By Rob Shaw, Victoria Times Colonist, 6 November 2005
Victoria’s left-wing mayoral candidate Ben Isitt unveiled his election platform Saturday — a mixture of “immediate” ideas such as a public market, “medium-term” plans for a performing arts centre, and “advocacy” issues promoting free post-secondary education and higher minimum wages.
Isitt, the NDP-affiliated Victoria Civic Electors’ candidate, said he was careful to make the platform “more realistic” than his 2002 campaign, in which the doctoral history student earned one- third of the vote but lost to Mayor Alan Lowe.
“It’s definitely bold in laying out my long-term vision for the city,” he said. “But I think I differentiate between the long-term goals and the short-term steps that move me toward those goals.
“This lays out a practical approach.”
Immediate goals, which Isitt said he could complete during one term, include a free downtown bus loop modelled after existing programs in cities such as Winnipeg.
“My immediate proposal for transportation is more buses, more often, for better routes,” he said.
As well, Isitt resurrected a wireless Internet proposal from his 2002 campaign. Victoria’s downtown could be fully wireless for about $100,000 and encourage high-tech businesses, he said.
Isitt also proposed the city build a public market downtown, along the lines of Vancouver’s Granville Island but “less flashy.” A logical location would be near Chinatown so local merchants, produce providers, artisans and craft-makers could participate, he said.
Isitt’s also waded into longstanding regional issues in his platform, advocating safe-injection sites, and calling for tertiary sewage treatment (a level above secondary treatment) for the region’s waste.
Ideas that require more than one term as mayor — which Isitt called “medium-term” — include a rapid transit light-rail line up Douglas Street to Town & Country Shopping Centre. Isitt said he would seek funding from the federal government.
“I don’t even know if you’d begin construction in my next three years in office,” he said. “But at least move forward with discussion.”
A performing arts centre somewhere between Chinatown and Rock Bay is another Isitt platform proposal, although he acknowledged the high cost and said residents don’t want to see a major increase in property taxes.
Mayor Alan Lowe has been “too lenient” with the city’s developers, leading to a high-rise developments downtown that hurt Victoria’s heritage image, said Isitt. He called for more affordable and social housing.
Lowe did not comment on the platform Saturday. He is running for a third term as mayor on his own platform to protect the community’s most vulnerable, improve quality of life, and create a “vibrant and sustainable city.”
Isitt’s called his new platform realistic, but there remained “advocacy” issues which he admits fall outside the realm of mayoral power. He said he would ask Victoria businesses to voluntary increase minimum wage to $10 an hour, and pressure senior government to provide free post-secondary education.
“From the mayor’s chair my voice on these issues will resonate further than it does now,” said Isitt.
Full details of his platform are available on the Internet at www.benisitt.ca.