Who will write the future of Saanich? Premier Eby.

Who will write the future of Saanich?

Premier David Eby

The deleterious impacts of Bill 44, that was rushed through Royal Assent without debate on Nov 30th, will outlast his premiership by decades.

Bill 44 requires all municipalities (pop. 5000+) to increase density on lots currently zoned for single family homes or duplexes to 4 or 6 units per lot.

It eliminates public hearings on development applications that “meet” the guidelines of the Official Community Plan (OCP).

Our Official Community Plan is not designed for this.

Whether or not a community has adequate infrastructure – fire service, sewage systems, electricity – this no longer factors into this decision making. The costs will be borne by the taxpayer, not the developer. Parking congestion in your neighborhood? Bill 44 prohibits municipalities from requiring off-street parking and loading spaces in relation to residential use, with few stipulations. Trees are going to come down – everywhere.

Saanich’s environmental protections have been stripped**.

The language in our OCP is indefensible:

Encourage the retention or planting

of native vegetation in the coastal

riparian zone

Incorporate and retain high value

trees where possible

Support the protection of significant

public view corridors where identified

through detailed planning.

Our OCP was written in 2008.

In December 2023 Saanich adapted the plan – The Redline OCP is available here:


Despite the fact that this needs to be adopted before June, no date has been set for public hearing on the adoption of this plan.

Pay attention. This density increase is applied across BC.

There is no stipulation that the resulting properties are affordable.

It is applied to our shoreline properties.

One can preview the aggressiveness of the Provincial authority enacted by Bill 44 by reviewing the “Small-Scale, Multi-Unit Housing Provincial Policy Manual & Site Standards” published March 14th, 2024. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/housing-and-tenancy/tools-for-government/local-governments-and-housing/ssmuh_provincial_policy_manual.pdf

In areas where six units are permissible the “recommended benchmark regulation” for maximum lot coverage is 60-70%.

The influence of the Province’s drive for accelerated development is already upon Saanich. See our recent development approval (February 26th), 4590 Lochside Drive, for an example of what to expect.



Sign up to Saanich’s email list to stay informed about the Strategic OCP Update: https://secure.campaigner.com/CSB/Public/Form.aspx?fid=1878467&ac=bugx

Public Process and People, Pets and Parks Strategy Outcomes

Dear Residents of Saanich, especially those who took time to participate in the People, Pets and Parks engagement,

It has become such a contentious and divisive issue that I wish to clarify why I voted in opposition to the bylaw amendments for Saanich’s People Pets and Parks (PPP) Strategy. It is because the revised bylaw amendments resulted in a reduction of environmental protection in our ecologically sensitive natural areas. My election platform rests well on representing those who uphold environmental values and protections in Saanich.

Our relationship with the First Nations, including the W̱SÁNEĆ and Lək̓ʷəŋən people is also very important to me is. This letter, sent to all of Council in June, was confirmed in September to be the position of the WSANEC Leadership Council:

“The WSANEC Leadership Council is concerned about the degradation of ecologically sensitive areas of PKOLS, caused by off leash dog walking and off trail use by dogs in these native ecosystems. We are aware that this is a significant concern. PKOLS is an extremely important location in the history of the WSANEC Nation. We fully support the District of Saanich’s Pet Strategy that requires dogs to be on leash in natural parks that have ecologically sensitive areas.”


Saanich’s PPP process was conducted fairly and thoroughly with multiple inputs, including many community engagement opportunities, and resulted in a comprehensive set of recommendations that represented a balance of interests amongst dog owners (both those who use leashes and those who oppose leashes), non-dog owners and environmental protection. I, along with my colleagues on Council, unanimously approved the PPP recommendations on June 28, including an amendment to the motion, seconded by myself, stating “and this work will be done in consultation with the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council”.


