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Who’s Behind the Push for Amalgamation?

by Marsha Henderson, citizen reporter

Amalgamation has been an on-again, off-again subject in the Capital Regional District (CRD) for more than 100 years. Over the last few years there has been a significant amount of organization added to the pro-amalgamation side of the quiet debate, culminating in a variety of referendum questions on governance being added to the 2014 municipal election ballots. The addition of the questions was the result of concerted, organized and funded efforts of a small group called Capital Region Amalgamation Society, or Amalgamation Yes, as it’s commonly known.

The results of the referendum varied, as did the questions asked, with both pro- and against amalgamation people claiming victory. The only thing that seems to be certain is that nothing is clear.

Past proponents of amalgamations have been land developers and the business community. Urban Development Institute suggested a three-municipality arrangement in the 90’s and the Victoria Chamber of Commerce holds a policy position recommending forced amalgamation in the region. The current push is from a more diverse group that are well organized and funded.

The two main groups are Amalgamation Yes (AY) and Pro-Amalgamation (Pro-Am). Smaller groups of proponents have united to form the two organizations, each with the same goal but differing functions, operating complementary to their shared objectives.

Amalgamation Yes is now the main organization working to move amalgamation forward in the CRD. It is registered as a provincial non-profit; and also as a registered political entity, a Third Party Sponsor under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA).

Amalgamation Yes was founded in 2011 by Times Colonist sales rep Susan Jones and then Victoria City Councillor and restaurateur Shellie Gudgeon. Gudgeon funded an amalgamation information event in Victoria that attracted enough interested people to produce a working group. Gudgeon and Jones continued to organize and connect discussion groups. A strategy emerged and Jones eventually took on the lead in fundraising and communications.

Pro-Amalgamation was registered by Amalgamation Yes director James Legh as an Elector Organization (a civic political party) under LECFA.

Amalgamation Yes and Pro-Am are supported through sponsorships and donations from business and private citizens. Last year, Amalgamation Yes initially reported more than $22,000 in donations. Knappett Projects Inc., Harbour Air, Il Terrazzo, Vibrant Victoria (marketing) and the Vandekerkhove family are all listed as donors and/or sponsors.

Pro-Am collected almost $14,000 to finance three unsuccessful election campaigns of pro-amalgamation candidates running in View Royal, Colwood and Sooke 2014 municipal elections.

Amalgamation Yes held its 2015 AGM on June 20 with 21 members in attendance and one non-member. At press-time the proposed Directors for the 2015 elections were John Vickers, Shellie Gudgeon, Earle Anthony, James Legh, Lesley Ewing, Marg Gardiner, Colin Nielson, John Weaver, James Anderson, Marg Gardiner, Sandi Menzies, Aaron Hall, with Tony Heemskerk, as for president (since confirmed).  These are names that have been associated with Amalgamation Yes and Pro-Am for sometime.

These 20 or so members of Amalgamation Yes’ names are regularly seen in letters to the editor, are frequent flyers on social media, are regular guests on local radio talk shows and as such are the ones that are actively framing the conversation around amalgamation.

Other efforts to move the amalgamation debate forward are the Greater Victoria Conversation (GVC) and The Victoria Salon.

The GVC hosts a moderated Facebook Page and Twitter account with Susan Jones as one of the moderators. The group has also organized two community forums on amalgamation with attendance less than 125 people each. Their Facebook page has about 75 followers while the Twitter account has just over 500 (for Twitter perspective – Susan Jones herself has over 8,000 followers). The Victoria Salon has hosted two debates, the second one on amalgamation with a suggested reading list taken primarily from the AY website offerings, and absent of some local well-known university-based research that is not pro amalgamation.



Amalgamation Yes director James Legh runs the Amalgamate Greater Victoria blog, on which can be found a detailed strategy for the process of obtaining a referendum on the issue during a municipal election.  New Amalgamation Yes director Jaclyn Casler is the main blogger and Twitter voice behind blog Victorian Analysis, the self-proclaimed new voice on local government here in the Greater Victoria region.

