Hot Weather "Inflames" Coastal Areas

A wildfire risk-advisory, dated July 30, 2010, has been jointly issued by the Coastal Fire Centre, provincial Ministry of Forests and Range and the BC Forest Service. The advisory warns that an extended period of hot and dry weather, without any rain, has dried forests, particularly fuel on the ground. Duff Codes, codes used to measure drought and moisture, are higher than this time last year, which has increased the risk of easy fire ignition and challenging suppression should a wildfire occur. Reports further suggest that fires are growing more quickly and taking more resources to contain compared to just a week ago. Current fire/weather outlooks for next week indicate the potential for dry lightening throughout Southern B.C. but it is expected that these lightening events will not include any appreciable moisture.

Please take note of the following information:
Report all fires as soon as possible to the Coastal Fire Centre 24-hour emergency number at 250-951-4200, providing details about location, size, behaviour and current resources, either deployed or needed. To report a wildfire call 1-800-663-5555 or by cell at *5555.

Please use extreme caution in all North Saanich parks, on trails, at beaches and around your homes where there are extensive tree canopies and/or in areas designated as a wildfire hazard. For further questions about local issues, please contact Chief Gary Wilton at the North Saanich Municipal Hall, 250-656-0781. Thank you.

A Steep Hill To Climb?

Update on the Public Meeting Held July 14, 2010 - Vantreight Hill Development

Reports I have received from North Saanich (NS) and Central Saanich (CS) residents who attended the July 14th public hearing on the Vantreight Hill development proposal suggest that those for and against were fairly evenly split, with perhaps a majority of the audience expressing their opposition to the proposal. I understand that the room was packed and the hearing continued until well after midnight. Speakers were apparently given about 5 minutes each to make comments and the Chair, Central Saanich (CS) Councilor Ron Kubek, managed the meeting well. Reports are that the crowd was orderly and CS Council members listened carefully to what was being said.

Much of the public concern expressed by opponents at the hearing seems to focus on such issues as:
-- gradual loss of agricultural land to large scale development totally out of character with rural Central Saanich
-- development is well outside CS's urban containment boundary
-- increased tax burden for taxpayers related to provision of increased services to housing development (water, sewer, roads and other amenities)
-- CS Councilors reminded about their election promises to uphold Official Community Plan
-- residents want to save local farms but developing rural land to do so does not seem an option they support
-- recent review of Official Community Plan by CS residents reaffirmed community's support of an urban containment boundary
-- majority expressed unequivocally that rural lands are not to be "held" pending future development
-- erosion by CS Council members of local community decision-making, especially related to rural and agricultural lands
-- core to the issue are the regional implications related to the Regional Sustainability Strategy (formerly known as the Regional Growth Strategy or RGS)

I have also learned that there is another possible issue related to sewage treatment and wastewater that may, in the end, involve the CRD. My understanding is that there is a CRD bylaw known as #2312 which sets out the process for subdivision where on site sewage treatment is identified. It means in this case that if the bylaw is applicable, the Vantreights and CS Council may have to seek CRD approval for this development after all. At the time of writing this article, I did not have confirmation about the bylaw's fine print, about whether this bylaw is still current or whether it would apply to the Vantreight Hill Development.

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall and Councilor Peter Chandler also attended the public hearing and observed that those in favour of the development of course included the Vantreights, their supporters and staff that work at their operation. I understand that based on the feedback from the meeting, this will be a complex and difficult decision for the CS Council. North Saanich is taking a special interest in the outcome because of the possible negative impact on NS residents living adjacent to the site, in the SEQ.

Large development decisions are never easy for those elected to make the decision but the overriding question decision-makers must always ask themselves, "What is the overall benefit to the community and its residents?" Other reports from the meeting suggest that there still remain many unanswered questions about the impacts of this proposal, including traffic, water, sewage and regional concerns about unplanned growth in rural areas. Stay tuned...

In response to my article on the July 14th Public Hearing on the Vantreight Hill Proposal, readers who attended the Hearing have e-mailed me to request that I add two further important points raised that evening:
  • A petition of 800 signatures opposing the development was presented at the meeting by a citizens' group
  • Those opposed to the development spoke repeatedly about the fact that the personal financial dilemma the Vantreights find themselves in has nothing to do with Central Saanich.

Water, Cool Clear Water

During spring and summer months, there are always concerns about water consumption and drought conditions throughout the province. I have just received information from the provincial government that provides two websites that will give regular updated information on water and drought conditions affecting water consumption. Hope you find these websites useful and of interest.

For information on the water supply outlook, go to:

For information on drought management go to:

Task Force Recs Will Be Implemented by Government

Four More Years -- Local Elections' Task Force Report's 31 Recommendations Will Be Implemented by BC Government

You will recall that I wrote about the Local Elections' Task Force a few months ago, established in January 2010 by the BC Government in consultation with UBCM. In fact, I made a submission to the group (posted on this blog) articulating my concerns and making a few suggestions for changes to local government elections processes. The long-awaited Task Force Report was released on May 28th along with 31 recommendations for changes as to how British Columbians elect their local governments. The BC Government states that it intends to implement all 31 recommendations through legislation that will be introduced in the 2011 Spring session, just in time for the next round of local elections in November 2011.

I understand that the guiding principles and terms of reference for the Task Force were as follows:

-- Improve access, accountability, transparency, fairness and honesty
-- Provide greater consistency with provincial/federal election rules
-- Encourage flexibility so that the unique needs of local governments are reflected
-- Provide balance and efficiency

I would suggest that these guiding principles also reflected the goal of greater public and candidate participation in local elections. But chief among the Task Force recommendations is to increase the existing 3-year election term to 4 years.

While I understand the rationale behind this recommendation (need for greater continuity and more time for local governments to achieve their goals), it is also argued that a longer term may discourage potential candidates from running for local office, given the 4-year commitment. I sincerely hope not. Yes, the decision to run for local office is a big commitment and one that, if you are elected, can carry with it an almost 24/7 level of responsibility. But if ordinary citizens who are quality candidates stop running because they feel that they are unable to commit to a 4-year term, then over time, part of the thrust of the Task Force and its report may be somewhat diminished.

Let's hope that members of the public will not be discouraged from becoming actively involved in local government, as voters but more importantly, as candidates. I believe that local government is closest to the people, has the greatest potential to make a difference to the community and its residents and is one of the most important elections in which we participate. Whether you are a voter, an elected official or a volunteer, if the results of this Task Force and its recommendations encourage greater public participation in local government elections by all British Columbians, then I feel that the Task Force will have made a positive difference to our democratic process.