For local governments, 2020 has been a year full of strange twists and turns in a road never before experienced.
Who would have imagined that Community Gardens could not be opened for the season until staff determined how to manage risks? Or that we would have to close all playgrounds? Or that we would have to close public access to Town Hall? Or that many businesses in our town would struggle to remain operating? Or that our View Royal casino would be completely shuttered for months on end? The toll on all of us, and especially the vulnerable in our society, has been significant.
It has been a year that I will be very pleased to say goodbye to.
Before we do, I would like to acknowledge the many whose efforts go into making our communities run. The challenges for municipal staff in finding new ways of working to assure the safety of themselves and of the public have been monumental. Likewise, our emergency responders, who have continued to keep our communities safe and secure, at a time where every call can be a trip into the unknown.
I offer a heartfelt thank you on behalf of council to all who have worked through this pandemic to keep our community running; not just in View Royal but throughout our region. Our broader community shines in times of hardship and that has also been true this year. From the Rapid Relief Fund to the annual Santas Anonymous campaign, there are ongoing displays of the caring and generous nature of Greater Victoria residents.
At the council level it has been a strange dynamic to be operating without members of the public in chambers with us. Live-streamed council meetings have allowed residents to ‘virtually’ attend meetings and to interact via telephone but it is still not the same as discussing issues face-to-face. I look forward to being able to welcome the public back to our meetings at some point in 2021. And, in general, I will personally be happy when I no longer have to participate in Zoom meetings but can meet in person once again.
There is no doubt that 2021 will be a brighter year and that we can hope for a slow return to normalcy. With vaccines starting to be administered in Greater Victoria there is reason for optimism. In the meantime, we must all hang in there a little while longer, no matter how hard that will be, especially over the holidays.
I wish everyone all the best over this holiday season. Please remember to follow the advice of all our public health officials and Dr. Bonnie Henry who have spent most of the year striving to keep us calm, safe and kind. You wouldn’t want to disappoint Dr. Henry, would you?
David Screech is the mayor of View Royal.