Fiscal Responsibility & Management
Downtown Revitalization & Public Safety
Responsible & Future-Forward City Planning
Accountability & Transparency
Infrastructure & Environmental Investments
- Taxes & Fiscal Management
- Homelessness & Tent Cities
- Development & Housing Affordability
- Downtown Revitalization
- Consultation, Accountability, & Transparency
- Sir John A. Macdonald Statue
- Bike Lanes
- Walkable City
- Speed Limits
- E&N Rail
- Short-Term Rentals
- Infrastructure Deficit
- Crystal Pool
- Johnson Street Bridge
- Fire Hall No. 1
- Victoria 2040
Having served on the board of Amalgamation Yes, my position on this issue is clear. I am in favour of amalgamation, however I am not in favour of reducing 13 municipalities to a single super city. Reducing to four like the Peninsula/Core/Westshore/Sooke model would be ideal as it ensures local competition, respects some regional diversity, and would ensure greater accountability with four mayors as the face of the Capital Region. For every regional issue, those mayors would face scrutiny and be unable to avoid taking responsibility as the current CRD framework allows.
This election you'll be asked to vote on a ballot proposal to establish a Citizens' Assembly to look at amalgamation between Victoria and Saanich. I applaud this initiative because it takes the power away from the politicians with vested interests, many of whom view supporting amalgamation as voting themselves out of a job. As someone who has studied this over the years, especially while on the board of Amalgamation Yes, I am confident that as the facts are presented to the Assembly, we will find overwhelming support.
On October 20th, I urge you to support the ballot initiative on creating a Citizens' Assembly to look at Amalgamation.
Property taxes have increased over the rate of inflation for years, amidst a building boom, with residents seeing no noticeable benefits or increase in services. In the case of renters such as myself, those tax increases are passed down to tenants contributing to a lack of affordability. Victoria does not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
If elected, I will move for a financial and services review and advocate for a zero-based budgeting framework that will identify and eliminate wasteful spending and help shift resources and better fund important services.
We also need to engage all adjacent municipalities to reduce service duplication and find economies of scale until momentum on amalgamation is achieved.
Let's bring back some fiscal responsibility to City Hall so that we can reduce the tax burden, cut frivolous spending, and re-allocate funds towards the budgets of important core services to residents.
There are almost 600 people in Greater Victoria identified as Absolutely Homeless in the most recent Point-in-Time survey. Of those 600 people, 41% first experienced homelessness before the age of 18.
As Chairman of Threshold Housing Society, I know the tremendous amount of good that can come from tackling the homelessness issue in Victoria with smart policy and effective resource allocation. Our transitional housing and life skills programming for at-risk youth has helped countless young people stay off the streets and build healthy futures. We have been preventing adult homelessness one youth at a time. Getting life updates from someone who was a part of Threshold in the past and are now doing great things is one of the most rewarding feelings.
Tent cities, sleeping in doorways, piecemeal approaches, and crisis-driven plans are not acceptable. Victoria can and should be a vibrant, resilient, and equitable community. As a city councillor I would act to ensure lasting safety, dignity, well-being, and hope for our most vulnerable population.
Tent cities are not safe for their residents nor the surrounding community. I believe we need a regional approach that focuses on providing facilities and services throughout the CRD to our most under-served and vulnerable citizens across the entire housing spectrum, including enhanced support and care to eliminate the need to sleep in parks and on the street. To do so requires participation by all CRD municipalities as well as partner organizations such as the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, Island Health, and the Provincial government.
This is truly a regional concern and Victoria, as a municipality of less than 86,000 people, cannot tackle and solve the issue of homelessness alone. As someone who has experience in this sector and has regularly worked with other levels of government, I will be a leader in ensuring that all levels of government step up to the plate and live up to their responsibilities.
Affordability is on most people's minds this election, but it means something different to nearly everyone I speak with. To some, it's the lack of affordable housing. To others it is the lack of affordable transit, or rental availability, or even the high cost of goods and gas.
As someone under the age of 30, and a renter as well, I am deeply familiar with the affordability issues in this city. Victoria needs to spend more time and resources listening and responding to these real affordability concerns of residents instead of spending tax dollars on unnecessary things such as a $60,000 party to celebrate the opening of a bridge infamously plagued by cost overruns and fiscal mismanagement.
