Canada Day fireworks light up the night sky over the Inner Harbour in Victoria on July 1, 2018. (File contributed/ Lindsey Blane)

Victoria councillor ponders pruning back Canada Day celebrations

Coun. Ben Isitt is looking at ways to pare down costs for future Canada Day events

To cut down costs on Canada Day next year, perhaps it should just be a daytime event.

That’s a suggestion Coun. Ben Isitt made at the committee of the whole meeting on Thursday morning, after hearing a report from Victoria Police Chief Del Manak regarding Canada Day costs.

“If the focus is a family-friendly event, do we maybe look at a daytime event– one that ends by dinner time?” Isitt asked, voicing concerns for public alcohol consumption. “If they were confined to sidewalks maybe some of that disorder would be less appealing.”

ALSO READ: Victoria Police Department requests cash to cover Canada Day

Isitt brought forward the question after learning from Manak that other events, like Car Free YYJ, have lower costs because of their short, daytime hours and a focus on families and businesses. While Canada Day also holds these priorities, the event is longer and goes into the night for a fireworks display.

Manak said he wasn’t certain that shortened hours would work simply because of the volume of people downtown on July 1, which usually sits between 45,000-55,000.

“It’s easy to say in council chambers here, just to confine yourself to a sidewalk,” Manak said. “I think there has to be an understanding of realistically managing large crowds, spaces and what is a safe area to allow people to disperse safely.”

Isitt also asked if limiting the geographical area of the event would help pare costs, to which Manak said security measures would need to be in place regardless of the size.

ALSO READ: Victoria agrees to fund Canada Day, special event policing – calls on feds to cover military events

“In light of the number of low tech, low planning vehicle attacks we’ve seen round the world we need to be sure there’s considerable distance between where the road closures occur and the crowds,” Manak said. “I think the actual footprint of the event would probably remain the same because we still need that buffer zone.”

Isitt emphasized that surely daytime hours would discourage public drunkeness, which prompted Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who’s been on the Canada Day planning committee for many years to reaffirm her take on what the celebration is about.

“For me the event is less of what people call a party, but an opportunity to express their pride for being Canadian,” Thornton-Joe said, adding that over the years the event has extended beyond a fireworks show.

“The hours have changed because of demand,” She said. “Having been there for 19 years, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen how the police are needed.”

Council will still need to ratify the vote to provide police funding for Canada Day and other public events, totalling $135,000, on Thursday night. This funding was tentatively approved by the committee of the whole on June 6.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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