By Saanich Coun. Colin Plant
Just over 100 days ago, my life changed significantly.
On Dec. 1, I was sworn in as a Saanich councillor. And while it has been just over three months, I can honestly state that what I have already experienced is far beyond my expectations. I love the job. I like the people I’ve met and I’m learning to understand the politics.
I’m flattered that at least once a day someone asks what it’s like to be a Saanich councillor. Actually, they typically start by asking about the situation with our mayor. I indicate that we are focusing on working better together and are committed to making Saanich an even greater place to live. The answer I then offer is that I have a lot to learn because there is so much to know about how Saanich is governed.
While nobody wanted the start-up that we had (spyware, CAOs and police allegations – oh my!), I believe Saanich is slowly returning to its natural state as an excellent municipality run by a dedicated staff and a mayor and council who care deeply about their community.
One of my first decisions as a councillor was related to the CAO situation. It ended up being a decision that cost nearly $500,000. At the time, it was the most expensive decision I had personally ever been involved with. Now, council is working on the Saanich budget of over $240 million and again I am a tad overwhelmed. Thankfully, the incumbents have been patient by listening and answering all my questions.
So what else have I noticed? I’m busy. Insanely busy. I had no idea how many people would want to meet and discuss their concerns. So many organizations want to meet and tell you about the great work they do. I knew there would be lots of meetings but not this many. And so much reading. Each week I spend at least six to seven hours reading agendas and reports. Did I mention I’m still teaching full-time?
One of the hidden blessings of being a new councillor in Saanich was that while many of my new colleagues were quite distressed by the events of our first few weeks in office, I did not know any different because I was new. Maybe it was always going to be this dramatic and political. It is only now as things have quieted down that I appreciate being in the media is really only something you want when things are going well.
So what’s next? Well the answer is that we govern and get the business of Saanich done. The budget process is in full swing and strategic planning for the future is about to begin.
Will there be more conflict in Saanich? Probably. However, a council that agrees on all issues is probably not representative of the diversity in a community. One thing we do agree on is that we all want Saanich to be a great municipality.
As a teacher I have a rediscovered respect for my students who are inundated with homework. I’ve worked so much harder since being elected. But unlike a student getting a quick result on their test, Council’s efforts are graded by the results that come later from our decisions. I have already learned that these decisions have real impacts on our residents’ lives and pocketbooks.
I also think the mayor is a very smart man who made some mistakes early on in his new job. I dare say most of us have probably made mistakes when we are in a new job. The only difference is that our mistakes are very public and can be quite expensive. I still support him. His personal life is off limits in my mind.