Despite being the eighth-largest municipality in B.C., Saanich remains a district, not a city. In his 2020 mayoral address on Dec. 7, Mayor Fred Haynes proposed Saanich consider changing that.
It’s unclear to many that Saanich is not a city, Haynes said, noting a recent example during a meeting of the BC Urban Mayors Caucus. Other members pointed out that as a district, it’s possible Saanich does not qualify for a seat at the table.
Haynes suggests after 114 years as a district, it’s time to be a city.
Home to 124,000 residents, Saanich has three MLAs and leads at an international level, he said, noting Saanich was one of 88 global municipalities to receive an A-grade from the Carbon Disclosure Project for the reporting of climate data.
In another example, Coun. Judy Brownoff gave the keynote address on age-friendly communities at the World Health Capital Conference in Japan in 2019 and Saanich was held up as an example of well-balanced cities – despite not being a city.
“If we’re outperforming the cities, let’s be a city,” Haynes said.
A municipality can reclassify if a “different status would better reflect its growth and development,” Haynes said. He feels Saanich has reached the stage where city status would benefit residents.
The City of Delta made the change in 2017. At the time, its council pointed out that an identity struggle was among the reasons for reclassifying. The inclusion of “The Corporation” in Delta’s former name resulted in confusion when a delegation went to the Netherlands. Officials from Rotterdam mistook the Corporation of Delta as a business rather than a local government.
Haynes acknowledged the need to complete the amalgamation study with the City of Victoria that both communities voted for in 2018. Reclassifying Saanich as a city should be a separate conversation after the pending Citizens Assembly on amalgamation, he said.
The matters “are not necessarily linked, but they have linkages” and there is no point in going through the reclassification process if Saanich and Victoria end up amalgamating, Haynes said.
While emphasizing that he respects the Citizens Assembly process, Haynes said he feels it would be best to “reclassify as the City of Saanich and maintain our independence.” Becoming a city is a “straightforward change” that requires elector approval and would cost far less than amalgamation, he said.