The WestShore Chamber of Commerce’s Vision WestShore 2018 event featured all five mayors in a panel discussion on the future of the West Shore in an off-the-record, candid conversation last Thursday evening.
Following dinner, the mayors gave opening statements and fielded questions from the audience, some of which had been sent in ahead of the event.
Once the dust had settled after the event, the Gazette asked each of the mayors if they felt there were any issues addressed throughout the evening that stood out for them.
Transportation was an issue that all mayors agreed needs work as the West Shore continues to grow, but whether there was any progress on the subject was debatable.
Highlands Mayor Ken Williams thought the topic of sustainability was critical and touched on the concept of creating smart cities and how technology will help the region achieve that. Looking ahead 20 years to see how it will shape the West Shore with the aging population is a key piece, he noted.
“Long-term planning is very important,” Williams said. “The transition from fossil fuels to smart cities could help us with our transportation, planning for the aging demographic and making sure resources are going to be here,” he said.
Langford Mayor Stew Young stressed the importance of affordable housing for millennials who want to set down roots.
“That’s why they’re coming here, because they want ownership,” he said. “They can’t go to Victoria because it’s $900,000 or $1 million for a home.”
Young emphasized the importance of bringing businesses and satellite post-secondary school campuses to the West Shore to alleviate dealing with a long commute but still felt transportation, the corridor in particular, needs to be dealt with.
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton also reflected on the importance of creating a community for all age groups and providing activities that span the arts, athletics and entertainment. “The diversity doesn’t quite stretch,” she said. “We’ve got it covered for those who are athletic and sports inclined, but there is a lot that can be done overall.”
View Royal Mayor David Screech thought activities for youth was an important topic from the evening and supporting arts and culture. “What I thought was important that we can all help with is getting a new skateboard park built at West Shore Parks and Rec.,” he said.
A site has been identified for the skateboard park, but it hasn’t been built since funding for the project is still being arranged.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns kept the evening lighthearted by cracking jokes, but was slightly disappointed and had hoped for a few more tough questions to give the audience a chance to see how much the five mayors collaborate in their day-to-day operations. For example, sewage and the building of sewage treatment facilities was not addressed throughout the discussion and Ranns felt it was an important topic that had been missed.
“We were given a list of possible questions and all of us came prepared to answer the tough questions,” he said.
He was also hoping the panel would be asked more human interest questions to give the community a chance to really get to know who they are.
Both Ranns and Williams felt many of the questions from the audience applied more to View Royal, Langford and Colwood and less to Metchosin and Highlands.
But all of the mayors noted they enjoyed coming together to discuss West Shore issues candidly and they hoped the audience enjoyed the event and left feeling better informed of the objectives of each municipality and the West Shore collectively.