Barb’s Community Priorities
The past several years have seen Esquimalt accelerate its transformation toward a more vibrant and thriving destination community. We’ve worked hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for investment of all kinds, and our efforts are bearing fruit. We need to keep this momentum going … ensuring that Esquimalt can continue to successfully support revitalization and development while confronting challenges like advocating for improved local access to healthcare, the economy and climate change. Our township has a terrific reputation for being a great place to live, work and play because of our strong sense of community. Our local government’s management and services need to keep pace to ensure a successful and sustainable future for Esquimalt.
Here are some of Barb’s current top-of-mind issues. She’d love to have you weigh-in with your comments and share some of the topics that matter most to you as we talk about the future of Esquimalt.
Equitable cost-sharing has been an issue for Esquimalt since the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Departments were amalgamated in 2003. The Policing Framework Agreement helped establish performance metrics to support data-driven financial and operational decision-making.
Since 2014, Esquimalt has been paying 14.7% of the amalgamated police force budget. A lot has changed in 8 years. Data shows that Esquimalt call-outs are on the decline (now averaging 9 to 11% of the combined force’s overall calls). And the severity of the crimes being committed between the two neighbouring municipalities show significant differences, too. According to Statistics Canada, Esquimalt has a Crime Severity rating of 39, while the City of Victoria is rated at 168. That’s why the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General engaged Mr. Doug LePard to review the agreement’s budget allocation formula.
This comprehensive review, represented in two detailed reports: Police Act Section 42 Review: Budget Allocation Formula for Policing in the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt (Sept 2020) and Police Act Section 42 Phase II Review: Analysis of “Framework Agreement” Issues Regarding Policing in the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt (Nov 2020) determined that the 14.7% portion of the budget that Esquimalt paid did not align with the demand for policing services in the municipality. The excess funds Esquimalt is contributing annually would fund the equivalent of 4 officers.
In 2021, Esquimalt paid $8.4 million for policing. That equals $479 per taxpayer, some of which could probably be better invested either by the taxpayer or the municipality.
This March, Esquimalt Council made decisions about the township’s policing budget, including VicPD’s supplemental requests, by considering the data and not the formula of an 8-year-old agreement. Barb and her fellow council members chose to put Esquimalt residents first by paying the township’s fair share, not more, not less. They made a data-driven financial management decision that they believe best serves the people of this community.
Public Safety Infrastructure
First responders are essential, particularly in the event of an earthquake or other major disaster. Emergency personnel need a home base that’s able to withstand a disaster, and community leaders need a safe and secure operations centre from which to direct post-disaster recovery. That’s why Esquimalt Council chose to put community safety first when they invested part of the $17M McLoughlin Point amenity package in a new Public Safety Building. Barb is eager to see this project through to completion by the end of 2024.
Esquimalt Council was disappointed to determine it would not be feasible to include housing in the Public Safety Building project. However, the much-needed commercial space fronting Esquimalt Road will add to the town square, creating more vibrancy in the public space.
Do you agree that it’s time for Esquimalt to realign its approach to municipal policing to better reflect the nature of our evolving community and the township’s financial bottom line? Let’s talk about it.
Climate change is already affecting our lives on Vancouver Island. Rising temperatures and significant weather events are becoming more commonplace. Sea level rise will have an even greater impact on Esquimalt’s shoreline and infrastructure in the years ahead.
These are complex issues that require multi-pronged responses. The work involves various levels of government, First Nations and the private sector working in harmony. And as a municipality, there are many actions we can and must take to mitigate and adapt in response to climate change.
Esquimalt has already developed and approved an Active Transportation Strategy (2020-2022), which puts a priority on walking and cycling in Esquimalt. An active community is a healthier community, so Barb is excited to see this plan being implemented.
But more time, energy, and innovation are needed to achieve our important climate action goals:
- Encouraging geothermal heating and cooling in new developments wherever possible.
- Urban Forest Strategy coming to Esquimalt Council in May 2022.
- Implementing key components of the Active Transportation Strategy, including a quick build cycling network, intersection and sidewalk improvements, lower vehicle speeds, and a dedicated staffer to shepherd the strategy’s timely delivery.
While different levels of government do their parts, each of us has a role to play, too. For example, when Barb and her husband were in the market for a new home, they looked for a more energy and water-efficient place that would also encourage walking/cycling instead of driving. They shop local, compost, recycle/re-use, do a lot of their own cooking with delicious local ingredients, and are always looking for new ways to reduce their ecological footprints. It takes a team effort to make big changes happen.
Here are a few great sources of helpful tips for finding ways that you can find the best fit to help you reduce your impact on the planet, too:
Business and Development
Complete, compact, and sustainable communities achieve an artful balance that serves the public interest while enabling great enterprises to grow and flourish. They know how to effectively share their unique stories, build on their strengths, and prepare for change in the future. Small businesses form the backbone of our community, providing important services, community support, and valuable tax revenue.
As the Township of Esquimalt continues to implement its Economic Development Strategy in a time of relentless global change, it’s important for us to talk about:
- Neighbourhood revitalization and the best ways to attract new businesses/industries and increase the number and nature of available local job opportunities – our new Town Square was recently recognized by the Urban Design Institute!
- Investing in Indigenous Reconciliation through economic development opportunities.
- Continue to drive diversity in the township’s housing stock (addition of more rental units, multi-generational housing, etc.).
- Create opportunities for increased participation in the tourism sector.
What kind of new businesses would you like to see open in Esquimalt? Let’s talk about it.
Culture and Heritage
The story of Esquimalt goes back thousands of years, beginning with the lək̓ʷəŋən People, known today as the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations. From the culture and heritage of the First Peoples, through colonisation, to the dynamic community we enjoy today, the arts, culture and heritage are important to the people of Esquimalt.
Our community is vibrant because of the community groups producing wonderful events, like the Esquimalt Farmers Market, Township Community Arts Council, and new this year is the TD Jazz Fest! Most of our local events are free and great fun for all ages, contributing to our shared quality of life by supporting our physical, mental, social and spiritual health.
We have learned (re-learned) the value of the arts and human expression through the pandemic, where creative people found ways to overcome the limitations of lockdowns and cancelled gigs, to connect and inspire hope and positivity.
As we look forward, let’s talk about:
- Making sure the Arts, Culture and Heritage are represented in the township’s tourism economic development plans.
- Securing sustainable funding for community events that enliven the public space and contribute to quality of life.
- Implementing Esquimalt’s Public Art Plan.
Barb is thrilled to see the opening of the new Esquimalt Gorge Park Pavilion. It will be the home to many wonderful community events and celebrations of our shared culture and heritage. Photo by Janice Mason.
What’s your favourite Esquimalt community event? Let’s talk about it.
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.
Local governments aren’t responsible for everything, so they can’t work in isolation. They rely heavily on their relationships with neighbouring municipalities, other levels of government, the private sector, and non-profit organizations to meet the quality of life needs of their community members.
Some of the big issues Barb is working on in collaboration with our regional partners include:
- Pushing to ensure Esquimalt’s recently opened Urgent and Primary Care Centre becomes fully operational to support our community’s growing healthcare needs.
- Continuing to work with Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations to advance our shared local priorities.
- Continuing to work with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the South Island Prosperity Partnership to enhance and promote economic development opportunities for maritime and other industries to grow, diversify and flourish in Esquimalt.
- Continue to work with our Capital Regional District partners on regional food security, transportation, housing, and climate action projects related to waste management, energy, and water conservation.