Labour Day marks the end of summer and the return to routine for students and their families.
It also marks the unofficial kickoff of campaigning for the Oct. 20 civic elections.
The Chamber is non-partisan, which means we don’t endorse individual candidates or political parties, but we do want voters to be informed about issues that matter to businesses throughout our region. In order to keep the number of candidates manageable, we are focusing on mayoral candidates in our 13 municipalities and we will be sending each a survey in the spirit of helping them build a solid campaign.
As a starting point, we have the following three questions for each of them:
Question 1: Will you narrow the gap between business and residential property taxes?
Greater Victoria’s business community has been burdened by the upward creep of property taxes. As senior levels of government offload costs onto municipalities, councils (other than Victoria and Langford) squeeze more out of businesses by raising their property taxes at a greater rate than residential properties.
The simple reason comes down to votes: businesses don’t have them and residents do. But while it makes political sense to appease your largest constituency, the long-term economic damage hurts everybody. When municipal taxes force businesses to relocate, downsize or close, we lose local jobs and the vibrancy of our town centres, as well as the goods or services they offer.
Question 2: Do you support improving transportation through regional governance, funding, planning and delivery?
From commuting to the West Shore to downtown parking, our 13 municipalities stumble through regional transportation issues because they all transcend municipal borders. We need convenient transit options that make it attractive for residents to ride the bus between their homes and workplaces. Traffic flows over borders despite the local politics of whatever municipality it’s passing through. Are municipal politicians prepared to expand their parochial thinking and support decisions that improve our entire region?
Question 3: Do you support a citizens’ assembly process that empowers the public to decide whether to reduce the number of municipalities in our region?
Saanich and Victoria have agreed to ask their voters this question, which is a tentative first step toward creating a single bigger and better municipality. If voters agree to the idea, which The Chamber endorses, a citizens’ assembly takes the decision out of the hands of politicians and staff with a self-interest in maintaining the status quo. If the citizens’ assembly recommends a merger, residents will then have a formal chance to approve the recommendation. The Chamber believes in better governance through fewer governments, and there is more than enough evidence to show that combining Saanich and Victoria will create a great new municipality with more resources and a higher profile than either one has now.
There are many more questions facing our region, but The Chamber believes these three will start the discussion about who will make the best mayor in each of our 13 communities. Make sure to check out VictoriaChamber.ca for full coverage in the weeks to come.
Catherine Holt is CEO of The Chamber (Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce).