(Photo by Victoria Buzz)

After a near 6 hour deliberation that ended at midnight on Thursday, Victoria City Council ended up delaying the final vote on whether or not horse-drawn carriages will be phased out.

Last Thursday, council voted to move forward a motion proposed by councillor Ben Isitt to replace horse-drawn carriages on the streets of Victoria with “e-carriages”.

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In response, hundreds of people showed up at City Hall yesterday in support of the two companies that offer the service in Victoria – Tally-Ho and Victoria Carriages.

Both companies say they have retained legal counsel that will file a lawsuit if the City ends up approving the ban.

The rally before the council meeting included high profile speakers like Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor, Butchart Gardens CEO Dave Cowen, along with the families that run Tally-Ho and Victoria Carriages.

Signs held up by attendees included slogans like “Support Victoria Carriages” and “Vote No to Ben Isitt”. Chants of “Ban Ben” erupted during one heated portion of the rally.

Council meeting

A large number of people from this rally then attended the 5.5 hour council meeting in which nearly 80 people had requested to address the city, most of them about the horse-drawn carriage ban motion.

In the absence of Mayor Helps, acting Mayor Sarah Potts had to repeatedly urge the audience to refrain from booing or cheering the speakers as they addressed council.

This request fell on deaf ears as uproarious applause and cheers were frequently heard from the audience overflow in the lobby outside chambers.

Council heard from dozens of speakers both for and against the horse-drawn carriage industry ban last night.

These included impassioned speeches by carriage drivers, operators, and James Bay residents who provided examples of how well these horses are treated, how few hours they work, and how there have been no injuries sustained by the animals due to traffic.

On the other hand, supporters of the ban expressed their concerns over horses having to share the road with motor vehicles, cited a former BC SPCA letter which recommended the city ban these carriages, and urged council to approve Isitt’s original motion.

The BC SPCA letter was later brought up by council several times after the speakers had finished their presentations.

It was originally written in response to an incident in May 2018 at Ogden Point in which two horses fell to the ground after their carriage hit a nearby tour bus.

Both horses were uninjured by the incident, but it inspired a storm of controversy across social media after a video of the aftermath went viral.

According to the latest information from Tally-Ho owner Donna Friendlander, the SPCA no longer calls for an outright ban, but recommended a “solutions-based approach that reviews existing practices, barriers and opportunities for horse-carriage operation.”

An end to the long night

While the meeting was originally slated to end at 11 p.m., council moved to postpone it until midnight to accommodate the multitude of speakers who had requested audience.

Once the public had delivered their views and council began their deliberations, it became clear that Isitt’s motion no longer had the support needed for approval.

Facing imminent defeat, councillor Isitt moved to invite the BC SPCA to provide council with more information on the subject.

This new motion was then approved, bringing an end to meeting but no clear conclusion to the debate between whether or not horse-drawn carriages will be banned in Victoria.