Finally have arrived in Vancouver, where we have the luxury of three nights in the same hotel! Since Sunday, it has been a hullabaloo of activity, with very little sleep and a bewildering array of meetings.
We arrived late Sunday at our hotel in Victoria, and had to check out the next morning, because we had to go straight from our last meeting to the airport for a flight to Kelowna. We met with the Chief Constable for Victoria, who talked about the importance of being rooted in the community, and the positive difference that the police can make. We then had a couple of meetings with some amazingly impressive deputy ministers from the province....incidentally, both women. They were each very different from the other, but clearly impressive leaders. And they are driving a major change initiative through the province....really focused on two things: driving greater efficiency and focus in the public service, and re-orienting programs and service delivery to be about citizen service and open government. It took my breath away. And I was bit envious, since their entire public service is 21,000 people, and as they pointed out, that is a good size to undertake the kind of change they seek. Much much harder to do in a huge, decentralized organization such as ours.
We also met with the mayor....and it brought back fond memories of my time working on the cities file. Mayors are fascinating people. They work so closely with their citizens, and I have never met a mayor who was not passionate about their work. He was quite candid in saying that he thinks he has the best job in the world. He is a pragmatic idealist, who clearly loves his city (and really, what's not to love about Victoria? it is a gorgeous city with an excellent quality of life).
Our flight to Kelowna required a layover at Vancouver's airport, and with the incredible delay in getting our luggage, we did not arrive at the hotel till 9 pm....only to find that my "accessible" room had not been readied for me. I was still on Ottawa time, and had had about 5 hours sleep the previous night, and by the time my room was ready it was 11, and we had a 4 a.m. wake up call. Oh, I do love to sleep, and really need at least 6 hours to feel human. I lose a lot of brain cells without a good sleep.
That being said, we had a series of meetings in Kelowna that were superb....from the Chief of the extremely successful Osoyoos band, who told us about his formula....which is quite simple: focus on economic development and achieving full employment on the reserve, and many of the other problems can be fixed. It was frustrating to not have time to visit a bit longer on the reserve, because I felt there was so much to learn there.
Our afternoon took us back to Kelowna for meetings with people involved in building the high tech sector....such a refreshing set of visits with people full of ideas, and the infrastructure to make things happen.
Okay....can we talk weather and location? It is GORGEOUS! Mountains, vineyards, orchards, the lake....it's no wonder people flock here to retire. But the focus now is to attract young entrepreneurs, to diversify the economy, and take advantage of the fantastic location.
Stay tuned for more....Vancouver is proving to be a very rich and rewarding visit!