Victoria councillor Ben Isitt’s motion for city staff to review its seasonal decoration has prompted mixed reaction.
Last week, council’s Committee of the Whole passed a motion for city staff to review Victoria’s Seasonal Decorations Program (set to cost $90,000 in 2019) and report back, with an eye on secularizing and diversifying it.
“[There are] many elements of Christian symbolism that are paid for with taxpayer dollars. And for me, that doesn’t reflect a clear division between church and state,” Isitt said during the meeting.
He declined an interview, but posted on Twitter:
“This was consistent with my promise during the recent election to advocate for cost-effective public services….I intend to focus on the major issues confronting our community — including housing rights, climate action, and other measures.”
— Ben Isitt (@Ben_Isitt) December 11, 2018
Around town, opinions are mixed, even among council.
“I think that we’re doing just fine with seasonal lights downtown,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.
“And I think the downtown is vibrant and alive, and I’d like to see more vibrancy and aliveness downtown. If lights are part of it, then lights are part of it, and I think that’s a good thing.”
The Victoria Multifaith Society says this time of year is important to a wide range of people.
“Whether it is Christmas for the Christians, or Diwali for the Hindus, and Hanukkah for the Jewish people, everyone has a faith celebration at this time of the year to do with lights,” said Sri Ganti from the Victoria Multifaith Society.
And others are calling for calm.
“We want to be careful to preserve what’s right about our political culture and to preserve space for politicians to ask reasonable questions about expenditures or about how we celebrate winter holidays in the city,” said UVic history professor Jordan Stanger-Ross.