Saanich can only blame itself for the McKenzie interchange, says head of Greater Victoria builders. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

Builders say Saanich’s opposition to density made McKenzie interchange necessary

Head of Victoria Residential Builders Association defends highway project in wake of criticism

The group representing Greater Victoria builders says Saanich has no right to complain about the McKenzie interchange project.

The Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA) made that claim in a tweet defending the project.

“Project reduces idling [and] fuel use leading to lower [greenhouse gas] emissions,” it read. “Plus we will say what BC [government] can’t. [Saanich] council regularly opposed density, undermining LRT [and] pushed new housing to West Shore, creating need for interchange.”

VRBA’s tweet came after Coun. Judy Brownoff had questioned large infrastructure projects generally and the McKenzie interchange project specifically. The provincial project — which lies within municipal boundaries but outside Saanich’s jurisdiction — has been a point of environmental and economic controversy because of its cost overruns, delays and environmental impact. More broadly, critics say such large projects undermine efforts to fight climate change, a point the public heard earlier this month, when Brownoff criticized the project.

RELATED: Greater Victoria’s McKenzie interchange: a boondoggle in the making?

RELATED: Province rejects McKenzie Interchange criticism

Brownoff said both the provincial and federal government need to do more around transportation and buildings to help reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

“They have to be more engaged around those high priority areas,” she said. It was within this context that Brownoff criticized the project. “For instance, investing over $80 million on a new interchange, which will create more greenhouse gases, instead of investing it into public transit.”

Casey Edge, VRBA’s executive director, does not buy Brownoff’s critique, contending that Saanich can only blame itself.

“The reason for the traffic and need for interchanges is their [council’s] decades-long voting record [regarding] lack of housing density in their core municipality,” said Edge.

“If you want LRT as some councillors claim, then provide a reason to build it. The Uptown project and Shelbourne [Valley Action Plan] recently passed are insufficient to make up for years of anti-development voting.”

Edge acknowledged that Saanich does not bear sole responsibility, but nonetheless insists that Saanich should have done more to fight urban sprawl. Accordingly, he said it is not appropriate for individual councillors including Brownoff to complain.

“It’s true other core municipalities are also partly responsible, but Saanich is the largest municipality so they can own the majority in keeping with their size,” he said.

The Saanich News has reached out to the District for comment to VRBA’s tweet and will update this story.


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