To Serve and Protect
– Esquimalt’s stance on policing budget leaves many questions
We elect our Mayor and Council to serve our community and protect our cherished tax dollars. Sometimes, that requires taking a stand. With the passing of Esquimalt’s annual budget this week, it is becoming increasingly clear that Esquimalt Council is ready to cut its ties with the Victoria Police Department.
The budget was adopted without including the required $400,000 to cover Esquimalt’s portion of the increased costs for VicPD’s budget as approved by the Victoria Police Board. That’s money on top of the millions we already pay to cover policing. Esquimalt funds over 14 per cent of the VicPD police budget, but most people in Esquimalt will tell you we have received very little in return for our contributions. Hence, Mayor Barb Desjardins and Esquimalt Council are taking a stand.
Suddenly, it appears we now have everybody’s attention. Mayor Dean Fortin and City of Victoria are demanding we pay. VicPD Police Chief Jamie Graham and the Victoria Police Board are demanding we pay. We are not used to this kind of attention. For years, we have been ignored when it came to discussing our policing needs.
This whole saga is starting to look like a really bad marriage break-up. The marriage is clearly coming to an end, everybody knows it, but no one will come out and actually say it. Lawyers are speaking on our behalves. There are feelings of bad blood, resentment, and a yearning need to separate and move on. There are even rumours that we have already started dating the Saanich Police Department as we reach out for a new partner to fulfill our needs.
Like any bad break-up, there will be costs involved and we will likely still end up having to pay the $400,000 as part of the divorce agreement. That is unless Esquimalt Council has legal advice that tells them otherwise, but that would be unlikely. Even if we pursue a courtship with Saanich, it will still take months before our old marriage is annulled and the new marriage is consummated. It is unlikely that Saanich will be patrolling our streets prior to the end of this year’s budget.
The gig is up. The marriage is over. Esquimalt is ready to move on. But, unfortunately, the reality is that our bill still needs to be settled. So, what does that mean for our municipality’s budget? We have been told that we are getting a 3.9% tax increase with no funds allotted to cover increased policing costs. When the inevitable happens and we are forced to pay up, where will that money come from and what will that do to the status of our 3.9% tax increase? And, what will be our legal costs in disputing this matter? These are questions that require some answers.
Taking a principled stand is highly commendable, but being responsible is equally important.