Victoria city councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday take in the Winnipeg Pride Parade while attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention

BC VIEWS: How not to run your city

Stunts and waste by Victoria councillors obscure a more serious matter, the influence of CUPE on municipal bargaining

Municipal politicians from all over B.C. are in Victoria this week for their annual convention, meeting with provincial cabinet ministers and debating resolutions.

Taxpayers would be well advised to question their mayors, councillors and regional district directors when they get home. Not just about hotel bills or what they accomplished, but whether they have picked up any ideas from Victoria on how local government should be run.

In 30-odd years of watching local governments, I have never seen a council blow money and chase ridiculous ideas the way Victoria does.

For example, the city is now considering hiring an “artist in residence.” Mayor Lisa Helps says this will build in beauty to projects without hiring consultants, and add value to taxpayer-funded facilities.

We’ve seen this artistic value notion at work already. The city’s new drawbridge connecting Vic West and Esquimalt to downtown is nothing if not artistic, with graceful sculptural elements. At least that’s how it appeared in drawings when the project was begun in 2009.

Seven years later, the construction site looks all but abandoned, costs having soared above $100 million. We’re assured by the latest consultant, municipal maestro Jonathan Huggett, that things are back on track and the artistic custom steel components being manufactured in China are free of defects this time. We’ll see.

Helps wasted no time establishing her style when she surprised herself by being elected in 2014. She spent $50,000 on a management consultant, explaining that this was the maximum she could spend without council approval.

Speaking of art, Victoria now has a musical staircase in one of the city-owned downtown parkades. For only $10,000, people can now play music by going up and down stairs.

That’s right, the city is in the parking business. Oddly, these dank concrete structures with unionized city staff have struggled, so council considered sculptures and paintings before buying a stairway to Heaven.

Residents of Greater Victoria and its dozen boutique suburbs are used to screwed-up projects. From dysfunctional police who can’t communicate to a stalled sewage system that will cause tax bills to skyrocket if it is ever built, incompetence is expected here.

Two Victoria councillors specialize in silly stunts that divert public attention from their performance. Coun. Ben Isitt and his sidekick Coun. Jeremy Loveday recently talked their colleagues into declaring a ban on genetically modified foods in Victoria.

There is no sign yet of local grocery stores throwing out hundreds of products containing canola oil and other agricultural staples. Apparently, city hall can’t override federal health regulations.

Ben and Jerry, as they have become known, are radical left-wing activists, often seen organizing protests demanding this or that from the province and Ottawa.

Loveday wants Victoria to declare itself a “sanctuary city.” That’s where local police are instructed not to ask people about their citizenship status, in order to circumvent federal immigration law.

In this age of terrorism, let that sink in for a bit. It makes Loveday’s initiative to allow skateboarders to mingle with downtown traffic seem almost sensible.

Ben and Jerry’s campaigns were largely financed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In June, they led Victoria council to exit the regional labour relations group that bargains with CUPE and other unions.

Helps dismissed concerns by other area councils that CUPE will now target Victoria and “whipsaw” other municipalities to match its settlements, in the grand B.C. labour tradition.

Helps said that’s old-fashioned thinking. And besides, Victoria city hall staff duplicate much of the regional labour function. A consultant said so.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Alex Cuba returns to the Mary Winspear

Alex Cuba, who lives in Smithers, B.C., has been writing a lot… Continue reading

Residents want North Saanich bike lane revamped

Claim lack of transparency; little public input on West Saanich Road project

World Rowing Coastal Championships coming to Sidney

Event will make its Canadian and North America debut in October

Outdoor pot growing will be legal, but will producers bite?

With Canada’s marijuana legalization laws slated for July 1, 2018, there continue… Continue reading

WATCH: Vancouver Island man catches dashcam video of near head-on crash

Video shows oncoming van cross over centre line

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

B.C. files new legal action against TransMountain pipeline

Province tries to uphold City of Burnaby bylaws, provoking Alberta

BCHL Today: Powell River stuns Vernon and BCHL grads lead Team Canada

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Reports of money laundering in B.C. real estate ‘troubling’: attorney general

News report alleges people connected to fentanyl trade are using B.C. real estate to launder money

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Two more medals for Canada, and men’s hockey loss

Team Canada shines on the speed skating track, but fall short against the Czechs in hockey

Air ambulance used parking lot for patient transfer because it was most efficient option

Lack of certification for helipad at Comox Valley Hospital not a factor in decision

RCMP member challenges court to prevent further disciplinary action

RCMP member launches appeal to avoid new hearing over alleged harassment

Port of Vancouver program examines impact of marine noise on local whales

Man-made noises can interfere with orcas’ ability to hunt and communicate with other pod members

Most Read