After 28 years of asking for a ministry to be moved to the West Shore, Langford Mayor Stew Young is finally getting his provincial employees.
On Wednesday, the province unveiled details of a pilot program that will provide 10,000 square feet of new office space in the Westhills Building for 100 provincial employees to use instead of commuting into Victoria.
“It’s a great day, a great day for Langford,” Young said. “I would have hoped they would have done this 15 years ago.”
Young said the old model of putting thousands of workers in one small area — Victoria — no longer works, as families, workers, facilities, industrial buildings, residential development and office space are increasingly on the West Shore.
According to the province, more than 2,000 government employees — about 20 per cent of the provincial public service in Victoria — live in Colwood, Langford, View Royal, Metchosin, Sooke and Highlands.
The new “mobile office” pilot program is intended to reduce congestion and gridlock and give people more time with their families. The government estimates the average commuter travelling from the West Shore to Victoria for work spends more than two hours a day on the road.
Although it’s a pilot project for now, expected to start next fall, the program could be expanded.
The office, which is still under construction, will have space for about 100 workers, bike storage and showers.
Premier John Horgan said they already know the space they will be leasing will be oversubscribed, judging by inquiries since word leaked out.
The cost of finishing the space and outfitting it for employees, including secure computer servers, is expected to be $2.2 million, paid out of the Ministry of Citizen Services budget.
Horgan said the project aligns with the regional growth strategy, which calls for the bulk of growth to be centred in the West Shore, adding he expects it won’t be long before he, Young and other officials are talking about a new building in the West Shore to house an entire ministry.
Horgan, who serves as MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, representing several West Shore communities, said he was “stoked” about the development, as he has been hearing for years that his neighbours want to live, work and play in one place.