Langford concerned about makeup of economic development group

Support could be pulled if business isn’t favoured

The City of Langford may be walking a fine line in support of a new regional economic strategy and committee for South Vancouver Island.

The City has already approved a motion to support the project in principal, but only if everyone else is in, said Coun. Denise Blackwell. “At this point we’re not going to change that until we see who else is in.”

She voiced some concerns regarding the future economic development committee (EDC) at Monday’s council meeting.

“I’d like to see the make-up of the actual board, because I’m finding down at the regional board there’s all sorts of ideas that aren’t anywhere near what we want, what we set out in our strategic plan,” she said at the meeting.

If the makeup of the board doesn’t favour business, she said, the board won’t be doing work for economic development in the region, they’ll only be doing work for the City of Victoria.

It was a fear echoed by Mayor Stew Young, who drove most of the discussion on the topic.

“You have to be very careful,” he said. “Politicians downtown keep coming up with all of these ways to spend money … It’s not an endless pit of money from residential taxpayers.”

Young added, however, that he supported the idea and has since it was first put forward.

“This is good. A regional EDC makes sense, as long as the business people are heard and politicians actually listen,” he said. “The makeup has to be … business telling the government how to do things better. Governments are the worst offenders of creating bureaucracy and red tape (for business).”

Young noted that it’s important for business people to be in charge of the EDC, so “when governments do something stupid, they actually should be held to task for it, and that’s part of the EDC.”

The financial portion of Langford’s commitment to a regional strategy will be reviewed during 2016 budget deliberations, to be voted on by council before April 15, 2016.

Langford chief administrative officer Jim Bowden said this “will allow us the time to ensure that the proper (board) makeup is in place.”

At their Monday meeting, Highlands council unanimously approved the district’s participation in the South Vancouver Island Economic Development Association. That support also included a financial commitment.

Esquimalt, Central Saanich and Saanich also voted to support the Association at their Monday council meetings, bringing the total number of municipalities supporting the idea, at least in principle, to 10. The others are Colwood, View Royal, Victoria, Oak Bay and Sidney.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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