Ian Bruce of the Peninsula Streams Society and Bob Peart of the Friends of Shoal Harbour are driving forces behind the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition (SPEC), which will hold a meeting Feb. 20 to present its plans for a meta-OCP guiding all three Saanich Peninsula communities (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Environmental coalition calls on Saanich Peninsula communities to develop coordinating vision

Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition (SPEC) to meet Feb. 20 to further agenda

A coalition of local groups wants Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney to develop an over-arching framework to help better protect the local environment, which in the words of one spokesperson knows no municipal boundaries.

The Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition (SPEC) consisting of nine local groups including the Friends of Shoal Harbour, the Peninsula Streams Society, and the WSANEC Leadership Council are holding a town hall meeting at St. Paul’s United Church in Sidney on Feb. 20 from 7 p.m to 9:30 to help build support for their cause.

Scheduled speakers include Bob Peart, who chairs the Friends of Shoal Harbour and coordinates SPEC, Adam Olsen, local MLA and interim leader of the provincial Green party, and Roy Brooke, executive director of Municipal Natural Assets Initiative, an organization that creates economic metrics for ecological assets.

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Peart said the group is in part building on a conversation around better coordination that has been going on for a decade, having recently climaxed in the Sidney Summit on Habitat and the Environment held in November 2018. The timing is also favourable, as all three communities are reviewing their official community plans.

“We have got an opportunity here with a really good MLA and three really sympathetic councils to have a conversation and a dialogue,” said Peart, adding later informal discussions have been taking place since last summer. “So one, we are taking advantage of the [political] opportunity. But the other thing is, we want to make sure that there is a healthy future for the Saanich Peninsula.”

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Peart said the goal of SPEC is to encourage development of what the groups calls an Integrated Management Framework (IMF), which each of the three Saanich Peninsula communities would incorporate into its respective OCP as common key principles prior to the next municipal election in November 2022.

They hope to see the three municipalities create a meta-OCP that would serve as a vision statement that would align what Ian Bruce of the Peninsula Streams Society called “attitudes, concepts and the day-to-day planning and management.” Peart also praised the work of the WSANEC Leadership Council in helping to move the process forward.

Bruce and Peart added later that this initiative is not about amalgamation, but rather collaboration across municipal boundaries without any loss of jurisdiction.

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“We recognize that nature is inherently amalgamated” said Bruce. “We are just trying to fix that problem [of humans dividing up nature].”

Peart said he hopes next week’s meeting will spark additional conversations with an eye towards identifying advantages, but also blindspots. “I am sure that there are things that we haven’t thought of,” he said. “The idea is kind of an nascent idea.”

Ultimately, Peart said the group hopes to see some sort of draft document towards the end of the year, then get into the OCP process.

Peart said the SPEC members have agreed the group will only exist for the purpose of this conversation only and will disband when the project is complete.


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