A Sidney audience heard support for a light rapid rail (LRT) system on the Saanich Peninsula from candidates running in Saanich Gulf-Islands.
Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, as well as Tory candidate David Busch and New Democrat Sabina Singh expressed support for the idea of such a system to help improve transit connections between communities on the Saanich Peninsula and the core communities, as well as Victoria International Airport and the BC Ferries terminal at Swartz Bay.
“I think it is desperately needed,” said Busch. “I would love to be able to go from Victoria straight up to the ferry.” While the region might lack the population to justify it now, municipalities should include in their long-term planning, he added. “It is something that we need,” he said. “I would say, put it in sooner rather later. But it needs to be done and I would love to see it now.”
May and Singh made similar comments in support of the idea, which has been germinating for some time as part of efforts to fight climate change and improve transit in the region. The issue of transit has been vexing local businesses, with many relying on staff to come from the core communities. The Saanich Peninsula has also seen an influx of families priced out of the real estate market in the core communities, a development that has added strain to the local transportation system forced to accommodate traffic between the core communities and Victoria International Airport and Swartz Bay.
“I think that it would be a great idea,” said Ron Broda of the People’s Party of Canada in an emailed statement. “The Lochside/Galloping Goose trails are former rail beds and would provide a ready right of way and suitable grade for LRT,” he said. “As nice as the trail is for walking and cycling, LRT would be a much better use of the right of way. That said, there is no reason that LRT couldn’t coexist with the current usage.
(By way of background, the provincial government faces pressure from municipalities to develop an unused railway line on the West Shore.)
The issue itself came up during a luncheon with candidates hosted by the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. The event marked a departure from a traditional all-candidates forum. Instead of sitting together at a table facing an audience, each candidate instead answered questions for 12 minutes from audience members sitting at one table, before moving on to another table.
This rotation system resembled the system seen at speed dating events and allowed would-be voters to ask more tailored questions.
This said, questions focused on familiar topics including transportation, housing and cost-of-living.
Candidates will return to a more familiar format Friday evening, when they will face questions exclusively about the environment during a debate hosted by St. Paul’s Church in Sidney. They will also debate Friday night in North Saanich.