A Saanich councillor running for chair of the Capital Regional District (CRD) said his priorities would include, among others, housing, transportation, regional sewage and parks, if elected.
Coun. Colin Plant is one of four individuals, who have publicly declared their candidacy for the position. View Royal Mayor David Screech, Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor, and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins have also declared their intentions, according to published accounts.
The chair guides the monthly board meetings, appoints committee chairs, and represents the CRD to the public, media and other bodies as leader and spokesperson. “But this role is far different of that of the mayor because [chairs] were not elected to lead the CRD,” said Plant.
“That being said, I think the chair has the ability to help influence the direction of the CRD and can speak with authority on CRD matters,” he added.
If elected, Plant plans to draw on his professional experience as high school theatre teacher and director.
“It may sound a little peculiar, but I see the role of the [board chair] as being not dissimilar [to that job],” he said. “A lot of the skills and attributes transfer well,” he said.
Perhaps key to Plant’s agenda, if elected, would be housing after the CRD has secured $90 million in funding for housing, with $30 million each coming from the CRD, the provincial and federal governments.
“We need to see these funds put to good use and see projects get approved and built during this term to ease homelessness and affordability in our region,” he said.
Plant would also like to improve regional transportation. “I believe transportation planning in our region needs greater co-ordination but this requires having consensus amongst the local governments,” he said. “During the last term the CRD attempted to create a transportation service but some jurisdictions (mainly the West Shore) were reluctant to support it. I believe we must find consensus to move forward on this important issue.”
Among other transportation files, Plant would like to see the CRD lobby the province for a new Malahat route, as well as to take over the former E&N Railway corridor and consider turning it into a dedicated busway.
“This will be complicated as we need to work with First Nations [and] the Island Corridor Foundation,” Plant noted.
Plant would also like to see the CRD develop a new role for its parks acquisition fund to help leverage purchases in urban areas as well as continue to expand the regional parks inventory.
The sewage project also requires attention, he said.
“I believe we need to ensure the sewage project comes to a successful conclusion, on time [and] on budget,” he said. “But that we still have some work to do regarding what we are going to do with the final residual solids that will come out of this process. Somewhat connected is the idea that we need to begin planning for the future of the Hartland Landfill.”
Plants enters the race after Saanich voters had chosen him as one of four CRD directors, along with councillors Susan Brice, Rebecca Mersereau, and Ned Taylor. Mayor Fred Haynes rounds out Saanich’s quintet of directors, the most of any of the 13 communities and three electoral areas represented on the board.
Its 24 members elect a chair and a vice-chair at the board’s inaugural meeting, with candidates having four minutes each to make their pitch in securing the necessary majority of 13 votes. If more than two candidates run and if any candidate fails to get 13 votes during the first round, the lowest candidate drops off.