Tackling the affordability crisis is something at the forefront of mind for many in my generation. I worked as the Director of Communications & Government Relations at the Trust for Sustainable Development and my years there working directly for David Butterfield taught me a great deal about development, sustainability, and urban planning.
As I pointed out in my Letter to the Times Colonist in May, municipal politicians deserve the majority of blame for the affordability crisis we now find ourselves in. Too many local politicians have been sitting at the decision-making table for decades, impeding progress by shooting down projects, scaling back proposals and delaying developments. This, along with catering to special interest groups and a vocal minority laid the groundwork for today's housing crisis.
The situation cannot be turned around overnight, but I believe there are several things that can be done at the municipal level to right the ship and start moving in a positive direction. Increasing supply and ensuring an appropriate stock of housing units and balance throughout the full spectrum of housing options is absolutely vital. This can be achieved through gentle density increases, focusing on addressing the lack of so-called "Missing Middle" or multi-unit/clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family dwellings. A two-storey townhouse on a single lot doesn't alter the character of a neighbourhood but still contributes to a density increase.
If you have more predictability, development applications will take less time to get approved/rejected and that is less money sunk into any given project before shovels are even in the ground. Economic uncertainty plays a major factor in project costs and unit pricing when permits and approvals take over a year to process. According to a recent report by the C.D. Howe Institute, fees, zoning regulations, and red tape have added $264,000 to the price of a single-family home in Victoria between 2007 and 2016. Unsurprisingly, that cost is passed straight on to the consumer, thus raising home prices.
While a municipal government cannot tackle things like interest rates which also significantly contribute to rising home prices, we can look to reduce some of these extra costs imposed upon builders for the betterment of both sides as well make sure that projects are denied or approved in a timely manner than respects all parties.
I am also a strong proponent of Zoning Reform to give residents and builders realistic expectations and predictability about the future of their neighbourhoods.
One of the most ambitious things I believe the City should embark upon would be the process of zoning reform. We have 687 different zones created by council's constant spot zoning and disregard for neighbourhood plans and the Official Community Plan. In comparison to our city of 85,792 people, the City of Vancouver with 631,486 people has less than 100 zoning codes.
This is the result of constant exceptions to the rules, deviations from the Official Community Plan (OCP), and seemingly endless exercises in spot-zoning from the council table. This is bad for homeowners as well as bad for builders. If we overhaul, modernize, and simplify zoning codes and bylaws that will provide predictability for everyone. Homeowners want to know that their intimate residential street won't suddenly have a six-storey condo building in the middle of the block while developers need to know what can be done with a property they are looking at purchasing.
Let's give both homeowners and developers reasonable expectations and predictability about the future of our neighbourhoods with zoning reform.
In September I was sad to see another iconic Victoria business shut down as BC's oldest bakery, Willie's Cafe closed it doors for good. We must strive to have a downtown that works for everyone. Accessibility for cyclists and transit routes but plenty of parking as well. Commercial tax rates that support residents but don't drive away business. Public art and beautification efforts that attract tourists and locals alike while respecting tax payer dollars and avoiding wasteful expenditures like $50,000 on musical parkade stairwells or the $120,000 spent on the Rock & Shell sculpture outside the Save-on-Foods Arena.
We all want a livable and accessible downtown with clean streets and vibrant character. Let's make that a priority on October 20th.
Another complaint I regularly hear at the doorsteps has to do with the lack of engagement and transparency at City Hall. People are frustrated, feeling that our local government talks the talk on consultation but rarely follows through. We have seen numerous examples of this such as the plan to put a Tent City in Topaz Park, the Dallas Road fencing debacle, the lack of proper consultation on the bike lanes, and little-to-no engagement of local residents on the sudden plan for street parking for Crystal Pool. People feel as though they aren't being heard and see a real lack of transparency when it comes to decision-making.
As a councillor I would support shifting our Citizen Engagement department to focus on real consultation rather than Public Relations spin/self-promotion.
I would also support creating an easily accessible City of Victoria website with an online tracker where residents can view every council vote and see how each of their elected representatives voted. Expecting people with busy lives to comb through hundreds of pages of city council minutes to determine who voted on what is unrealistic.
City council should be transparent to those we serve and represent.
