Statistics Canada released the results of the 2021 census last week, and Sooke, once again, saw another large population burst. Increasingly, growth has come to define Sooke as much as anything else does.
For more than 100 years, Sooke was a quiet rural community, slow-growing, defined by fishing, forestry and farming.
But over the last 20 years, that’s changed. Expanding transportation systems connected the Greater Victoria region more closely, providing commuters opportunities to relocate to the Western Communities and even farther west into Sooke.
Growth took off in the late 1990s in SunRiver and accelerated even faster in the 2000s with in-fill development going west. Since then, it’s been on a steady upward trajectory.
To a large extent, Sooke’s political culture and business climate are built on steady growth. There have been many bumps in the road, but past councils and provincial governments have also made some wise decisions that have helped channel that growth.
But every stage of growth has also come with challenges. Infrastructure always lags, from roads to schools to community centres to transit. More than that, there isn’t really a plan for what to do when, or if, Sooke’s growth ever slows down for more than a year or two.
Amidst a frenzy of homebuilding – you can’t turn around in Sooke without bumping into a construction zone – it might be odd to be warning about what to do when growth slows.
But everything ends. Even if Sooke keeps growing, a significant reduction in the speed of that growth would be a considerable change. And Sooke would need to decide what kind of a community it will be if not defined by rapid expansion.