British Columbia

Victoria councillor wants military to help foot bill for Remembrance Day events

Councillor Ben Isitt no longer wants the municipal taxpayer to cover the costs of commemorative military events like Remembrance Day and introduced the amendment to a council committee on the 75th anniversary on D-Day.

Ben Isitt introduced the amendment on the 75th anniversary of D-Day

Victoria city Councillor Ben Isitt speaks to media outside city hall on Friday. (Mike McArthur/CBC News)

A Victoria city councillor no longer wants the municipal taxpayer on the hook for the cost of commemorative military events like Remembrance Day and is hoping the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada will start chipping in.

Ben Isitt introduced the amendment Thursday to council's Committee of the Whole while they were debating a motion to provide more funding for the municipal police for the capital's Canada Day celebrations. Isitt's amendment was put forward on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which raised the ire of many on social media.

"The timing was most unfortunate," Isitt told Gregor Craigie, host of CBC's On The Island, "But one of my duties is to uphold the financial interest of taxpayers."

According to Isitt, the defence department has a budget more than one hundred times larger than the City of Victoria's annual budget and he would like to see them chip in to "avoid downloading [costs] onto municipal governments that have the least taxation authority compared to senior levels of government."

Watch Ben Isitt present his amendment to the Committee of the Whole

Meant no disrespect

The amendment was supported by the committee and staff have been directed to engage with the defence department and Veterans Affairs to seek to recover costs associated with military events in the city.

Isitt said he is not suggesting the city not pay at all and cancel events if military organizations don't contribute, but he wants them to help cover some of the costs.

He acknowledged the blowback his amendment is getting on social media.

 

"The Twitter-verse is alive now," he told Craigie, noting he had no intention of disrespecting veterans on D-Day, but the motion for municipal police funding was on the table Thursday and the amendment needed to be put forward along with it.

"If my comments, and the timing of council's decision, caused offence I am certainly sorry for that," said Isitt.

"I don't know if I'm sorry for standing up for the taxpayer."

On Friday afternoon, Laurel Collins, a Victoria city councillor and NDP candidate who voted for Isitt's amendment, issued a statement saying it was "wrong" to hold the vote on D-Day.

"I'm truly sorry for the impact. It pains me to think about veterans being disrespected in any way," Collins wrote.

"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 said that a motion discussing cost sharing with other levels of government should have been amended to refer to the federal government and not just DND and Veteran Affairs. She said she now plans on voting against the motion next week.

Council will revisit the motion and Isitt's amendment at a council meeting on June 13.

On The Island

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