YEAR IN REVIEW: The top stories on the Peninsula in 2011

We take a look back at the top news stories that made headlines on the Saanich Peninsula in 2011

May – Local firefighters prepare for the Big Burn challenge at Panorama Recreation Centre.

May – Local firefighters prepare for the Big Burn challenge at Panorama Recreation Centre.


The Central Saanich ratepayers society made good on its promise to take the District of Central Saanich to court over the Vantreight development. The district started 2011 with a challenge filed Jan. 12 in B.C. Supreme Court alleging “that the municipality of Central Saanich erred in allowing the subdivision to proceed, as it is contrary to the terms of the official community plan which, according to the Local Government Act of B.C., takes precedence over council decisions.” The suit asked the court to quash or set aside the bylaw that allowed the subdivision.

In his reasons for judgement released April 18, Justice Victor Curtis stated, “I am not persuaded that bylaw 1712 is inconsistent with the official community plan adopted by the District of Central Saanich and I dismiss the petition to quash the bylaw.”

In October, Ian Vantreight won both a B.C. Supreme Court and a Court of Appeal ruling that deemed his development plans for 57 single-family houses did not violate Central Saanich’s official community plan.



In February the government got local military personnel excited when they announced a new $155 million helicopter facility for 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron near the Victoria International Airport.

“Here at Pat Bay, we shall build a combined operations and maintenance centre for 443 Squadron,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the announcement. “It will be ready in 2014, that’s when the squadron will need it as it re-equips with the Cyclone [helicopter]. The new building will consolidate all squadron functions under one roof making the squadron more efficient in many ways. It will also be a solid investment in the future of naval aviation in Canada.”

Ground broke in the fall for the 20,000 square-metre feet facility to replace 60-plus-year-old hangar currently in use, in time for the nine new CH-148 Cyclone helicopters slated to arrive in the spring of 2014.



Stelly’s secondary sent an invitation the world when it announced construction of a new state of the art climbing facility for the Central Saanich school in March.

“The goal is to enable students to discover and pursue a passion for climbing within a supportive community,” said Kimanda Jarzebiak, chair of the board at the Boulders Climbing Gym. “It’s going to allow students from Grade 9 to 12 to replace two courses a year with climbing related content, whether it’s physiology and training, probably a good grasp of physics at some point, as well as climbing technique and the ability to take those skills outside in a structured manner.”

The announcement coincided with news that registration was open for a new climbing academy at the school, and that Boulders will host the World Youth Climbing Championships in August 2013 – a first for North America.

“This will bring thousands of athletes,” said MLA Murray Coell. “We’re known in the capital region for rowing, for swimming, we’re now going to be known internationally for climbing.”

The world-class facility that includes a 60-foot climbing wall with varying degrees of difficulty opened in the fall.



Everyone’s favourite trio of traffic circles highlighted the month when traffic started using the McTavish interchange. On budget and on time, the first major components of the project opened April 9. The interchange, intended to improve the safety and flow of traffic at McTavish Road and Highway 17 near Victoria International Airport, created about 150 jobs.

“It was part of the federal and provincial stimulus package, so all of those projects kept literally hundreds of people in work during the worst phase of the recession,” said Murray Coell MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.

The federal and provincial governments each funded $10.5 million through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund while the Victoria Airport Authority invested $3 million.



A major change in the political landscape marked May as longtime Conservative MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Gary Lunn, lost his seat to Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

“My goal as an MP is to be of service. … I want to be a problem solving hub and that will mean finding some very good staff,” said May the evening she won the seat. “I stand here today as the first elected Green member of parliament in Canadian history, and I remain committed … to rejecting the politics of cynicism and fear, to embracing hope, to respect and bringing respect back to our House of Commons.”



June marked the first of many Sandown Park stories in the News Review. The proposal put forward by the district and property owners would see 83 acres of Agricultural Land Reserve in municipal hands. The proposal would see just over 12 acres of municipally owned land moved into the ALR in exchange for the removal of 12 acres of the Sandown property close to McDonald Park Road. The municipal property would be part of the more than 20 acres near municipal hall.

