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Candidate says Saanich needs to stimulate economic activity

Rishi Sharma ran in 2013 provincial election
Rishi Sharma of Gordon Head is running for Saanich council. Submitted

Lifelong Saanich resident Rishi Sharma is returning to politics in a bid to join Saanich council.

The 43-year-old ran in the 2013 provincial election for B.C. Liberals in Saanich South. A longtime legislative staffer, Sharma is currently a director in the provincial government’s workforce innovation and skills training division.

He brings an eye for stimulating economic activity, and believes Saanich is handcuffed from creating more social programming and support due to a lack of funding, he said.

“When it comes to economic development I don’t think [Saanich] has met [its] main goal,” Sharma said. “Revenue is strictly through taxes, the most revenue from taxes, 25 per cent from fees and charges.”

Locally, Sharma is a director with the Gordon Head Residents Association and has been involved in local initiatives, big and small, such as Fix Ash Road Now. In 2013 he salvaged everything he could from his house and donated it to the ReStore, including the kitchen sink.

Recently, it was getting elected onto the GHRA board that got Sharma back into politics. In particular, it’s the local issues that have him excited.

“I got the bug again,” Sharma said. “It was different things, issues of speed enforcement and housing development, and [my experience] as a volunteer with Music in the Park. These things are all so impactful on your daily lives, these municipal issues have a major effect.”

It’s been all about Saanich for Sharma, whose education was a progression through North Ridge and Hillcrest elementary schools, Arbutus middle school, Mount Douglas secondary, Camosun College and the University of Victoria.

With the cost-of-living continuing to increase in Saanich, Sharma hopes to generate more revenue for services and supports for local residents without having to continue to raise taxes and fees.

“Immediately I would like to tackle economic development with a forum, a round table that brings together agriculture, agriculture tourism, the business sector, tourism and more to work on how we can build increased revenues for Saanich,” Sharma said. “We have a great area to live in, but I think we can do it better if we focus on economic development.”

Among the considerations are a possible Saanich-specific Chamber of Commerce, and a look at enticing manufacturing in Saanich.

“Look at Sidney in the Peninsula, they’re bringing in millions of dollars from manufacturing, how can we do that?”

To support people who experience homelessness, Sharma sees it as a co-operative responsibility with support from all levels of government.

“I understand the issues facing our most vulnerable and it’s an issue we need to tackle,” Sharma said. “There are people who are two paycheques away from being homeless… municipalities can’t do it alone. We need more housing supply, we need to increase density, and do it through partnerships among all governments.”