The Douglas Corridor -
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Goals for this Term
This page provides an overview of the issues I see as being critical to or community’s future and a high priority for the this term.
CLIMATE CHANGE and Other Priorities -
Accomplish Long Range, Visionary Planning
Design with Nature
Get Land Use and
Build an Economy Centered on “All of the R’s”
Make this a “People Place”
Continue to Enrich our Cultural Environment
Promote Local Agriculture
Report and Food Security
Plan to be “Flexible” and “Adaptive”
Pay Attention to
CLIMATE CHANGE and Other Priorities
Any planning process should establish clear priorities -
Global sustainability simply has to come first. We are, after all, traveling on a spaceship called Planet Earth. It sustains us and, for now, we depend on it totally. We have created some huge problems for our spaceship that just can’t wait. Of course, we won’t solve problems like climate change by ourselves. We’re a small part of the globe after all. But if everyone took that attitude, nothing would get done. Our contributions along with those of others can make a difference.
My second priority is local sustainability. That means a sustainable local environment but it also means economic and social sustainability as well. We need a healthy balance of all three.
Quality of life and place relates to priority two, but is important enough to stand alone. The wonderful quality of life our region provides is important to us personally and is something worth bragging about. But, it’s also important to our economic future. It’s the number one advantage we have in attracting investments of wealth and talent our future economy will need. Damage it and you damage our economic future.
These priorities will be central to all my decisions in the coming years.
Housing and More
Accomplish Long Range Visionary Planning
To a high degree, long range visionary planning determines the quality of our future.
Back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, Mayor Hugh Curtis and Council planned remarkably:
in 1968, the urban containment boundary(UCB) and, a few years later, a master parks
and greenways plan. Their vision set the stage for Saanich’s next three decades and
is largely responsible for creating today’s Saanich -
Now, their vision of building intelligently to the containment boundary is complete.
We can no longer spread outward but must turn to re-
Our new Council needs to take on the task of doing difficult, but necessary, long range visionary planning. At a minimum, we must establish new visions for the Douglas and Shelbourne corridors but we ought to do much more. Let’s aim high. We have huge opportunities which will fade away if we don’t act now.
Within the three core priorities, long range visionary planning will continue to be a key goal for the next term.
Design With Nature
Spaceship Earth comes with a full set of systems to sustain life. Amazingly, we have assumed we can ignore these systems or fool with them as we please. Not surprisingly, the results are increasingly disastrous. We need to change.
We should design systems that mimic nature or, at the very least, do no harm. Stormwater is a perfect example. Natural systems act like a sponge, holding stormwater, then releasing it slowly while cleaning it naturally. Our approach has been to get stormwater into pipes and rush it off the land as fast as possible. In the process, we have damaged water courses and dumped huge amounts of unclean water and pollutants into the ocean. Incidentally, evidence suggests that, in our region, stormwater, not sewage is the greatest source of ocean pollution.
Consistently, on Council, I have pushed for the implementation of systems harmonious with nature. Doing so remains a priority. As an added benefit, such systems are usually less expensive, long term, than the traditional systems we have used. One wonders just what is holding us back.
Get Land Use and Transportation Right
Land Use and transportation create the “foundation” for our municipality and region. Like the foundation of a house, it’s pretty critical to get it right. The traffic problems we now experience didn’t just appear by magic. They are the cumulative result of hundreds of individual land use decisions made by past Councils around our region.
As we move forward, we need to reduce dependence on single occupancy automobiles and get more people using transit, cycling and walking. That may well involve building Light Rail Transit (discussed more fully under “In Depth”) and will also require better infrastructure for cycling and walking. We can avoid more future problems by “getting the next foundation right”.
If we continue to sprawl outward with low density development, we will only compound our problems. Additional future population has to be primarily located in new denser communities that have easy access to services and recreation and are well served by transit.
Light rail transit has advantages but if it simply allows more inappropriate development then don’t do it. Around North America cities are beginning to realize that: “Sprawl by transit is sprawl nevertheless”. I will continue to push for policies that move us in the right direction with our “land use and transportation foundation”.
There is nothing inherently wrong with automobiles. Used appropriately, they contribute wonderfully to freedom and mobility. Let’s build communities where it is easy and attractive to use them in a balanced way.
Make Our Communities People Places
As automobile use became more and more common, urbanists such as Jane Jacobs and Louis Mumford became concerned about how this “transportation marvel” was dominating cities and communities. They pushed forward their strong belief that cities should be for people not for cars.
Jane Jacobs and Louis Mumford were right. Too often, we have let parts of our communities become dominated by cars and infrastructure to support them. In the process we have created inhospitable and unattractive, single purpose places.
We need to create cities and communities that are full of comfortable, attractive and interesting “people spaces” filled with opportunities to shop, relax, be entertained and interact with others. Transportation must be designed to facilitate, not dominate such spaces.
Cities for People is a principle that I will use to guide my decision making.
Building around All of The R’s
Traditionally, economies followed what is called a “flow through” model. This meant using considerable energy and resources to create products then consuming these products and producing a great deal of waste.
With relatively small populations and limited production, “flow through” was not a big problem. Now, with a huge population and tremendous ability to produce, we face problems of resource shortage, energy use, pollution and waste.
We have made a good start to implementing the “three R’s”: Reduce, Re-
We should also pay increased attention to another set of three R’s: Restore and Regenerate,
Repair damage done. We are going to re-
An Enriched Cultural Environment
In Saanich, we have a rich tradition of supporting athletics recreation and the arts and have provided residents with a wide variety of facilities, not the least of which is our new Arts Centre at Cedar Hill.
