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MAYOR’S MESSAGE: A time of sorrow and celebration

Sooke is proudly a Compassionate City, writes Maja Tait

Maja Tait | Contributed

My heart goes out to so many as I share this month’s message.

Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast are mourning. The dark history of residential schools and the 215 children found in unmarked graves in Kamloops cannot be forgotten. As a community, we must stand together to acknowledge this past and the trauma it affected then and now. It is our responsibility to recognize the truths of this past and support reconciliation efforts.

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Sooke is proudly a Compassionate City. As a Compassionate City, we promote understanding, acceptance, and we respect differing views while exploring commonalities, building friendships and seeking to eliminate prejudicial statements.

We were sadly reminded of the significance of these values and the action needed alongside these words with the loss of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario.

I extend my heartfelt condolences to all impacted by these recent events. If you have not yet had a chance to watch the Indigenous Equity in Action Videos recently prepared by School District 62, I invite you to do so. The video series reflects local Coast Salish and Nuu-Chah-Nulth voices and features various reflections on education in the past, present, and future.

I hope that these events and our reactions to them are signalling a tipping point that real action and meaning to our dedication as a Compassionate City takes that next critical step forward.

Looking to the future, I was honoured to connect with the Edward Milne Community School Class (EMCS) of 2021 (virtually) to congratulate them on their high school graduation. I acknowledge their remarkable contributions to our community.

Our youth responded to the challenges of the pandemic with grace and an admirable commitment to make the world a better place. Together, they raised more than $11,000 for the Sooke Food Bank in December. And, after this tremendous contribution, they held a Spring Out of Hunger campaign – raising another $4,300.

Their ability to understand and adapt to what has been an ever-changing environment is a testament to their character and strength. On behalf of the District of Sooke, I look forward to seeing their future successes and their contributions to our community, society, and the world. Once again, EMCS Class of 2021 – congratulations.

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Sooke youth were not the only recent graduates in our community. The district recently recognized seven new firefighter recruits. Congratulations and thank you to Malcolm Constantine, Carsen Holmquist, Kurtis Horne, Hollie Krutz, Scott McMahon, Michelle Schultz and Erin Topelko.

Our proud firefighters were presented with pins from their family members at a small ceremony recognizing this accomplishment of completing the recruit program and their probationary period. Their commitment to keeping our community safe is recognized and appreciated.

June also marks the start of summer. Opportunities to stay local and support locals are plentiful! The Thursday Night Market at the Sooke Region Museum and Visitor Centre and the Saturday Country Market are both in full swing with COVID-safety protocols in place. With dozens of local vendors and mouth-watering menu options, I invite you to participate in these weekly experiences and say hello to your neighbours.

As the provincial health officer continues to encourage us to stay closer to home this season, I hope residents will take the opportunity to explore new areas of Sooke. We are fortunate to have many great offerings to experience in our community. Whether you seek peace and tranquillity or adventure – from bird watching to mountain biking – we have tremendous opportunities to participate in these incredible experiences.

Speaking of bird watching, many thanks to Wild Wise Sooke, Sam Webb, and the Wild Wise volunteers for their work installing purple martin nesting boxes at the Sooke Pier. Purple Martins are once at risk of increasing numbers due to nesting box programs like this.

From local experiences to local opportunities for public participation in district decisions, Let’s Talk Sooke invites residents to join community conversations such as Let’s Talk: Low Carbon Resilience, receive updates on the implementation of both the parks and trails master plan and the transportation master plan, and participate in public input opportunities. For example, join the current conversation on the Development Cost Charges (DCC) Update. Please note that engagement on the DCC Update is open until June 16. I encourage all residents to join the conversation at letstalk.sooke.ca

Our community benefits when there is a strong working partnership between citizens, council and staff. Sooke is a relatively young community, incorporated in 1999. As a young and growing community, there are numerous projects underway that impact your daily life. The more informed and involved citizens are, the better we can build the community we all desire.

District council is committed to fostering an inclusive, healthy, and self-sufficient community. To deliver this vision and achieve its mission, which includes managing our growth for generations to come and making our local economy diverse and resilient, we must respect the diversity of opinions and ensure timely involvement of public participation.

Residents can expect 2022 public participation on the 2022 budget to start soon. This phase of participation will lead to the annual Citizen Budget Survey in September. I mention this now because it is crucial to have your voices join this conversation as it begins. By doing so, staff can act more efficiently – optimizing how resources are managed towards implementing approved projects as soon as budgets are in place.

The primary source of revenues for the district budget is property taxes. Residents should have received their property tax notices in the mail. If you have not received your notice, please call the municipal hall at 250-642-1634, and our finance team will be glad to assist you.

In collecting taxes, the district administers collection for municipal services (which it has direct control over) and third parties (which the district does not control). Of the total property tax you pay, 44.8 per cent is applied directly to municipal services. The balance and majority of property taxes collected, 55.2 per cent, are collected on behalf of and transferred to other taxing authorities such as schools, the Regional Hospital District and the Capital Regional District. To learn more about your District of Sooke property taxes, please visit sooke.ca/propertytax.

Residents are reminded that the province is now administering the home owner grant. Eligible residents can apply at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/home-owner-grant.

Please connect with the District should you have any questions. Our team is happy to assist you at 2205 Otter Point Road or by phone at 250-642-1634. Those with computer access are also encouraged to subscribe to receive public meeting notifications, and the District’s monthly electronic newsletter on the district website (sooke.ca > online services > subscribe). These are great ways for you to stay informed of district activities.

I continue to look forward to connecting once again in person. With vaccine dissemination reaching even more of our community, I am hopeful and genuinely grateful for all that you have done to support each other.

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Maja Tait is the mayor of Sooke. Email her at mtait@sooke.ca.

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