RESPONSE to Saanich News
Qs to each member of Saanich Council on 3 items. Jan 2018.
Q: First, what are some of the council initiatives that you plan to push / promote / work on in 2018?
A: Our New Year has begun and one item I am concerned about is that our taxpayers are not asked to spend beyond their means. We need to balance expectations and delivery of service with our residents abilities to pay. It’s an election year, and I’m thinking those seeking re-election need to show some leadership on the spending requests. In fact, I’m challenging them to do that very thing and not prolong things too much.
We need to keep our tax lift within reason. I believe for 2018 we’re being presented with proposed expenses that would be unreasonably above the Consumer Price Index. I stand by my request to Council in 2017 for a tax lift range of 1.00-1.5% over CPI. Our financial plan is a mixture of core costs and items spread over time. To get discussions rolling I will propose for example that our ‘layaway plan’ of 0.75% for future expenditures and our computer expenditures of some $5.0 millon/yr are re-examined. We must also ask our residents to advise on opportunities for costs savings and what size of tax lift is appropriate. We’re going to have to make some very tough decisions within the next couple of weeks. We’ll see what my colleagues have to say.
Aside from reduced tax lifts, I believe Saanich can and should do more for housing accessibility and affordability for our residents. Housing items we need continued work on as a municipality are the appropriate expansion of our housing supply and diversity. This includes detached secondary suites, use of the new RS1 zoning for small lot family homes, appropriate higher density multi-family homes in our corridors and centres; inclusionary housing, possibly with bonus density incentives for accessible housing; on-farm housing for farmers and improved administrative efficiencies for our building applications and housing developments. Within this conversation a continued respect for our Urban Containment Boundary, and the protection of our rural and natural areas, parks and trails is an imperative for all our land use decisions.
In addition to housing we need continued work on actions to grow our in-Saanich commercial tax base, our economy resilience and expand our jobs inventory. Leadership in part on these is through the South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP) and in part from forward thinking land use conversation by residents and council. For example, the Smart South Island initiative proposed by SIPP builds upon the natural appeal of the South Island as a tremendous location for small and large businesses and retail. Saanich can play a significant role in this.
In rural Saanich we are working on fresh approaches for young farmers to access more of our extensive, under-utilized agricultural land, expand our local food production and grow their agricultural incomes.
On our transportation and land use visions in council this year, we need to keep in mind that Saanich has evolved as a municipality based on car use. There are now pressing requirements for greater efficiencies in transportation services, the efficient movement of cars and shifts to active transportation – walk, cycle, e-bike. These together with the imminent arrival of disruptive new formats of e-cars, co-ownership models and the potential shifts to “single car ownership” families, suggest the need to adjust our thinking to embrace a “Smart Saanich” that is integrated with a Smart South Island region.
In parallel we need to continually improve our adaptations to climate change. We can benefit from the GHG reduction and cost savings available by integrating car-share, e-vehicles, transit improvements, and the inherent reduced parking requirements into the green-eco economics of our 5-10 and 20-year land use planning.
Other items to keep our eye on in 2018 include the rebuild of the environmental development Permits (EDPA), amalgamation, police regionalization and the changes at Hartland.
Q: Second, what is your reaction to Mayor Atwell’s prediction the 2018 municipal election will see three new faces around the council table?
A: We have some really good current incumbent councillors that are deeply experienced and knowledgeable in municipal government. In the last by-election we saw several very able new candidates running for a seat, including an upcoming younger generation. A mixture of new, experience and some youthful members would be an effective council for Saanich as it is important to hear the broadest voice especially as we have UVic. and Camosun in the municipality and millennials seeking a place at the table. We can see that for 2018 the choice of candidates for our electorate will likely be very well served.
Q: Third, what are your plans for the 2018 municipal election?
A: The election is 9 months away. I think we better serve our residents by focussing on the current work of good governance for Saanich. This is our job for the next 10 months. It was the one we were elected in 2014 to do. Frankly, I really love my job on council and I take it quite seriously every day as I work with my colleagues and the residents of Saanich. The election issues and decisions will come soon enough.
Fred Haynes, Ph.D.