Amalgamation Yes has funded and disseminated the results of one Angus Reid study, and are apparently preparing for another.

Where are the community associations in this discussion? Where are our community leaders?

It’s critical that our citizens are able to get information needed to decide if this is even worth considering, and that information must be from reliable and unbiased sources. Is a decision to proceed with a study in fact a decision to proceed with some form of amalgamation?  In Saanich at least, that fact has never been made clear and has never been voted on. Community support for an amalgamation study has never been asked for, or given.

The replacement of our municipalities and regional governance structures with one, three or five larger cities is a huge decision. Understanding the significance of the consequences is essential to making a decision as large as potentially deleting Saanich from the mapbooks.


For more citizen journalist-offered articles on this topic, simply pop amalgamation or governance into the search bar on the top left of the home page of SVO.


Municipal Governance: Saanich has Questions for BC Government

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen journalist

Saanich council will press the BC government for answers about any “study of governance in the region” after reworking a motion from two councillors that had used the term “amalgamation study.”

 At its meeting on May 25, 2015, Coun. Colin Plant moved and Coun. Fred Haynes seconded a motion “That:

” a) Saanich write a letter to [Community, Sport and Cultural Development] Minister Coralee Oakes indicating our willingness to participate in a provincially funded amalgamation study. The letter will be developed by Mayor and Council with the assistance of staff; and

“b) Prior to drafting the letter, residents will be invited to a public meeting to provide feedback for Mayor and Council as to what should be included in the letter.”

After three amendments, two of which were successful, the following motion was approved without dissent:

“Motion as Amended:

“1. Saanich write a letter to Minister Coralee Oakes indicating our willingness, in principle, to participate in a study of governance in the region, dependent upon the Terms of Reference and nature of the study proposed. The letter will be developed by Mayor and Council with the assistance of staff; and

“2. Prior to drafting a letter to Minister Coralee Oakes, residents will be invited to a public meeting, to be scheduled at the earliest opportunity, to provide feedback for Mayor and Council as to what should be included in the letter.”


The minutes of the council meeting can be found on the Saanich website - Public input is on

pages 6 and 7 and council’s debate is on pages 9 to 12.

 In a statement to Saanich Voice Online on April 24, 2015, Oakes also did not use the word “amalgamation.” She said:

“The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development is in the process of considering how best to proceed regarding the results of the referenda in the Capital Region.

“The Ministry sees an opportunity to support a conversation on governance and service integration and has heard from some Mayors and Councils but needs to hear from others to gauge interest and better understand how to collaborate on this goal.

“Decisions about potential next steps will come out of the Province’s considerations and future discussions between local governments and the provincial government.”

Oakes elaborated at the BC legislature on May 6, 2015. She referred to “this conversation on governance and services” and stated: “That conversation can’t solely be focused on amalgamation as a solution. It needs, instead, to have a broader dialogue about governance and service integration so that all municipalities can be involved.”

She repeated previous comments including that the BC government is “considering how best to proceed.” She was quite clear on this: “The province will not impose a particular approach or a solution to the capital region.”

 Last November, Saanich voters approved a non-binding referendum, which avoided the word “amalgamation.” It asked: “Do you support Council initiating a community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and our partnerships within the Region?” The referendum carried 21,437 votes to 2,780 from an eligible 80,986 voters.

Council is waiting for a staff report before commencing the Saanich governance review.


For more on this subject please enter ‘amalgamation’ and/or ‘governance’ in the SVO search function.

Media Democracy Days Victoria June 6-13

The first annual Media Democracy Days (MDD) in Victoria will begin on Saturday June 6th. The week-long event: Media, Democracy, and You: How To Find the News that Feeds Us offers a variety of free, open to the public events intended to provoke discussion and debate about how our media choices affect our democratic interests.

