Langford hesitant to support more CRD services

Councillors worry about piling on more costs for taxpayers

Langford council members are hesitant to support the Capital Regional District’s push to establish a regional transportation service, but withheld completely rejecting the idea until more of their questions and comments could be heard at this Monday’s council meeting.

“At this point in time my recommendation is that Langford not proceed to add a new function,” said Coun. Denise Blackwell during recent council discussions on the matter. She noted there has been no resolution in regards to the Greater Victoria Transit Commission and nodded to the fact that Langford is not represented there and other West Shore municipalities have very limited representation.

The new proposed service would provide the CRD with a mandate to address regional transportation needs to the extent outlined in their regional transportation plan, which was developed after consolation with local governments, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, B.C. Transit and other stakeholders in the region. The transportation plan identifies priority actions and targets.

While council members initially voted to withhold their support for any new CRD services at this time, they decided to defer that motion until Susan Brice, chair of the CRD transportation select committee, or another member could meet with council to hear their concerns and answer questions. Brice is scheduled to appear at this Monday’s council meeting.

While Langford council members agreed there are traffic-related issues in the region, they questioned the CRD’s jurisdiction to do anything about them. “The real problem is the Trans-Canada Highway,” noted Coun. Lanny Seaton, acting as mayor during the last Langford council meeting. But, as he pointed out, that roadway falls under the province’s jurisdiction and not the CRD’s. He added Langford staff have done an incredible job of addressing east-west connectors and traffic flow in the city and nodded to other municipalities that may need to do a better job of addressing those areas within their own municipalities.

But what really caused council members to pause was the costs associated with this service. While the letter from the CRD stated the creation of this service would initially be cost neutral – with funds being shifted from other budgets – councillors were wary that future years of the service could come with a hefty price tag.

“How much is this going to cost us,” asked Coun. Roger Wade. He nodded to the CRD’s report, which estimated costs of $3 million in phase 2 and $10 million in phase 2-b.

Blackwell noted “the problem is, if you sign on to a CRD service and then everyone around the table decides they want to spend however many millions of dollars more, once you’re in the service, you’re in the service.”

Seaton nodded to other CRD services that have yet to have their price tags determined, especially noting the sewage project could still come as a huge blow to taxpayers. “There’s a lot of money in the air,” he said, expressing concerns about overcommitting their taxpayers.

It was a sentiment echoed around the table with Blackwell adding, “I think we need to be really cautious before we commit to another CRD service.”

Coun. Lillian Szpak weighed in on the debate after listening carefully to Blackwell and Seaton – Langford’s two CRD representatives. “I do support a regional transportation service, however, I don’t think we do it at any cost.”

She also noted a perception of fairness and the history Langford representatives have experienced around the CRD table. “I think it’s changing a little bit,” she said.

While she added council has always tried to come to the table and participate, she said hearing Brice’s presentation before making a final decision would allow council members to make an informed decision and not one based on past experiences.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com