Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is pushing back against an onslaught of hate mail she’s received in regards to holiday lights in downtown Victoria this year with a promise of a fantastic light display this winter.
Online rumours said that Helps was advocating for a total ban on Christmas or holiday lights this winter, resulting in a flurry of hate mail and social media attacks on the mayor.
“This post is a total and absolute lie,” Helps tweeted on Monday. “It’s generating hateful emails from across the country to which I feel a need to respond.”
This post is a total and absolute lie. Do I have to get off of #Twitter too?! It's generating hateful emails from across the country to which I feel a need to respond. The actual facts are that we are supporting @myDVBA in EXPANDING the holiday light up this year. Sheesh! pic.twitter.com/ePwWhtWkpf
— Lisa Helps – Victoria Mayor (@lisahelps) September 9, 2019
Helps told Black Press that she’s received hundreds of hateful messages that she feels have no foundation.
“What’s most concerning has nothing to do with Christmas, and everything to do with social media,” she said. “What frustrates me is people targeting the reputation of the city when our business owners are doing the best to create the best light display ever.”
In contrast to the online comments, Helps said the city is actually supporting efforts by the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) to produce the largest lights display the city has ever seen in Centennial Square this year.
“We’re a tech city, so there’s going to be some technical elements, and we’re also the capital city with a thriving downtown core, so those aspects will be incorporated.”
DVBA president Jeff Bray confirmed that an elaborate light display is being planned, but that more information couldn’t be released.
“We are definitely doing a larger light activation in Centennial Square, but still working out some major details,” Bray said. Funding for the display will be from the DVBA and not from the city budget.
In December, City Coun. Ben Isitt put forward an idea to scrap Christmas decorations altogether in an effort to separate church and state.
“Tax dollars should not go to religious symbols,” Isitt said in a December committee of the whole meeting. “Decorations costs should not be expended on any particular part of Christmas practice.”
The comments received harsh push back from people across the country and the matter never carried forward.
When asked if plans for a more elaborate light display was to counter Isitt’s idea, Helps was adamant that they were not.
“One councillor had an idea and he said it out loud,” she said. “What this is is leadership from the DVBA.”
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