The Victoria Police Department says it doesn’t have the means in its budget to fully cover upcoming public events, including Canada Day, Pride and the Symphony Splash.
In a letter to the committee of the whole, the VicPD Finance Committee Chair Sean Powell said that since 2011, the average cost for policing the downtown core on Canada Day alone is approximately $122,000.
“Within the parameters and allocation of the 2019 budget, we no longer have the capacity to absorb unfunded expenditures,” Powell wrote.
Canada Day costs include police and civilian overtime, supplies, logistics and BC Sheriff services. Annually, $12,000 is supplied by the city, $31,600 is funded through the police core budget and $78,400 is then absorbed as an “unfunded non-recoverable expenditure.”
However Chief Const. Del Manak said that new expenses to the police budget, including the Employer’s Health Tax and the hiring of six new officers, paired with cuts from the city has put the department in a tough position.
“In years past the Victoria Police Department was asked to find the money from other line items,” Manak said. “This year with all the number of cuts we’ve had and our budget being scrutinized to the level that it has… we no longer have that wiggle room to go to other areas of our budget.”
Manak added that Canada Day is the largest festival that the city hosts, causing a rise of people in the area throughout the day as well as into the nightlife.
“It’s the hardest one to manage as police,” Manak said. “We want to make sure the community is safe.”
In response to the request, Coun. Ben Isitt, who has been vocal in the police budget, questioned why the request came so close to the event, and where the already-approved budget has gone.
“They have $60 million paid for by taxpayers from Victoria and Esquimalt,” Isitt said. “Have they already spent that money?”
Isitt continued to say he’d be more open to restricting the area that Canada Day takes place in.
“I wonder if we have half of the downtown closed for that event if we couldn’t just limit the number of streets that are closed,” Isitt said. “This would be something to consider rather than throw more money at the event.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who also sits on the Victoria-Esquimalt Police Board, said this wasn’t an idea that would work.
“It’s not a realistic option. People come downtown for Canada Day… it’s not reasonable to tell people that they should stay home,” Helps said. “We’ve worked really hard here to become a city of festivals, to become a destination. I want 50,000 people to come into our downtown easily.”
Helps said that the city has over $1 million in its contingency fund for unexpected costs, and that the requested funds could easily be covered.
“I think the police request is reasonable, they wouldn’t ask for more officers if it wasn’t necessary,” she said.
The issue will come up for discussion at the upcoming committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, June 6.
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