Click here to view my video on this subject, filmed the day after the council vote.
I am in favour of taking the Sir John A Macdonald statue out of storage and gifting it to to the Museum or the Legislative Precinct where it can be put back up and a plaque can be erected that speaks to both the good and bad sides of his legacy. His statue was not particularly relevant to City Hall, but I believe the most appropriate place for the statue to go would be Confederation Garden Court between Hotel Grand Pacific and the West Annex of the Legislature. Hiding history away in a municipal warehouse somewhere does no good.
I was very critical of the Council's decision on this matter as I felt the rushed nature of the process and lack of transparency was very disturbing. Had I been on council at the time I would have moved to table the motion so that actual consultation with the people of Victoria could take place. Instead, the City Family, newspapers across Canada, and even the Wall Street Journal got their say on the issue, but the people of Victoria never did.
People are frustrated with downtown congestion, the lack of parking, poorly-designed bike lanes, and unreliable public transit. I believe the city has failed to listen to these concerns. We need to ensure that our downtown is accessible for everyone. Drivers, cyclists, transit-users, pedestrians, and those with mobility issues all need to feel safe and welcome throughout Victoria. More and more people are biking, but as our population continues to age and expand, it is irresponsible to expect a decrease in automobile traffic and disrespectful to ignore those individuals' needs.
BC Transit needs to be treated as a partner in addressing many of the issues facing our city. We need to help them focus on delivering frequent and reliable service to increase public transit options and ridership. Without frequency and reliability, people will drive. We also need to consult BC Transit before we make changes that will hinder the frequency and reliability of service such as speed limit reductions and bike lane proposals. Changes such as those have significant impacts on our bus services which is both inconvenient to customers and costly to BC Transit.
I would support increasing the space for active transportation options as long as that goes in conjunction with broad community engagement and consultation with experts to ensure that our active transportation networks are safe, accessible, and work for all members of the community (not just a select few). I would balance the need for active transportation infrastructure with the need for accessible parking options, downtown business owners’ concerns, and the concerns of those with disabilities. With the prospect of self-driving autonomous vehicles on the horizon, it is unrealistic to think motor vehicles will not remain a significant part of Victoria's transportation future.
We need a city that works for everyone. Let's make that a priority on October 20th.
The new bike lanes are one of the most common subjects that people bring up at the doorsteps. They almost always start with something along the lines of "I'm not against bike lanes, but..." and proceed to then criticize, rightfully so, the Fort & Pandora bike lane infrastructure. As a result of a lack of proper consultation, cost overruns, and botched implementation, what should have been a simple and noble endeavour has become one of the most divisive issues in the city.
I generally support a bike network, but the current bike lanes that have been developed are not only hurting some of our local businesses, they are also also putting at risk those with visual impairments as well as novice cyclists. Unidirectional bike lanes should have been the priority from day one. Cities with decades of bike lane experience in Scandinavia have long since abandoned the multi-directional bike lanes that feature cyclists riding straight at one another. When it comes to a community-wide bike network, it is vital that we have proper community engagement that includes residents with diverse abilities, local residents and business owners, transportation experts, community planners, BC Transit, emergency first responders, and other stakeholders.
As someone that was a proponent of moving the planned Cook Street bike lane to Vancouver Street, I am well aware of the lack of engagement over several years on the second phase of the bike lane network. I am thrilled the city finally heard us after so many years but it highlights the fact that we need proper consultation on the second phase. The portions of Vancouver & Wharf Street that link Fort & Pandora make sense, but I don't believe anything further than that (including the parts of Wharf & Vancouver that are South of Fort) currently has the social license to proceed, especially given the cost overruns and lack of proper consultation.
I know many James Bay residents felt blind-sided by the fact that the overall plan for Wharf Street runs into their neighbourhood according to Phase 4 of Biketoria. Until it was pointed out by some, most were unaware of this as Wharf Street itself does not continue into James Bay, so they believed the plan did not pertain to them. This was another misstep in the botched consultation that has marred what should have been a simple and uncontroversial process.
Broad community engagement will need to occur to mitigate the challenges faced, and frustration voiced, during the development of the Pandora and Fort bike lanes. We must also ensure that when building active transportation infrastructure, we do so in a fiscally responsible way. Bike lanes are great part of an active transportation network, but if residents do not feel as though their concerns are being heard and their tax dollars respected, then that is doing more harm than good to the active transportation discussion.
