Affordable housing and maintaining the rural, urban balance were central issues at an all-candidates forum in Central Saanich Saturday.
Some 200 attendees listened as the five incumbents faced three newcomers: Kathryn Parfitt, Tayler Ruygrok and Joshua Steeper at the event, organized by the Saanich Inlet Protection Society.
Five-term councillor Chris Graham said he would apply his accounting skills to the job followed by Coun. Carl Jensen who touted his leadership role in bringing a new cenotaph to Pioneer Park in time for Remembrance Day. Jensen also reminded voters of his involvement with the Greater Victoria Housing Society, securing two affordable housing projects for Central Saanich.
Coun. Bob Thompson spoke of his support for the residential infill project and farm worker accommodation, while Coun. Zeb King emphasized his record of listening to resident concerns, citing better bus service into Tsawout and greater availability of car-sharing and electric vehicle charging stations as proof.
Coun. Niall Paltiel said he would prioritize traffic safety for all road users, affordability, and a clean environment.
Of the newcomers, Kathryn Parfitt said she took a citizen-driven approach to policy making, and did not want to govern on “rigid opinions and political ideology.”
Like Paltiel, fellow newcomer Tayler Ruygrok also campaigned on road safety and attainable homes in the area.
Gord Newton, a local business owner and umpire at Extreme Fastball, said in a statement that he has been attending council meetings for the past year to learn how council works, how to create motions and how meetings are conducted.
Most candidates supported tiny homes on wheels (separate from carriage homes on foundations) with some conditions. Ruygrok said it depended on location, Paltiel said parking and aesthetics would be a concern, and Graham said conceptually he is supportive but “the devil’s in the details.”
Steeper said he was skeptical of tiny homes and “not optimistic that it’s a healthy form of housing to add to our mix.”
Candidates expressed little interest in expanding Central Saanich’s Urban Containment Boundary (UCB), which limits development to certain areas of Central Saanich.
When the issue was last at the council table, expansion was defeated 4-3, and even councillors who voted for the expansion said they would respect that decision, including Jensen.
King, who has made preserving the UCB a key platform point, challenged other councillors to say the same. Ruygrok said she is opposed to changing the boundaries, saying she heard residents’ opposition to urban sprawl. “It would have to be something very, very special to consider moving it,” she said.
Newcomers were asked for their view on the Brentwood Bay Management Plan, which would see the District of Central Saanich manage the bay. The plan promises to address pollution in the waters, but it is contentious among boaters for the additional fees and insurance requirements. Parfitt and Ruygrok supported the current council’s decision to seek an occupation licence from the province.
“This was the first year we’ve had pollution where you couldn’t go in and swim,” said Ruygrok. “It needs to be cleaned up and we need to have some sort of regulation on these boats.”
All candidates campaigned on creating an overpass to access Keating Cross Road, currently an uncontrolled turn-off and the site of frequent car crashes.
Candidates were also asked how to make the community more child and family friendly.
Parfitt said many policies targeted the precariously housed, and wanted to include middle-class residents in the conversation, as well as encourage more community events to pry people from social media and electronics.
Paltiel wanted to encourage a new recreation facility in Central Saanich with a weight room, multipurpose room, and daycare. Ruygrok said affordable child care spaces were lacking in Central Saanich, and wanted to increase its availability. Steeper emphasized home ownership over renting to “set roots and be there for 50 years.”
Another Central Saanich all-candidates forum is scheduled for Tues. Oct 16 from 7-9 p.m. at Stelly’s Secondary School.