Council’s approval of these bylaw amendments, which directly reflected the PPP Strategy recommendations we had unanimously approved in June, should have been a simple procedural exercise. The residents of Saanich were not aware that further public input was necessary. Both I and the residents of Saanich expected the amendments to receive three readings when they were brought to Council on September 11. Unfortunately I was unable to participate in this meeting due an urgent personal matter. Had I been there I would have seconded the motion for first reading and the outcome today might have been very different. Instead, Council chose to pause the decision for two weeks, allowing an opportunity for further lobbying of some of my colleagues. 

Unfortunately, a vocal minority of off-leash advocates continued to lobby Council to change the PPP bylaw amendments. There was targeted lobbying of some members of Council, including meetings and correspondence not shared with all of Council. 

On September 25, I voted in opposition to a series of alternative bylaw amendments that were not supported by the PPP Strategy recommendations Council had approved and had no opportunity for public input. These amendments have now received final reading, supported by a majority of Council.

Some members of the public felt let down by Council’s decision and some members of Council felt there needed to be an element of compromise. But I believe that we had arrived at our agreed upon compromise in June. The entire PPP strategy that we unanimously approved in June was the result of a well-balanced process engaging different sides of the issue. I feel what we have compromised is the integrity of the process and the outcomes for environmental protections in parks and beaches in Saanich.

I am deeply saddened to say that the decision of Council has eroded the trust of our residents. Regardless of their position on the issue of dogs in parks, residents of Saanich should be asking themselves if this is how they wish to see their elected leaders making decisions on their behalf.


Saanich Councillor Nathalie Chambers

For those that want to view Saanich Council in action


COUNCIL MEETING  September 25, 2023

Minutes – https://saanich.ca.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=saanich_78a202077cb336c88349c33f5f055167.pdf&view=1

Video – https://saanich.ca.granicus.com/player/clip/790?view_id=1&redirect=true&h=6048dbfa5885343f10d1b2eea43c43d0  NC comments at 1:17 to 1:21


COUNCIL MEETING  October 30, 2023

No minutes are available yet

Video – https://saanich.ca.granicus.com/player/clip/800?view_id=1&redirect=true&h=51f8eb10e5c83d2db7eb322848f167df

Homes for Birds

Along with food and water, shelter is a necessity for all living things, so today I am launching my Homes for Birds initiative. It is in direct response to the provincial housing targets that were announced this past week. Saanich is starting with 440 units and increasing each year to reach a total of 4610 – at the end of five years, an average of just over 900 units per year will have been constructed. Homes for Living and its new Homes for People action plan will do this by using increased density through upzoning and blanket zoning, all at a time when Saanich is completely without any adequate environmental protection policies or plans in place, and without public participation. 

Livable communities is a phrase that needs to include everything that inhabits the region. Protecting and restoring our incredible indigenous flora and fauna is the ultimate act of reconciliation on this national day for truth and reconciliation! We need to make it a priority 

There are many people living in the District of Saanich who greatly value the unique ecosystem we are fortunate to live in, and rightfully so! Saanich is a biodiversity hotspot, located in the imperiled Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone. We live in the most temperate climate in the country and are the stewards of rare ecosystems like Garry oak meadows. But since 2018, when the legal protections for sensitive ecosystems were rescinded in Saanich due to a small but vocal minority, no remaining habitats that nature relies on have been safe. Even bylaw-protected trees that live within the footprint of development can be cut.

If we want the region to be livable, we need to protect and restore habitat for nature. I hope to do this through my Homes for Birds initiative. Southern Vancouver Island is a haven for birds, both those that nest here and those using us as a stopover on their arduous migratory journeys, as well as those that migrate to here to spend the winter in our mild climate. The significance of habitat in this region cannot be overstated; it serves as a lifeline for more than 400 bird species, from songbirds to shorebirds. 

We live in a crucial flyway for migratory birds, offering them essential rest stops during their long voyages. Bird enthusiast Geoffrey Newell has told me that Victoria is one of the premier birding sites in all of Canada, with thousands of migratory birds coming through the region in both spring and fall migrations. These migrating birds have to settle to rest and refuel before or after they make the trek across the Juan de Fuca Strait. 

