From coffee cups to childcare to housing, Victoria council sets ambitious agenda

From banning single-use coffee cups to advocating for the provision of safe illicit drugs to addicts, Victoria councillors have charted an ambitious and varied agenda for the next four years.

The values, objectives, and actions are part of Victoria council’s draft strategic plan, which is posted online along with a provisional budget.

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There’s no question some of the proposals — which include exploring co-governance of Beacon Hill Park with First Nations and opening Government Street more to pedestrians — will raise some eyebrows.

No one should be surprised by anything in the council’s strategic plan or the proposed actions to carry them out, Mayor Lisa Helps said. “I think one of the things that I certainly ran on and that most of the people at the [council] table ran on is that it’s time for bold action and no more tinkering, Helps said “That goes for sustainable transportation. That goes for climate action and that goes for affordability.”

Over the next several weeks residents will have the opportunity to provide input through online surveys and townhall meetings. But Helps said the public already has had a say. “We just had a giant engagement process. It was called the election. Everything that’s in the strategic plan are things that we heard during the election.”

The draft 2019-2022 strategic plan identifies eight objectives: good governance; reconciliation and Indigenous relations; affordable housing; prosperity and economic inclusion; health well-being and a welcoming city; climate leadership and environmental stewardship; sustainable transportation; and creating strong, livable neighbourhoods.

A sampling of 180 or so proposed actions over the next four years to meet those objectives includes:

• Childcare at city hall during public hearings.

• Testing a workshop series to train staff and community leaders in “appreciative inquiry and consensus building.”

• Creating a lobbyist registry (2020).

• Determining an “appropriate context” for the John A. Macdonald statue removed this year from the steps of Victoria City Hall.

• Establishing an Indigenous relations function at City Hall.

• Appointing Indigenous elders in residence (2020).

• Exploring co-governance of Meegan (Beacon Hill Park) and shoreline areas with Lekwungen-speaking people (2020).

• Creating a municipal housing service.

• Allowing moveable tiny homes in backyards that currently allow garden suites at rents of no more than $500 a month.

• Creating a “small-scale housing ambassador” to make it easier for property owners to create affordable housing (2020).

• Developing partnerships and testing a program to match seniors with extra bedrooms with eligible lodgers. (2020).

• Applying for certification as a living wage employer.

• Exploring tax relief for businesses affected by city construction (2020).

• Opening Government Street to pedestrians.

• Developing a trans inclusion policy.

• Creating a city-wide childcare strategy and action plan.

• Creating a seniors task force and developing a seniors strategy.

• Advocating for more funds for mental health and more publicly-funded recovery options and de-stigmatization of mental health illnesses and addictions.

• Advocating for more harm reduction services including a safe inhalation site.

• Advocating for the province to provide safer forms of currently illicit drugs to reduce harm from addictions.

• Banning single-use coffee cups and single-use takeout containers (2020).

• Mandating electric vehicle charging stations in all new developments (2021).

• With the exception of hanging baskets and Beacon Hill Park, between 2019 and 2022, switch to native plants in garden beds.

• Encouraging and moving toward mandating food-bearing plants, pollinator habitats and native species in landscape plans for private development.

• Asking for free transit for all children 18 and under.

• Exploring a bus pass tied to income including for low-income seniors.

• Working toward a regional rail system and advocate for commuter rail and inter-city rail along the E&N Rail line.

• Developing a municipal alcohol policy to address concerns of the late-night advisory committee.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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