North Saanich won another UBCM Community Excellence Award for its Whole Agricultural Strategy, awarded at this week's Convention in Vancouver. This marks the second award in two years recognizing the municipality's leadership on new and innovative initiatives. Mayor Alice Finall, Councilor Cairine Green and CAO Rob Buchan were on hand to proudly accept this year's award, one that recognizes communities from across the Province. North Saanich won its last Community Excellence Award for its Jump Bike Park, presented at the 2009 UBCM Convention.

Reaching the Right People at the Right Time

I joined other Council members and senior staff in a communications workshop arranged by our Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan and Mayor Alice Finall. The impetus for this workshop was the need to coordinate communication to the public from Mayor and Council and the municipality on all major projects and events in which the District is involved. Improving communication with residents and the community has been a priority for this Council and municipal administration, particularly in the past three years.

We learned that key to good communication is the ability to "reach the right people at the right time" and that good communication should be:
  • strategic
  • consistent
  • timely
  • build on strengths and successes
  • proactive
  • reflect best practices
  • prioritized
Good communication should also be open and timely with the goal of reaching the broader community but also focusing on groups who are most affected by an issue, event or decision. Good communication practices help an organization such as local government to anticipate questions and issues from the public with facts.

It is also important to get enough information, the right information at the right time. Issues/questions raised by Council members included:
  • communicating more effectively with youth
  • knowing how and when to use the media
  • focusing on key messages
  • staff's role in information-sharing
  • managing the truth (fact vs. fiction)
The workshop concluded with a survey that asked us general questions about the importance of communication at various levels of the organization and will be used to inform the development of a District-wide communications strategy.

I found the workshop to be valuable and informative and I thank staff for their part in arranging this learning experience. I hope that what we learned will translate to how effectively the District, staff and Council members communicate in the future with North Saanich residents.


Victoria Airport Authority Unveils Master Plan

In a presentation to Council, VAA's Marketing Manager Terry Stewart outlined their Master Development Plan, including a new business park proposed for Willingdon Rd. involving conversion to light industrial of 43 acres of Federal farmland. In response to Council's concern about the potential loss of productive land, the VAA explained that there is no Agricultural Land Reserve to protect federal lands but despite this, the VAA continues to farm large tracts of their land around the airport.

But in what I think is a groundbreaking move, the Airport Authority has offered to donate to North Saanich all the topsoil from the Willingdon Rd. construction site for local farmland remediation as well as nearly four acres of parkland on Mills Rd., adjacent to the Anglican Church overlooking Pat Bay. Uses for this land could include locating the North Saanich Farm Market there during the summer season. Terry Stewart acknowledged the cooperation and significant input of Municipal staff in these discussions, noting specifically the positive efforts of our CAO Rob Buchan.

Other North Saanich community amenities under consideration as part of the VAA's Plan include new cycle and walking paths, enhanced public transit, completion of local heritage projects, rainwater management, solar/geo-thermal heating and LEED standard buildings. A unique feature of the proposed Willingdon Rd. business park site is the design, which will be built in a circular shape described as a "campus" that will also expand the airport's existing approach to responsible environmental stewardship.

The VAA concluded with a request for municipal validation of the Plan, part of the required approval process, despite the fact North Saanich has no jurisdiction over federal land. But I was happy to make a motion last night recommending validation in principle, subject to addressing some questions from Council and audience members, through a brief North Saanich staff report, that will be presented to us on September 19.

In closing, I believe that North Saanich enjoys a positive relationship with the VAA through a partnership that provides a variety of community amenities, such as cycle paths, Hospital Hill heritage restoration, rainwater management in and around the airport, intersection improvements at MacDonald Park and Mills Roads, water and drainage improvements to North Saanich infrastructure and, of course, increased tax revenues and new jobs that accompany new business and economic development.

I commend the Victoria Airport Authority for its excellent corporate citizenship and its proven track record in working with local government to find innovative solutions to shared concerns. Yes, an airport in the heart of the community creates issues and is challenging for residents and the municipality but this working partnership between the VAA and the District of North Saanich reflects the very best of a shared commitment to community-building and well-being.

For more information about the VAA, please visit their website at:

Sandown Property Out of the Gate

The first legal steps to moving the Sandown proposal forward were made following deliberation of two comprehensive staff reports (on required legalities/traffic and environmental reports) and lengthy Council debate at both the Committee of the Whole and Council meetings. Some amendments were made to accommodate what I believe were last minute objections by Councilor Browne (shared by Councilor Mearns), despite their being part of the discussions and privy to all staff reports occurring since May 2011.

The proposal now goes to the ALC but it only meets once more this calendar year (October) and then not again until April 2012 so timing was critical. And the Commission is the first step to changing the designation of Sandown to facilitate the current proposal. If the ALC says no, the proposal stops there. To delay the decision to begin the legal approvals could jeopardize the entire proposal so I am gratified with Council's decision to move forward with first steps.

Another public Town Hall meeting will be held on September 20, 2011 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the District Hall, 1620 Mills Road.

Municipal Auditor-General Causes Interesting Debate

Not everyone on Council is convinced by the suggestion from the Provincial Government to establish an Office of the Municipal Auditor-General to oversee municipal budgeting and financial management.

I believe that this idea is unnecessary and potentially costly to municipal taxpayers, an opinion shared by some other Council members and by many colleagues across BC. We are also reminded that current provincial legislation provides for both an Inspector of Municipalities and provisions that prevent municipalities from running deficits so why the need for more oversight? And in view of the Province's concerns about potential financial hardship because of the recently-defeated HST, how can it rationalize all the costs in setting up another bureaucracy?

I am sure that this will be a hot topic of debate at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities' Annual Convention, when municipalities from all over the province gather together to contemplate their future.


At a September 7 Special Council Meeting to host a public hearing for two newly revised by-laws, one was approved but the new zoning by-law was referred back to staff for further research and clarification following good questions and points raised by a local resident during the Public Hearing, points that were also acknowledged and shared by Council. The zoning by-law review has been a work in progress since Spring 2008 when the former Mayor and Council started the process. What precipitated the review to amend the zoning by-law was because it was inconsistent with provisions of the 2007 Official Community Plan, thereby leaving the Municipality potentially exposed, both legally and in relation to zoning bylaw interpretation.

I am hopeful that the amended zoning by-law will be adopted before the end of this Council's term, given that it has taken 3 and a half years to complete the review. This was a necessary and significant body of work and Mayor Alice Finall and staff should be commended for moving the process forward.