Saanich is not merely a transient haven though; it is a vital stronghold for native ecosystems and endangered species. The diversity of native plants in our region plays a pivotal role in sustaining bird populations by supporting a food web that includes an abundance of invertebrates, particularly caterpillars. For birds – even hummingbirds! – insects are a vital source of nourishment, especially when they are raising their young. The interconnectedness of habitat and native vegetation becomes clear as you watch a nesting pair of chickadees feeding their young as many as 9000 caterpillars! 

Protecting and preserving these habitats is not just an environmental responsibility; it is a moral imperative. It ensures the survival of these fragile ecosystems, safeguards endangered species, and offers a beacon of hope for the countless resident and migratory birds that depend on this haven as they journey to, through, or if they live in this remarkable landscape year round. 

So let’s live, AND let live by protecting the incredible biodiversity of the region to ensure it is livable for ALL its residents. In preserving Saanich’s habitats and native vegetation, we are not only conserving nature’s beauty but also nurturing the next generation of birds for the enjoyment of current and future residents. 

Please help by supporting my Homes for Birds initiative…

Accounts from an Elected Official with No Developer Funding

Last week, I lost one of my most prolific First Nations teachers of 30 years, Mickey Cook. He taught me, and thousands of others, “to thine own self be true”. I would not be living up to that personal standard if I did not speak out at this time. 

Mickey used to say “when you walk outside and the wind blows in your face that is the Creator talking to you”. The wind has blown in my face too many days without putting pen to paper.

There are many people living in the District of Saanich who greatly value the unique ecosystem we are fortunate to live in, and rightfully so! Saanich is a biodiversity hotspot, located in the imperiled Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone. It is graced with the most temperate climate in the country and hosts rare ecosystems like Garry oak meadows. 

However, since 2018 when environmental development permit areas (EDPAs) were rescinded in Saanich, sensitive ecosystems once afforded special oversight, have been left without protection. This was due to a small, but vocally persistent minority. The most recent vote on Saanich’s People, Pets, and Parks Strategy, which resulted in a softening of proposed bylaws to keep dogs leashed in certain ecologically sensitive parks demonstrates the same lack of political courage from current council members. It seems that environmental health is trumped by the mental health of dogs.

Although Council made a Climate Emergency Declaration in 2019, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council (WLC) in 2021, and committed to uphold global biodiversity targets in 2022, their actions speak louder than these words. At present there are poor (if they even exist) sensitive ecosystem or site specific protections and riparian setbacks. There are few (if any) strong and enforceable environmentally-focused bylaws. 

Further, Saanich’s Environmental Services Department has been gutted and absorbed into Parks, Recreation, and Community Services; the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy is incomplete; and the Urban Forest Strategy has yet to be implemented. Together, these shortcomings demonstrate that elected leaders are not being led by law, science, reconciliation, or best practices but something else. Something with the power to sway us.

Saanich Council’s most recent vote is just another signal of their divestment from environmental responsibility. 

In 2023, development is at the top of the local agenda, forced along by provincial housing targets without transparency, public participation, or consent. This is especially concerning when, to my knowledge, no free, prior and informed consent has been granted from local First Nations, despite our MOU with the WLC and a legal requirement to align with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Our municipal democracy is in freefall.

Helping to push it off the edge are narratives from Homes for Living, (Homes for Living is a registered third-party sponsor with Elections BC in the 2022 election and a registered non-profit) that chose and funded a slate of candidates based on surveys with carefully crafted questions that in my opinion, presupposed votes, narratives and outcomes in local elections. Representatives from this group now hold a majority on Saanich Council. One of their goals is not to supply affordable, but rather “attainable” housing. That this supply will create more affordable housing is a myth that can be debunked by simply looking across the Salish Sea to Vancouver, one of the most expensive places to live in the country despite a strong commitment to increasing housing supply.

