe that a body should not have the ability to raise its own wages, and in particular I don’t think it should be able to do so immediately.”

Tight-lipped on the School Police Liaison Officer Program

In the Greater Victoria School District, the police liaison program has been cancelled since May of last school year. Parents and police have been voicing their concerns about the possible consequences of not having police in schools.

Police and community councillors say gang recruitment in schools is up as a result. Saanich Police, whose jurisdiction overlaps with SD61, says they’re seeing an increase in youth arrests.

“How do you feel about the program and the possible consequences of not having police in schools?” CHEK News reporter Kori Sidaway asked Alto.

“It’s a difficult conversation, but the important thing for me to say is the Police Board protocol is that the lead co-chair comments on police matters, that’s Mayor Desjardins, as you know, so it would be inappropriate for me to say anything about that,” said Alto.

“In your role as mayor, can you separate the two?” Sidaway asked back.

“It’s really hard to do that, actually, anything I would say to you would be interpreted as being said on behalf of the board,” said Alto.

Saanich’s Mayor Dean Murdock has previously called for SD61 to come back to the table to re-envision the police liaison program as has the chiefs of Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay police. SD61 continues to not answer CHEK News’ request for comment.

Working with the province for more Tiny Towns

In a recent Memorandum Of Understanding regarding sheltering, the city of Victoria and the Province set out their commitment to:

  • Homelessness Encampment Action Response Teams (HEART)
  • City identifying feasible land for HEART sheltering locations, and temporary and permanent housing
  • BC Housing to facilitate sanitation services, garbage removal etc. at HEART locations
  • Province to come up with a Provincial Encampment Response Framework

“Does that mean we’re going to see possibly more Tiny Town spaces around the city?” asked Sidaway.

“Will there be more? I actually hope so and certainly my understanding from the ministry is that they do too,” said Alto. “We’ve suggested a number of different locations to them that they’re investigating.”

“I think it’s important for us to remember the mode that is Tiny Town is one model, there are a whole variety of different ways you can provide this type of housing. One of our biggest challenges I think is finding operators for these,” she said.

We’ll do the work — B.C. & Feds, cough up the cash

“Municipalities for decades have been concerned there has been a downloading from other levels of government,” said Alto.

“There are urgent things that need to get done locally now. I’m going to argue that the local governments are the best positioned to deal with the local issues of local residents. What I’d really like the provincial and federal governments to do, is let us do that work, and just give us the money. And so that’s kind of where we’re going,” said the mayor.

“I think you’re going to see over the next six months for sure some very interesting conversations upcoming leading to some very difficult decisions in the fall.”

‘We’re a city, like it or not’

“There’s a lot of stuff now emerging that I think we’ve grown into the space where we can start to make really challenging decisions that will very much have a significant impact on the future of the city,” said Alto.

“The phrase I use repeatedly is ‘intentional transformation.’ We’re a city, like it or not. We deal with city issues and we have to have city solutions and there are a lot of things that are coming.”

Kori Sidaway

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