Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt still asking military to fund Remembrance Day, other councillor backs down
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt says he is still moving ahead with a motion to get the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada to cover part of the city’s costs associated with Remembrance Day.
Appearing on BC1’s Focus BC on Friday, Isitt apologized for the timing of the proposed amendment, which was introduced on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, but did not step back from the idea of having Ottawa foot part of the bill associated with the annual November 11 event.
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“It would have been better to have discussed on any other day of the year,” Isitt said.
“I think it’s good policy. I think it was a crappy thing to have to discuss on the anniversary of D-Day but I think our core area in the Capital Region — Victoria and Esquimalt taxpayers pay to police the whole core and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Isitt’s proposed amendment asked “that council direct staff to engage [The Department of National Defence] DND/Veterans Affairs Canada officials to seek to recover costs associated with military events in the city.”
Isitt argued the DND has a $20-billion budget and was better equipped to fund policing than the municipality, which has limited tax resources.
“We eat so many expenses — $150,000 for Canada Day, Remembrance Day, a number of festival and events,” he said.
“Disproportionately the impacts fall on the residents of the core area.”
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Isitt’s amendment, which was approved in committee, was met with outrage.
“I thought it was a classless suggestion,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said.
“On any day it would be bad. But on the 75th anniversary of D-Day to say your community does not want to have responsibility for recognizing the sacrifices of our veterans for the freedoms we all have today was disgraceful.”
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It was supported by councillors Jeremy Loveday, Sarah Potts, Marianne Alto and Laurel Collins. Mayor Lisa Helps and councillors Geoff Young and Charlayne Thornton-Joe voted against it.
The issue will be raised at council again on Thursday, but is expected to have a harder time passing.
Collins, who is the NDP candidate for the Victoria riding in this fall’s federal election, will no longer support the idea.
“I understand it was wrong to hold this vote on D-Day, and I take full responsibility for that. I’m truly sorry for the impact. It pains me to think about veterans being disrespected in any way. Remembrance Day is not just a military event, it is a community event that includes everyone,” Collins posted on her Facebook page on Friday.
“As such, any motion discussing cost sharing with other levels of government should have been amended to refer to the federal government, not simply to DND and Veteran Affairs. But, regardless, I will be voting against the motion when it comes to council this Thursday.”
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Collins says she should have pushed to have the vote delayed.
“Seeing that it was D-Day, I should have called to delay this discussion and vote to some other day, and I regret not doing so,” Collins wrote.
“It [Remembrance Day] helps us all honour the sacrifice of men and women who protected our rights. Their sacrifice allows me to not only stand here today but also be elected to a body like Victoria City Council.”