Mayor candidates largely agreeable at lunch

Topics range from traffic issues to local housing for local employees

Not surprising given the makeup of the audience, all four men vying for mayoral seats on the Peninsula say they will support business if elected.

Alastair Bryson and Christopher Graham, seeking the top job in Central Saanich, answered questions alongside Sidney mayoral candidates Larry Cross and Jack Barker during a luncheon meeting hosted by Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Alice Finall, the mayor acclaimed in North Saanich, also participated in the discussion.

Transportation, highway access, housing and a business-friendly culture on the Peninsula all made the question session and got similar answers from the candidates.

“Sidney is struggling to look at worker housing,” Cross said. “Our challenge is land, and because we have so little land, costs are high.”

“I agree with Larry, we need to look at that,” Barker said. “We need affordable and attainable housing in our three communities.”

They also agreed in principle on signage issues in the town.

“We need to revisit this, but we need to be careful of our signage,” Barker said. Huge signs could ruin the quaint atmosphere of the main streets, he added.

“The sign bylaw, like many of our other bylaws, is antiquated … It’s prohibitive, it’s unfriendly,” Cross said. He added that signage was next on the docket after council has dealt with the ongoing look at the town’s zoning bylaw.

The Central Saanich candidates, too, found places to agree, noting that the Keating X Road industrial area provides opportunity for growth. The business-based audience asked whether it was realistic to envision achieving safer access from the highway to Keating anytime soon.

Bryson, a current Central Saanich councillor, said they’ve made inroads with provincial ministries that led them to believe a good business case will get the ball rolling.

“It’s definitely an issue of dollars and priorities for the province,” Graham said, adding it could be a long, uphill battle.

While the series of roundabouts at the airport weren’t the simplest concept for an interchange, candidates agreed, they do function.

The roundabout slated for Ocean Avenue and Lochside Drive split the Sidney candidates. They were asked that if the project appeared to be over budget, would they not only consider constructing a four-way stop instead, but reinstate the visitor centre removed to create Iroquois Park.

The roundabout, funded with gas tax funds, would need public review, Barker said. “I want to talk about what is best for our community.”

The problem, he and Cross agreed, is ferry traffic.

“(A roundabout) will keep that traffic flowing and it will be traffic calming for (vehicles) coming north into Sidney,” Cross said.

The plan now, he added, is to divert ferry traffic into Sidney to the visitor information centre on Bevan Avenue.