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Unveiling the Inspiring Story of Peter Pollen, the Retired Mayor

Peter Pollen, a celebrated figure in Victoria’s rich history, has left an indelible mark on the community through his unwavering commitment to public service and advocacy for the public’s right to access to the waterfront. In this engaging interview conducted at his Uplands residence, Pollen shares his remarkable journey and perspectives on various issues that have shaped Victoria. 

From Saskatchewan to Ontario, Peter Pollen’s Journey Begins

Growing up in Saskatchewan and Ontario, Peter Pollen’s passion for public service was nurtured during his time at a small boarding school. Here, he imbibed the values of social responsibility while also gaining invaluable knowledge of table manners and ancient history. These formative experiences played a pivotal role in shaping his future endeavours.

At the age of 34, Pollen’s life took an unexpected turn when he arrived in Victoria as an employee of the Ford Motor Company for a short-term assignment. However, fate intervened, and he was convinced by a local dealer to assume responsibility for running the dealership. Taking a leap of faith, Pollen embraced the opportunity, leading to a successful career in the automotive industry as the owner of both Ford and Honda dealerships.

Content Background

Mayor Peter Pollen: Champion for the Community

Peter Pollen’s passion for making a difference in the community led him to serve as an alderman for two years before embarking on an illustrious tenure as the mayor of the City of Victoria. His mayoral terms from 1971 to 1975 and 1981 to 1985 were marked by a deep-rooted love for Victoria’s downtown and Inner Harbour.

One issue that continues to define Pollen’s legacy is his steadfast opposition to the marina for mega-yachts. He fervently believes that the waterfront should be accessible to all citizens and laments the sale of the water lot to the wealthy. As an active sailor himself, he advocates for a smaller-scale marina that caters to the community’s needs rather than exclusive billionaires.

Peter Pollen

Pollen’s Unique Political Philosophy: Unconventional Blend of Ideas

Peter Pollen’s political beliefs defy simple categorization. Although he once ran as a Conservative candidate in a provincial election, he reveals himself as a self-proclaimed socialist with a deep sense of responsibility towards those in need. He cites former Premier W.A.C. Bennett as an inspiration, appreciating Bennett’s ability to transcend political biases and prioritize the welfare of the people.

Pollen’s broad-mindedness extends to heritage issues as well. Unlike purists, he embraces the idea of high-rises and holds a critical view of structures like the Northern Junk Building. Nevertheless, his contributions to heritage preservation have been significant, earning him an Award of Honour from the Hallmark Society for his dedication to heritage in Victoria.

Contributions and Achievements

Throughout his mayoral terms, Peter Pollen spearheaded numerous initiatives that transformed Victoria’s landscape. His vision for Government Street involved widening sidewalks, planting trees, and envisioning it as a car-free pedestrian mall — an endeavour that encountered resistance from local merchants. Although the vision for a car-free Government Street remained unfulfilled, Pollen’s commitment to enhancing Victoria’s downtown area remains commendable.

His efforts extended to the preservation of iconic landmarks, such as the Royal Theatre, which faced the threat of demolition. By purchasing the theatre and investing in its restoration, Pollen ensured the preservation of its unique character.

Additionally, Pollen’s achievements include engineering the acquisition of the Esso Service Station, now the Visitor Information Centre, advocating for a ban on billboards, securing a three-acre park at Laurel Point, implementing a moratorium on building heights, and preventing the controversial Reid three-tower project on the waterfront near Bastion Square.

Life Well-Lived: Grateful Retrospective on a Fulfilling Journey

Peter Pollen cherishes his time in Victoria and acknowledges the immense generosity and support he and his family have received from the community. With four children and thirteen grandchildren residing within close proximity, the sense of belonging and gratitude remains ever-present. His passion for politics stemmed from a desire to contribute and effect positive change, allowing him to forge deep friendships and embark on enriching experiences, including a memorable trip to China during its early stages of opening up.

As age catches up with him, Pollen admits to a slight slowdown in his activities. However, his spirit remains undeterred as he continues to lend his voice to causes close to his heart by writing letters to the editor and advocating various authorities.

Peter Pollen’s story exemplifies a life dedicated to public service and community betterment. His legacy endures through the countless improvements he spearheaded and the lasting impact he has left on Victoria’s landscape and heritage. Leslie Campbell, who arrived in Victoria in 1985, acknowledges the profound contributions made by Peter Pollen and his councils, which have profoundly enriched the city.