The event is organized by independent media producer and media/communications educator Darren Alexander. “Given Vancouver’s launch of the MDD platform, and Adbuster’s role provoking the Occupy movement, the Canadian Pacific Northwest region is growing a serious movement that is challenging the status-quo messaging that is so prevalent in our media landscape. We’re thrilled to bring all this talent onto one stage. It promises to be a truly illuminating day,” says Alexander.

Saturday’s line-up includes David Black, communications scholar, Royal Roads, Andrew MacLeod, Tyee and author, Janine Bancroft, CFUV host and former publisher of StreetNewz, and Jack Elkin, Shaw Community TV, among others.

For the full listing of events:

Laloca – a Global Local Market

by Carole Pearson

Sidney merchant Chris Downing isn’t really a  “crazy woman.” While the name of her Beacon Avenue shop, Laloca, does mean exactly that in Spanish, it’s only coincidental. Downing says she wanted the name of her store to reflect the the variety of places her products come from. Thus she decided on “La” for Latin America, “lo” for local artisans, and “ca” for Caribbean countries but customers will find there’s merchandise from all over the world.

What makes Laloca different from most is only fair trade products are sold here. “I have a real commitment to fair trade,” Downing says. “The artisans deserve fair pay. We expect it for ourselves and we should expect it for others as well.” 

What is fair trade? The Fair Trade Federation says, “Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized.” They receive a fair price for their work which allows them to improve their standard of living and money also goes to support vital community education and health projects. It also means every item has a story to it. 

Downing first became interested in fair trade issues through the work of the Artesania Sorata when she was in Bolivia. Artesania Sorata began as a co-operative of villagers and rural artisans and has grown into a business that provides work to over 150 indigenous families. They produce high quality woven wall hangings plus sweaters made from hand-spun wool. 

“I really like the tenacity of the women there,” says Downing. “They’re up in the high Andes and produce this amazing art but face a real challenge to get their works to the international market.” 

On her return to Canada, Downing continued to import items from the Artesania Sorata, storing them away. “I was just holding on to them, trying to figure out what I was going to do. You can only sell to your friends and family so many times.” 

In November 2013, Downing booked a table at the annual Victoria International Development Education Association (VIDEA) Fair Trade Fair.  She discovered there was great interest in her Bolivian crafts. Bolstered by this response, Downing decided to open a store. 

In deciding what products to carry, Downing says, “They either have to be a member of the Fair Trade Federation or can show the things have a fairness attached to it and a good percentage goes back to the community.” 

Downing also carries products made in BC, from fairly traded materials. “There are also struggling artisans in Canada so I believe we can throw the net wide.”

Laloca offers solid fragrance pots made in Kaslo, chocolate from Cumberland, and skincare products produced in Mill Bay using handmade raw shea butter from Ghana. There’s coffee that is imported directly from farmers and roasted and packaged in Central Saanich. 

It’s all about supporting artisans, small businesses, and making a difference in the lives of others by where we spend our consumer dollars.

Find Laloca on Facebook 

Leonard to Champion ALR

BC’s food security faces unprecedented pressures as ex-Saanich mayor takes the reins of the ALC

by Michele Murphy, photo by Ed Johnson

Frank Leonard is back in the news this past May as the BC Liberal government appointed him the new chair and interim CEO of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). The newly-defeated Saanich mayor comes to the new appointment without benefit of an agricultural background, but what he does have is experience juggling opposing priorities. 

Leonard’s appointment comes on the heels of the controversial firing of passionate ALR champion Richard Bullock from the ALC board with just five months left to go on his contract.

The firing of Bullock has brought widespread objections and concerns from across the agricultural community, and many, including Bullock himself, say he was canned for doing the job of standing up for B.C.’s agricultural land too well. 

