First All Candidates Meeting tackles suites, LRT, and regional planning

The first of nine all-candidates meetings for Saanich council hopefuls is in the bag.

Hosted by the Victoria Real Estate Board Monday, councillor candidates had the opportunity to speak on such issues as legalizing secondary suites, light rail on Douglas Street and McKenzie Avenue and slow processing of building permits.

“Right now there’s no incentive. Those legalizing (their secondary suite) are spending more money than those cutting corners,” said candidate Harald Wolf, advocating for an expanded border for legal suites. Incumbent Leif Wergeland agreed that giving homeowners incentives to legalize would help.

Dean Murdock and Vicki Sanders stressed that legalizing suites is a safety measure. Both incumbents supported expanding the legal suite area beyond homes south of McKenzie Avenue, so long as the new areas are near amenities and transit.

Rob Wickson, a strong advocate for light-rail transit, said the cost of a system from downtown Victoria to Langford comes with a hefty price tag. But he said residents aren’t aware that much of their tax dollars are spent to improve roads used by single-occupancy vehicles.

“What is the expense of not doing (light-rail on Douglas)?” asked incumbent Vic Derman, saying if it isn’t implemented the region will likely “degenerate.”

Susan Brice and Paul Gerrard both called for a referendum once a full business case is available. That would allow Capital Region residents to decide themselves whether a billion-dollar light-rail system is their preference.

Casey Edge, director of the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association, asked candidates how they would improve the notoriously slow issuance of building permits in Saanich.

“We’re not Langford. Saanich will never be Langford. We have many more hoops for people to jump through, like environmental and transit (expectations),” said incumbent Judy Brownoff, defending a more thorough approval process.

Nichola Wade commended Saanich staff for doing what is asked by council, even if it takes more time.

“We (as councillors) set the vision, that’s our role – it’s not handling things at a staff level,” Wade said.

Candidates Ingrid Ip and Jesse McClinton were absent from the meeting.

The three mayoral candidates were not asked to take part in Monday’s debate.

There are eight more all-candidates meetings scheduled prior to the Nov. 19 election.