Driving down a long, sloped pathway off Mount Newton X Road, one reaches the home of Alastair Bryson.
The property, bounded to the west by Woodwynn Farm and to the south by Tsartlip First Nation land, sprawls across a chunk of the Mount Newton Valley.
“Don’t worry about your shoes. As you can see, this is a farmhouse,” Bryson, the mayoral candidate, tells the visitor, who notes the unfinished wooden floors.
The home is not showy or flashy, but appears perfectly functional.
It should come as no surprise then, that this two-term Central Saanich councillor hasn’t been hitting the campaign trail hard, shaking hands and making appearances around the municipality.
“The campaign is a bit of a flash at best,” he says. “The question (for voters) is how have I represented them over the past six years? I trust the community to make the decision and decide who can make the most useful mayor.”
Voters have many concerns, from the state of the district’s finances, to boosting a struggling Keating X Road industrial park, to accommodating and allowing for residential and commercial growth.
In his time on council, Bryson, 52, has seen the district’s financial position continue to take a nosedive. Cutting into the current $13-million debt will take “careful financial management,” and increasing the district’s tax base through various types of development, he says.
The residential densification study commissioned by the district will determine what is and isn’t acceptable for residents in terms of development, and will be critical to shaping the vision for Central Saanich. Doing so would give potential investors a clearer idea of what the expectations are here, he says, whether they are looking at Keating, Saanichton, Brentwood Bay or elsewhere. “Dollars are lost by not having a defined vision,” Bryson says.
Making Central Saanich a more inviting place to do business requires changing from a “persuade us” approach to development proposals to “What can we do to help you?”
“It’s a bit of a land-of-plenty, complacency approach,” Bryson says. “Fiscally that may not be sustainable.”
It may take a change in the culture of staff as well as for politicians to show a will to change things, he adds.
Asked what Central Saanich’s biggest challenges are, he uses his favourite word: opportunity.
“We have to keep Central Saanich providing opportunities for farmers to make a living, for businesses to thrive and for families to have opportunities to live and obtain affordable accommodation.”
Recognizing that a healthy, prosperous municipality depends on all of those aspects is critical to moving Central Saanich forward, he says.