The response from the agri-community was swift, passionate and critical. BC Agricultural Council chair, Stan Vander Waal, said that the council was sad to see Richard go and that “his knowledge of B.C. agriculture and his commitment to keep farmland for farming is second to none.”

Locally, the CRD’s food-security coalition, CR Fair, asked if Bullock’s firing was a result of him doing his job too well, while the chair of the Opposition Standing Committee for Agriculture and Food, Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, felt that the firing signified the BC Liberal government’s intent to continue the “war of BC’s agricultural land.” 

“You really have to question what’s going on here,” she said. “Richard Bullock was widely respected by farmers across the province. Now he’s suddenly fired, without warning…. They didn’t like that the ALC chair was standing up for B.C.’s agricultural land, so they fired him. It’s that simple.” 

The firing and hiring is part of a larger change-up to the protection and treatment of BC’s farmland. Bullock said in an interview with the Globe and Mail on May 14, 2015 that he was told that the government is headed in a different direction and that they thought they needed new leadership. 

That different direction would be covered in Bill 24, the controversial new ALR legislation that was passed last year. Many, including the outspoken Bullock, feel that there has never been a larger threat to the much-coveted ALR act since the NDP government passed it through the legislature during its short tenure in the 70s.

The ALC act amendment bill sees the creation of regional boards to oversee regional planning as well as changes to the allowable land use of almost 90% of ALR land. It will
divide the ALR into two zones, and the commission will be required to provide more flexibility in land use in the larger zone allowing activities such as food processing and potential oil and gas development, including fracking. (Saanich and the Peninsula’s 16,800+ acres of ALR land all fall within zone one.)

Current Agriculture Minister Norm Letnik said he is comfortable that the new law will preserve farmland and ensure that “we have a strong ALC that is independent of politicians.” Others are not as comfy with it. 

Richmond councillor and former NDP MLA, Harold Steves, considered to be the “Father of the ALR,” said of Bill 24, “It’s a way of gutting the Agricultural Land Reserve and pretending it’s still there.” 

Bill 24 is not the only perceived threat to BC’s farmland. This spring it has come to light that thousands of hectares of BC farmland are being planted with trees to be used as carbon offsets by off-shore corporations. These carbon sinks include imposing a restrictive 100-year covenant on the ALR land. The ALC’s ability, and now willingness, to fight this or negate the loss of active food-producing land is in serious question. 

To add to the list of ALR issues, the construction of the contentious Site C dam is scheduled to begin this summer amidst growing opposition to the project from several angles, not the least of which is the flooding of over 31,000 acres of agricultural land.

“I think we’ve got all sorts of things coming at us. First of all [is the pressure] to do all sorts of things on agricultural land that have absolutely nothing [to do] with agriculture and a lot to do with everything else…. And up there in the northeast, there’s huge issues with the oil and gas plays going on, on agricultural land,” said Bullock in his recent Globe interview

When asked to comment on the the multitude of pressures that the ALC will face, Leonard said, “I’m excited about the opportunity to do a great job for our province.”

Whether it’s the use of farmland for natural gas fracking, the pressures from industry and development to release ALR land, Site C, second-generation landowners wanting to develop urban farmland, the effects of California and Washington State droughts on BC’s food supply and costs (67 per cent of BC’s vegetables come from the US), or the new world of carbon offsets, Frank Leonard will have his hands full carrying out his mandate of preserving BC’s agricultural land and encouraging farming. 

Juggling may be exactly the skill set that the new ALC chair needs.



Harold Steves the Father of the ALR
Site C Dam: A Waste of Farmland
The BC Liberal Government Is Foolishly Moving To Allow Fracking On Farmland
Wake up Call: California Drought & B.C.’s Food Security
B.C. government fires outspoken chair of Agricultural Land Commission


Major Housing Development Planned For Cordova Bay

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen journalist

The first draft of plans for residential development of the former Trio property in Cordova Bay show a mix of housing types with 440 dwelling units including a 12-storey condo.

