It’s tough to find 100 per cent agreement on anything these days, but I’m confident we all agree 2020 has been a year like no other in most of our lifetimes.
In Sooke, we’ve managed the pandemic exceptionally well so far and have moved relatively smoothly into phase three of the B.C. Restart Plan. I want to renew my thanks to everyone for doing their best to follow the provincial health officer’s directives. And I again want to send sincere good wishes to those hit hard by the impacts of challenging new normals.
We are not out of the woods. An increasing case count and the start of an unpredictable new school year means we all must double down on best practices.
I’ve noticed around town lately that more of us are wearing masks, especially in closed environments, and that’s a heartening sign that our residents understand the threat of a second wave.
One of our biggest challenges as a district this year has been to meet Dr. Henry’s request that local governments find a safe and secure indoor shelter for the unhoused. I’m pleased to report that the Sooke Region Community Health Network-run shelter on the northern edge of the town centre has been an effective stop-gap solution for Sooke since it opened in late July.
As was the case when SEAPARC Leisure Complex was a shelter this spring and later during the encampment at Ed Macgregor Park, the community has been wonderfully supportive for the most part.
Unfortunately, a handful of recent social media posts have pointed the finger at shelter residents for incidents that have occurred routinely over the years in Sooke and every other community. These include public intoxication, a few brush fires and anecdotal reports of several syringes left in parks.
Problems of this kind were common in Sooke long before we had a shelter, and they reflect a broad range of social and health issues that require oversight and intervention by Sooke RCMP officers. Blaming shelter residents is inaccurate and unfair. But if you do see anything that is unlawful, please contact the RCMP.
On other fronts, the summer passed quickly with a series of good news announcements. I was pleased to join Premier John Horgan for the opening of the expanded Westcoast Family Medical Clinic and a funding announcement for the T’Sou-ke First Nation’s community health and wellness centre. We received nearly $1 million in federal and provincial funds for an outdoor, multi-court sports box to be built in Sunriver. Construction is halfway complete on a $1.2 million expansion of the town centre sidewalk network.
In addition to our regular meetings, council and I brainstormed with chief administrative officer Norm McInnis and senior district staff to identify a new slate of “now” priorities in the four-year Strategic Plan. As a result, the next six months will see us focused on the following: the finalization of a new Building Code with B.C. Energy Step Code provisions; a new communications strategy; a service-agreement review with our community partners; and the launch of two new committees — Community Economic Development and Land Use and Development, among other initiatives.
District staff, meanwhile, have a full plate as always. The Official Community Plan review is kicking off this month. The Transportations and Parks and Trails Masterplans are being finalized. Lot A development remains a significant focus, as does affordable housing, a review of the liquid waste management plan, the creation of a tree protection bylaw and the exploration of a yard waste disposal/collection program.
The coming months shape up as busy and productive ones, hopefully for us all. I trust your own lives are getting back up to speed to the best degree possible in this most unusual year. Please stay safe, be kind and, as always, wash your hands!
Maja Tait is the District of Sooke mayor.