A North Saanich councillor publicly raised a question many Saanich Peninsula residents have likely asked themselves already: why is Amazon not helping pay for the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Beacon Avenue West and Galaran Road and the realignment of Sterling Way?
But Coun. Jack McClintock also argued that Sidney “survives” because of North Saanich.
“It has been mentioned by two of my colleagues that we go into Sidney and we use their resources,” he said. “I presume they mean their retail resources. I don’t look at it as using their resources. I look at it as supporting their resources. They survive because of people from North Saanich. It is not the other way around.”
McClintock made these points as North Saanich council expressed support for a cost-sharing agreement with Victoria Airport Authority and the Town of Sidney that will see North Saanich cover 20 per cent of the project’s current pricetag of $5 million. VAA and Sidney are covering 40 per cent each.
The work will take place near the warehouse currently under construction in Sidney where Amazon plans to operate a last-mile distribution centre.
While McClintock acknowledged voices that have long called for the improvements to the area, he questioned their argument.
“We would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t think the Amazon building was the primary reason for this project moving forward and at the speed it is moving forward,” he said. “Without their generous involvement, I can’t support this.”
McClintock’s comments also sparked a debate about which community stands to benefit from the roundabout, with McClintock arguing that North Saanich’s contribution does not offer a good return. This drew disagreement from Coun. Murray Weisenberger.
“Do all North Saanich’s residents constantly want to use the Town of Sidney for free?” he asked. Sidney and North Saanich are what he called partners in living together on the Saanich Peninsula and it is reasonable for North Saanich to chip in, he said. “This seems to be a logical and reasonable place for us to invest our money as citizens of North Saanich.”
Coun. Brett Smyth agreed with Weisenberger. The status quo at the intersection is unacceptable and lots of North Saanich residents use the intersection to get from and to Sidney, he said. “This does have value for the residents, because we do shop in Sidney,” he said. However, Smyth found some agreement with McClintock’s argument that Amazon should have helped to pay for the project. “But that is up to the airport to make that determination,” said Smyth.
Coun. Celia Stock, who also voted against the cost-sharing agreement, tried to walk a fine line in acknowledging the ties between Sidney and North Saanich, while also finding some agreement with McClintock’s argument. “We mainly help support and finance all the businesses as well, as are Sidney residents. It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.”
Perhaps the most telling response to McClintock’s comments came from Mayor Geoff Orr.
“Hmm,” he said. “OK.”
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