Half of Victoria’s councillors don’t actually live in Victoria.
Publicly-available financial disclosure statements show that Couns. Jeremy Loveday, and Sharmarke Dubow live in Esquimalt, while Couns. Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Marianne Alto live in Saanich, something municipal watchdog the Grumpy TaxPayer$ believe is an issue.
“It feeds into the cynicism and bewilderment many taxpayers have about local politics and raises lots of questions about governance,” said Stan Bartlett, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria in a statement. “If you don’t live in the City of Victoria community, how well do you know the residents and issues and priorities? If you haven’t contributed to the tax base, will you be less prudent with someone else’s tax dollars? If you live in another jurisdiction, why wouldn’t you run there? Do conflict of interest issues surface?”
Comparatively, according to Saanich financial disclosure statements, all eight councillors and the mayor report to reside within their municipality, as do all seven members of Oak Bay Council. However, having political figures reside outside their realms isn’t new.
Current Saanich councillor and former Oak Bay mayor and councillor, Susan Brice, recalls when it was widely known that Victoria mayor Peter Pollen was a prominent Oak Bay resident. Pollen was the mayor from 1971 to 1975 and from 1981 to 1985. Perhaps even more prominent was the big personality of Bob Wright, the owner of the Oak Bay Marina (including Sealand), who was a Victoria city councillor from 1976 to 1980.
“Victoria was always seen as the business centre,” Brice said, “… though its politicians sometimes lived elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if in previous years even more of Victoria councillors resided outside Victoria.”
Alto said that although she lives in Saanich, she does own property in Victoria.
“I own a home in Victoria in the Burnside/Gorge area,” Alto said, noting that it was bought as an investment for her son to live in. “It’s a fantastic neighbourhood and gives me an opportunity to see what the neighbourhood faces, and of course I also pay taxes in the city.”
Alto added that over the years she has lived in various places throughout Victoria, and that when her current home was purchased it was bought only metres outside the Saanich-Victoria borders.
“To be honest when we bought, I don’t think we were even aware it was in Saanich,” she said. “I guess I could see a concern from citizens at that level, but for me I think of myself as a Victorian. I’ve lived here for decades.”
Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe has been on council for 18 years, and said she’s always been open about living in Saanich, though she grew up in Victoria.
“I know many do not vote for me because of this. I chose to run in Victoria due to the issues that interested/concerned me … homelessness, heritage, Chinatown, tourism, business to name a few,” Thornton-Joe said in a statement. “Through the years my appreciation of the uniqueness and concerns of each neighbourhood have been brought to my attention.”
Thornton-Joe added she’s held many roles outside her personal experience, including being on the board of the Victoria Women’s Transition House though she’s never been in an abusive relationship, and as an executive on the Lion’s Society for Children with disabilities even though she does not have children.
She also added she needs to live close to her aging parents in Gordon Head.
Black Press Media also reached out to Loveday and Dubow for comment. Dubow was busy in a conference, while Loveday did not respond in time for publication.
– With files from Travis Paterson