As the NDP government led by John Horgan and supported by Andrew Weaver and the BC Green Party prepares to assume power in B.C., local mayors are keeping their eyes on what happens in the coming months.
With both MLAs serving Victoria and Esquimalt likely to be named to Horgan’s first cabinet – Carole James in Victoria-Beacon Hill and Rob Fleming in Victoria-Swan Lake – the two communities may have more of an ear with the province over the next four years.
Even before the May election, the City collaborated with the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Victoria, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and Downtown Victoria Business Association on a position paper that presented a unified voice on shared priorities.
Increasing affordable housing, improving mental health and addictions services, creating a regional transportation commission and finishing off the Belleville Terminal improvements were on the list, along with specific solutions.
“Whatever the province can do to stimulate more workplace housing is critical to the economy of the city,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, noting that people need affordable places to rent to be able to come to Victoria to work.
She added better availability, quality and affordability of child care into the mix.
“Child care is a primary concern. Between 2011 and 2016 [the census tells us that] there were a lot of babies born.”
Parents need to be able to re-enter the workforce without fear of falling behind the financial eight-ball due to daycare costs, she added. “These are all quality of life issues for our residents.”
In Esquimalt, Mayor Barb Desjardins said the focus is on getting the E&N rail bed up and running as a commuting corridor. In March, B.C. Liberal Transportation Minister Todd Stone launched a working group to look at options for the 15-kilometre stretch of track and was expected to report back following the election.
Desjardins intends to hold the new government’s feet to the fire with promises to get the line running.
“We’ve got to get something happening between the West Shore and downtown,” she said.
“Esquimalt is smack in the middle of it and we get clogged up with traffic. That, for me, is the top priority of any government.”
From a regional perspective, Desjardins hopes Horgan’s NDP will move the Capital Region towards an integrated resource management solution and help find ways to turn solid, liquid and biosolid waste into energy. The province needs to look at regulations and make changes to current policies, she added.
“The waste right now, all we do is try and hide it and throw it away. We’re doing all the recycling we can, but the reality is there will always be waste,” she said. “If you can turn it into energy, you lengthen the time frame for Hartland Landfill, you improve the environment, you provide a benefit back to the community.”