Mayor's Annual Address 2022

Mayor Barbara Desjardins
Monday, November 7, 2022
Council Chambers, Esquimalt Municipal Hall


We are very honoured to have Chief Rob Thomas of Esquimalt Nation in attendance tonight. The Township has an important connection with Esquimalt Nation having historic village sites within our boundaries. One such site is Macauley where there was deep sea reef net fishing.

I was honoured to know and have a friendship with the late Chief Andy Thomas and continue this honour with Chief Rob Thomas. Thank you Chief for being present tonight, taking time out of your own community and honouring us through your presence. 

I wish to thank the Honourable Justice Anthony Saunders for attending tonight to administer the Oaths of Office for Mayor and Council 

It is important to recognize that this next term of Esquimalt council is built on the work of previous Councils, staff and community.

I want to express gratitude to all who have come before us for their vision and actions.

I must especially thank Councillors Brame and Hundleby for their multiple terms of service to Esquimalt. They embraced this service to include being visible and accessible and they could be found helping or attending many community events. You leave big shoes to fill and have been exemplary role models for Council elect 2022. 

2022-2026 are going to be significant years both in the region and especially in Esquimalt. Significant transformation will occur, and that transformation will be a catalyst for more positive changes.  I can’t begin to understand what this means to some Esquimalt residents who have been here their whole lives. We have not seen growth like this since the 60’s and 70’s, but I can think that the growth that occurred in Esquimalt in the 60’s and 70’s is comparable in its impact. 

Development of 3 and 4 storey multi family housing along Esquimalt Road created a considerable amount of housing density for its time! And to support that significant growth came the Esquimalt Sports Centre in 1961 along with several other building blocks that contributed to the well-being of the citizens in our community. The Esquimalt Plaza, where Country Grocer is, was built in 1962. Later around 1965 Rockheights school was built. The old Public Safety Building opened in 1979 and lasted us until this year. Our new Public Safety Building will open in 2024. It will host Police and Fire Services and an emergency operations center needed to serve the community for the next 50 years. This will set up our community for crucial capacity in emergency response and recovery planning.

As I said before, significant transformation is occurring, and that transformation will be a catalyst for more positive change. These upcoming changes will require significant investment to infrastructure in Esquimalt just as it did in the past, and this last Council set a priority to have strategies ready. Strategies like active transportation, climate action, climate mitigation and the draft business investment roadmap to name a few. 

An election is a time when there is significant public engagement, and several areas of focus came forward. Your new council will be sitting down to set its priorities in the coming weeks.

Housing-including the impact of development and community benefit- was a significant discussion on the doorsteps and at the forums. I hear clearly from residents that we need more affordable housing in our community. 

The community expressed some fatigue with development construction impact and it will be important for council going forward to have clear policy for resident/development engagement and expectations. 

We have had a Good Neighbour policy that should be updated as it is 2007 era, a very different time in Esquimalt development and growth.  With the current growth there is the impact of displacement of current residents, and fairness and clear expectations on how and what assistance should be provided in relocation can help in approval processes. 

Clarity of community benefit was also raised and there may need to be a re-examination of our application of Development Cost charges as a means for both development community and residents to see benefit clearly. Certainly, the development capacity assessment being done will help all of us understand what is Esquimalt’s capacity for growth.

Economic development and diversity of opportunities was another area of both concern and challenge we heard from community.

On the heels of the local financial institution announcing it is leaving Esquimalt, came concerns around business opportunities in Esquimalt.  We are on the cusp of new commercial space being available and with our increasing demographic of young families there are significant opportunities for new businesses, but do they know about Esquimalt?

This is a perfect time to meet with industry, the Chamber, and real estate to hear from them how we could accelerate interest and business settlement in Esquimalt.  We say, who wouldn’t want to have their business here, but it’s a competitive region and we need to set policies that will stand out above others in the region. We must show, exhibit and follow a mindset of, we want your business, what help do you need.

Esquimalt residents are passionate and concerned about the environment. It is a significant challenge world-wide and we hear loud and clear that the people of Esquimalt are looking for leadership from Council on this. This includes climate action and climate mitigation strategies across all areas of influence from development, parkland and wildlife, transportation, and waste management. 

Council policies can accelerate action and it will be important to have our community understand both the benefits and costs of decisions.  Balancing today’s needs while ensuring sustainability for future Esquimalt will continue to be a lens for Council direction.

We heard from residents that they continue to support integrated resource management and it is my intention to work with Council and staff to bring forward the work done to date and look to how Esquimalt can take this forward. It is a huge opportunity for the community and the region.

Our active transportation strategy is already being actioned for safe cycling options on Tillicum and Lampson streets.  Sidewalk connectivity requires ongoing work and we’re committed to working with new developments to create good, contiguous pedestrian access that will support options for active transportation and transit.  

With the drought this summer and fall, and last winter’s atmospheric rivers, snow and extreme cold, climate adaptation and mitigation strategies for our community are high priority in the short term. Ensuring tree canopy for shading, access to cooling options and community supports for vulnerable populations will require attention and ingenuity.  

It is important to speak of Policing in the term 2022-2026. We are embarking on a pathway that may significantly alter our policing service by the end of this time. This was not a decision taken lightly by past Councils. It is of significant importance both in public safety and fiscal management of Esquimalt for us to continue on the pathway chosen. The community provided their support for our direction, expressed a want for full information, and an ability to provide input. We will deliver this to Esquimalt. 

The Township is a vibrant, distinct and diverse community for people to discover and belong”.  This is the statement I will continue to encourage Council to use as a lens in this term in our decision-making. 

Esquimalt is a leader in the region. We are known as the feisty community that can. We are coming into our own through the growth and welcoming of newcomers to our community. We are recognized for our community events from arts and culture to time-honoured celebrations.  We are known for our “sense of community”, our heart, and caring for our neighbours. Moving through the next four years and beyond it will be key to preserve these. I am excited to be part of the work to be done in the next four years. 

On behalf of Council elect and now your Council thank you for your support in getting us here. We will work hard on your behalf, listening, and actioning decisions to keep Esquimalt as a leader in the region, feisty, and with a heck of a lot of heart! 

Thank you!