With the demographic shift underway, we are entering an unprecedented low economic growth period. This means financial pressures on residents will be mounting, especially for those on fixed incomes. In this context, year-over-year tax and fee increases are unsustainable. Now is the time to do the heavy lifting required to evaluate, benchmark, and improve the efficiency of municipal operations, so we avoid unfairly passing on our debts to future generations.
With strong regional economic development and unprecedented low vacancy rates, opportunities for re-development in Saanich abound. To realize them, we need a clear vision, strong leadership, and a commitment to efficient administrative processes to send the signal that we are open for business. Using smart growth principles to put people in the right places and foster more vibrant community spaces will not only improve affordability, it will significantly enhance quality of life in the process.
Saanich’s extensive and impressive parks network just may be the pride of our municipality. It needs to be sufficiently resourced to contribute to biodiversity conservation objectives, and to lend credibility to Saanich’s efforts to encourage voluntary stewardship on private properties throughout the municipality.
We need a clear and compelling vision, and strong leadership to see it through. Otherwise, ad hoc decision making will favour short-term political gains, at the cost of our communities’ well-being. Changing the tone by engaging residents in shaping a shared vision for our future will also help ensure our elected officials are accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of us and future generations.
Rural Saanich is too often neglected in planning and decision making. In fact, our rural regions hold the District’s most strategic asset: agricultural lands. Securing the future of rural Saanich by defending the urban containment boundary and encouraging the active and appropriate use of agricultural lands will protect our municipality’s rural character and quality of life, enhance local food security, and provide employment opportunities for those itching to work on the land.
For all its qualities, many parts of Saanich lack natural community centres and gathering places for young families, seniors, and all those in between. Re-development needs to focus on mixed-use, complete, and walkable communities to serve the needs of all residents and reduce our reliance on personal automobiles. We also need to think creatively and act collaboratively to form strategic partnerships that foster a sense of place and ensure residents across the entire municipality benefit from equal opportunity.