The association representing builders in Greater Victoria first received, then rejected a request from the District of Saanich to share member emails with the municipality, so it could inform association members about the introduction of a new building code.
“We protect our members’ privacy,” said Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders’ Association (VRBA), when asked about the reasons for the group’s refusal to share the emails.
The dispute came to light when VRBA tweeted about it on May 14. “Members don’t want govt/political spam,” said the association in a tweet with a link informing readers about federal anti-spam legislation.
District of #Saanich indignant VRBA won't provide list of members’ emails for their use. Welcome to real world! Members don’t want govt/political spam https://t.co/Lqig2YSuNB #Saanich #OakBay #Langford #CSaan #ViewRoyal #Colwood #Sooke #NSaan #Esquimalt #yyj #VictoriaBC #Sidney
— Victoria Builders (@VicBuilders) May 14, 2019
Kelsie McLeod, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich, said the municipality’s building inspection and bylaw division reached out to the VRBA as part of its “continued effort to keep communication channels open and inform stakeholders of important changes.” In this case, staff wanted to let VRBA know that the BC Energy Step Code comes into effect in Saanich on June 1, 2019, she said.
“The District of Saanich requested to obtain contact information for the VRBA members so that we could distribute information about the change,” said McLeod. “Alternatively, we requested that the VRBA distribute information to their members.”
VRBA has publicly opposed the introduction, citing a number of concerns, including increased liability. VRBA has also publicly argued that the code — which is optional — will increase the cost of building.
The code consists of five steps designed to improve the energy efficiency of new buildings with the stated goal of making all new buildings by 2032 net-zero energy ready. Net-zero energy ready buildings are buildings that could (with additional measures) generate enough energy onsite to meet their own needs.
Edge said the association’s 200 members, including more than 100 builders, are aware of the code, which the association will continue to oppose.
“That’s a concept Saanich doesn’t appear to comprehend,” he said.
This back-and-forth adds to the list of public disagreements between the largest municipality in Greater Victoria and the association representing regional home builders. VRBA’s twitter account has not shied away from criticizing Saanich, often comparing it and the City of Victoria negatively to West Shore communities, especially but not exclusively around issues like development cost charges and development permit processing times.
District officials have rejected these charges.
Like many public disputes with a social media component, involved parties often disagree about the tone of the disagreement, and this case appears no different.
VRBA said in its tweet that Saanich was “indignant” about VRBA’s answer, a claim McLeod rejects.
“In our view, the nature of the communication was positive,” she said.