The proposal also includes the removal of commercial uses from 83 of the 95 acres and the transfer of the remaining 83 acre parcel to municipal ownership, with a covenant to ensure the land remains in agricultural use in perpetuity. After the municipal election, tides changed and four members of council in December voted down signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Agricultural Land Commission. Councillors Dunstan Browne, Conny McBride, Craig Mearns and Ted Daly all said they needed more information on the associated costs.



The Peninsula Co-op saga took a major twist when it announced in July that the company signed with Tsartlip to build a new grocery store on First Nations land. The Co-op announced on July 21 that it had come to an agreement with the Tsartlip First Nation to lease more than five acres of land at the corner of Gowdy Road and Stelly’s X Road in Central Saanich to build a grocery store, gas bar and retail centre. Tsartlip Chief Wayne Morris said the Tsartlip First Nation community had been working on a development project for more than two years. The interim agreement was ratified by referendum at Tsartlip in early October.

The Co-op had been working with the District of Central Saanich to build its new store on West Saanich Road near Keating X Road.



Henry Down, now two, struck the hearts of the community when the toddler was diagnosed with cancer in August.

Henry was admitted to the B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver with a diagnosis of neuroblastoma. Henry had a 14 centimetre long, stage four tumour that doctors said had spread to different parts of his body. He started round after round of chemotherapy. After surgery in December, mom Alix and dad Jo got the good news that Henry was ready to go home.



A rumour made the pages of the PNR in September when Tsawout Chief Harvey Underwood went on record as seeking a safe way in and out of his community.

The recently elected Underwood said he and his council were hard at work negotiating a safe access to and exit from the Tsawout First Nation, which sits near the intersection of Mount Newton X Road and Highway 17, with the Ministry of Transportation and Highways.

“We’re looking for the best solution,” he said.

Addressing rumours in the community of a large development, including Costco, Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart, proposed on Tsawout property, Underwood would only say that he hopes to comment in about four months time, a statement he reiterated as rumours continued in December.

“Right now, it’s safe in and safe out, access off the highway. There’s always the potential [for development] once we have a safe way in and out.”



A tale of Good Samaritans stood out among election talk in October.

Six people stepped up to the plate after a car veered off Highway 17 on Oct. 26. The vehicle was northbound in the passing lane of the Pat Bay Highway around 2 p.m. when it suddenly swept across the travel lane and into a ditch near the Keating X Road turnoff. The vehicle hit the ditch in a skid and rolled onto its side. Six people held the vehicle while awaiting Central Saanich fire. Four happened to be a crew on their way to work and were trained in first aid.

“If the vehicle had flipped it could have caused greater injuries to the driver,” said Cpl. Janis Jean of Central Saanich police at the time. “These Good Samaritans just jumped in to help.”

The 19-year-old Central Saanich driver was taken to Victoria General Hospital with non life threatening injuries.



New Mayor Alastair Bryson took the helm in Central Saanich, and councillors claimed seats across the region in the Nov. 19 municipal election. Sidney Mayor Larry Cross reclaimed his seat in time to celebrate inking a long-term deal for the Anacortes ferry. The town approved a 20-year lease with the Seattle-based company for the Anacortes-Sidney route starting Jan. 1. The route has been under threat of cancellation in recent years due to state funding cuts.

The ferry service operates until tomorrow, Dec. 31, and resumes March 18.



A two-year saga finally came to a near close in December when two men were convicted of causing an elderly horse to suffer. David Whiffin and Clayton Cunningham were found guilty of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal, and of not providing proper care in the case of Jalupae the Appaloosa, in provincial court on Dec. 13. Judge Sue Wishart said the men caused the horse to suffer by failing to properly feed it and give Jalupae the dental treatment needed.The men hanged the horse on Sept. 15, 2009 and buried it on Whiffin’s Brentwood Bay property.

They are scheduled for sentencing March 23. The maximum penalty for causing unnecessary suffering is five years in jail, or a $10,000 fine plus 18 months in jail.