Local and regional governance has long been a topic of contention in British Columbia’s capital. In the next 2-3 years Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney will all undertake official community planning (OCP) processes. Developing and maintaining community and neighbourhood identities is important. Fortunately, the timing presents an excellent opportunity to also engage a deliberative pan-peninsula level of planning as well.
The three municipalities used to get together every few months at tri-municipal council meetings to discuss common issues. In addition, throughout the last decade, municipal and First Nations leaders have gotten together in community-to-community forums to discuss issues of collective interest. At an individual service level, the three volunteer fire departments have a mutual aid agreement. With the coordination of the Capital Regional District (CRD), water, sewer and recreation services are governed by commissions of the Saanich Peninsula elected leaders. In other words, the municipalities already work closely together. However, can it go further?
Local and provincial governments have a responsibility to deliver infrastructure and services to the approximately 40,000 people living on the peninsula. This is increasingly expensive and so it is important that we govern thoughtfully. One of the most important tools of community engagement is the official community planning process. It allows for community leaders to collect ideas from their constituency to guide decision-making over the next decade. Many of the decisions, like the arbitrary boundaries, are decisions that our grandchildren will inherit. In many cases we can only make the decision once, so it’s important we get it correct.
It’s worthwhile for the communities to complete their own official community plan, but that they also consider conducting a pan-peninsula layer of consultation and planning that envisions future development patterns so we can effectively and wisely address issues such as housing, transportation, healthcare, and education. It would be wonderful to consider the collective environmental impacts on watersheds and shorelines, social impacts of densification and accessibility and the economic needs for business attraction and retention across the peninsula. Can the municipalities hire one consultant to complete community-level planning with an overarching peninsula level plan as well? I understand aspects of this idea have already been discussed to some extent. That is great news and I will heavily lean into a process such as this.
I was born and raised in Tsartlip. I grew up in Central Saanich. However, I am a peninsula kid. I believe we can capture that in our planning processes. Setting aside the cultural benefits, a clear and coordinated long-term vision strengthens the case for investment from private enterprise and the provincial and federal governments, allowing for the prudent fiscal management of scarce tax dollars.