Zac de Vries is the latest to declare his candidacy for Saanich council.

Next generation takes aim at seat on Saanich council

23-year-old Zac de Vries the latest to throw his hat in the ring

The latest non-incumbent candidate for Saanich council says it is time for a generational change.

“I really don’t think my generation can wait for another election,” said Zac de Vries,when asked about his reasons for running in the 2018 municipal election.

The 23-year-old de Vries joins the race with no elected experience, but familiarity with the community and plenty of experience in the nuts and bolts of running a campaign.

A double-major in political science and geography, de Vries co-chaired the New Democratic Party club at the University of Victoria, which was advertising his campaign announcement. He canvassed for local federal MP Randall Garrison and led the data team for local MLA Lana Popham.

In fact, de Vries said he has already canvassed some 2,000 homes in Saanich as part of a “listening tour” prior to his formal announcement to measure potential support and refine his platform.

But for all of his prior experience in NDP politics, de Vries says he and his campaign teamextend beyond traditional partisan boundaries with a focus on improving the supply of affordable housing, along with improvements to local transportation and environmental protection.

“Housing is a crisis for a lot of people,” he said. De Vries said especially young people like himself find themselves increasingly shut out of the housing market, which tends towards two extremes: what he calls “mini-mansions” and condominiums.

If elected to council, de Vries would push policies that improve the supply of housing types between those extremes, such as duplexes, townhouses, and low-level apartment buildings.

De Vries’ candidacy continues the recent run of younger candidates entering the race. De Vries sees himself as part of a new, emerging generation of local politicians, who are raising inter-generational issues like housing.

“For a long time, young people have been disenfranchised,” he said.

De Vries for his part was not necessarily planning to run this year. He was instead looking to support a candidate comparable to Coun. Dean Murdock, the lone incumbent, who is not running this year, citing personal and professional reasons.

“I kept searching for a candidate [to support], but struggled to find one,” he said. De Vries eventually decided to become that candidate himself.

Murdock, who has recently given de Vries some advice, serves as de Vries’ inspiration.

“I think he’s an incredible inspiration, because he was such a young candidate,” said de Vries.

Murdock, for the record, ran twice before winning in 2008 at the age of 27. Murdock eventually won three more times,

with his vote total increasing each time out.

In 2014, Murdock won the most votes of all candidates, whether they were running for mayor or councillor in 2014.

De Vries’ announcement comes on the same day as Coun. Karen Harper officially confirmed her re-election campaign after winning the 2017 byelection.

“I am proud to have served Saanich for the past year,” she said. “If re-elected to Saanich council, I will continue my work toward achieving fiscal responsibility, balanced environmental stewardship and meaningful collaboration that reduces development conflicts,” said Harper in a release.

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