Aragon Properties disclosed its initial development thoughts to more than 100 people who attended a public input meeting on May 30, 2015, following an earlier input meeting in February. David Roppel (, the company’s director of planning and development, said Aragon Properties is “open” to a third meeting if requested. Otherwise, he said the next step is to consider public input, formulate revisions and submit a rezoning application to Saanich for the 26-acre property.

The property is currently zoned into three roughly equal parts but only one part (where Gravel Mart used to be) has residential zoning for condos and townhouses to a maximum 110 dwelling units and a six-storey height limit. Roppel said Aragon Properties plans to develop the entire property for residences.

The initial plans show the property divided into three terraces with row houses and single-family houses and high-rises ranging from “low” at two to five storeys, “mid” at six possibly eight storeys and “high” which “could be 10 to 12 storeys,” said Franc D’Ambrosio, project architect who was also the architect for nearby Mattick’s Farm, Mattick’s Green, Mattick’s Wood and the early stages of Sayward Hill residential development.

There could also be a commercial component of offices and retail.

“Community consultation is essential,” D’Ambrosio told the meting. “You have to be included in the planning.”

Roppel said he received 90 slips of paper with comments at the meeting plus comments written on large sheets of paper. It was clear from the comments that the principal concerns of those attending were the density of development (too much), the height of the 12-storey condo (too much) – and the amount of traffic that will be generated and its impact on Cordova Bay Road.

Mitchell Jacobson of Boulevard Transportation Group in Langford said traffic impacts can be quantified once the number of dwelling units and types of accommodation are settled. He was “looking at” the idea of a roundabout at Cordova Bay Road/Fowler Road. Vehicular access to the property will be from Cordova Bay Road.

Roppel said Aragon Properties foresees a diversity of housing in terms of different housing forms, connectivity to open spaces, fitting into the neighbourhood and any commercial use “must build on the success of Mattick’s Farm and not detract from it.” The single-family and row houses would be fee simple ownership and the rest would be strata or rental. Typically, he said, Aragon allocates 10 per cent rental in developments.

He noted the negative comments about the height and location of the 12-storey condo. The meeting heard that adjacent Sayward Hill has an eight-storey building approved but not yet built on Hill Rise Terrace off Cordova Bay Road. The condos behind Mattick’s Farm adjacent to Cordova Bay Golf Course were originally planned for eight storeys but after negative comments, they were divided into the present two four-storey buildings.

He said the company plans to have a website running in a few weeks.

Looking ahead, he estimated it would take up to a year to get rezoning approval from Saanich with the first Development Permit six to eight months after that. “Hopefully we will complete the project in five to eight years,” he said.

While the company initially called the proposed development “Triangle Hill,” it has dropped this name because of negative comments. Until a new name is decided, it will be called “755 Cordova Bay Road’ which is its address.

Please see earlier story on – Engaging the Community Early, and Often.


BC Liberal appointee or Defender of Local Food Systems?

Leonardby Michele Murphy

Defeated Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard has landed an appointment as the new chair of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).

Leonard’s appointment comes on the heals of the controversial firing of Richard Bullock as the Agricultural Land Commission board chair and CEO with seven months left to go on his contract.

Leonard will take up duties at the ALC immediately combining duties as board chair and CEO for a period of five months while he leads the search for a new CEO of the commission.

Bullock has been a vocal critic of recent changes to the ALC act. The changes saw the creation of regional boards, as well as separating the province’s ALR land into two separate zones opening up non-agricultural use of farmland for over 90% of the province’s ALR farmland.

Bullock has most recently been on the offensive as concerns are being raised about the province’s farmland being bought up by foreign companies to grow forests for carbon credits. These carbon sinks include imposing a restrictive 100-year covenant on the ALR land.

Lana Popham, Saanich South MLA and Opposition Critic for agriculture, said of Bullock’s firing, “Bullock is a true champion for agriculture, who is respected by all sectors of the agriculture industry for his expertise and fair-mindedness.”

