Six months into the term of the current City Council, I’m happy to report progress toward social justice and environmental responsibility in a number of areas.
The city’s recently adopted Strategic Plan and Budget include a strong commitment to Affordable Housing – including a quadrupling of funds for the Housing Reserve. City Council has also formed a Housing Affordability Task Force to identify municipal tools to increase the supply of low-cost housing for workers earning minimum wage and seniors on fixed incomes.
Alongside housing policy, the Strategic Plan reaffirms support for supervised consumption services and increased treatment beds to reduce harm from addictions. We now need the provincial government and Island Health to step up with multi-year operating funds for these necessary health services.
In terms of community services, the 2015 Budget increases funding for community centres and seniors centres by 25%, with provision for cost-of-living increases in future years, and new funding to the Downtown Community Centre.
On environmental policy, the city has committed $7.75-million in gas tax money toward the completion of an “all-ages and abilities” cycling network. This means a network of quiet neighbourhood bikeways and protected bike lanes on busier roads to ensure a child that is 8 years old, or a senior citizen who is 80 years old, can travel safely wherever they need to go in the city.
Another environmental policy that will improve the quality of life is completion of the Parks Master Plan, to identify priorities for new parks and greenways as well as improvements to existing parks. A related initiative aims to expand production of food on city-owned land, including food-bearing plants in parks and on boulevards.
Finally, the Strategic Plan and Budget make a strong commitment to traffic safety in neighbourhoods, with an additional $100,000 for neighbourhood traffic calming and a new $250,000 Accessibility Capital Fund to make city infrastructure and facilities more accessible for people with different abilities. The Strategic Plan mandates a policy of “neighbourhood-led transportation planning,” empowering residents and community associations to work with the city to make our streets and neighbourhoods safer.
On regional issues, sewage treatment is a top priority. The city and Capital Regional District are actively exploring options for the location of sewage treatment facilities, including 26 technically feasible sites in Victoria. It is my hope that we can find an acceptable central location or several locations for waste-water treatment, to move forward in a timely and cost-effective way to stop pollution of the marine ecosystem.
Finally, we have seen progress on the Regional Sustainability Strategy, with many members of the public and regional directors expressing support for urban containment to protect wilderness areas and farmland from urban sprawl. Decisions made this year will have a big impact for the future.
On all these issues, you have an ongoing and essential role to play – as an active and engaged citizen. I encourage you to speak up on the issues you care about to decision-makers at all levels of government and organize with fellow citizens to make improvements.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”