Mayor's Annual Address 2023

Mayor Barbara Desjardins
Monday, November 6, 2023
Council Chambers, Esquimalt Municipal Hall


The past year has been a busy one at the Township of Esquimalt. 
With our Council sworn in last November, there were several orientation sessions both by Esquimalt but also regionally for Mayor and Council to be prepared for and further understand our roles.

This coupled with the addition of a new CAO in Esquimalt a month before, gave a unique opportunity in developing our strategic priorities.

Council priorities include:
•    Climate Resilience and Environmental Stewardship
•    Diversified and Thriving Economy
•    Engaged and Healthy Community
•    Good Governance and Organizational Excellence
•    Housing
•    Strong Relationships and Partnerships

I invite you to review the Strategic Priorities document on our website where you will see many of the projects we are working on and some that have been completed.

In the inaugural speech a year ago I mentioned that significant transformation will occur in Esquimalt over the next term. 

The Township has worked diligently to build respectful relationships with both the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations that acknowledge the rich cultural heritage and history of the land we share.

In our commitment to these partnerships, we have engaged in open and ongoing dialogues with both Nations and through these conversations, we aim to build trust, foster mutual understanding, and collaborate on various initiatives that benefit our entire community. 

By working together, we can honor the cultural traditions and heritage of these communities, while also ensuring a more equitable and sustainable future for all residents within our municipality. 

With support from Esquimalt Nation Chief Thomas and Songhees Chief Sam, we have started the work to be able to raise the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations’ flags at the Esquimalt Municipal Hall as a sign of respect and embracing a shared vision for a harmonious, inclusive, and prosperous future.

Council Strategies developed in the previous term such as our active transportation strategy and the draft business investment roadmap are being actioned.

Lyall Street work has been completed and includes improved pedestrian crossings, sidewalk enhancements and road paving. 

Tillicum and Lampson have been transformed and now include cycling lanes, pedestrian crossings, and safety improvements at many intersections. It was rough going during the height of the construction of these, but we are hearing about the benefits already. 

Esquimalt hired our first Economic Development Manager who in her first 4 months has reviewed our existing documents and has developed the Economic Development Action Plan, We are currently making substantial progress in implementing this plan and there is heightened enthusiasm from businesses expressing interest in establishing a presence in Esquimalt. These businesses now have a dedicated point of contact within the town hall to facilitate their endeavors.

The climate action and mitigation strategy have also progressed with Council adopting a Zero Carbon Step Code and we have advanced the gasification process to the next step which is testing of our waste to understand its value. 

Within the housing priority and looking to the Esquimalt landscape there are many buildings coming out of the ground, which will provide additional residences for those wanting to live in our beautiful community.

Within several of these developments there is additional commercial space that can provide greater services for our residents, which serve to enhance the rental and affordable housing opportunities.

Since last November, we now have The Vista, a seniors’ building that provides rental, ownership and also memory care. The Legion is expected to reopen soon, and the building has a commercial pharmacy moving in - this a welcomed addition for the east end of Esquimalt.

Council has also encouraged townhouse and DADU construction where possible.

Council was disappointed to face the stark reality of post covid inflation challenges which played out through significant cost increase for the proposed public safety building.  Despite the disappointment, this situation presented an opportunity as we diligently explored various pathways forward. This opportunity has rekindled our focus on potential additions to the Esquimalt Road frontage property. 

Council directed staff to move forward with a new fire hall and emergency services building on the original site. Shovels should be in the ground next year. 

There is significant work being done by a consultant on options for police servicing and we hope this will be brought forward late this year.  In the meantime, Esquimalt is working with Victoria and the police board to have an interim Framework Agreement for the next year.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was another banner year in Esquimalt for arts and cultural events and activities, and we are not done yet! We hope you will join us for all the upcoming festivities staff and the community have planned!
I want to extend Council's thanks and support for the organizations and the individuals who make these happen. These events put Esquimalt on the bigger map for both regional activities but also for tourists to experience (and talk about) our great community. 

Thank you to staff for the great work over the past year. Thank you to members of Council, you are no longer “new”, and I look forward to continuing our important work.