MUNICIPAL ELECTION: Political agenda of Barb Desjardins

Acclaimed Esquimalt mayor has her worked cut out under ambitious plan for township

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins didn’t have to run in this year’s municipal election

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins didn’t have to run in this year’s municipal election

Though Esquimalt residents won’t see the names of mayoral candidates on their election ballots tomorrow (Nov. 19), that doesn’t mean their mayor is taking her acclamation for granted.

Barb Desjardins’ to-do list for her second mayoral term includes advocating for a new sewage treatment plan, developing municipal square and spurring economic growth.

Resolving the police issue is also a priority, she said.

Esquimalt doesn’t have an issue with the quality of service it gets from the Victoria Police Department, but rather the governance structure of the Victoria Police Board, as well as an unsustainable funding model, Desjardins said.

“The fact is, it doesn’t matter what Esquimalt says, because 80 per cent of the (police) budget is paid by Victoria. Who are you going to listen to?” said Desjardins, who believes the Esquimalt and Victoria mayors should serve as co-chairs on the board.

“If you want things to work, you’ve got to come at it with equal partners in the governance.”

She has promised “there will be significant public input and involvement in the process as we go forward.”

The mayor’s wish list for the next term also includes creating tax-friendly policies to provide relief to businesses and attract others to the township.

“Let’s put something on paper that says, ‘We’re going to provide this incentive for these businesses in this area,’” she said.

Desjardins also wants to see what a zero-per-cent tax increase looks like now that the budget process for 2012 has begun. Only then will people realize it would result in service or staff cuts or delaying infrastructure projects, for example.

“You have no idea until you’re in the middle of that budget and you see what the pressures are,” she said.

The answer to a lower tax hike – municipal taxes rose 3.9 per cent for 2011 – may be identifying ways to stave off increases by organizations such as the Greater Victoria Public Library, which is seeking a two-per-cent increase for 2012.

“We’ve got to turn around and say, ‘No, you’re going to have to make do or change how you do business,’” Desjardins said.

She also hopes to move forward with zoning changes allowing the development of municipal square, possibly with eight- and 12-storey buildings that include commercial and civic space.

Voters will have the option tomorrow of voting yes or no on their election ballots to allow those changes. A public hearing on the issue will be held in February.

“It’s my hope as we go forward that we will change those bylaws and then we can continue to move forward to getting somebody actually digging in the ground,” Desjardins said.

The project is an important part of building Esquimalt up, since there is no room to grow out, she added. “We have to look forward, but in order to do that we have to keep moving forward.”

To connect with Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, please visit www.barbdesjardins.com.