OLD NEWS: This weekly historical feature examines what was making headlines in your community paper on this week in history

OLD NEWS: This week in Saanich history – March 23-29

The News’ weekly historical feature looks at how Saanich was preparing for the disaster that could have been Y2K

It was the anti-climactic event of the century (or maybe millennium): the Y2K bug that many feared could impact digital technologies everywhere.

This week, in 1999, the Saanich News looked at what the municipality was doing to prepare for the worst, a little more than nine months before the year 2000’s arrival.

“Major computer issues have been addressed at municipal hall and within the municipal framework … with just a few non-critical pieces of software left to be upgraded,” reads the March 24, 1999 article. “Critical materials such as firefighting and police communications, water distribution and other public works are also ready for 2000.”

In fact, Saanich had been preparing for Y2K since 1996, when certain expenses were added to the annual budget to bring the municipality up to “year 2000 compliance.”

Ron Cullis, who was co-ordinator of the Saanich Emergency Plan at the time, told the News that a plan was in place in the event of an emergency, that would see more than 100 local service providers jump into action to provide assistance, and rec centre become emergency shelters.

“Cullis recommends residents look at the Y2K issues as they would any other disaster-type scenario by stockpiling enough food and supplies, blankets and clothes for a 72-hour period, plus a little bit of cash should banking systems fail,” the article reads.

On the police side of things, officers had been advised that the department wouldn’t be granting leave between Dec. 31, 1999 and Jan. 7, 2000, in the event problems arose.

Capt. Brock Henson, with the fire department and Saanich’s emergency program, says while Y2K was a “non-event,” it was a unique scenario from a preparedness perspective. Most disasters are sudden and unexpected, and don’t come with a pretty exact date and time of when they may occur.

That said, the messaging around being prepared is as relevant today for an earthquake as it was in 1999 for Y2K.

“We never know when essential services could be disrupted. There are a wide variety of scenarios that could cause that. We want to make sure we are prepared (in the event of a disaster) all the time, not just for individual, specific events like Y2K,” he said.

The emergency program now recommends having a week’s worth of supplies to be prepared for an emergency.

editor@saanichnews.com

••••

In other news this week…

• 1994 – Expenses from the 1993 municipal election are released, showing how much each of the 21 candidates spent on their campaign. Political newcomer Ida Chong, an accountant, spent far and above the most money – $10,976.82 – and earned a spot on council. Incumbent councillor Frank Leonard had the third most expensive campaign, at $4,231.72. Campaign spending has increased dramatically in the two decades since; in the 2011 election, elected Saanich councillors spent an average of $10,643.47.

• 1996 – The I Support Saanich Parks for Youth society (ISSPY) says it has secured enough money that work to construct a new skate park in Gordon Head can begin. With $25,000 raised, plus the municipality and province slated to match funds, then-parks and recreation director Don Hunter says construction can be phased as money comes in.

• 2002 – Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Gary Lunn says he’s “pleased with the result” of the Canadian Alliance’s election of Stephen Harper as party leader. “Stephen is very principled, he knows the policy inside out – he helped to write it. He’s very bright and a straight shooter – what you see is what you get,” Lunn says of the new party leader. The Canadian Alliance dissolved in December 2003, merging with the Conservative party. Lunn lost his seat to Green Party leader Elizabeth May in the May 2011 federal election.

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