The Week — Nov. 24

Victoria disappoints with vote, Christmas occupies square and Peers in need of help

Philippe Lucas (left) will get to spend a little more time with his family now, since Victorians decided not to go another round with the progressive city councillor.

Victoria, look what you did

The voters have spoken — albeit quietly — and have been heard: you want a shuffle, but not so much a change.

Dean Fortin will be our mayor for a second term, 60 per cent of you say, and Victoria’s council will include almost all the old faces: only three have traded.

With avid campaigning, it’s little wonder Ben Isitt, Lisa Helps and Shellie Gudgeon cinched seats, but progressive Victorians could be surprised at the loss of councillor long-timers John Luton, Lynn Hunter and Philippe Lucas. Activist favourite Rose Henry also lost out again this year, coming in just behind Lucas, after narrowly missing a seat in the 2008 election and 2010 byelection.

“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,” says Lucas in a goodbye letter to his constituents.

Lucas added that, after running in four municipal elections, “the will of the voters still has the power to surprise me,” and said that best described his feelings on Saturday night when the polls started to roll in. Since 2008 as councillor and CRD director, Lucas has been best known for his battles for harm reduction facilities, local food sustainability, public sewage treatment, tenting rights and for being one of the leading voices of support for the Occupy movement.

The new council is sworn in on Dec. 8. Tragically, 73 per cent of Victorians wanted no say in the outcome, with the 27 per cent voter turnout hardly budging from previous numbers. Other municipalities were even more apathetic, with Saanich clocking in an increase in turnout with 25.3 per cent voting, and Esquimalt reaching a low of 18 per cent. For shame, people.

Christmas occupies square

Little surprise with the voting turnout this week that the city and downtown businesses finally got their way — the last dregs of Victoria’s Occupy movement were kicked out of Centennial Square on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

Police came to deliver and enforce the final eviction at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, and the dozen or so remaining in the People’s Assembly of Victoria left almost without incident — one woman was arrested for leaping onto CRD property. The enforcement order was granted on Monday, Nov. 21, by the B.C. Supreme Court, and similar grants have seen Occupy movements across the globe face the boot.

Meanwhile, unsuccessful council candidate John C. Turner organized temporary housing for able-bodied occupiers who wanted to trade labour for a roof. The old Traveller’s Inn on Blanshard (now privately owned and operated as hotel/apartment complex) housed 20 occupiers last week just before the evictions hit, and may be renovating rooms for more guests this week. No word on how long residents will be invited to stay.

Meanwhile, back at the Square, plans for the ever-anticipated ice rink have been delayed by one week due to the evictions, and the Ontario company will start construction this weekend. “Circumstances in Centennial Square have been quite uncertain for some time now and we have had to make a decision about what to do,” said Downtown Victoria Business Association Chair Martin Leclerc, adding that the group wants installation to go “as smoothly as possible.”

But because the rink will be installed with natural ice — frozen water, instead of plastic compounds — the rain will be an issue says Ken Kelly, DVBA general manager. The group will work studiously to remove rain build up and keep the twoonie rink open all season, but it looks like only the weather gods will have any say.

For those ready to stuff all this political biz into a stocking, the Centennial Square Light-Up will not be affected by all the drama. Saturday, Nov. 26, is planned as a full day of holiday cheer, with the tree lighting at 4 p.m., including musical performances, roving entertainment, ice sculptures and free treats from downtown restaurants. Then, catch the Santa Parade starting at 5:45 p.m. at the legislature.

Peers in need of help

With two of the province’s leading prostitute empowerment societies announcing their closure this week, PEERS Victoria Resources Society will become the only remaining B.C. organization run by and for sex workers, which has more than a few people nervous about the upcoming transitions.

“PEERS Victoria has a more diverse funding base than our counterparts in Vancouver, and we will survive,” says new executive director Marion Little, who only took the helm last week. “But we, too, struggle to find funding for the work we do, and lost some very important daytime outreach services this past year. The same contract change that is affecting PEERS Vancouver will also be our problem to deal with next spring, and we are extremely concerned.”

PEERS Vancouver will close in the spring, while Vancouver-based PACE will close in three weeks. M

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