Housing has become the province’s raison d’etre, eclipsing healthcare and emergency response, infrastructure renewal, climate change action and a biodiversity crisis. Local systems are not sufficiently equipped to support this influx. When regular people cannot find a doctor, emergency rooms are filled to the brim and mental health treatment centres are at capacity, how can we welcome more people into the District? 

This is just one example of the limited capacity of our human-built systems, to say nothing of the carrying capacity of the natural world. Scientific and legal compliance are not NIMBYism.

This is not to say housing is not needed. A safe, secure place to live is every person’s right. But there are speculators and developers who have been taking advantage of the current situation, shamelessly profiteering and hijacking the greater community good on these unceded lands. Homes for Living and its new Homes for People action plan will create increased density by upzoning and blanket zoning. Without any adequate environmental protection policies or plans in place and absent public participation, this new trajectory for Saanich has left me uneasy as a municipal councillor.

Zoning is the Magic Wand of Local Government

Last month, a Leger poll showed only six per cent of Canadians blame the country’s onerous housing costs on municipalities. As local government, we must remember we are the most powerful level of government for affordability and environmental sustainability because of our ability to zone lands. Zoning land is a powerful tool that must be used wisely and for the public interest.


The pressure from the province to build more houses is immense. But, knowing Saanich does not have adequate environmental protections, tree protection, and streamside and foreshore protections in place is causing me duress. I also believe our Memorandum of Understanding with the WSANEC leadership council in question. I am advocating for sustainable development. I am advocating for consultation with First Nations. I am advocating for good fiscal management. Losing biological diversity comes at a cost, and maintaining it should be a priority. 


As a local councillor, I do not belong to a political party. I am also 100% NOT developer funded. I make decisions that do not include private, development, or industrial influence. My focus is on sustainable land use. As a councillor, I have been consistently advocating for fair public amenities and environmental protection during subdivision and development applications. My voting record confirms my understanding of zoning.


I am also not on the Homes For Living team and I did not fill out the Homes For Living survey. It was created by a development lobby group and includes their definitions of the crisis and their solutions. I do not agree with a majority of these solutions, including their definition of affordability.


As citizens of the region, my husband and I consider the in-perpetuity protection of Madrona Farm among our most important marital achievements. These 24 acres are among the most speculated, expensive, and sought over lands in Canada. We are so pleased to have, through the help of family, friends of Madrona Farm, and the public, protected these lands forever and created this legacy in the most biodiverse part of Saanich, BC, and Canada. It has been our life.


Without environmental protection during development, the results are not sustainable. When we convert a biodiversity hotspot into non-pervious surfaces and pipes it is not good financial management. When we tear out natural features, we are removing free ecosystem services known more commonly as Nature-based solutions. Nature provides resiliency from disturbance and mitigates climate impacts (flooding, landslides, extreme heat, etc.). The cost of preservation is much cheaper than restoration.


I advocate for smaller house sizes and wise placement. I am of the mindset we should build around trees. We do not have much room in some parts of Saanich for tree replacement. Therefore, when we remove trees we really are removing them, and giving up their free ecosystem services: water retention, flood abatement, pollution filtration, pollination, carbon sequestration, etc. Trees protect us from the elements, provide shade, and are part of the hydrological cycle. Native trees provide habitat for birds and bees and butterflies and a myriad of other creatures. We live in an incredibly biologically diverse region with dozens of federally endangered species. We should be celebrating and stewarding these unique habitats. Instead, we are unravelling generations of traditional land-use techniques and fertility and habitats and replacing them with buildings that may only last 60-100 years.


Even large non-native trees should be prioritized over pavement. Removing trees for bike lanes when tree removal accelerates climate change and increases the impacts of heat domes does not make sense. I just came back from Corsica, where it was 45°Celcius and there are beautiful bike lanes there. Guess what? They were bare. Nobody feels like riding in those temperatures. So more thoughtful planning is needed. With each tree removal we eliminate ecosystem services without properly understanding their true value.


