Eric Dahli (right), here seen speaking to local MP Murray Rankin about derelict boats on Cadboro Bay in the summer, likes Saanich’s direction on housing, but hopes the politics of the upcoming election won’t distract from good policies. Black Press file photo

Community leader predicts “fun” year for Saanich

Longtime resident Eric Dahli has many reasons for liking Saanich. They include its size and livability. But he also appreciates how the community can work together on issues like housing.

In late 2016, Saanich all but formally rejected plans for the redevelopment of Townley Lodge, an affordable housing complex.

This move drew considerable criticism, and consultations involving various parties eventually revived the project. Other initiatives, in part led by Dahli himself, are now underway. “[Coun. Fred Haynes] seems to be taking the lead here, and with my background in non-profit housing, we are going to start looking for areas that are receptive to rentals,” he said.

Dahli in many ways personifies this spirit of co-operation.

As president of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association and past chair of Greater Victoria Housing Society, he has the ears of the both local and regional decision-makers. He is a familiar face and voice at Saanich council meetings and other public forums, where the public and their elected officials deliberate issues affecting the community.

He has been instrumental in helping to clean up both the Saanich and Oak Bay side of Cadboro Bay, building coalitions like the Dead Boat Society along the way. He has the ear of provincial and federal representatives.

Oak Bay – Gordon Head MLA and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver appreciated this point first hand over the summer, when the provincial government agreed to support stalled efforts to remove derelict boats from the Oak Bay side of Cadboro Bay, with Dahli being perhaps the most persistent voice for provincial support.

“He has been a royal pain in the butt,” said Weaver with a laugh, earlier this year. “But I commend him for his tenacity. He deserves a ton of credit for it.”

Against this background, Dahli looks forward to an interesting 2018. “[It] is going to be fun,” he said.

The list of issues that dominated 2017 is a long one, but none looms larger than the various controversies both large and small around a controversial bylaw designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) — the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw.

Saanich council voted 5-4 to strike this bylaw from its books, a move that did not necessarily end the various controversies, but only intensified.

Dahli predicts that the debate around the EDPA will die in 2018, only to start all over again with the municipal election of Oct. 20, 2018. “I sure hope the ego factor will not get in the way of some good results,” he said.

Overall, Dahli says Saanich offers a lot, but he would also like to see it become more confident in its dealings. Saanich, for example, gets no credit for its pivotal role in the Capital Regional District. “Saanich is like the [mid-western region] in the U.S.A., the ‘fly-over states’ and the bread basket of the area when combined with Central and North Saanich.” He says therer is too much focus falls on downtown Victoria, as well as the airport and ferry terminal.

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