Victoria city councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday take in the Winnipeg Pride Parade while attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention

BC VIEWS: How not to run your city

Stunts and waste by Victoria councillors obscure a more serious matter, the influence of CUPE on municipal bargaining

Municipal politicians from all over B.C. are in Victoria this week for their annual convention, meeting with provincial cabinet ministers and debating resolutions.

Taxpayers would be well advised to question their mayors, councillors and regional district directors when they get home. Not just about hotel bills or what they accomplished, but whether they have picked up any ideas from Victoria on how local government should be run.

In 30-odd years of watching local governments, I have never seen a council blow money and chase ridiculous ideas the way Victoria does.

For example, the city is now considering hiring an “artist in residence.” Mayor Lisa Helps says this will build in beauty to projects without hiring consultants, and add value to taxpayer-funded facilities.

We’ve seen this artistic value notion at work already. The city’s new drawbridge connecting Vic West and Esquimalt to downtown is nothing if not artistic, with graceful sculptural elements. At least that’s how it appeared in drawings when the project was begun in 2009.

Seven years later, the construction site looks all but abandoned, costs having soared above $100 million. We’re assured by the latest consultant, municipal maestro Jonathan Huggett, that things are back on track and the artistic custom steel components being manufactured in China are free of defects this time. We’ll see.

Helps wasted no time establishing her style when she surprised herself by being elected in 2014. She spent $50,000 on a management consultant, explaining that this was the maximum she could spend without council approval.

Speaking of art, Victoria now has a musical staircase in one of the city-owned downtown parkades. For only $10,000, people can now play music by going up and down stairs.

That’s right, the city is in the parking business. Oddly, these dank concrete structures with unionized city staff have struggled, so council considered sculptures and paintings before buying a stairway to Heaven.

Residents of Greater Victoria and its dozen boutique suburbs are used to screwed-up projects. From dysfunctional police who can’t communicate to a stalled sewage system that will cause tax bills to skyrocket if it is ever built, incompetence is expected here.

Two Victoria councillors specialize in silly stunts that divert public attention from their performance. Coun. Ben Isitt and his sidekick Coun. Jeremy Loveday recently talked their colleagues into declaring a ban on genetically modified foods in Victoria.

There is no sign yet of local grocery stores throwing out hundreds of products containing canola oil and other agricultural staples. Apparently, city hall can’t override federal health regulations.

Ben and Jerry, as they have become known, are radical left-wing activists, often seen organizing protests demanding this or that from the province and Ottawa.

Loveday wants Victoria to declare itself a “sanctuary city.” That’s where local police are instructed not to ask people about their citizenship status, in order to circumvent federal immigration law.

In this age of terrorism, let that sink in for a bit. It makes Loveday’s initiative to allow skateboarders to mingle with downtown traffic seem almost sensible.

Ben and Jerry’s campaigns were largely financed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In June, they led Victoria council to exit the regional labour relations group that bargains with CUPE and other unions.

Helps dismissed concerns by other area councils that CUPE will now target Victoria and “whipsaw” other municipalities to match its settlements, in the grand B.C. labour tradition.

Helps said that’s old-fashioned thinking. And besides, Victoria city hall staff duplicate much of the regional labour function. A consultant said so.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Rockslide keeps Coquihalla northbound lane closed

Highway 5 is closed in one direction.

UPDATE: Wind warning ends for Metro Vancouver after thousands lose power

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

Agassiz tech training to connect generations

Upcoming event will have youth teaching technology to older residents

UPDATE: 24-year-old Lovepreet Dhaliwal ID’d as victim in targeted Abbotsford shooting

Location of shooting the same as where innocent bystander Ping Shun Ao killed in 2015

Week in Review – January 19

Movie filming, water upgrades and more

UPDATE: Two people die in ATV accident south of Campbell River

Third person survived attempt to cross a creek

Justice group, fellow trustee, defending B.C. school trustee

Chilliwack school trustee facing increasing pressure to resign over LGBTQ beliefs

Coal dust escaping rail cars spurs B.C. petition

Local governments are on board with Shuswap resident’s request for better control of escaping particulate

Lawyers slam ‘de facto expulsion’ of student guilty of sexual interference

Calgary student guilty of sexual assault of a minor allowed to finish semester

B.C. NDP set to restructure union bargaining

School trustees to regain control over employer group

A new development surrounding plane that went missing around Revelstoke in November

The family of Ashley Bourgeault believe they have found a new clue

$130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic

Hot summer ticket: $130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic off Newfoundland

UK’s Princess Eugenie, daughter of Prince Andrew, engaged

Princess Eugenie, the daughter of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, will marry Jack Brooksbank in Autumn 2018

Most Read