Traffic jams on the Malahat have become a regular occurance and have generated calls for an alternate route. But the proposal has also raised environmental concern. (Black Press File)

Traffic jams on the Malahat have become a regular occurance and have generated calls for an alternate route. But the proposal has also raised environmental concern. (Black Press File)

Saanich diverts decision around Malahat alternative to regional district

Council says it is up to the CRD, not municipality, to take up issue with province

Saanich has informally stated its opposition to an alternative Malahat route cutting through the Greater Victoria Water Supply Area, but held back a motion to address the provincial government.

Coun. Colin Plant, who chairs the Capital Regional District (CRD), said the municipality should raise the issue with the provincial government through the CRD rather than bypass it by writing directly to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI).

RELATED: CRD commission votes against alternate Malahat route through watershed

READ MORE: Watershed concerns prompt opposition to alternate Malahat routes

“I have been on the record saying that we shouldn’t go through the watershed to build it,” he said, adding it would be inappropriate for Saanich to bypass the CRD. “I don’t believe we should be discussing it. It opens us up to a potential situation, where anytime something happens in another jurisdiction, we may want to bypass [regional authorities] and write letters directly to ministers, and I don’t think that this is a good precedent to make.”

The majority of council ultimately agreed with his motion to table consideration of Coun. Nathalie Chambers’ motion objecting to highway construction through both watershed lands and CRD park lands.

Chambers, along with Couns. Rebecca Mersereau and Judy Brownoff, opposed postponement.

Recognizing the hierarchy the government, it is nonetheless important for Saanich to highlight the importance of the regional watershed, Chambers said, noting that an alternative Malahat route cutting through the regional watershed could threaten the provision of drinkwater, one of the municipalities’ key responsibilities.

Mayor Fred Haynes said he too opposes an alternative Malahat route cutting through the watershed. “My concern is the procedural part,” he said.

For Saanich to take up the issue before Wednesday’s CRD board meeting would dilute the work of Saanich’s five CRD directors, he said, adding that the Regional Water Supply Commission had already voted against an alternative Malahat route cutting through the watershed.


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wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com