As we soon enter 2022, a common theme I find emerging from the past year is resilience. This was our second year facing the COVID-19 pandemic, and a time when many of us in the community decided we could no longer wait for the storm to pass; we would find a way to thrive within this new world of safety precautions.
I saw our treasured community organizations such as Mary Winspear Centre, SHOAL Centre, Sidney Museum, ArtSea, Panorama Recreation and our Salish Sea Aquarium adapt in very creative ways. I saw new businesses bravely open their doors and existing businesses pivot to address many challenges.
There were also new and expanding businesses in West Sidney. While hardship has certainly been felt, and ongoing for many, our town has remained vibrant. The support from the community for local businesses and community organizations is remarkable.
This was aided in part by council, as we lowered taxes on businesses by 10 per cent in 2020 and set aside business licence fees in 2021 and for 2022. We also provided $60,000 to Sidney’s Downtown Business Improvement Association to support local businesses through the pandemic.
We invested another $60,000 toward the creation of a long-term economic development strategy which is underway now.
Across the country this year, I think a different kind of resilience came painfully into focus for many of us.
Hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered at former residential schools. Truth and reconciliation has meaning for all of us on some level. We in Sidney live alongside WSÁNEĆ communities and share their traditional territory. Sidney council will continue to strive for building on our relationship with WSÁNEĆ Nations and seeking to support reconciliation.
There are a number of goals the town and council have set their sights on for 2022. A draft version of the updated Official Community Plan will be shared with the public for review and input this winter.
The community has been very engaged in shaping the new plan already, and I hope citizens continue to share their thoughts through the final review process so we can achieve a strong level of community consensus. With the addition of a climate action coordinator to the team at town hall in 2021, we can also look forward to an updated Climate Action Plan to be released in 2022. The plan will support the community in adapting to climate change, while also looking at ways we can reduce our carbon emissions.
Council also continues to work toward traffic improvements on the west side of Sidney, with a focus on Galaran Road and Stirling Way. While this work takes time, I look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition as we work in partnership with the Victoria Airport Authority and North Saanich.
I want to conclude by thanking Town of Sidney staff for their dedication and resilience in 2021.
Like so many workplaces, the Town of Sidney adapted with a range of safety protocols so staff could continue delivering the many services community members depend on.
I hope the year ahead is a healthy and positive one for you, and you find that the beauty, vibrancy and friendliness of our community helps keep your spirits high.
Cliff McNeil-Smith is the mayor of Sidney.