>> Not affiliated with any political coalitions or municipal slates – an INDEPENDENT voice on the left. <<

One of the most important issues in this by-election is Victoria’s multifaceted HOUSING CRISIS. Among other things, this includes a rental market crisis and a homelessness crisis.

Rob would work to persuade the provincial government to introduce VACANCY CONTROLS limiting rent increases on residential units when tenants move out, reducing unnecessary renovictions. Without vacancy controls, rent controls are ineffective.

Rob is also in favour of expanding the City of Victoria’s INCLUSIONARY ZONING policy to require inclusion of affordable units in a wider range of multi-unit residential developments.

HOUSING is a HUMAN RIGHT, and homeless people are people whose human rights are being VIOLATED. Victoria’s homelessness crisis should be addressed with PURPOSE-BUILT housing rather than converted derelict motels, which, while they constitute a step in the right direction, are poorly designed for supported housing, creating avoidable and unnecessary problems. The federal government is making considerable funds available for this sort of housing through the Rapid Housing Initiative. Given the disproportionately large number of unhoused people living here, the City of Victoria should be getting a very generous portion of the available funding.

In a community as affluent as ours, people shouldn’t be resorting to camping in parks. They need housing, in keeping with their basic rights as human beings. The small number of people who don’t want housing should be accommodated with a purpose-built facility, a supervised and regulated municipal campground with washrooms, showers and maybe even an outdoor cookery (thereby avoiding the need for cooking fires in tents and other dangerous places). Land for something like this is an obvious issue of course, but if this was to become a civic priority, the land could be found. There are plenty of possible sites. One site that might be suitable, just as one example, is the SJ Willis playing field at Hillside and Blanshard, land which is currently being used for nothing at all.

24-Hour Camping in Beacon Hill Park. Many voters have been asking where candidates stand specifically regarding 24-hour camping in Beacon Hill Park as a measure to accommodate homeless people during the covid-19 pandemic. Again, in an affluent community like Victoria, people shouldn’t be having to resort to living in parks at all, and this shouldn’t be occurring. Given that they have been told Beacon Hill Park is okay for the time being, it wouldn’t be fair to require the people living there to leave immediately without offering other options, but Council’s objective of having the campers out of the park by March 31 is inappropriate. It’s winter now, and March 31 is the end of winter. Consistent with the principle that housing is a human right, the City and the Province should redouble their efforts to find housing for the people living in Beacon Hill Park, including hiring more staff to find housing and help people move, and paying staff for overtime as needed. Now that winter is here, the people in the park should be housed as quickly as humanly possible, not over the course of the next four months.

Rob also supports a variety of initiatives to address the CLIMATE CRISIS, including:

– extending fare-free bus transit, currently available to school-age children living in the City of Victoria, to include more groups (such as for instance downtown workers, many of whom bring cars downtown every day – thereby reducing traffic congestion and freeing up parking downtown, as well as improving air quality)

– electrification of transit buses

– transit signal priority technology, which allows a bus driver approaching a traffic light to keep the light green long enough to let the bus through (greatly improving the efficiency of buses for commuting purposes)

– encourage and expedite installation of publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations

– an end to building new fossil fuel related infrastructure (as called for by, for instance, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

– promote development of a walkable community, with the goal of eventually making it possible for residents to walk to work and school, to get groceries, to access services, and for other transportation needs – after all, walking is the cheapest and least resource-intensive form of transportation

– a ban on gas-powered leaf-blowers, lawn mowers, weed-wackers, and other two-stroke engine garden machinery (which is astronomically high in hydrocarbon emissions)

Some other policy ideas Rob supports include:

> a municipal AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE program, beginning with working single-parent low-income families

Market pricing for childcare is completely unrealistic for many families. Victoria needs affordable childcare.

Many families pay more for childcare than for any other household expense except housing (and in some cases, even more than they pay for housing). Market pricing puts paid childcare completely out of reach for low-income families.

Like so many other communities across the country, Victoria has a childcare crisis, a crisis so severe that it affects, for example, local businesses’ ability to hire and retain employees. Victoria needs a MUNICIPAL AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE PROGRAM, beginning with working single-parent low-income families.

Childcare organized and delivered by municipal government is not a new idea in Canada. Municipal childcare programs exist in Vancouver (since the 1970s), in numerous places in Ontario, including Toronto (since the 1950s), Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Thunder Bay, Perth and Brockton, and in Alberta in Jasper, Beaumont, and Drayton.

Victoria’s childcare crisis urgently requires rapid action, not the decade-long program roll-outs talked about at other levels of government. The City of Victoria should secure the funding available from the federal and provincial governments, and step into the gap with a clear plan to start alleviating our community’s childcare crisis in a more timely manner.

> a municipal LIVING WAGE policy, covering (1) City of Victoria employees and (2) other workers who work on City property – i.e., those workers covered by the living wage bylaw that has been in place in the City of New Westminster, BC, for over a decade – plus (3) employees of businesses that have contracts with the City. Under a municipal living wage policy, workers in these three categories would all have to be paid a living wage. Currently the living wage for Victoria is $19.39.

> advocate and support WORKER-OWNED CO-OPS. Businesses that are closing or going up for sale can be taken over by their employees, to be run as worker-owned co-operative businesses. The City can identify ways it can work with the provincial government and other organizations to facilitate and assist with this process. Worker-owned co-ops reduce inequality, poverty, and worker alienation, and keep profits in the local community.

> in favour of exploring possibilities for the use of regularly-scheduled CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLIES with PARTICIPATORY BUDGETING. Let’s look at expanding the scope of municipal democracy.