With many young families and enlightened municipal leadership, the future is bright for the West Shore.
But this future is threatened by archaic decision making processes and a failure at the Capital Regional District to recognize and respond constructively to phenomenal growth here.
The West Shore’s urban centres are growing at an average of 10 to 12 per cent per year. By contrast CRD’s projections for growth in Victoria, Saanich and the Saanich peninsula areas are minor.
The vibrancy and future growth Greater Victoria rests with the West Shore where more than 120,000 people will soon reside compared to Victoria’s relatively static 85,000.
Such enormously high growth requires very aggressive infrastructure moves and careful planning.
However in many instances the representatives of the citizens of the West Shore are underrepresented and out-voted on key infrastructure matters.
It is now time those regional governing bodies take the West Shore and its needs more seriously. There are numerous examples: schools, roads and rail, waste water management, parks, hiking and biking trails, and more.
West Shore under representation shows itself most notably with the recent rapid transit light rail transportation plans. Despite unanimous support by all the West Shore mayors for use of the existing E&N corridor for easing commuter traffic, BC Transit recommended the preferences of Victoria and Saanich for a corridor down Douglas street.
It’s important to understand that the CRD votes by population size and/or budget size on all matters.
For now that means that Victoria and Saanich constantly overrule the West Shore on many matters related to our health and prosperity, and in particular matters of infrastructure. Even existing committees on transportation under-represent the West Shore.
For example, with the recent proposal to have the CRD control regional transportation matters, nothing would change except that taxation to fund transportation infrastructure would be removed from BC Transit.
While this a good idea unto itself, the governance model, already dysfunctional from a West Shore point of view, remains so.
Alternatively, several West Shore mayors have suggested a three part structure wherein Saanich and the Peninsula, Victoria, and the West Shore each has the right to determine their transportation needs and costs, including tax levies. I call the current regional governance system “the past determining the future” and it is neither wise nor fair.
It’s time to enter a new era of municipal collaboration with mutual respect for vastly different needs. An innovative regional transportation governance structure would be a good start.
—Dan Spinner is the CEO of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.