Skip to content

Saanich Peninsula Chamber executive director fears region could start losing companies

Al Smith says lack of housing threatens region’s economic future
Al Smith, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, calls for more affordable housing in the region to help keep it attractive for workers in the face of an aging workforce. (Photo courtesy of Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce)

The executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce warns that the lack of housing on the Saanich Peninsula today threatens the region’s prosperity tomorrow.

“And it’s not only going to risk the prosperity, it is going to make living here even more expensive for the people who are not trying to create density,” he said.

Al Smith made these comments while discussing new figures from Statistics Canada’s 2021 census that show Canada’s working population has never been older, as more than one in five (21.8 per cent) persons of working age are aged 55 to 64. This figure represents an all-time high in the history of Canadian censuses and is one of the factors behind the labour shortages facing some industries across the country, according to Statistics Canada. It also notes that the number of persons aged 55 to 64 now exceeds the number of young adults aged 15 to 24, the age at which individuals typically enter the labour market.

Sidney and the Saanich Peninsula tend to be older than the rest of the country and Smith warns that already well-documented labour shortages in the region will get worse.

“It (labour shortage) is exaggerated here on the Saanich Peninsula even more than in other places because this is basically a retirement mecca,” he said. Life on the Saanich Peninsula, he predicts, is going to get more and more expensive because a smaller and smaller workforce will be able to command higher and higher wages. “We are heading into an employees’ market,” he said.

RELATED: Housing crunch, province-wide doctor shortage collide in Oak Bay

Younger individuals with families are moving to places where they can afford to live, he said. “So at the end of the day, the things we need to help with that are housing, but that is never going to happen because of the way the municipalities don’t want to build more housing. Density is not something that people want on the Saanich Peninsula. Everybody seems to be against it because they want to protect their investments. But what they are going to find is that their cost of living is going to far surpass the investment increases they are going to see in their houses. That is just my prediction.”

Ultimately, the high cost of housing poses a risk to the competitiveness of the region. Younger people struggling with the high cost of housing cannot afford to live in the region, with many having to rely on transit for commuting to and from work. “That means the Peninsula is right out of the equation,” he said. “We have horrible public transit and nobody can afford to live out here,” he said.

Smith also predicts that health care is going to be a challenge due to a lack of staffing.

“So it’s a big problem for everyone, but what is unique about the Saanich Peninsula is that we have such an amazing place that is in high demand,” he said. “If we play our cards right, we could bring a lot more people here to work, because it is such an amazing place to live and work. But the challenge with that is that there is nowhere for them to live. If we don’t fix this problem, everything is going to get more expensive and companies are going to be moving.”

Do you have a story tip? Email:

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
Read more