There is value in biodiversity that is never adequately quantified or included in fiscal calculations. These are free services that Nature provides us on the most biodiverse and fertile lands in Canada. This is why I advocate strongly for Development Cost Charges (DCC) and Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) and public amenities. We need to put a price tag on biodiversity, and insist on updated development fees. My motto “developers pay their fair share” comes from this. As a food grower, I know the cost and time of building fertility and doing sustainable land use. Also as a restoration ecologist I know the cost of replacing these ecological attributes. The cost of maintaining Nature Based Solutions is far cheaper than restoration. And, unfortunately, the public is always on the hook for restoration.


Coming from a background of conservation and protecting lands, I am very busy strategizing on what comes next. Sustainability is about conducting land use that meets the needs of current generations without impairing future generations’ ability to meet their needs. It is about returning to the reverence that was practiced here since time immemorial. To me this is synonymous with climate action. We love our kids – right? We are currently doing one-generation land use, not stewarding the earth for the next generations.


Much of my hope lies in private property owners protecting their own properties in a variety of ways. I am inspired by the WSANEC land trust and the first land transfer of Maber Flats. I believe it will be the first of many. Raincoast Conservation Foundation can also write covenants and protect lands through land trusting. I hope to raise millions between these two organizations, as well as a fund for people who want to covenants on their property but cannot afford to so.


People often come to me and ask me how to protect their lands and now I can direct them better. I will not give up on the ability and will still strongly advocate for local government to protect the environment through zoning and environmental policy. Creating a biodiverse refugia for the health of family/community and a legacy for future generations is possible.

I can not emphasize how important it is that citizens pay attention to changes in zoning in light of our demand for new housing. As always I welcome you to speak with me.

We can “be the change we wish to see in the world”.

Advocating for People, Planet and Place Over Profit.

Chambers in the Chambers: 

Advocating for People, Planet and Place Over Profit.

I will share my thoughts on the recent Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) and Inclusionary Housing Policy on July, 4, 2023: 

Please see my website at Nathaliechambers.ca for links to relevant background information on CAC’s, DCC (Developer Cost Charges), LAP’s(Local Area Plans), and my work. 

Much of this occurred while the public was out of the Saanich Chambers due to the COVID19 restrictions. Without a Voting Dashboard I have been making increased efforts to inform the public and increase public participation. 

Very sadly this vote happened while I was in France on vacation visiting family. This is a council decision which I must accept and respect as the electorate (Saanich Residents) elected us all to these positions. This was a unanimous decision, (with the exception of my vote/absence).

However, I do not have to like it. I will explain my thoughts, processes and opinions irrespective of this vote.

I will direct you to my website for updates after I’ve made some updates.

I will hope for a miracle and will not give up as we wait for a review in a year.

I will be honest, public subsidization of private, industrial and development interests on unceded lands INFLAMES me. Especially when not producing affordability, livability, reconciliation and sustainability. Provincial downloading of costs added to this fans the flames.

This is the “Tragedy of the Commons” but there is a solution.

My background and track record is in conservation finance which predates politics.

I believe in strategic planning and approved community plans and sticking to them.

Last term there were deviations.

Many former colleagues will remember my motto, borrowed from Story Clark:  A conversation about conservation without finance is just a conversation.

I am proud of my track record/votes on and off council (which I have gone to great lengths to protect since being targeted, and silenced last term). 

I have been successful in these endeavors and was also re-elected to Saanich Council.


I am 100% NOT developer funded and will remain while I am an elected official. I am following in the footsteps of my mentors. 

I am not on the Homes for Living Team.

Funding in the interest of the public is my cup of tea. I believe in abundance and strongly believe that if everybody pays their fair share (industrial, private and interests) we have enough finances to fund affordability, livability,  reconciliation with First Nations and environmental sustainability. 

Chambers in the Chambers mottos:

Polluters pay not the taxpayer.

Everybody pay their fair share

People, Planet and Place over profit.