We also must remember that biking is but one form of active transportation. We need an active transportation network that supports a range of modalities – wheelchairs, strollers, pedestrians, skateboarders, and transit-users, not just prioritizing cyclists above all others.
I absolutely support making walking safer and more enjoyable in Victoria. Our community spaces should allow people of all ages and abilities to conduct their daily errands by foot if they can. I lived in Cook Street Village for over five years and pretty much everywhere I needed to go was walkable. I would frequently walk to and from work, meetings downtown, and get groceries from as far away as Yates Street Market to as close as Oxford Foods. Victoria weather allows for walking year-round and I wholeheartedly support the need and desire for people to feel safe while walking in our city.
I would also advocate that resources be allocated to invest in wider sidewalks, tactile paving for those who are visually impaired, and crosswalk upgrades that are standard pedestrian crossings, not confusing puzzle-piece intersections. This would include more pedestrian-controlled traffic signals and crosswalks with audible signals.
As of September 26th, 2018 your burger will be able to get an Uber in Victoria but you won't.
If elected to city council, I would lobby the provincial government in favour of bringing ride-sharing to British Columbia.
On September 7th, 2018 Mayor Lisa Helps pledged to lower speed limits on all roadways designated "local streets" in Victoria if re-elected. The thing is, we had this conversation in 2014. Here's why I said it didn't make sense then, and why it doesn't make sense today.
1) Following the original proposal to reduce speed limits, professional city staff were tasked with conducting studies and reporting their findings. In April 2014, Victoria’s Transportation Manager Brad Dellebuur presented the staff report which concluded that there was "no technical data to support the reduction in speed limits."
2) The 2014 report’s final recommendation was to maintain the existing speed limits.
3) The Institute of Traffic Engineering (ITE) has concluded that drivers set their own speed relative to the environment around them and that “posted limits which are set higher or lower than dictated by roadway and traffic conditions are ignored by the majority of motorists.”
4) Deviating from the standard 50 km/h is dangerous as ITE also found that crashes “…appear to depend less on speed and more on the variation in speeds. The likelihood of a crash occurring is significantly greater for motorists travelling at speed slower or faster than the mean speed of traffic”
5) The data collected by city workers on the arterial roads specifically in question found that 50 km/h was appropriate.
6) Simply changing the signage in an area like James Bay as a pilot project would cost ~$65,000 which is $40,000 more than the annual budget for traffic order installation in the entire city.
7) The Victoria Police Department does not support a reduction in speed limits.
8) The City’s website claims “Lowering speeds on residential roads may reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and use of fossil fuels.” While this may be true in the case of a 1965 Mustang with no catalytic converter, it is simply incorrect in this era.
Vehicle speeds being less than 50 km/h on residential streets is certainly my preference. It is also currently the case. Research shows that people drive what they determine to be a safe speed. They determine this based on factors such as weather and the environment around them. Large and/or overhanging trees as well as cars parked on the sides of the street are significant contributors to making drivers proceed more cautiously.
There will always be a segment of the population that recklessly goes 50 km/h down an intimate residential street, but as VicPD claims they will not be able to enforce said speed limit changes, nothing will continue to happen to those individuals, as is currently the case. The vast majority will continue to drive at the comfortable speed as dictated by conditions and the environment.
Things like curb extensions, pedestrian refuges and new trees are not only proven to slow traffic but will also have the added benefit of beautification. I don't want cars going 50 km/h down residential streets, but if this is identified as a real priority by Victoria residents then there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Going around putting up new signs simply isn't going to help, it may even contribute to an increase in collisions due to taking driver focus away from the roads.
I have long been a vocal supporter of revitalizing the E&N Rail. A business case does exist, and I would actively lobby the provincial government to invest in a sustainable future for passenger and freight on the E&N. Passenger services would go a long way in enhancing the connectivity of our region, lower emissions from private vehicles, and make the commute to the city from the West Shore more enjoyable and environmentally responsible. Provincial funds would also provide an opportunity for growth and densification along the E&N corridor.
Those who advocate removing the rails and turning the corridor into a bus line have their hearts in the right place, but are unaware of the legal ramifications of doing so. Large portions of the E&N rail pass through the territory of several Vancouver Island First Nations and rail is the only stipulated use of that E&N corridor on First Nations land.
