New council must make leadership a greater priority

Letter to the editor on new Saanich council's priorities

In order to best serve the Saanich community, the new council needs to actively lead by focusing on the real issues that will impact the region in the short and long term. An attitude of leadership through priorities is required to ensure our unique Saanich neighbourhoods thrive under this primarily re-elected council.

The council needs to take on an expanded leadership role regarding the integration of services, looking at regional cost-saving options, not amalgamation.

Small business owners in Saanich are feeling the crushing weight of an economy in flux. The current council needs to manage the expectations of our community; every disbursement analyzed to ensure it’s right for the circumstances.

Adopting a needs versus wants mindset will ensure every dollar allocated by the council benefits our community directly.

Optional and luxury projects should be shelved until the taxpayers can afford the extra burden of these expenditures, and increased effort is required to compel the provincial and federal governments to deliver over and above the paltry eight cents per tax dollar back to the municipality.

Saanich council must do a better job of securing funds for infrastructure, affordable housing, and providing viable options to help our homeless community.

Saanich and the CRD have been mandated to treat our raw sewage, currently being pumped into the Georgia Strait, but the existing plan is unacceptable. An Esquimalt-based treatment, with solids trucked down the country lanes of Saanich to the landfill, is appalling.

This is a legacy project with lasting implications for our region and taxpayers, but if this project is to proceed the funding verbally promised by senior levels of government must be secured. Council may not be able to stop this decision from taking place, but they should be doing everything possible to ensure Saanich residents are not unfairly burdened with the proposed costs.

Another mega-project that needs the full attention of the Saanich council is the proposed light-rail transit initiative.

It is irresponsible that so much time and energy is being invested into LRT when our current transit system is falling short. Full buses regularly pass UVic and Camosun students, and the proposed LRT option treats students and drivers like second-class citizens, forcing them to endure unreasonable waits as they attempt to cross at McKenzie and the Trans-Canada Highway.  The paperwork alone required for the current plan is estimated to be over $8 million, and this is purely unacceptable for the Saanich taxpayers.

The LRT will not address the east-west connections, but additional bus service and an overpass at McKenzie/Trans-Canada Highway would better serve the entire Victoria community at a substantially lower cost. Saanich council needs to actively lead this discussion to ensure the social benefit of a shiny new LRT system isn’t the deciding factor.

Keeping up with Calgary, Vancouver, or Portland, Ore. is not a good enough reason to spend a billion dollars that we do not have. Too little return on too much of an investment is deplorable, and the current council will need to provide an acceptable alternative to ensure local businesses aren’t taxed to death.

Saanich council would be well served to actively seek public engagement and support for all initiatives over the next three years. A municipal election with a turnout of only 25 per cent of eligible voters is not conducive to proper representation of the people council is here to serve. An engaged community is the key to making informed decisions, and should be a priority for the current council members.

Leaders need to make the tough decisions and do what’s right for their followers, and while this isn’t always a fun position to be in, it is a necessity to help the Saanich community thrive and prosper. We need to see more focus on the topics that all of Saanich needs and less focus on the wants – the “nice to have” projects – that don’t provide long term benefit to our community.

Jesse McClinton is a Saanich resident who ran unsuccessfully for Saanich council in the November municipal election.

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