Going into my seventh year on Council, it’s worth looking back before looking forward to a new vision for Oak Bay.
Council work has been very rewarding, and at times challenging. There was a steep but fascinating learning curve in the first two years, building knowledge on intricacies of District operations, regional partners, municipal finances, and building relationships with residents, staff, other elected officials, and other levels of government. Being effective on Council requires a very unique mix of skills, from public interactions to intense research preparing for meetings. Council-related responsibilities can be a time-management challenge, particularly with the demands of family and other work.
The first few months on Council revealed “camps” within Council that I was unaware existed, and I had to shift my thinking from the independent approach necessary as a business leader, to a more collaborative and patient approach. It is necessary to maintain fierce independence while truly listening to the ideas and opinions expressed.
While Council work is challenging and rewarding on a week-by-week basis, my greatest satisfaction within the District has come from owning projects and delivering them. For example, chairing the Website redevelopment working group, which consolidated 9 different websites into one, upgraded to a single technology platform, re-wrote almost 1000 pages of information, and created one of the first mobile-friendly “responsive design” municipal sites in Canada.
I similarly enjoyed chairing the Floor Area Review working group which improved housing bylaws and dramatically reduced the number of variances staff and Council deal with. If fact, I enjoyed all the projects, from the Community Engagement working group in the first term to the current Heritage Conservation Area working group, just begun.
I have spent more than half my time on Council as liaison to Heritage, which makes sense given my love of history and my family’s long connections to the community. Working with dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers on the Heritage Commission, Heritage Foundation, and Oak Bay Archives has been educational and rewarding, and encourages me to help find long term community planning that respects our built heritage.
At a regional level, I have enjoyed serving on numerous boards and committees, and being voted to chair several by my regional peers, which is a great honour. At the Greater Victoria Public Library, I served as GVPL Board Chair for the maximum term allowed. Through this I worked with many stakeholders building a literacy roadmap for the region, interfaced with the provincial government on policy, and help ensure the long-term viability of this cultural anchor in our community. I was also elected as Board Chair of the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association in 2016, the first non-Mayor to Chair that organization in almost two decades.
In 2017, I brought a motion to the Union of BC Municipalities to implement campaign finance reform for municipal elections. After a couple close calls, the province passed the legislation in December of 2017, legislation that eliminates union and corporate donations, a huge benefit to independent Councils and very satisfying, given how very difficult it is to influence provincial or federal policy from the municipal level.
Other areas that have kept me busy have included:
• Alternate Director, CRD Board
• Council Liaison, Oak Bay Environmental Committee
• Board Director, Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness
• Liaison, Camosun College Transportation Advisory Group
• Coaching, volunteering, and other boards and committees,
I look back on the last six years with some sense of pride, but not without some regrets and frustration. As one voice of seven, I feel I have been unsuccessful convincing the majority of the importance of:
• Controlling discretionary spending and building a viable long-term financial plan
• Completing a proper commercial and residential zoning plan to give direction to the OCP
• Getting proper investment in infrastructure or completing an asset replacement plan
• Stopping the loss of Oak Bay Lodge and the residential and dementia care it provides
• Reducing the deer population
So those and other items are what I look forward to addressing in the future... in another Blog post.
Thank you for reading,
Kevin Murdoch, Councillor, Oak Bay