Tim Collins/News staff
Meetings may be a necessary aspect of political life but, for Sidney Mayor Steve Price, the tri-municipal meeting between the mayors and councils of Sidney and North and Central Saanich was one meeting too much.
Even so, more than a year after withdrawing from those meetings, effectively ending the practice, Sidney has agreed to attend a meeting of the three municipalities in September to discuss the question of affordable housing on the Saanich Peninsula.
“We withdrew from those meetings because they were drifting into agendas that were not at all related to Sidney, driven by certain councillors that wanted to bring up items that had nothing to do with municipal governance,” explained Price.
“It got to the point where we were howling in the wilderness too much, discussing issues like tanker traffic or pipeline construction. I am always available to discuss issues that are of importance to our residents if we have the power to do something about them, but that really wasn’t the case a lot of the time.”
Around the same time that the tri-municipal meetings were ended, Sidney and North Saanich had been embroiled in a public spat over the site of Sidney’s new community safety building.
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said he can understand, and in part, sympathize with Sidney’s position but is quick to point out that there have been some issues for which a united approach between the three municipalities has been important.
“The discussions that led to co-operation on the Panorama Recreation Centre or the co-ordinated approach to waste water are two examples of where that co-operation was essential,” he said. “It was a good way to co-ordinate things and then go back to councils to make them happen.”
Windsor added that he sees the challenge of affordable housing on the Peninsula as being another such topic.
“We all recognize the importance of having access to housing within our municipalities and there are some very different ideas on how that can be achieved. This is a chance to work out some of those differences, or at least develop some understanding of each other’s positions.”
To that end Central Saanich invited the two remaining municipalities to a meeting on September 13, to be hosted by Central Saanich council.
“This doesn’t mean the tri-municipal meetings will resume,” Windsor said. “We may have another one next year, or in six months or never. The important thing is that we’re willing to work together when there is a subject and a need that is best served by that approach.”
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall is more supportive of the tri-municipal meeting concept, explaining that she had recognized that those meetings had deteriorated over time with too many presentations and the inclusion of agenda items that exceeded the mandate of municipal governments.
“This upcoming meeting is important and we’re looking forward to a productive discussion. And it may re-establish a routine so that we can have more of them in the future if they’re required,” said Finall.