Thank You, Good Luck & Goodbye
– Philippe Lucas
Government is a more or less calculated and rational activity, undertaken by a multiplicity of authorities and agencies, employing a variety of techniques and forms of knowledge, that seeks to shape conduct by working through our desires, aspirations, interests and beliefs, for definite but shifting ends and with a diverse set of relatively unpredictable consequences, effects and outcomes (Chen, 2003; p.214)
Dear friends, colleagues and supporters,
Even after running in 4 municipal elections (that’s right, 4!), the process and will of the voters still has the power to surprise me, and certainly that best describes my feelings on Saturday night when the polls started to roll in shortly after 8pm. After 3 years that often involved 16 hour days working for the residents of Victoria on City Council and the CRD, many victories and disappointments, and a significant sacrifice to my family life, I went from pushing our City ever closer to the edges of progressive political and social reform for the greater good of our city, to somehow falling off the edge of voter support.
I want to begin by thanking my remarkable wife Mary and daughter Sophie for their incredible patience and support over my many years of involvement in municipal issues. Additionally, I’d like to thank my Campaign Manager Mark Worthing and my campaign team (particularly the Chandler crew) who worked so hard during this bid for re-election. Lastly, thank you to those who voted for and supported me over the last three years who donated financially or in-kind to this effort. Being elected to represent the people of Victoria was the greatest honour and display of faith, hope and trust that I’ve ever received; as such I’m so sorry if I’ve disappointed you all in any way.
I’d like to congratulate all of the new council, particularly newcomers Shellie Gudgeon, Lisa Helps and Ben Isitt. Steering the ship that is the City of Victoria is never an easy task, and the next few years are sure to bring stormy economic seas and a few icebergs like the Crystal Pool, sewage treatment, the Johnson St. Bridge, and LRT. Be on the look out at all times and focus on long-term planning rather than short-term fixes (that’s how we got where we are today, constantly having to chose between infrastructure closures or expensive replacement options in the midst of an ongoing economic downturn).
This past council faced and overcame many challenges this term, and I’m very proud of the work that was accomplished on homelessness and affordable housing, particularly the purchase of a couple of Traveller’s Inn hotels in order to turn them into low cost housing, the legalizing of secondary and now garden suites as well, and the offer of subsidies for developers building either affordable or rental housing. It’s fair to say that we listened when the people of this city told us that homelessness was a priority, and we acted and accomplished more in 3 years that had been done during the last 10 on this serious social issue. Sadly, this work was largely reactive, and what our city so badly needs right now is a pro-active poverty-reduction and community economic development strategy to stop the flow of residents, both young and old, who end up living on our streets or in the margins of our community.
Additionally, I’m pleased to have contributed to the City of Victoria’s Official Community Plan, which lays out a vision for the future of our city that we can all support and believe in, including for the very first time a section on Food Systems that even features a downtown farmers’ market, something I’ve been working towards for a number of years both on and off council.
And while I was just one voice and vote on council and the CRD, I was a strong voice for social justice, equity, openness, accountability, and a loud voice for progressive social change and for policies based on science, reason and compassion, rather than fear, misinformation and prejudice. Until this last Saturday, I truly believed that I was your voice; and unfortunately, it’s not a voice that’s too rarely heard in Council Chambers or at the CRD board table.
For example, here are just a few policies, votes and motions that likely wouldn’t have happened had you not supported my election in 2008:
• Harm reduction would never have become one of council’s top 7 priorities for this term;
• We wouldn’t be celebrating the 3rd year of the Small Steps edible landscape garden outside of city hall, and we wouldn’t have a ban on the production, storage, distribution and land application of biosolids on the CRD; in fact, no one on council would have championed urban agriculture, food security or the re-establishment of a downtown public market; and council wouldn’t be considering a by-law to allow miniature goats in Victoria in 2012.
• No one would have passed motion to put designated family-friendly and car co-op priority parking spaces in the city’s parkades, or voted to reduce the fees associated with towing or immobilizing devices in Victoria in order to stop disincentives to shopping downtown;
• No one would have passed motions in support of the re-establishment of a fixed site needle-exchange, or crack kits, or supervised consumption sites;
• No one would have called for a moratorium on the installation of Smart Meters; voted to keep rail as part of the new Johnson St. project; or put forward a motion in support of “Occupy Victoria” while working everyday to ensure a peaceful ending to this protest;
• No one on the CRD Board would have voted to keep all of our upcoming sewage treatment 100% public, or put forward a ban on the application of sewage waste on our region’s farmland;
• No one would have voted against the 7% residential tax increase that is making it that much more expensive to live in this city;
• And sadly, had I not been on council, no one would have voted against the ban on camping in our parks and thus recognized the right for our homeless community to seek basic protection from the elements, or suggested that exclusionary practices aimed at dispersing our street population back into neighbourhoods do nothing to actually solve homelessness, addiction and poverty;
Way back in 2002, my primary goal in running for council was to take the little bit of good I was trying to do in the community re. homelessness, harm reduction, poverty-related issues, sustainability and food security and to place it where it would have the maximum positive impact. I now pass on the same challenge and opportunity of social and economic responsibility to the three new members of council. There is much wisdom and experience in the returning council members, but often also a reluctance to re-examine or assess past strategies, direction and decisions, and to consider new ways of looking at how municipal and regional government can better serve the folks who pay for it.
I came to Victoria City Council with the honest belief that government, and in particular municipal government, needn’t be seen as an irrelevant – or worse, malevolant – force in the lives of local businesses and residents, but rather as an agent that could truly work with neighbourhoods, enterprise, and community towards a great good for all. I still cling to that believe, but my experience over the last 3 years suggests that this is all too often the exception rather than the norm, so I wish this new council well in their goal of meeting the many local and regional needs of this community, both today and tomorrow.
As for me and my future plans, this town still sorely needs a full-time farmers’ market, a supervised consumption site, and a strategy to reduce childhood and adult poverty if we’re ever going to achieve true social, economic and environmental sustainability. As such, I’ll keep pushing forward the progressive edges of City Hall and the CRD on these and other important policies by helping residents, City Council and the CRD work together towards a better Victoria.
Hopefully, I’ll also get to spend a bit more time with my family.
Best regards, thanks for the support, and keep up the good work!
Victoria City Council/CRD