When it comes to short-term rentals such as AirBnB accommodations, there is an important distinction to be made.
If you are renting out a room or suite in your house or on your property as an AirBnB then that is your right as a property owner. While I would personally prefer you rented that suite out long term to help with the abysmally low rental vacancy rate in town, it is not your local government's place to tell you what to do in your own home.
However, in the case of people buying up condos and apartments for the sole purpose of using them as AirBnB suites, there is an issue. Not only is this is contributing to the lack of supply in the City of Victoria but it is also skirting many of the important rules and regulations we have regarding proper accommodations and if you use any service aside from AirBnB it allows guests to our city to avoid paying the Municipal & Regional District Tax (MDRT) otherwise known as the Hotel Tax. The MDRT funds make up an important part of the funding for local tourism promotion and, as of the past year, can be used by municipalities for affordable housing initiatives. I have generally agreed with the current council's lip-service on this matter but there has been very little action towards bringing permissible short-term rentals into the legal framework and cracking down on illegal ones. Enforcement of bylaws and empowering stratas is key to moving forward.
We are going to be hearing about this subject more and more in the coming years as our 100 year old pipes and sewers crumble and infrastructure long surpasses expiration dates. Victoria needs to take a serious look at addressing our infrastructure deficit which the 2016 Canadian Infrastructure Report estimates at around $500 million.
The City of Victoria has avoided commissioning a report of their own to get an exact number after a preliminary study forecast a figure over $1 billion. Whatever the true number, it will be a daunting figure, but it is something we must tackle instead of kicking the can down the road as this council has done for decades. We need our local representatives looking towards the future knowing they will personally face the long term consequences of every decision City Council makes today.
Together we can both serve the present and build a prosperous future for our city for generations to come.
Many of those responsible for the project mismanagement and cost overruns for the Johnson Street Bridge fiasco are now getting ready to tackle the Crystal Pool replacement project. I believe we must halt progress on the project until a thorough independent audit has been conducted on the bridge replacement.
Given that no funding has been secured for the pool from the provincial government as of yet, a halt in progress will not jeopardize anything. There is no reason for the speed at which we are once again trying to embark upon a major capital project. The Crystal Pool is being fast-tracked with unnecessary haste avoiding proper consideration of real and justified needs, public consultation, finding proper solutions for parking issues, and more.
Remember in 2009 when Victoria City Council promised us a new Johnson Street Bridge would be a $63 million project, of which $21 million would be from the Federal government? The city moved far too quickly on a major capital project with too many unknowns before shovels hit the ground.
Flash forward to 9 years later and the bridge is finally open after years of delays and a price tag approaching $110 million. That figure of course does not cover the cost of fendering on the north side and public realm amenities which is not yet complete. Excluding federal funds, the costs paid directly by Victoria tax payers so far add up to around $800 for each of the city's 85,000 residents. The bridge's unnecessarily one-of-a-kind lift mechanism and the catwalk that recently opened added what is estimated to have been an additional $20 million in design, engineering, and fabrication costs.
Many of those responsible for the project mismanagement and cost overruns are now getting ready to tackle the Crystal Pool replacement project. That's why I am supporting the call for an independent audit on the Johnson Street Bridge fiasco.
We rarely see big positive developments coming from City Hall, it’s usually tackling some minor issue and kicking the can down the road on anything substantive. However, in the case of the plan for Fire Hall No. 1 we actually have a substantial solution to a large problem that Victoria has been struggling with for quite some time due to the ageing infrastructure/lack of seismic stability of the current Fire Hall on Yates.
Back on March 19th I applauded this decision by council and I am even more pleased to see the progress made so far.
Including a new Emergency Operations Centre as well as the mixed-use residential aspect is fantastic. 130 new downtown apartment units and the plaza/green space are definitely welcome.
My vision for the Victoria of the 2040s is a healthy and livable, amalgamated city with efficient service delivery, a vibrant and accessible downtown core, featuring happy residents and tourists alike. Families will feel safe and welcome. It will have responsibly addressed the hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure deficit from 2018 and used the opportunity to make investments in sustainable replacements and environmentally responsible upgrades. It is where I hope to raise a family.