As the provincial election quickly approaches, many Sooke residents are trying to figure out what the most important issues are.
Sooke hasn’t seen the same kind of growth compared to West Shore cities such as Langford or Colwood, but Sooke Mayor Maja Tait still sees the need for significant traffic improvements.
While Sooke Coun. Jeff Bateman is keen on the idea of a two-year pilot program to offer free bus service to Sooke youth and those in need; Tait disagrees.
“There’s no use giving a free bus pass when there aren’t enough buses to ride in the first place,” Tait said.
She’d rather see expanded service for regional and local routes, as the district would need to fund the passes through property tax increases or substantial service cuts.
She also believes the province should increase ambulance service in the region.
“Since I was elected mayor in 2008, I haven’t seen a single new car,” said Tait.
“We’re receiving excellent service from first responders, but I think we need more paramedics out here.”
Mike Hicks, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director for the Capital Regional District, said Sooke residents should vote for a candidate who is concerned about managing the response to the pandemic and sees the necessity for supporting the homeless population.
He believes that managing a solid economic recovery plan is important and that a leader must be at the forefront of response to climate change and global warming.
The Fairy Creek protests near Port Renfrew have made headlines as protesters have been on the site for more than two months. Sooke residents Cheryl Forbes and Terry Soderman agree that they don’t like seeing the trees cut down in their neck of the woods.
Kristine Miller, who runs a Sooke business, isn’t too fond of seeing growing construction and fast development. She prefers a slower approach to improving the area and ensuring that environmental concerns are at the forefront.
Meanwhile, the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce believes that finding support for small businesses is key.
“They are at the heart of the community,” said executive director Britt Santowski. “[With] the expectation that the second wave will be more damaging than the first, we’re bracing for impact. Restaurants and tourism-dependent businesses have been hit hard.”
Tait pointed out that whichever Langford-Juan de Fuca candidate is elected, they should consider improvements to Sooke schools, whether seismic upgrades or new fire sprinklers. She recalls the minor fires at Sooke Elementary in 2014 and 2018, one of the district’s oldest schools.
Lastly, the Sooke mayor hopes to see a portion of federal cannabis taxation coming into the district as part of the two-year federal-provincial-territorial agreement in December 2017.
That agreement saw the federal government retain 25 per cent of taxes, up to $100 million a year.
“It’s been two years that the legal framework is giving millions in tax revenue to the province and the federal government, and the municipalities aren’t getting any of it,” said Tait.
As part of the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference held in late September, 99 per cent of the group’s 189 members voted in favour of getting a portion of the revenue. They’re asking for 25 per cent.
The remaining 75 percent was to go to the provinces, where it was assumed some of that revenue would go to municipal governments to cover their costs.
The Oct. 24 election will see B.C. NDP leader John Horgan try to hold onto power for another four more years against B.C. Greens’ Sonia Furstenau and B.C. Liberals’ Andrew Wilkinson.
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