Opinion

West Shore leads the way in economic growth

Statistics Canada recently released the first of the 2011 census population data, and while the numbers are no surprise to those in the West Shore, many in the Victoria region were caught off guard.

We have all been saying for a long time what these statistics proved — that the West Shore, and Langford in particular, is the fastest growing region in B.C.

Statistics Canada 2011 census data shows Langford has grown more than 30 per cent since 2006. The urban municipalities of Colwood, View Royal and Langford combined average over 15 per cent growth.

Don’t think we are supporting growth for growth’s sake — this must be sustainable, carefully planned and thought out by our municipal leaders and their staff.

Langford and Colwood have sustainability at the core of their official community plans and that means smart growth with attention to jobs, local businesses, green spaces, bike paths and facilities for the community.

Even fast growing Langley and Surrey in the Lower Mainland don’t come close to these numbers. It is about time this phenomenal growth was recognized by the province so that political and bureaucratic officials can see and use Langford and the West Shore as role models for other communities.

Hopefully provincial funding in a variety of areas to the West Shore might finally catch up with provincial averages. There are many signs that the West Shore has been continuously under-funded by provincial bureaucrats over the years — perhaps we get “averaged in” with Victoria allocations, but this practice is clearly not good enough anymore.

A story in Vancouver media reported that “Victoria” population growth (presumably meaning the region as a whole) was slow growth at around four per cent.

This kind of reporting tars the West Shore with numbers from the rest of the region that do not reflect realities on the ground.

The same is true for the branding of Victoria as an older aging population which is true for certain Greater Victoria municipalities, but absolutely not true for the West Shore.

The average age on the West Shore is much younger, about 38 (2006 census data) and we don’t expect it to change significantly in the 2011 updates.

Let’s look at some other numbers. Langford recently reported the incredible estimate that the unemployment rate in that city is about 3.1 per cent — certainly the best number in B.C. if not the country. But, it seems that no one in the provincial or federal level has noticed.

On March 1, Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation is scheduled to be on the West Shore to speak about the jobs plan.

We would like him and the province understand that many of the small business jobs he and the premier are trying so desperately to create in B.C. are already being created in Langford and the West Shore, thanks to business friendly policies and attitudes on behalf of local municipal leaders.

The West Shore is far from the bedroom community it might have once been. It is estimated that approximately 40 per cent of the population live and work here and this will only continue to increase in the coming years.

A great example of this is the new Capital City Centre project at Colwood Comers. This billion dollar investment by League Financial Partners is expected build 4,000 residences and many square feet of commercial and retail space.

Westshills, the largest development on the Island if not in the province is already well on its way with innovative and creative building techniques and designs. The YMCA and its new pool will soon centre a host of non-residential tenants and offices.

Royal Bay seems to have finally been sold for mixed-use development and soon the large and centrally located land that current Belmont school sits on will be sold, most likely create a downtown core for Langford with mixed-use.

It is time the rest of the province and the Greater Victoria region woke up not only to the economic leadership and the extraordinary growth in the West Shore but also to the innovation and value-based leadership evident in our community leaders’ commitment to developing and keeping a high quality of life — the whole point of smart growth.

dspinner@westshore.bc.ca

—Dan Spinner is the CEO of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce

 

 

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