Mayors in the Spotlight: Q&A with Fred Haynes of Saanich

A conversation with Saanich Mayor, Fred Haynes, on how he will address the key issues.

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Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes. Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

What did you learn from the election campaign?

… strong resonance on lack of housing for working families or working individuals seeking rental or purchased housing in Saanich. It’s unacceptable young working families need to drive to the West Shore on a daily basis [to live], work in Saanich and have that commute time. The other was concern about road safety and congestion, to a larger degree than I expected. Third was a need for green and agricultural space and an improved supply of quality daycare and family support services …

Half your council is new, young and talking about environmental stewardship. Do you see yourself being challenged?

This is probably the most forward-looking, energized council in the history of Saanich in terms of the age diversity, gender mix and educational experience … My sense is this council has a common vision. I expect we’ll see robust, respectful, intelligent debate …

Were you in favour of the way Saanich reacted to the tent city and its removal?

Yes, given Canada is a land of laws and there’s a right to shelter overnight in parks, we work with laws and compassion. I think it will become apparent, now the injunction has been approved, that the Saanich approach delivered that result in the most efficient, fastest time possible, and this result will be held up by other municipalities as a standard to achieve.

What if another tent city sets up?

I don’t support use of Saanich parks for protest tent cities; however, I’m deeply involved with addressing solutions for housing for those who struggle to find [it]. It’s unfortunate money spent on a protest camp couldn’t have been spent on housing.

Should Saanich buy land for affordable and supportive housing?

I don’t think Saanich should be buying land. There seems to be a misconception that municipalities have the answers. We don’t have the fiscal resources. One of the reasons we’re dealing with the homelessness situation is that the province emptied institutions that were supposed to care for people in need, with mental-health issues, with addictions. What did they think was going to happen? There’s a duty of care on the province and federal government to step up and do more.

Victoria is in the midst of trying to figure out a inclusionary housing policy that will require new developments to include a certain percentage of affordable units. Will Saanich do the same?

In Saanich, we are looking for flexible inclusionary options in multi-family developments. These could be 5-10-15 per cent or so and balanced with a bonus density so the municipality has skin in the game as well … We can say if you give us 10 per cent inclusionary housing below market rate, we’ll give you the extra floor or two to cover fiscal responsibility for that.

You said you don’t want to raise residential taxes; what about commercial taxes?

I’ve no belief in the value of increasing commercial taxes. Instead, expand the commercial space and use of it … We already have a business case in place for at least two medium-sized hotels and that could be linked to a convention centre or improved sports stadium at UVic. These are just ideas.

You’ve said Saanich is fertile ground for a film studio.

We’re home to some of the best film talent and they go to Vancouver and earn that city millions … Why would we want one? One, we have the talent here. Two, we’re missing the economic opportunity. Look at the Okanagan. They’ve got a film studio. Each year they’re getting $100 million from one client, Netflix, producing films … It’s one of the great economic areas where we could get expansion in that’s gentle on the environment.

How do you protect Agricultural Land Reserve [ALR] land from development?

By maintaining our urban containment boundary and by respecting the role of the ALR … The Minister has been clear: agricultural lands need to be used for agriculture. We should not use those lands for parks … the other piece is to revitalize the use of those lands for farming.

This article is from the December/January 2019 issue of Douglas.