A conversation about conservation without finance is just a conversation

I consider myself a guardian of the taxpayer dollars and fought hard to negotiate for fair deals, public amenities and a healthy environment for the public during development applications, subdivisions last term. There was a major opportunity to protect the environment and create affordability-climate resiliency, to create the Kind of Saanich (development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising future generations- Our Common Future ) we wish to see. 

IMO this is not what occurred.

Up to 450 development applications were approved last term, many made it in before the DCC deadline, interim CACs were applied,  environmental protection during development.

IMO these were incomplete. 

After all we delayed, DCCs , CAC and environmental protection on private property suspended LAPs (all recommendations from last term’s Mayor Standing Group on Housing/Housing Forum) for affordable housing that never manifested. 

With land values inflated (from 2017- the by-election and on-the duration of my political career) I saw a great opportunity for funding in the public interest. Building community, livability/affordability and reconciliation with First Nations, since elected which IMO did not occur. Instead we have subsidized those interests. IMO.

(Provincial downloading of responsibility and costs come into play here-IMO).

Increasing taxes and increasing debt.

Therefore, last term one of the biggest successes was getting DCCs and interim CAC’s implemented. 

So you can imagine my distress hearing about this vote.

Update: Taxpayer Money and the Environment. 

Update: Taxpayer Money and the Environment. 

It is almost strategic planning and budget time. Please join me in trying to retain and improve Saanich’s provincially renowned legacy of environmental protection on both private and public lands.  The dial was moved last term from our charted strategic direction and many in the public are still not aware of the changes that occurred.

See my 2020 Year-end Review : history of how we got to where we are.


Transparency, accountability, and civic engagement are key to good government. Thank you Saanich Residents for re-electing me! Unless you watch the webcasts you cannot appreciate my diligence and guardianship of taxpayer money and the environment and the duress I encountered while doing my job.

I believe in abundance and, if our taxes are managed without subsidizing private, corporate interests, we do have enough money to pay fair wages, safety, protect the environment, take climate action, and follow through on livable, affordable, sustainable communities. This was not my experience last term. Last term I witnessed 100 years of approved community plans set aside for recommendations made by the development community for affordable housing that never materialized. Those recommendations had tax increase implications.

(Election financing, BC Elections has just posted)

I am 100% NOT developer funded. Inviting donations from stakeholders on unceded land is very problematic for me, and I have never taken a developer’s donation to get elected. Thank you to my campaign team, my deputy and financial agent. Thank you Katherine Whitworth for your exemplary accounting services, incredible knowledge and integrity- thank you! Keith Cameron: thank you as well! I am very happy that I was able to grant honorariums to my core campaign team this election cycle.

My financial record is now posted with elections BC:

Chambers financing information: 2022 General Local Elections Disclosure Statement for Nathalie Chambers in Saanich has been accepted as filed by the deadline.

If you worked with me in conservation you will know my motto “a conversation about conservation without finance is just a conversation”. My record of accomplishment in financing has enabled me to raise millions for greenspace protection. Last term there were foundational changes with financial implications that I opposed. These occurred when the public was out of the council chambers and the impacts can be seen in our current draft budget. Protecting my track record of public trust and good financial management led me to advocate strongly for a voting dashboard – a effort in which I was defeated.

For example, one decision I believe that will be a very, very expensive for residents was this one: The Environmental Services and Planning Department, once provincially recognized as a symbol of sustainable development, has been torn apart. The Environment Services staff were dispersed into the Parks department, putting into question our provincial legacy of protecting our unique region.  Now 56% of critically important biodiversity, sensitive ecosystems, and culturally significant areas are without adequate protections and we all lose resilience, biodiversity, and civic participation.


Another critically important decision is leading to a steady attrition of habitat. The Resilient Saanich Technical Committee was created to assist staff. Then, later in the term, a majority of council voted to change the terms of reference and staff were sidestepped, leading to our current situation: the loss of Nature-Based Solutions and the and loss of habitats for the hundreds of endangered species we are obligated to care for. This change is attributed to the influence of private lobbying groups. As far as I am concerned this is a repeat of colonial land use and we need to decolonize land use and our political institutions.


