Dean Murdock went on the offensive against incumbent Fred Haynes as the two Saanich mayoral candidates faced off in a heated debate.
Haynes, who was elected mayor in 2018, defended his record and highlighted his achievements during the Oct. 6 debate hosted by CFAX. Murdock, however, painted a different picture of the incumbent’s term in office.
Murdock, a former three-term Saanich councillor and Capital Regional District director, is the lone candidate challenging Haynes in his bid for re-election this year.
While the two agreed on the necessity of more housing supply in Saanich, Murdock criticized what he called the slow pace of progress the district has made on the affordability crisis.
He added that although he was delighted to see the approval of the 73-point Saanich Housing Strategy around 18 months ago, Haynes and councillors have “implemented exactly zero of those 73 actions over the last 18 months.” Murdock even went as far as accusing Haynes of dragging his feet on the issue.
“Affordability is our greatest challenge, we can’t just talk about it,” he said. “It’s time for us to move beyond planning into action.”
Murdock said that the municipality delivered less than half of its targeted number of new homes last year, adding that council should use zoning regulations as a way to allow for construction of more affordable family homes, like townhouses, duplexes and triplexes.
Haynes agreed but cited supply chain issues, staff shortages and limited resources caused by the pandemic ultimately hindering the municipality’s ability to meet its goal.
Haynes also noted the municipality has been active internally through efforts to create a more efficient and seamless development permit application process.
“It’s very difficult to demand that the building industry builds the housing,” Haynes said. “We have to facilitate the process.”
Haynes touted the $36-million investment to transition from the district’s old paper-based development application system to a new digital one, progress on allowing garden and secondary suites as well as a restructured planning department.
“Delivering housing is a multi-faceted task,” he said. “The levers we have, in terms of cost of housing, are only on one side. There are three costs to housing: the land, the build and the processes that get the application in place.”
He added that plans are currently underway to waive public hearings for development applications that fit Saanich’s official community plan.
From Murdock’s perspective, however, the work done thus far simply hasn’t been enough. “It’s time to shift from this continuous cycle of planning into delivering on action that creates results in our community,” he said.
Saanich held advanced voting on Wednesday (Oct. 5) and will be holding advanced voting again on Oct. 11 and 12.
The general voting day for all municipal elections in B.C. is Oct. 15.
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