MLA Holman predicts a busy year ahead on the Saanich Peninsula

The New Democrat MLA for Saanich North and the Islands sat down for coffee with the PNR before the new year.

MLA Gary Holman says he’s right where he wants to be in 2015.

The New Democrat MLA for Saanich North and the Islands sat down for coffee with the PNR before the new year. Holman said, locally, he has been working on issues like affordable housing, transit service, conservation and even amalgamation. Provincially, he said he likes the work he’s doing on electoral reform, having been named the NDP’s point man on the issue. Holman said he has been somewhat frustrated at the provincial level, what with the B.C. Liberals’ “winner take all” attitude.

“Three sessions in the legislature and not one amendment by our party or anyone else has been accepted by government.”

Not all that surprising when one considers the records of most majority governments in this province or in Canada. So, Holman said, he has concentrated on where he can have more of an impact — on the Saanich Peninsula and the Gulf Islands.

While his constituency office in Sidney deals with day-to-day problems of area residents, Holman has had time to explore other topics shared by more people. He started an affordable housing needs assessment proposal, getting all three Peninsula municipalities to offer their support. He enlisted the services of the Capital Regional District’s housing secretariat to administer a study. In the new year, he said he has to find the resources and funding to get to work. It’ll be done in phases, starting with meeting with stakeholders and creating a supply and demand document to outline the overall need for affordable housing in the area.

“Determining the need, that’s the first step,” he said, adding he’ll work with other groups like local industry interests, local First Nations and MP Elizabeth May’s committee on the same issue.

From there, specific needs could be identified and the information used by proponents to help develop more affordable housing.

Hand-in-glove with housing comes transportation, Holman said. While B.C. Transit recently announced changes to service on the Saanich Peninsula, he said there’s a dearth of east-west public transport options. In seeking ways to improve that situation, Holman points to proposed increases in gas tax in the region to pay for additional service. Such an idea could also change people’s habits, he continued, and drive more people into buses.

Conservation issues on the Saanich Peninsula are on Holman’s radar screen in 2015. He has met with groups like Peninsula Streams and others, and came to the conclusion the area needs to have more discussion. Dwindling local funding and overall support for conservation initiatives, is a big issue, Holman said.

“We can be paying more attention to environmental issues on the Peninsula.”

On amalgamation, Holman said “the big A” could take years. On the Peninsula, he noted all three municipalities are already tight-knit, while further opportunities could be explored.

“The province has committed to doing (a study), but it’s complicated since the Peninsula’s (amalgamation question) was just about the Peninsula.”

Holman added he hopes Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich will address more local efficiencies at its tri-municipal functions in 2015 and over the next four years.