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LETTER: Saanich Peninsula chamber’s warning ignores real threat

(Black Press Media file photo)

It must be spring, here we go again with the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce warning citizens the sky is falling if we don’t build high density. Statistical information can be manipulated to support any argument or goal. The devil is always in the details of organizations pushing their agenda. The chamber issued warnings of the Peninsula’s shrinking industrial/commercial businesses when the shopping mall on the airport lands was kiboshed.

Using BC Ferries as an example of worker shortages is absurd. I worked for BC Ferries before retiring. We knew in 1989 the company was going to face shortages so a training program was introduced to move people up the ranks internally. When the company went private this program was severely slashed, hence the shortage of qualified staff. Also under the private model, the company doubled and quadrupled salaries of management staff, which left the unionized staff falling behind in pay, impacting the attraction from other marine industries and distant workers. To claim that people who work for BC Ferries live on the Peninsula is ridiculous. In all the years I worked for the company, the majority of staff lived outside the Peninsula.

Nowhere in the warnings from the chamber is our lack of infrastructure mentioned. Where is our hospital expansion? Where are new schools being built? Where is the expansion of transit? Where is the treatment of our sewer, where is our fresh water going to come from? I wish someone would provide these soothsayers a map. We live on an island, albeit highly attractive for people to live and retire to, but we are facing down more calamitous problems than the insatiable appetite to grow the economy while ignoring the reasons we live on a dying planet.

Claiming the chamber represents working folks is misleading. In 2016, Sidney came under the assault of investors and developers. Where was the chamber when older affordable apartments were bought up and residents renovicted, doing away with rentals, replaced by unaffordable condo living, with $500 per month strata fees, outrageous insurance premiums, and rising property taxes? Sidney was the first municipality to test the increased density to lower the cost of housing and create more affordable housing, it has failed miserably.

Unless and until the government builds, sells, rents or manages “affordable housing”, it is a pipe dream to think the private sector will reduce profits for affordability. For the chamber to sympathize with citizens who can’t find affordable options is disingenuous and is used to appeal to the greater population. Sidney was once affordable for families, retirees and working people, but 10 years of increasing density changed this market. Health care, daycare, education and climate change are what people worry about, not building the economy to increase the population.

Jo-Anne Berezanski

North Saanich