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Back up green talk by giving up parking passes, Victoria councillor tells colleagues

Victoria councillors should walk the talk with their environmental activism and forgo their city-issued parking passes, says Coun. Geoff Young.
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Victoria Coun. Geoff Young.

Victoria councillors should walk the talk with their environmental activism and forgo their city-issued parking passes, says Coun. Geoff Young.

“I have to say I get upset when this council makes motions talking about how we don’t like oil pipelines from Alberta and we require high levels of insulation in new buildings that are going to drive up housing prices, but at the same time we’re very happy to subsidize our driving of our private automobiles to work and around the city,” Young said during a budget session.

Young, who often cycles to work, proposed eliminating parking passes for councillors. Instead, councillors decided to have staff report back on the financial implications of eliminating parking passes as part of a review of council remuneration and moved that review to 2019 from a proposed 2020.

The possibility of having councillors eligible for the B.C. Transit pass program available through payroll deduction will also be explored.

Young said councillors should perhaps be given the option of cashing in the parking passes.

Coun. Ben Isitt noted the parking pass is a taxable benefit. “Personally, I’m happy to walk and cycle to work, but I think there are mobility and accessibility considerations and I think instead, rather than doing it with just a rash motion from the floor, referring it to the remuneration discussion would be advisable,” he said. “It’s a benefit that goes to council members in part for compensation for a fairly low rate of pay relative to other municipal employees.”

Elected officials in Greater Victoria, including Capital Regional District directors, MLAs and MPs, are eligible for parking passes from the city.

Any councillor who wants to return their parking pass is free to do so, said Coun. Jeremy Loveday. “Any councillor who doesn’t wish to have parking privileges or who wishes to walk the walk in a public way can give back their parking pass any time.”

He said it would be “problematic” if some city councillors were denied parking passes, but others who also serve on the CRD board were eligible to retain theirs.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she makes use of her parking privileges. “I don’t use a bike for transportation and when I think of the time, whether for land-use meetings and I’m having to go or to visit different properties and other meetings we have to go to in various parts of the city, even with a bike it would make it difficult,” Thornton-Joe said.

“I’ve always been curious about whether or not we could be included in the bus-pass program,” Coun. Marianne Alto said. “For me, personally, I would be more likely to use a bus pass than I would a bicycle.”

In 2014, CRD directors saw their downtown parking privileges, which included free street parking, pared back to parkades only.

Victoria, which has staked out positions on several environmental issues, is on record opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. In 2016, both Mayor Lisa Helps and Isitt testified at a National Energy Board hearing saying an oil-tanker spill off the coast of Victoria could result in significant harm to the community.

Isitt testified a tanker spill would have “significant and potentially catastrophic, environmental, economic and social impacts to communities in the vicinity.”

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