The three mayors (from left) Geoff Orr (North Saanich), Cliff McNeil-Smith (Sidney), Ryan Windsor (Central Saanich) are welcomed by the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Spectre of housing looms over mayors’ breakfast

Geoff Orr, Ryan Windsor and Cliff McNeil-Smith speak at breakfast event in spirit of collaboration

Mayors Geoff Orr of North Saanich, Cliff McNeil-Smith of Sidney and Ryan Windsor spoke on a range of topics and stressed their commitment to collaborating with each other during a Monday morning meeting.

Tuesday March 5, the three Saanich Peninsula mayors hosted a breakfast event talking about their current priorities and plans for the future.

The event was held at the Mary Winspear Centre and was arranged by the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

ALSO READ: Danish-style happy Hygge housing coming to Sidney

The crowd of around 80 seemed to be largely drawn from the business community, as well as a sizeable contingent of eight counsellors and a handful of other employees from the councils.

Orr kicked things off with a territorial acknowledgement and spoke about his desire to see more sincere efforts at reconciliation with First Nations communities. He said he was already meeting with Indigenous groups and was looking to “figure out common priorities.”

The spectre of the housing crisis loomed large over the event, with all three mayors going to great lengths to promote their efforts to facilitate more housing and, in particular, less housing aimed at wealthy retirees and more for a financially squeezed younger workforce.

Orr said he had a policy in place to target more housing for those of a lower-middle income but said, “I’m not convinced supply is the sole issue, it’s a combination of factors.”

Windsor echoed Orr’s commitment to reconciliation and also his view that housing is not only about low supply and high demand.

ALSO READ: Renegotiation fails, fire hall redevelopment to proceed as planned

Windsor said that under his administration there was the largest amount of housing diversity ever in Central Saanich and had the most houses being built than at any time in the last 60 years. He also suggested that increasing leisure facilities, such as paddle boarding, was also important rather than just increased housing.

His “central” priority was resolving access problems to the highway, which he said congested traffic routes important to business and presented dangers to local schools. Windsor believes it is “vital” to install more electric car charging stations in his district.

McNeil-Smith listed six priorities of his administration: community infrastructure, organizational excellence, economic vibrancy, environmental stewardship, community engagement and working towards a diversified “complete community.”

He talked about the town’s upcoming infrastructure and workforce parking initiatives and cited rising sea levels, as a result of climate change, as being a concern for his coastal community.

ALSO READ: Transit and housing an obstacle for Sidney business

McNeil-Smith said that 30 new housing developments were close to securing building permits, with over 300 new units to be built. While much needed, he conceded that plans were afoot to limit the level of irritation to citizens caused by two years of construction.

The mayors stressed their desire to work collaboratively and to maximize efficiency for their constituents.

They also said that after a recent presentation from BC Transit, they were satisfied with the the company’s service despite it being much criticized by constituents.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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