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

Local Government Transparency

Saanich residents need to know how their local government elected representatives vote on all motions that come before council. That’s transparency right where we need it – at the council table when councillors actually make their decisions and vote.

Transparency is absolutely necessary for good government. It’s absolutely essential for fair, accountable government.

Saanich Council can significantly improve its transparency by electronically tracking how each councillor votes. We can provide the voting records of all councillors on every motion, by implementing an electronic dashboard on our municipal website.

As things stand now, citizens must watch or scroll through the entire video recordings of council meetings to find out how councillors voted on specific motions,. That takes too much time. We can do so much better at providing our citizens with accurate, timely information on how their councillors voted.

An electronic dashboard is an easy fix. It can be updated after every council meeting to show citizens how their municipal councillors are working for them.

For two years, I have championed implementation of a vote-tracking dashboard on the District of Saanich website. Twice I have brought motions before council to establish a dashboard. We still don’t have one.

The City of Victoria does. Vancouver does. Nanaimo does. Why not Saanich? Our residents deserve and need local government transparency as much as citizens anywhere else in British Columbia.

I want to ensure that Saanich residents enjoy the highest possible level of local government transparency. And I will keep bringing motions before council to implement a vote-tracking dashboard.


I’m Nathalie Chambers. I’m seeking re-election for a second term on Saanich Council in this fall’s municipal election.  I’m also standing for election to the Capital Regional District.
You know where I stand on local government transparency.
If you agree, then vote Nathalie Chambers on October 15.
Thank you.

Local Area Plans


Saanich has a wonderful tradition of civic engagement in local government. Our Local Area Plans are a great example.

Local Area Plans provide policy to enable Saanich citizens to identify, protect and enhance features of their neighborhoods. Each of the 12 neighborhoods in Saanich has a Local Area Plan. In the past, citizen input has resulted in important environmental protection. To remain current, Local Area Plans are updated regularly.

In 2021, the District of Saanich paused Local Area Plans to focus on Centre, Corridor and Village planning – basically to concentrate on new housing development.

I know – this just sounds like routine administration. Local government planning. Business as usual. But it’s not business as usual.

I began hearing from residents in Saanich neighborhoods who feared council’s new planning focus would create changes in their communities that weren’t in line with Local Area Plans.

In addition, Saanich citizens have expressed their fears that council’s “pause” on updating Local Area Plans will continue indefinitely. These concerns are creating neighborhood disharmony. People are afraid that Saanich Council will use the new planning priority to run roughshod over the Local Ares Plans and the neighborhood-based priorities they represent.

I believe it is council’s fundamental duty to balance policy and strategic priorities with the will of the people. Saanich residents are feeling that the rug is being pulled out from under them. Something is wrong.

So, I made a motion in council to forward discussion about ending the pause on Local Area Plan updates to this September. I just didn’t want to see Local Area Plans get stuck in limbo indefinitely.

In fact, I’d like to see discussion on Local Area Plans begin as soon as possible. Our Local Area Plans represent a bond of trust between council and our residents.

I will respect that trust because I understand how important properly updated Local Area Plans are to democracy, accountability and harmony in Saanich.

Thank you.

Protect what you believe is important in your community.
Saanich is currently receiving public input regarding new land use policy in three areas:
  • New housing forms in Neighbourhoods (through residential infill)
  • Land uses along major roads/corridors
  • Building complete, walkable communities

Why I went into municipal politics – getting Saanich back on track

“The Spirit of Saanich” inspired me to enter municipal politics as a candidate for council.

What is “”The Spirit of Saanich”?

It’s community accomplishment. Environmental protection. Civic engagement. And political accountability from elected local government officials.

Before 2018, Saanich citizens and council achieved something truly important. They put in place very strong environmental protection for our community.

The Environmental Development Permit Area and protections entrenched in Local Area Plans enshrined the principles of sustainability and responsible development in the District of Saanich. These measures established a level of environmental protection that represented a significant community accomplishment.

Saanich citizens, working with local organizations and municipal committees, made robust environmental protection a reality through their enthusiastic civic engagement. Saanich Council worked with them and stood accountable to their demand for a healthy local environment.

This was the heart and soul of “The Spirit of Saanich”. I loved it. And when I was first elected to Saanich Council in 2018, I looked forward to following the path blazed by local residents and their elected representatives.

But much to my dismay, the Saanich Council elected four years ago abandoned that path and replaced it with an agenda undoing our environmental protection and prioritizing the interests of developers.

I’m seeking re-election in October, 2022, because I want to put Saanich back on track for the future.

Let’s honour the tradition of civic engagement that put us on the right path – with the goal of protecting our environment as the key to a healthy community.

Let’s restore “The Spirit of Saanich”.

On October 15, vote Nathalie Chambers for Saanich Council and the Capital Regional District.

Thank you.