While Saanich has a rich history of farming with almost 20% of the municipality located within the ALR, Leonard’s background and interests show no obvious connection to the agriculture. The long-time municipal politician comes from a background of managing several family-owned tires stores. While in business, Leonard served as a director of the BC Chamber of Commerce, president of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, and on the boards of local tourism and economic development groups and served as a director of the BC Investment Management Corporation.

While in public office, Leonard chaired the Municipal Finance Authority of BC, was president of the Union of BC Municipalities and a director of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He has also chaired the Capital Regional District, the Hospital District, the region’s Housing Corporation, the Saanich Police Board, and has served on the Regional Transit Commission. He has also served on numerous recreation, arts, and community boards.

Leonard was past co-chair of the Farm Assessment Review Panel, which looked at the farm classification process and regulations for municipal tax purposes.

In contrast, Bullock’s background includes serving as president of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, BC Tree Fruits Ltd., and Sun-Rype Products Ltd., and as Director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. According to the ALC website Bullock has extensive experience in international consulting including the production and processing of agricultural crops. He is a former member of the BC Marketing Board and the past Chair of the BC Farm Industry Review Board. And now, past chair and CEO of the BC Agricultural Land Commission.

“This is a critical time for B.C. agriculture, as the Liberals prepare to release new regulations stemming from Bill 24, which weakened farmland protections on 90 per cent of ALR land. By replacing B.C.’s agricultural watchdog with someone with no background in agriculture, the B.C. Liberals are making it clear that their attack on the ALR has only just begun,” adds Popham.

Time will tell if Leonard’s skills in business are transferable to preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in British Columbia.


Check out Peninsula Video’s coverage of Richard Bullock providing some insights for local agrologists on the affairs of the ALC in BC HERE

Amalgamation Study to Hit Saanich Council

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen journalist


Saanich Councillor Colin Plant

The issue of a provincial government-funded study of amalgamation/governance on southern Vancouver Island will hit Saanich council at its next meeting on May 25.

Coun. Colin Plant tabled a notice of motion “regarding provincially-funded amalgamation study” at council on Monday night (May 11, 2015). Coun. Fred Haynes has agreed to second Plant’s motion when it reaches council.

Plant’s motion calls on council to “write a letter to (Community) Minister Coralee Oakes indicating our willingness to participate in the study.” The letter will be developed by Mayor and Council with the assistance of staff.

“Prior to drafting the letter, residents will be invited to a public meeting to provide feedback for Mayor and Council as to what should be included in our letter.”

Plant’s motion states that the BC government “has agreed to do an amalgamation study for interested municipalities in the Capital Regional District” and that Saanich residents voted in favour of a “governance review.”

Saanich Councillor Fred Haynes

Saanich Councillor Fred Haynes

Last November, Saanich residents were polled in a question that specifically avoided the word “amalgamation.” It asked: “Do you support Council initiating a community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and our partnerships within the Region?” It passed 21,437 votes to 2,780 votes. There were 80,986 eligible voters.

Minister Oakes, in her most recent comment to Saanich Voice Online on April 24, 2015, also avoided using the word “amalgamation” in favour of “governance and service integration.”

She said: “The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development is in the process of considering how best to proceed regarding the results of the referenda in the Capital Region.

“The Ministry sees an opportunity to support a conversation on governance and service integration and has heard from some Mayors and Councils but needs to hear from others to gauge interest and better understand how to collaborate on this goal.

“Decisions about potential next steps will come out of the Province’s considerations and future discussions between local governments and the provincial government.”

Last December, Saanich council voted unanimously “That a governance review, in accordance

BC Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Coralee Oakes

BC Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Coralee Oakes

with the motion on the ballot, be initiated as soon as possible, within a 90-day period.” Council also requested municipal staff “to

prepare a report, as soon as possible within a 90-day period, indicating how such a review might be structured and carried out in accordance with the motion on the ballot.”

