Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is asking residents not to flush disinfecting wipes down their toilets as the city starts to see the sewage system clog.
“While the premier and the prime minister get to stand up and make glamorous announcements about fiscal packages and stimulus support for renters and other measures, what I get to stand up and tell you about today is about our toilets,” she said during her daily update March 25.
Helps is asking people to put their wipes — even if the package says they are flushable — in the garbage, reflecting a request from the CRD and Esquimalt earlier in the week. She also asked residents to take their garbage cans out to the side of the road to make Public Works’ job a little easier through the pandemic.
Helps began her address by highlighting the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in the day. The aid package will provide $2,000 per month, for four months for Canadians who have lost their job due to COVID-19. This is in addition to the one-time $1,000 payment announced by B.C. Finance Minister Carole James on Monday. She also highlighted the moratorium on evictions for non-payments of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings.
She also reiterated an order from Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, for no gatherings of people at all.
On Tuesday, Helps challenged residents to make some noise for frontline workers at 7 p.m., which she asked again on Wednesday.
“Go out on your balcony, on your front porch, bang a tambourine, bang a pot … we’re doing this because it’s a way to spread joy, a way to have a little bit of fun and most importantly it’s a way to give a very heartfelt thank you,” she said.
Temporary shelters for cities homeless
On March 23, Helps announced the city would be opening three parks — Beacon Hill, Topaz and Royal Athletic — as temporary sites for the area’s homeless population. Helps said the city was not enforcing the bylaw that asks people to take down their tent during the day so as to encourage more social distancing. She also provided a clearer picture on what these sites will look like.
The city’s Emergency Operation Centre will manage those sites and ensure fire codes are being followed, along with proper social distancing between tents. Sanitation stations are going to be set up, although only Topaz Park has washrooms and sinks.
Helps said in the next two to three weeks residents can expect to see people moving into the park with infrastructure to follow — but “it’s not going to be as neat and tidy as a campground.”
She also said that due to a trust that dates back to the 1890s that states Beacon Hill Park can only be used for recreation, the city was waiting on provincial orders so that BC Housing could requisition the park.
Royal Athletic Park will be used to house the population that needs the most support, so as things get up and running harm reduction services will be put in place there, as Helps said she didn’t want to see people who need a safe consumption site separated from that facility.
Will Victoria declare a state of emergency?
Helps said she was waiting to hear more from the provincial government before declaring a local state of emergency. The province will be “taking action soon to make it unnecessary” for local governments to make that declaration, she said, as it would be “highly inefficient” for each local government to declare a state of emergency.
“We anticipate, hopefully, some help is coming to give us the authority we need to act,” she said.
Helps’ daily updates are streamed live on the city’s Facebook page.