Until three or four decades ago, when there were fewer waterfront property owners in North Saanich, few regulations existed as to how beachfronts were treated.
Over the years, as the number of waterfront homes increased most owners have been reasonably careful stewards of the beach and avoided making permanent incursions onto the foreshore. Also, previous North Saanich councils have wisely passed regulations limiting permanent structures on the foreshore, so shorebirds, intertidal critters and human beachcombers could all enjoy a healthy environment.
Now onto the scene come councillors Dunstan Browne, Craig Mearns and Conny McBride, who apparently want to repeal or weaken bylaws that regulate and protect the intertidal zone with bylaw 1295, which came to North Saanich committee of the whole on June 25.
How does one account for this contempt for our common heritage? Many citizens, as I do, see it as an attempt to hijack the broader public interest for the benefit of narrower private interests.
What happens when the rights of the commons – the environment – clash with individual property rights? We do have another option. We can use the precautionary principle until careful investigation tells us that we are not acting in foolhardy ways that threaten the biodiversity and beauty of our shared marine areas.