Council is awaiting the staff report on the Saanich governance review.

Coun. Colin Plant told SVO, “The intent behind my motion is to take advantage of the fact the province is willing to fund an amalgamation study. It is not to determine Saanich’s own governance review. I fully support the municipality continuing to develop its own governance review as per our Nov. 15 plebiscite. It just seemed like common sense to me that we would participate given that there is no binding component to the study.

“Given that the report will be non-binding and at no direct cost to Saanich, I see no harm in us contributing information and learning from the study. I liken this to getting a quote from a business; just because one gets a quote, it doesn’t mean you have to act on it.

“The motion also requires council to have a public meeting where residents can tell council what they think should be in the letter we send to the province indicating our interest in participating in the study. The reason for this public meeting is that unlike other municipalities who put an amalgamation question on the ballot, Saanich did not. As such, I think the public should be afforded an opportunity to provide feedback before the municipality sends any comments to the province.

“I look forward to residents providing feedback to council on May 25.”

Coun. Fred Haynes replied to SVO, “Amalgamation study? What does it mean for Saanich? I look forward to hearing from the public on May 25 (in the new public participation format at start of council meetings) and our following discussion at council to explore the benefits of the information to be gained by the province-led study. I understand this study will examine options for service integration and the potentials possible from reorganization of our regional government – this includes a better understanding of our cost effectiveness and service efficiencies at the CRD and between and within our municipalities. This study would be in addition to our own community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and partnerships within the region. Presumably, joining the regional conversation (study) would let Saanich residents and council have some say in its format and the type of information collected and reviewed. Let’s find out.”

For earlier information and comments about amalgamation on the Saanich Peninsula and in Greater Victoria, please see:

Amalgamation Study for the Peninsula? April 23, 2015
Regional Collaboration – a work in progress March, 2015
Comment is Free, But Facts are Sacred April, 2015
Moving Amalgamation Forward, or Not January, 2015
Amalgamation – where do we go from here? December, 2014



Stalking the White Robin

A rare glimpse of the white robin on the Peninsula

photo and story by Ed Johnson

whitebirdImagine my surprise when friends called me up to tell me about a white robin they had seen on the peninsula.  At first they thought it must be a dove, but on closer examination it became evident that this was the rare partial albino form of the North American robin.

Before heading out with a camera, a brief research was in order.  

Not being a full albino which would be even rarer, the partial albino has pigment in its eyes rather than the pink colour which eventually renders the animal blind with a shorter lifespan than the usual 11 or more years. In fact, it appears, the partial albino robin is the predominate form, but both forms are only found in one in 30,000 robins.  While other birds, and indeed some animals, exhibit forms of albinism, as a common yard bird, the robin is the most reported species of bird.  In Native American mythology, the robin is known as the ‘can-do’ bird for its industrious nature.  Its caring parental nature is considered by some as good luck for a pregnant woman to see robins feeding their young.  Others saw them as a symbol of peace.

Birds lacking pigmentation are becoming a more usual sight on Vancouver Island. Well known Nanoose photographer, Mike Yip, has photographed white ravens in Qualicum over the past six years.  These blue eyed birds are also partial albinos or more correctly described as leucistic, a reduction of all types of pigmentation rather than just melanin.

And now we have our own local celebrity.  Knowing that robins prefer earthworms – I had fed a mother robin and her brood one spring by placing a pile of worms on a dirt pile and watching her snatch them up and fly off to her nest – I knew a bit about habitat and where to look for this particular robin.  But, of course, the first time out is never lucky and all I found in the area were the normal red breasted variety.  

Considering it to be a warm day and not conducive to mid day worm gathering, I decided that near evening would be both cooler and perhaps more of a stimulant to the appetite.

