Practise what you preach, Saanich

Letter to the editor on community consultation on Craigflower Bridge replacement

I live in a lovely part of Saanich, close to the Gorge Waterway. And because I care about where I live, I’m involved with my neighbours in the Gorge Tillicum Community Association (GTCA). We are a strong group, proactive and positive in our outlook, and in our dealings with Saanich municipal hall. So why have I turned reactive and critical?

When major developers approach Saanich with plans for our neighbourhood, they are directed to our association to share the information and receive our considered community response. When it comes to municipal projects we have the same expectations.

Recently we have been in close contact with the engineering department as the work on Admirals Road has progressed, all realizing that it has particular traffic issues, at certain times of the day. So when it was announced in spring 2011 that the Craigflower Bridge is to be replaced, we assumed that community consultation would ensue.

In early summer, to much political acclaim, we heard that a substantial grant had been awarded using gas tax funding to replace the aging bridge.

It was only in the fall that we realized the successful application for funding the new bridge has been based upon three vehicle lanes, plus adjoining pedestrian and cycling paths. But nobody asked us!

From October to December three public consultations took place (all in View Royal, none in Saanich).

All bridge ‘options’ presented were based on three lanes, and imagine our consternation when we learned that the bridge will expand from its current 8.5m to 20m in width. Next time you cross, imagine a bridge 2.5 times larger. And despite our growing objections, they seem like a fait accompli.

In 2011 the University of Victoria brought a proposal to Saanich to build a new large parking garage close to the McKinnon Gym. There was public outcry about the size and form, so much so that UVic is sent packing, not once, but twice by council, as they have not conducted “meaningful community consultation.”

But if UVic has to conduct meaningful community consultation, doesn’t that mean the Saanich engineering department should be expected to do the same?

To this community activist there seems to be a distinct disconnect here, and the principle of consultation lies lost in the mud.

Harry Lewis, past president,

Gorge Tillicum Community Association