Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she felt as though ‘the rug was pulled out from under her’ upon learning the mayor of Saanich wants to halt movement towards amalgamation.
Helps’ remarks came Thursday afternoon during her daily COVID-19 press briefing. She said she had only learned of mayor’s change of heart 30 minutes prior.
“I’m still digesting it,” Helps said. “I was under the impression that Saanich and Victoria had committed to a process that was mandated by both of our voters in the last election.”
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes is calling for a “cease and desist” on the Citizen’s Assembly exploring amalgamation of Saanich and Victoria. Haynes asked council to write a letter informing the City of Victoria and the province of the District’s choice to stop work on the Citizen’s Assembly “until further notice” and reallocate the $250,000 assembly budget.
Helps said she was surprised by the turn of events.
“I am prepared, and I know council is prepared, to honour the wishes of our voters that we heard loud and clear in the 2018 municipal election,” she said. “If Saanich is not prepared to do that then I guess we’ll leave that to them.”
Helps added that, despite the ongoing pandemic, there is still more than two years until the next election “which is a lot of time to run a Citizen’s Assembly and sort this stuff out.”
The mayor also announced increased outdoor physical distancing measures in the city, including the closure of parking areas off of Foul Bay and Crescent Roads serving Gonzales Beach Park. The roads will be open to emergency vehicles only.
New signage will also be deployed at narrow path areas, including the Songhees Walkway, reminding people to keep a safe space from others and follow health advice. Helps said the City is working closely with the Township of Esquimalt for a coordinated approach to the issue.
“We can put up all the signs we want but really it’s up to you,” Helps said. “This will help us to get life back on track and enjoy all the outdoor activities in a more normal way.”
With files from Devon Bidal.
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