Bridge debate spurs decorum breakdown

Residents, council needs more info on project progress

The City of Victoria’s official map of the future Johnson Street Bridge is giving residents a false impression of the replacement project, according to some new members of council.

“Residents are being completely misled right now,” said Coun. Shellie Gudgeon at last Thursday’s meeting of the governance and priorities committee.

At issue is a map indicating green space south of the downtown entrance to the bridge, published on www.johnsonstreetbridge.com.

The map gives no indication of a development being considered by council on this land. Pending approval of a rezoning application, council has committed the land to Reliance Properties.

Coun. Ben Isitt agreed with Gudgeon’s take.

Citing an in-camera discussion Jan. 19, he said, “I would suggest this map is inaccurate.”

But Mayor Dean Fortin defended the map.

“This is currently what is being proposed,” he said. “It is truthful until such time as we decide (otherwise).”

“That’s crap,” Gudgeon replied.

“Excuse me,” Fortin interjected, reminding her of the decorum expected at the council table.

Decorum quickly returned, but the incident highlighted a greater, and growing concern.

Nearly nine weeks since their inauguration to Victoria council, the three newly elected councillors were still in the dark about the city’s biggest, most controversial infrastructure project.

“I’m getting inundated with questions and I’d like to be brought up to speed,” said Coun. Shellie Gudgeon.

Others at the table, including the mayor, echoed her call for a full briefing.

The new councillors “need to understand everything we went through,” Fortin told his engineering staff. Until that happens “we are going to continually lurch.”

Council voted to move the briefing up from the end of the month to Feb. 7, after press deadline.

As for the map, project director Mike Lai promised, “we can certainly make a modification to indicate the pending application.”