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Trudeau stops at Victoria City Hall to chat with mayor

Afternoon traffic on Pandora Ave briefly halted as the prime minister’s motorcade pulled up in front of city hall on Douglas Street shortly after 2 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a stop at Victoria City Hall on Friday afternoon for a chat with the mayor that touched on community safety, infrastructure and housing issues.

Afternoon traffic on Pandora Ave briefly halted as the prime minister’s motorcade pulled up in front of city hall on Douglas Street shortly after 2 p.m.

The prime minister came with heavy security. RCMP snipers were posted on the roof.

Smiling and waving as he entered, Trudeau briefly shook hands with those gathered in the foyer before sitting down for a conversation with Mayor Marianne Alto.

Alto told Trudeau that she was looking forward to discussing infrastructure and community safety issues.

Trudeau said Alto is tackling housing with a “lot of ambition and passion” and that the city is setting an example across the country. “What you’re doing here in Victoria is really exciting,” he said.

Alto said she remembered Trudeau calling to congratulate her on her mayoral win in 2022 a day after the election, adding she’s looking forward to further partnership now that the 2024 budget has been introduced.

The rest of Trudeau and Alto’s roughly 30-minute conversation was closed to media.

Alto told the Times Colonist afterward that Trudeau seemed interested in what she had to say and that his staff took many notes.

“He clearly has some priority interest in Victoria, since this is the first stop that he made after he released the budget,” Alto said.

Housing was the top priority in their conversation, she said.

Alto said the federal government wants to create programs that ensure people don’t have to spend more than a third of their income on housing. “We don’t know yet all the details as to how [it applies] locally, but some of their work is intended to deal with some of the issues around homelessness.”

But Alto said current federal housing programs don’t reward municipalities that act on housing.

“We have one of the most aggressive housing plans in the country, and yet the funds that were allocated through the former housing accelerator fund were based entirely per capita … it was a lot less than we were expecting.”

Alto’s advice for Trudeau on housing was to not just consider funding allocation by population but to also look at the history of the municipality and the “boldness” of its housing plans. “You [have to] combine all three of those in order to make a really fair assessment of who’s doing the work.”

Another topic briefly touched upon was bail reform, Alto said.

Municipalities are becoming frustrated by a 2019 policy change that allowed people charged with crimes to be quickly released on bail, she said.

“He’s very aware of that, [and] seems to be keen on trying to redress some of that as well,” Alto said.

The prime minister’s city hall visit lasted just under 45 minutes.

Trudeau headed back into the motorcade shortly after 3 p.m. — but not before stopping to pose with a pair Paladin security guards who asked for a photo.

The two guards were all smiles afterwards.

“That’s good, everyone can see it’s me,” one of them said.

In the morning, Trudeau made an appearance at the University of Victoria, meeting engineering students and faculty.

On Saturday, he is scheduled to meet with the president of Poland and tour a ship at CFB Esquimalt.

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