Last week’s renewed call for regional financial assistance for policing by Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, assisted by Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins, sounded rather familiar.
Back in 2004 or so, the City of Victoria was asking for financial help to operate its yet-to-be completed new arena. Relatively few municipalities in the Capital Region agreed with the city’s premise that the facility was a regional structure that would be used by members of the greater community.
Today, those jurisdictions’ financial help has evaporated, with most facing financial challenges of their own or building their own facilities to meet the demand.
The policing situation is slightly different.
Victoria mayors past and present have argued that the population of the city essentially doubles every day, as people from other municipalities commute to work. While that may be true, these people aren’t generally the ones causing the extra workload for Victoria police officers.
Regardless of how suburban civic politicians might see it, downtown Victoria continues to be the primary gathering point for regional activities, from July 1 celebrations to any outdoor event involving the legislature. And it is also the hub for social services in the region. Both come with their own set of problems.
While VicPD gets assistance from other local departments for the major events, taxpayers in the city of Victoria pay more per capita for policing than any other municipality in the Capital Region. Not only that, the caseload for Victoria officers is highest in the region and far higher than the national average.
That shows a need to better apportion the cost of policing in the city. It could take somehow separating the cost of regional events from the main police budget, then putting a proportional charge on property tax statements. Regardless, we know Victoria’s pleas for help will fall on deaf ears in municipalities facing severe budget crunches.
It’s going to take action by the province – as it did with policing for Esquimalt – to change the way things work. Victoria needs to understand, however, that change can take a long time.