I’m proud of our accomplishments in this area. They provide residents with great opportunities to hone existing interests and capabilities or explore others, new or untapped. They’re good for our quality of life and, in many cases, provide preventative health benefits as well.
Beyond these benefits, however, a rich cultural environment can be a boost to our economy. Richard Florida has written about “Creative Cities”, the opportunities they provide for citizens and the wealth that they generate. I think he is right. Along with the many other benefits, we should take advantage of the potential for a rich cultural environment to be an economic generator in Saanich.
Embedding Policy in
Promote Local Agriculture and Food Security
Two terms back, I wrote a report, cosigned by Councillor Murdock, on protecting local agriculture and food security. The report, which was unanimously accepted by Council, aimed to build on past achievements such as creation of Haliburton Farm and the purchase of Panama Flats. It recommended we establish a task force to design a comprehensive local agriculture and food security policy in Saanich.
This is an important initiative. As noted elsewhere, not that long ago, we produced 50 % of our food here on the Island. Now, it’s about 5%. In an uncertain world that just won’t do. I look forward to creation of the task force and the important policy paper that it will ultimately produce.
Plan to be Flexible and Adaptive
In our world today, technology and “best practices” are changing extremely rapidly. That means your elected representatives must be very careful when making decisions on long term infrastructure investments. Extra diligence needs to be taken before approving expenditures for projects costing as much as a billion dollars. Who would want to spend that kind of money for something out of date in ten years or less?
On another front, municipal leaders must recognize the need to respond to climate change. This MUST involve mitigation programs to reduce greenhouse gases. We simply have to take dramatic steps to reduce the greenhouse gases we are producing.
Unfortunately, even completely stopping greenhouse gas emission today would still leave us vulnerable to climate change. The effect of greenhouse gases is not instant. Instead, there is a latency period as the climate system adjusts to new levels. Effectively, the next 30 or 40 years of change is already in the atmosphere.
All this means that we must also have programs to adapt to changes almost certain to come. We must be sure that municipal policies and infrastructure reflect that reality.
On a final note, while adaptation is essential it cannot be seen as a replacement for mitigation. If we don’t get serious about mitigation soon, change may reach a level that is difficult or impossible to adapt to. You don’t want to go there.
It’s important for Councillors to be fiscally responsible and create long term financial sustainability. This doesn’t, however, just mean keeping taxes low, although that’s always a desirable goal.
It also means value for money. With sewage treatment, for example, have questions such as: What will the benefit versus the cost be? What will the net environmental gains be? Is this the best project for the long term? been asked and adequately answered? I think not, yet this is a $762 million project.
Furthermore, have proper priorities been established. Taxpayers have a limited ability to pay. So, with two large projects have questions such as: Which of the problems being addressed is the most immediate concern? Which of the projects will bring the greatest near term and long term benefit? been asked and adequately answered. If the answer is no, taxpayers should ask: “Why not?”
Fiscal responsibility also means making necessary investments. At present, Council adds a 1% yearly tax increase for infrastructure catch up. “Catch up” because, in the past, taxes were kept artificially low by ignoring the issue and staff warnings that a problem existed. That’s not being fiscally responsible.
Finally, fiscal responsibility means making good choices. There are advantages, for example, to compact land use. Sprawl development looks good initially. The developer pays for new infrastructure and Council gets taxes. What a bargain!
Seniors, Affordable Housing and More
There are many other important issues that face elected representatives in our municipality. Currently, we have rapidly growing seniors population. While seniors are more vibrant, active and involved than ever, needs do change with age. Scooters, for example, present a particular challenge. They are an attractive mobility option for many seniors but are hazardous if forced to mingle with traffic. We must consider different sidewalk standards that will allow safe passage for scooters while still providing a comfortable environment for pedestrians. I will continue to support this, and other policies, that meet the needs of our seniors.
Affordable housing continues to be a concern. In a region so attractive, market forces
will likely keep prices high. We have set up funds to assist with new projects and
have begun to ask developers for dedicated units or reduced rents and prices on a
portion of units. We will need to do more. The best solution likely involves long
range planning to make affordable housing a requirement in the new denser communities
we create with urban re-
In this section, I have outlined a number of major issues. There are always more that must be addressed if we are to maintain Saanich as an attractive dynamic community.
Embedding Policy in Decision Making
Good planning is great -
Occasionally, the failure to act is intentional. You can get huge plaudits for having a great plan but it might be expensive, messy or politically risky to actually put it in place. So, sometimes, political expediency trumps commitment to action and nothing significant gets done.
More often, the failure is simply a case of benign ignorance or benign neglect. It’s easy to forget about policies when caught up in day to day decisions. It’s even easier to forget if you’re not reminded regularly that such policies exist.
Worse yet, what will happen in the long term? Over time, politicians and staff change. As they go, collective memory fades. A great policy may be in place but, eventually, no one present had anything to do with it. When this happens the likelihood of the policy “disappearing into the woodwork” rises dramatically.
These problems, can be avoided if policies are “embedded” in the decision making process. If the policy pops up “front and centre”, every time a decision is to be made, the chance it will be followed goes way up.
Awhile back, Council approved a visionary, 100 year plan for Bowker Creek. I authored
a report, co-
I will continue to push for more “policy embedding” as a key step to insuring important policies actually get carried out.