People shouted in protest and cheered in joy as the Sir John A. Macdonald statue was removed from Victoria’s City Hall on Aug. 11, 2018 (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

City of Victoria considers donating Sir John A. Macdonald statue to province

In a budget meeting Mayor and Council discussed options for the controversial statue

The City of Victoria is floating the idea of donating the Sir John A. Macdonald statue to the province, rather than choosing a municipal location.

In a special committee of the whole meeting, mayor and council were deciding how much money to designate to moving the statue from its current undisclosed storage location when Coun. Ben Isitt brought up a new proposition.

PHOTOS: Hundreds gather at Victoria City Hall after removal of Sir John A. Macdonald Statue

“Could we donate the statue to another entity, for example the province of B.C., if we didn’t want this to be the centrepiece of the city’s reconciliation work and we wanted to allow the province’s curatorial and heritage function to do that public engagement?” Isitt said.

Coun. Marianne Alto said she was unaware of any conditions which the city made upon accepting the statue’s donation in 1981.

READ MORE: Sculptor of John A. Macdonald statue speaks out

Council further discussed potential costs for the removal, initially earmarking up to $10,000 towards the procedure and motioning to direct staff to look into any potential prohibitions about donating the statue.

“This is an item of high public interest, and we need to have a very public process, regardless of if we donate it or not,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, “But we are still going to need to pay something to get it out of storage.”

ALSO READ: Lisa Helps apologizes– More consultation needed in statue removal

Coun. Geoff Young was against the motion, citing the public outcry after the statue’s removal in August 2018.

“I read scores and scores of letters saying that the city council had gone and made a decision without public input,” Young said. “So we start off talking about how we’re gonna get public input and before the sound has echoed from the chamber, Coun. Isitt and Mayor Helps are already determining that they’re preference is to give it to the province and we’re costing it on that basis.”

Young suggested increasing the cost of the statue removal to match what it took to remove it, which was roughly $30,000, including policing costs.

READ MORE: New figures show City of Victoria spent $30,000 to remove Macdonald statue

Isitt and Helps were against this increase.

“I think this is throwing good money at bad money,” Isitt said. “It was probably a mistake for the city to accept the statue in the first place. It was assuming a provincial and federal responsibility in terms of telling the very complicated story of Canada and British Columbia, that’s not a municipal responsibility. So I think we should we be looking to exit ourself from this situation with the least impact to tax payers.”

Ultimately council voted on a $10,000 cap to move the statue, and directed staff to research if donation was even a viable option before it was presented to the public for discussion.

Provincial Minister of Education Rob Fleming heard of council’s discussion while at Legislature on Wednesday, and said the province would be open to discussing the issue.

“We’ll certainly take a look,” Fleming said. “I know the mayor and members of council, and we’ll have a conversation and take it from there and wait for them to deliberate.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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