Mayor Fred Haynes wants Saanich to join the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and Urban Development Institute (UDI). He also wants Saanich to give each council member a personal budget of $500 for professional development and networking.
“It’s linked to the professional development of the council,” said Haynes, of his proposals, which the rest of council will take up at its next meeting Jan. 7, 2019. “By becoming members, we have greater access to the professional development programs that these two groups put on,” he said. “This would better equip council with the knowledge and understanding of these sectors.”
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce represents some 1,400 businesses and organizations of various kinds and sizes as the second largest chamber in British Columbia. The 750 members of the Urban Development Institute represent all aspects of the development industry and its related professions, from private developers to local governments and agencies.
“By becoming member, we have greater access to the professional development programs that these two groups put on,” he said. “This would better equip council with the knowledge [and] understanding of these sectors.”
Haynes said joining the chamber is in part about exposing council to the local business community.
“Right now, we are getting 78 per cent of our taxes from local residents,” he said. “We get 22 per cent from commerce and retail. We want to change that ratio. My campaign as mayor was about changing that ratio. Several of the councillors have talked about changing that ratio. We do that better from a position of knowledge.”
Stated policy priorities of the UDI, meanwhile, include measures to improve the supply of housing (especially rental housing) through measures that include faster approval processes, higher density and community amenity contributions, with an eye towards concentrating development near public transit nodes.
Haynes said Saanich said senior staff receive professional development as part of their contract and it is only reasonable that councillors “charged with very weighty decisions” receive the same opportunity for professional development.
“We understand that council members go to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), and the Association of Vancouver Island Municipalities and Coastal Communities (AVICC), and there is very important, rich and useful conversations there,” he said. “[But] it is within the peer group, and the opportunity we get from the chamber and from the UDI is local and on-the-ground.”
Haynes added joining these organizations is not expensive. Saanich’s annual membership for UDI would be $1,100, and just over $3,500 for the chamber of commerce.
Saanich plans to combine these membership by granting each councillor a budget of $500 for professional development.
Haynes said the current policy requiring councillors to ask for prior permission creates an obstacle.
“I think we should trust those councillors to make their decision on what kind of workshop they need to fill their information and education needs,” he said. “For example, I’d have to ask the [chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson], ‘can I go to a luncheon at the chamber or UDI?’ Now I have my budget of $500, and I can use it as I wish. But I’m accountable at the end of the year. I think it is very positive thing, and I’m optimistic that council would approve it.”