April 15 Special Strategic Plan & Budget GPC

The fourth in a series of GPC meetings occurred this morning at 8am. Of note is that the same general agenda has been used for the past 4 days with some items added and some items removed (such as the council motion to prohibit sheltering in certain parks) as we’ve gone along. The focus of today (the third 8am meeting in a row) was to finalize proposed amendments to the draft strategic plan, and unlike with the proposed budget amendments, an update document was not provided on today’s agenda. This made things hard to track. 

So what happened?

Councillor’s Isitt and Loveday were late as usual.

Mayor Helps started things off by requesting that GPC stayed focused on whether proposed Actions and Outcomes were in the right years, and that GPC refrain from discussion on the fundamental acceptability** of any particular item.

Councillor Young had the floor first and started off by trying to remove the bullet specific to hiring an “Urban food system coordinator” given the conversation that occurred on Monday. And predictably the same conversation that occurred on Monday happened again. It was messy – messy enough that the City Manager actually spoke twice on the issue. GPC seemed to listen to him the second time and they ended up amending the existing provision to say something general about “reallocation of resources to food security/urban food”.

Councillor Young then tried to get the provision for a living wage removed but failed miserably as nearly 20 minutes was spent by forgive me, the NDP stalwarts speaking to what seems to be an impractical issue. Ultimately I believe a new provision for the City to investigate a living wage policy for city workers was added to the strategic plan.

A related discussion then started about raising household median incomes for Victoria residents. Mayor Helps clarified her expectation that this is just an Outcome, and that if economic development happens as intended, incomes should just rise. Senior Councillors Madoff and Coleman then tried to round out this discussion by reminding the table about the higher percentage of seniors on pensions in the city who would be unaffected by such development. I don’t quote know what then happened to be honest.

Councillor Isitt raised a concern about why the strategic plan includes a outcome related to a private development (e.g., That Capital Park is through Phase One by 2016). Things then got quite messy at the GPC table but neither the Corporate Administrator or City Manager intervened even as Council struggled for process. After Councillor Young got annoyed by the lack of process and excused himself from the vote for conflict of interest reasons, the provision was slightly amended to read: that planning for Capital Park phase 1 is complete by 2016.

Councillor Young’s reason for concern is that he apparently owns property adjacent to Capital Park and this puts him in a conflict of interest – meaning that he is not supposed to participate in any decisions on it.

Regarding the First Nations Liaison provisions in the draft strategic plan, a Council liaison position was added to support the mayor.

Councillor Coleman wanted to know why someone had suggested removing a visit from the twin city delegate as a 2017 Outcome (see page 6). Even though that someone was probably following the same logic as me, this Outcome got retained.

Councillor Isitt then requested that the specific reference to a new James Bay Library in Capital Park be changed to a new library in James Bay (Under strategic objective #10: Nurture our arts etc..). This got passed without discussion. I found this confusing because I was under the impression that provision for the library space was a particular community amenity associated with the Capital Park development – see my March 12 write up for context.

Mayor Helps then told everyone that the completed amended strategic plan will be on tomorrow’s Council agenda for approval, and that at Council will be an appropriate time for everyone to “say their piece”. The Strategic plan was then passed as amended with Councillor Young opposed.

What didn’t get discussed?

What did not get discussed was the proposed removal of specific bike projects from the draft strategic plan (see page 10):

Removal of Bike Specific

As discussed in my Monday review when GPC made their budget allocations to bike lanes, it seems as though Council is moving away from a specific commitment to certain bike lanes (e.g., the main five that received tremendous public support). I say this because not having specific projects in the plan means the “network” is undefined and therefore less accountable. I hope I am wrong.

[Editors Note}

**It is important to remember that this strategic plan was created by Councillors silently writing out their own ideas in isolation and that even though hundreds of pages of feedback was submitted on the strategic plan and budget, the implications of this consultation was never really discussed.


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