February 21, 2005

Victoria to become fourth western city to sign Urban Development Agreement

The city of Victoria, British Columbia is preparing to become the fourth western Canadian community to sign an Urban Development Agreement (UDA), bringing together three levels of government to address economic, environmental, social and community development issues in the city's downtown core. The Victoria UDA, whose signing is expected in the fall of 2005, will ensure that funding from the three levels of government is co-ordinated so that services and programs better address local issues and make the best use of public funds.

The first step toward a final Victoria UDA will be the creation of a framework which addresses community priorities. These priorities will be determined and articulated through discussions with stakeholders and the public over the coming months. The city, the BC and the federal governments have each contributed $50,000 to fund the development of the Victoria UDA. This money will be used to support the design and development of projects under the Agreement, and to carry out public consultations. Further funding will depend on the priorities and projects that are determined and developed by the three partners. These projects and priorities will form the foundation of the Victoria UDA.

Beginning in early March, the city will be organizing a series of information sessions, public consultation dates and venues for stakeholders and the general public to participate in developing the content of the Victoria UDA. This will include determining and clarifying strategic areas of focus, priority projects, expected outcomes and accountability measures. Key community stakeholders involved in economic development, planning, social and community development, and environmental sustainability will be invited to indicate their interest in supporting the development of the Agreement.

At the first of the introductory meetings, city representatives will report on the many initiatives already taking place in the downtown core. One of the most innovative of these is the redevelopment of the Dockside Lands, a brownfield site in downtown Victoria. Last December 16, Victoria city council swiftly and unanimously picked the Windmill Development-VanCity Enterprises team to carry out this project, which will be a showcase for leading-edge brownfield redevelopment initiatives, with input provided by the Canadian Brownfields Network (ELW December 6-13, 2004). More information on this project is available on its Web site, www.docksidegreen.ca.

UDAs, an initiative of Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) are designed to facilitate better co-operation and co-ordination on strategic community priorities among all levels of government and the private and non-profit sectors. Agreements are in place in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Winnipeg, the longest-standing participant, is on its fourth consecutive UDA since 1981.

The goal of UDAs is a more effective alignment and focus for programs and services provided by the federal, provincial and local governments in order to increase economic growth, improve social and health conditions, enhance community capacity and provide job opportunities, all in an environmentally responsible manner.

The Victoria UDA will be the final product of work by the three levels of government, along with community, private and not-for-profit organizations to find better ways of delivering local programs and services supported by all three levels of government in order to create a safer, more sustainable and vibrant community. The completed Agreement will identify strategic priorities and projects, along with existing or potential funding sources, which will provide for sustained investments in physical infrastructure, and economic, environmental, social and community development. It is also intended to improve the co-ordination of policies and resources from all three levels of government to achieve these goals.

Under the Victoria UDA, all levels of government will work together to design solutions to address the specific problems facing the city, particularly in the downtown core. It will also allow federal and provincial partners to assess strategies and policies which can support the community's priorities. Identified priorities could be funded through gas tax revenues, existing or new infrastructure programs and other federal or provincial programs addressing economic and social development.

The development of the UDA is being overseen by a steering committee headed by Victoria's city manager and with senior representatives from the municipal government, the Victoria Police Department, the BC Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services and Western Economic Diversification Canada.

More information about the Victoria UDA partnership and the upcoming information session is available from project manager Nancy Taylor, 250/361-0204, or on the Agreement Web site, www.victoriaagreement.ca.

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