Nathalie Chambers has been a vocal critic of Saanich’s decision to rescind the Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw designed to protect ecological sensitive areas. Submitted

Local environmentalist eyes seat on Saanich council

Nathalie Chambers will run in Oct. 20 municipal election

A local author, environmentalist and organic farmer has launched another campaign for Saanich council in the upcoming general municipal election set for Oct. 20.

Nathalie Chambers, lead author of Saving Farmland: The Fight for Real Food and co-operator of historic Madrona Farm in the Blenkinsop Valley, made her formal announcement Tuesday night at ‘Kings Park’ bordering Haultain Street and Kings Road to confirm her candidacy for Saanich council.

This marks Chambers’ second run for Saanich council in the past year, as she finished third in last September’s byelection with 1,856 votes, behind runner-up Rebecca Mersereau and winning candidate Coun. Karen Harper. Both Mersereau and Harper have since announced that they would run again.

Chambers said in an interview she is entering the race because she wants to help land use “towards a greener, fairer, more sustainable, and brighter future for all Saanich residents,” in criticizing the current state of housing.

“We are in a speculative real estate gold rush right now,” she said. “I believe housing is not a commodity and that housing is a right to all.”

She is especially critical of what she says are 2,700 empty homes in Saanich. “The housing crisis is complicated and we cannot build ourselves out of it,” she said. “It is spilling into our conservation areas and further marginalizing vulnerable people. This is not a solution.”

The location of Tuesday’s announcement points to Chambers’ agenda centred on environmental and ecological concerns.

‘Kings Park’ is the informal name of what is said to be the largest remaining unprotected natural space in south Saanich, and its current owner – BC Hydro – plans to sell the triangular piece of land estimated to be worth between $1 million and $7 million.

According to a neighbourhood petition urging Saanich or the Capital Capital Regional District to purchase the five-acre lot, hundreds of Saanich residents use it to “walk, bike, commute, play, rest and escape the increasingly dense urban setting within the Saanich panhandle. Animal residents of the park include owls, falcons, hawks and a multitude of bird and pollinator species.”

Since news of the pending sale broke, the eventual fate of the park has drawn considerable public interest, with organizers of a petition arguing that such natural green spaces will “become increasingly critical to preserve the physical, emotional and mental wellness” of Saanich as it raises density.

“We must not pit green space preservation against housing development,” the petition reads. “Progressive cities do both. They create more housing and preserve green space as the number of residents increases.”

Chambers echoed those views in her interview. “We must protect the Urban Containment Boundary,” she said. “It is true there is a lack of some housing and that is affordable housing. I disagree $600,000 is affordable housing in Saanich.”

Chambers enters the race as a familiar face among environmental and agricultural circles.

Over the years, she has worked with organizations such as the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, The Land Conservancy and the Social Environmental Alliance. She’s spearheaded the campaign to protect local farms and stop the industrialization of the Blenkinsop Valley. She actively defended the Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw before Saanich rescinded it.

Also running for council are Ned Taylor, Zac de Vries and Teale Phelps Bondaroff. The majority of current councillors have announced they will seek re-election except for Coun. Dean Murdock and Coun. Leif Wergeland, who announced this week he would not be running. Coun. Fred Haynes is challenging incumbent Richard Atwell for the mayor’s position.

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