Saanich councillor accuses colleagues of working outside the ‘public eye’

Saanich councillor accuses colleagues of working outside the ‘public eye’

Coun. Nathalie Chambers says process behind proposed housing forum ‘has run afoul of good governance’

The fate of a proposed housing forum remains uncertain, with Coun. Nathalie Chambers raising questions about the process leading up to it, and by doing so, accusing some of her colleagues of secrecy.

“This item [the housing forum] was not a resolution by council,” said Chambers. “It was an initiative formed outside of council. It was not in the public eye. We did not debate it. I did not approve the housing forum.”

RELATED: Saanich councillor says proposed housing forum asks the community for solutions

Chambers made these comments, as council debated a request for $10,000 to $12,000 towards the forum. The forum in question was an event tentatively scheduled for May 4 that “would bring together community and industry expertise to identify challenges to increasing housing availability and housing affordability in Saanich, and opportunities to address them.” Its timing, however, remains uncertain, because council referred the matter to its next meeting on May 6 — two days after the scheduled forum — because staff told council that they lacked time to secure a facilitator under Saanich’s procurement policy.

RELATED: Saanich councillor questions criticisms of municipal housing policy

This development concluded an occasionally heated debate over an item, whose immediate significance lies in sparking council’s most public row so far after months of mostly harmonious work.

According to background material concerning the forum, Mayor Fred Haynes, as well as Couns. Susan Brice, Rebecca Mersereau, and Zac de Vries have been in “discussion with several stakeholders” in the local housing industry in recent months about holding a housing-related forum, which they “anticipate” would be the first of many such events.

Haynes said later that the focus of this initial forum was to be rental and market-based housing. He also said that the working group emerged informally after the election, because its members had identified housing as a priority.

Chambers though questioned why planning for this forum initially sidestepped First Nations, other councillors including herself, and staff. “It feels to me this process has run afoul of good governance, and what I have been learning in my training,” she said.

She also wondered how forum organizers chose the invitation-only list of participants, and wondered why the group initially wanted to hire local planner Mark Holland as a facilitator for a “nominal” but unidentified cost when Saanich has in-house expertise. Bypassing staff and hiring outside help is not the best use of financial resources, she said.

“Who felt they could hire anyone without the consent of council and bring this to council?” she asked. “Maybe this is all within the lines, but this is not the kind of governance I aspire to. It’s not the optics I as a councillor want to be associated with.”

Members of council not part of the group behind the forum, however, defended it.

“I’m a little bit concerned by the tone of some of my colleagues tonight, that there has been nefarious behaviour conducted by members of council,” said Coun. Colin Plant.

Plant acknowledged the “level of discomfort” that some councillors might have about approving funding for a project without having full knowledge of it. Supporters of the forum could have avoided this situation with prior consultation, Plant said. He, however, does not have any “ill feelings” towards them.

“To colleagues, who have ill feelings, I don’t think, it is fair,” he said. “Any member of council can work together on any initiative and bring it forward,” he said. Yes, some aspects of the forum still require clarification, he said. “But I do appreciate that four members of council were willing to make a recommendation to council. They haven’t gone off and done something secretive or sneaky or clandestine at all. It has unfortunately been perceived that way by some members of council.”

Coun. Karen Harper said that she generally supports the type of approach leading up to the forum. Smaller groups represent “very efficient ways” to start off. “They are not the way that you finish processes, but they are the way to start processes,” she said. She also questioned Chambers’ argument that the forum favours developers. The forum represents a “first step” not designed to make decisions but gather ideas, and the list of invitees includes more than just developers but also homeless advocates.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

District of Saanich

Just Posted

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

GardenWorks nursery in Oak Bay at its home until August. (Black Press Media file photo)
GardenWorks puts down new roots in Oak Bay this summer

Nursery shifts down The Avenue to fill former fitness studio space

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Langford man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

Victoria Police Department vehicles outside the headquarters building. VicPD (Black Press Media file photo)
Gorge Waterway’s muddy bank swamps man’s attempt to flee Victoria police

A wanted man got stuck in the Gorge Waterway while fleeing police on June 15

Police dog Obi assisted in an arrest Tuesday night after a man reportedly damaged a Victoria restaurant with a large steel beam. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Police dog called in after Victoria restaurant damaged with steel beam

Suspect reportedly entered restaurant and started damaging walls

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Members of the Department of National Defence are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed his worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact,’ said Sgt. Peter DeVries

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says re-opening B.C.’s border to the U.S. ‘is not in our best interest’ right now. (B.C. Government photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (B.C. Government photo)
B.C. records 113 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, four deaths

Vaccination of young people rising quickly, near 75 per cent

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S President Joe Biden shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
Biden says meeting with Putin not a ‘kumbaya moment’

But U.S. president asserted Russian leader is interested in improved relations, averting a Cold War

Most Read