101 days later: I love my new job

On this Valentine's Day, I've come to the realization that I love my new job. (And I insist it is no reflection of other reams of my life.) 101 days ago I was elected for the first time as a Saanich Councillor. Those 101 days have featured of some of the busiest, most exciting, and yet most intellectually challenging experiences I’ve had in my 35 years — which have consisted of more post-secondary education and forms of employment than I care to share.

Things are not as simple as they once seemed from the other side of the table. Every week, I’m surprised by the tensions that are present just below the surface of almost every item that comes before us for a decision. Tensions in the form of competing objectives and trade-offs that have to be weighed, often with limited guidance from policies and against the confounding backdrop of electioneering rhetoric of not-so-many months ago. Competing objectives like tree canopy & sidewalks, planning regulations & affordable housing, improving service levels & recognizing residents' willingness to pay — to name just a few. It's a good thing I like challenges.

I put a great deal of thought into every decision I make. But uncertainty about if I landed on the right side at the end of the day (or more commonly the end of a very long night) has kept me awake more than once or twice in my short tenure. This municipal council business is not easy. If there’s one thing I can assure you of, it’s that we’re not in it for the money.

The best thing about my first 101 days on the job has been the atmosphere of openness and encouragement that characterizes our current council dynamics in Saanich. We are a relatively diverse group (as far as age, gender, and elected experience are concerned) and yet despite this — or perhaps because of it — we are working together as I believe Councils should: respectfully, collaboratively, and thoughtfully. May that continue.

My Priorities to Keep Young Families in Saanich

Read my responses to the survey about young families in Saanich

The issues of young families seem to have been neglected in Saanich for some time now, likely because they are not often ‘in the flesh’ to speak up for their own interests. I know this is not due to lack of interest, but rather young families not having the luxury of time to actively engage in important opportunities to influence public priorities. And we certainly don’t do them any favours in our scheduling & locating of events, or our slow transition to technology that could expand the circle of people who could participate. I hope to provide a voice to this group of critical Saanich residents.

Saanich Neighbourhood Place recently sent a survey to candidates, to elicit their ideas about how to better serve families in Saanich (link above). They also hosted a fantastic pancake breakfast for candidates and young families! Very glad to see some of their issues finally taking centre stage.

We Need to Get People Around the Region More Efficiently, Safely, & Sustainably

Transportation is a major priority for me - both regionally (we desperately need to start planning a more efficient solution to get more people around), and in Saanich, where many people aren’t feeling safe even to walk around their own neighbourhoods.

A group called Victorians for Transportation Choice, which is a collaborative effort of several organized groups in the CRD, has undertaken an impressive effort to survey municipal candidates for this year’s civic election on their transportation priorities.

You can find my survey responses here: https://transportchoicevic.ca/2018/10/04/rebecca-mersereau-saanich/

10 Concrete Ideas to Make Saanich a Better Place

Saanich is a fabulous place, but it could be better. Here are 10 concrete ideas I’d like to pursue if elected to Saanich Council and the CRD:

  • Establish an Affordable Saanich Taskforce consisting of housing organizations, renters, builders, developers, and other stakeholders to recommend actions to address our housing and affordability crisis and keep the costs of living down for our residents 

  • Hire more bylaw enforcement officers (fines could cover the additional costs) and step up proactive bylaw monitoring and education to help restore Saanich’s credibility and fairness for all residents

  • Hold an annual Saanich Business Forum to build a relationship with the business community and encourage others to set up shop in Saanich

  • Build more sidewalks faster to connect kids with schools and people with bus stops & amenities, and to ensure our residents feel safe getting around their neighbourhoods at any age

  • Permit submissions to Council via video feed so more people can participate in consultations and decisions made in Saanich

  • Establish a Youth & Families Advisory Committee to advise Council on how to better engage and serve the needs of these groups in providing services and making decisions

  • Appoint Saanich Councillors (on a rotating basis) to serve as liaisons to community associations so Council stays in touch with their needs and neighbourhoods

  • Consider giving our First Nations a seat at the CRD, as has been done in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District 

  • Advocate for Permanent Residents to have the right to vote in civic elections because they are also contributing members of our communities

  • Permit electronic submission of applications (e.g. for building permits) to speed things up and make life easier for business and residents

My Approach Received Top Grades for Affordability!

I’m proud to report that my campaign positions & priorities received a top ‘A’ grade from Cities for Everyone (people who know about these things)!

The grades were based on reviews of candidates statements & platforms, as well as detailed surveys completed by many of us to evaluate understanding of housing economics and land-use planning best practices.

Here are my answers to to the Cities for Everyone Survey

Where I Stand on Amalgamation

With this being my third local election campaign in Greater Victoria and my third year of a part-time Master’s in Public Administration, I’ve thought, researched, and written a lot about amalgamation. My position can be summed up by three terms:

  • open minded,

  • respectful of the wishes of Saanich residents (i.e. I believe in democratic processes), and

  • interested in more information to ensure it is in the best interests of Saanich and the region (i.e. amalgamation with whom? with what goals & timelines? how will our municipal costs all be shared & reconciled?).

I invite those interested in my in-depth thoughts on amalgamation to read some or all of my responses to survey questionnaires on the topic. I still stand by the responses I provided in my 2014 campaign, last year’s by-election, and earlier in this campaign.

Thanks for your interest!