Comment: North Saanich needs to be a complete community

A commentary by a former chair of the North Saanich Planning Commission.

A populist NIMBY element has derailed the North Saanich Official Community Plan review in order to stop development for self-serving reasons.

We as a community need to support the greater good, and the greater good calls for more housing options everywhere in Greater Victoria, including North Saanich.

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North Saanich needs some additional housing, in part for our First Nations neighbours who face a terrible housing shortage, in part for workers who staff businesses here and in part for those of us who would like our children to be able to live in our community.

Complete communities have affordable housing for children and appropriate accommodation for older residents as they phase out of their homes.

Complete communities have workforce housing for the people who work in our community. Complete communities have some support infrastructure for shopping and services that reduce the need for driving to other jurisdictions.

Complete communities support the needs of First Nations neighbours who need help through assisted living and seniors housing.

North Saanich fails in each of these aspects of being a complete community.

The recent hysteria driven by Save North Saanich seeks to ensure that we remain an incomplete community that cannot house our young, that cannot house our friends in need and cannot house our elderly.

They spread misinformation about the OCP process in order to preserve a community that is white and wealthy, in order to preserve a community for the privileged and to offload all social responsibility onto other municipalities that are already overloaded with demands for development.

People in need, people with disabilities and seniors come from every corner of Greater Victoria, yet North Saanich seems to only want those who can pay the high price of living in our very privileged community.

I’ve recently meet with leaders from Central Saanich, Sidney and the First Nations. They all say that North Saanich is not doing its share of what is needed in terms of housing and services and are offloading their burden onto their jurisdictions.

North Saanich’s first obligation is to protect farmland and encourage increased food production.

That can’t happen in Victoria, or Oak Bay or Esquimalt because their farmland is gone — but it still exists here, though too often it is occupied by the wealthy who want a “rural” lifestyle but produce little by way of food.

We need better protection for Agricultural Land Reserve lands and greater incentives for people to actually produce food. This even more so as food production lands in Mexico and Southern California suffer from climate change that results in decreased production.

It is ironic to hear the wealthy demanding that the rural nature of North Saanich be preserved.

The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development defines rural as communities with less than 150 persons per square kilometre. Very little of North Saanich makes that test, so demands to “preserve” the rural aspect of North Saanich are disingenuous in the extreme. When we moved to North Saanich almost 20 years ago, we were led to expect development.

Save North Saanich has used dishonest, alarmist strategies straight out of Trump’s playbook to rile up opposition to progressive ideas.

Making suggestions about North Saanich becoming Langford is simply and completely inaccurate.

Some of the development they most strongly oppose is part of the present OCP, and in the years that I chaired the North Saanich Planning Commission these were directions we sought to encourage, especially vis-a-vis densification of the South East Quadrant, where I live.

There was even talk about a pub being built at McTavish and East Saanich, which many would love to see.

I’m sad to see the disruption and derailment of the North Saanich OCP review, which will only add to the cost of the process. Hopefully saner voices will be heard and we can move forward soon.

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