Last term I was also targeted, lobbied, discriminated against, and falsely accused by private interest groups with vested interests – they wanted to silence me. This is all documented and it has impacted me greatly. The extent of this took many lawyers to unravel but now my track record and my safety are protected. I now have a legal defence team to protect my reputation from being besmirched by those who wish to get profit using taxpayers’ money.


I will not be silenced this term.


In my private life, when politics permits, I will be getting back to protecting the coastal lands, waters, and wildlife with my favourite science organization who can also write covenants and protect lands: Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

A 2023 New Year Call to Action: Preserve, Restore and Renew.

It’s that time of year when people say “Happy New Year!” despite the fact that global species diversity is plummeting, the biomass of wild animals has been reduced by 82%, one million organisms are at risk of extinction, and 50% of earth’s ecosystems have been eradicated by humans. There is still time to halt biodiversity loss, however, and still provide affordable housing and deal with the climate crisis. What I am calling for is development that meets the needs of the current generation without impairing future generations of all life on earth from meeting theirs. 

I feel incredibly honored to have been re-elected as a councillor for the Municipality of Saanich, on the unceded territory of the LEKWUNGEN AND WSANEC people and in a federally-recognized biodiversity hotspot with some of the best soils in Canada. Southeastern Vancouver Island’s Garry Oak and associated ecosystems are considered among the top three most endangered ecosystems in the country: literally hundreds of species are found here and nowhere else in Canada. Their stewardship and protection falls to us, the other inhabitants of this region. And yet, their habitats continue to be destroyed through our activities.

What we are experiencing in this extraordinarily special region is a three-pronged problem: a climate, biodiversity and affordable housing crisis. However, we should not try to deal with them in isolation, and instead take an integrated approach to the issue. Providing for the needs of our species through affordable housing and emission reductions, mitigation and adaptation cannot come at the expense of the region’s exceptional biodiversity and the protection of natural areas and species.

In Saanich there have been what I consider devastating losses to biodiversity over the past several years because the last council failed to implement adequate protections for sensitive and culturally significant habitats through a biodiversity strategy that applied to both private and public lands. Instead, the Environmental Services staff were quietly eliminated from the Planning Department. Under the previous mayor and council, approximately 450 development applications were approved, many of them made it in before the increase in developer cost charges were in place and without what I consider fair public amenities or adequate environmental protection. Approximately 56% of sensitive ecosystems in Saanich are under-protected, despite input from our Indigenous representatives asking that we put protections on private property on their sacred lands.

From December 7-19, 2022, 19,000 representatives from governments from all over the world met in Montreal for the United Nations Biodiversity Conference with a mandate to secure the future of our planetary life support system by coming up with practical solutions to end the catastrophic biodiversity loss. This event resulted in a monumental Global Biodiversity Framework, with 23 targets and four goals. Of particular interest is the commitment to protect at least 30% of land and water around globe by 2030: halting further ecosystem loss, preserving our soil carbon sinks, and protecting species, including birds and pollinators. Also critical was reversing existing losses through ecological restoration. 

It is a perfect storm: we have new leadership at both the provincial and many municipal levels, and we have the targets from COP15 to guide us. In fact, Premier Eby is on record as having adopted these guidelines and targets and he has appointed a new minister to the housing portfolio. So right now, as our collective new year’s resolution, we can make the changes that are needed to protect ourselves, the multitude of species that also call this region home, and improve the liveability of the region through improved food security and habitat restoration, all at the same time. I truly believe that Saanich can restore its reputation as being a leader in environmental protection and accommodate affordable housing where there is no net loss of nature. We can do this by implementing nature-based solutions for infrastructure, and stop treating wild spaces as wasted space. Fully 50% of our economies are reliant on ecosystems, and, ultimately, the cost of preservation is cheaper than restoration. 

So Happy New Year to all of us. Let’s get started. 

Councillor Nathalie Chambers