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Civic vote: Victoria mayoral candidates focus on city finances

Nov 08 2011

Victoria mayoral candidates Paul Brown and Steve Filipovic hammered away at the city's finances during a mayoral debate Monday but Mayor Dean Fortin said his critics should check their facts and their sources.

Following what's become a familiar theme at all-candidate forums, Brown criticized Fortin for increases in taxes and cuts in services. Speaking to about 65 people jammed into a tiny hall in Fernwood, Brown, a financial analyst, said Fortin's administration raised property taxes seven per cent last year yet reduced the parks and recreation budget by 20 per cent over the past three years and grants by 40 per cent.

Both Filipovic, a community advocate and smallbusiness owner, and Brown said the city wasted money in the makeover of the Pandora Avenue boulevard near the Our Place community drop-in centre that cost about $500,000.

"I priced out the concrete - used my connections with the construction industry - and worked out a lot of the different services that would have been needed to complete that project, and I can't for the life of me bring it over $300,000," Filipovic said.

Brown said a better use of the money would have been to fence off and re-sod the area that had been destroyed by illegal campers, and then take the balance to try to extend Our Place's operating hours.

Fortin said there has been no reduction in either grants or the parks and recreation budget.

"You talk to any community centre director, you talk to anybody in parks and rec. There are no cuts."

Fortin said the only explanation he could come up with is that $4 million in library funding that used to be listed under parks and recreation was shifted to general expenditures.

Brown, part of the Open Victoria slate, said he's not a politician and has no political affiliation. He said Open Victoria wants to end the practice of making decisions behind closed doors.

He said, if elected, he would eliminate the city's growing communications department. In Saanich, he said, if someone wants to know what's going on, he or she just has to phone a department head.

Fortin said: "Nothing gets done unless [Mayor] Frank [Leonard] says it's OK in Saanich. Nobody talks other than Frank."

MEETING TO FOCUS ON FAMILY ISSUES

Victoria's Community Social Planning Council is taking a hand in the municipal election with an event Wednesday at 4 p.m. called City Halls and Families."This is an opportunity for our citizens and candidates to talk a bit about the family-related issues," said executive director Rupert Downing.

Host Gregor Craigie from CBC will lead a panel at the Metro Studio Theatre (1411 Quadra St.) that includes Downing, Charley Beresford of the Columbia Institute, Jennifer Charlesworth from the Federation of Community Social Services and Michael Prince, the University of Victoria's Lansdowne professor of social policy. Call 250-727-9736 or email info@afsavictoria.ca for tickets ($20 for members of the Association of Family Serving Agencies and $25 for non-members).

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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