That hunch proved prescient.  As I approached the area where this bird is usually seen, I immediately spotted her on the lawn.  The picture here is my effort to get as close as possible with a 180mm lens before she took flight.  Maybe I will pack a few worms next time!

Engaging the Community Early, and Often

Developer of former Trio site says they are looking for input

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen journalist

The owner of one of the last significant developable properties within the Urban Containment Boundary in Saanich, the 26-acre former Trio site in Cordova Bay, is asking the community first – what do you want? – before coming up with and presenting a plan.

 It is becoming less so (but it still happens) that property developers come up with plans first and then go to the community to present them. This procedure puts the community in the position of having to be reactive rather than being able to be pro-active – expressing their views before the plan is developed.

 “We prefer to engage the community we work in early and often,” David Roppel, Director of Planning and Development for Aragon Properties of Vancouver, told Saanich Voice Online.

“We are interested in what the community’s needs and expectations are. We don’t find the present-and-defend approach successful. We prefer to get community input early and have it inform and support the planning process.”

Aragon Properties held its first community workshop in Cordova Bay on Feb. 21 and more than 100 people attended. A second community input meeting is expected in May.

 “We learned the community has a desire for affordable housing in the neighbourhood so adult children of current residents can afford to live here,” said Roppel of the first workshop

“We also learned the neighbours expect a well-considered approach to inter-connected open space. Community members thought it important that the new community fit well with the existing community and build on, not draw away from, Mattick’s Farm.”

Anthony Minniti, president of the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs, told SVO that “many more developers are approaching projects” the way Aragon is. His executive has not discussed Aragon’s process in particular but speaking personally, “I applaud the developer for the community consultation process.”

 The CBA has had an introductory meeting with Aragon Properties.

John Schmuck, chair of the Saanich Community Association Network, said his association, Quadra-Cedar Hill, likes proponents “to come to us for discussion before they develop their hard plans. This allows us to provide input and get some of our ideas into the original plans. We generally meet with them at the beginning of the process.”

Schmuck said Quadra-Cedar Hill helps proponents hold a meeting with neighbours and other interested persons “who want to have a say in the project. After that is complete we then write our letter to Saanich Planning stating our position on the project before the planners write their report to council.”

 Other community associations in Saanich follow a similar procedure. It is Saanich policy to encourage developers to meet and work with community associations.

The former Trio site is at the corner of Cordova Bay Road and Fowler Road and below Alderley Road. For many years it was a gravel quarry and, along with rock crushing, it also had a concrete-making facility. More recently, after those uses ceased, Trio Gravel Mart sold soil mix and mulch and concrete products. The property was sold by the McLaren family to Aragon Properties for $6.1 million last year.

The property, which is within the Sewer Service Area, is being called Triangle Hill by Aragon Properties. It is across Cordova Bay Road from the 37-acre Sayward Hill condos, townhouses and nine-hole golf course that were developed by the Jawl family of Cordova Bay, owner of Mattick’s Farm and the 18-hole Cordova Bay Golf Course. The Triangle Hill architect is Franc D’Ambrosio. With his former partnership, deHoog D’Ambrosio, he was master planner for Mattick’s Farm and Sayward Hill. That firm was architect for Mattick’s Farm, Mattick’s Green and Mattick’s Wood and Phase One of Sayward Hill (the masterplan, rezoning and design guidelines, a six-storey condo and five townhouses). DeHoog proceeded with remaining phases of Sayward Hill after D’Ambrosio formed his own company, D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism in 2003.

 While the site was rezoned in 1999 into three areas in anticipation of development, it did not happen. The southeast corner, for example, is zoned for townhouses and condos with a six-storey height limit and a maximum 110 dwelling units. But Roppel says Aragon is restarting the planning process. He said it is too early to determine uses and densities but he appeared to drop one hint when asked about the 9.7-acre mini-storage zone for recreational vehicles in the north part of the property – “Aragon has not built mini-storage in the past.”

Roppel said he welcomes public input and he can be reached at


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