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City’s tally for Sir John A. Macdonald statue removal: $30,126

It cost $30,126 to remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from the front of Victoria City Hall in the early morning of Aug. 11.
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The Sir John A. Macdonald statue at the entrance to Victoria City Hall is prepared for removal.

It cost $30,126 to remove the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from the front of Victoria City Hall in the early morning of Aug. 11.

The final amount is an increase from the previous estimate of $23,000 and represents the bulk of the $50,000 budgeted for First Nations reconciliation for this year. Victoria councillors budgeted $50,000 in each of 2017 and 2018 to support reconciliation projects.

The final tally — $30,126 — is posted on the city website and includes:

• $12,446 in policing costs

• $9,303 for city staff costs

• $2,110 for crane services

• $3,774 for concrete services

• $356 for fencing

• $1,443 for other equipment

• $694 for plaque installation materials

The statue is being stored in a city facility pending a decision on relocation, so there are no storage costs.

John Treleaven, vice-chairman of the watchdog group Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, said local residents seem to have paid more than necessary for the statue’s hasty removal.

There’s no telling from the figures what the incremental costs were for overtime that came with removing the statue at 7 a.m. on a Saturday as opposed to waiting until regular weekday working hours, he said.

“If you’ve taken the decision to remove the statue, why not do it in the most financial efficient manner possible?” he said.

“My guess is the political dynamic overtook what would have been normal operating procedures.”

Grumpy Taxpayer$ chairman Stan Bartlett said the $30,125 is equivalent to city taxes paid by 10 homes.

Bartlett said the police and staff costs seem excessive.

“The small costs are as important as the big costs,” Bartlett said. “And $30,000 is not the end of it. There’s going to be costs for putting this poor fellow back up again and perhaps there will be costs for some public consultation around what to do with Sir John.”

City council agreed in August to remove the statue on the recommendation of an appointed panel called the City Family, which included Mayor Lisa Helps, councillors Marianne Alto and Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Brianna Dick, representing the Songhees Nation, Esquimalt hereditary Chief Ed Thomas, and Indigenous community member Carey Newman.

While the city maintains the decision to remove the statue followed a year of “deliberation, conversation and truth sharing,” lack of a public process prior to the statue’s removal prompted significant public outcry.

Helps first recommended the removal in a briefing note to councillors on a Monday evening. A late item was added to a committee of the whole agenda the next day and the removal was formally announced on Helps’s website on the Wednesday.

A day later, councillors voted eight to one to remove the statue. Then, in the early morning hours of Saturday, a crane was brought in and the 635-kilogram bronze statue was hauled away and put in storage pending a decision on where it should be relocated.

In her re-election platform, Helps promised to host a series of information meetings on reconciliation to determine a new public location for the statue.

She has said the decision to relocate the Macdonald statue was the right one, citing the role of Canada’s first prime minister in creating the residential school system.

But she apologized for the lack of public process.

“I didn’t recognize the great desire of Victoria residents to participate in reconciliation actions. The process going forward will enable this,” Helps said in an Aug. 29 opinion piece published in the Times Colonist.

The public is to be involved in deciding where the statue should be relocated.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com