Saanich lost what many say was one of its most valuable assets this past month. Councillor Vic Derman died in his sleep at the age of 72 on March 17, 2017.
As the community comes to understand what has been lost and mourns the passing of their advocate, friend, teacher, ally and family member, Saanich Voice Online asked Saanich South MLA, Lana Popham to reflect and share on her relationship with the 15-year Councillor and friend and what she thought his legacy will be. Here’s what she had to say.
by Lana Popham, MLA, Saanich South
How/when did you meet Vic Derman?
I met Vic during the run-up to the 2005 Saanich Municipal election. It was my first foray into politics and I didn’t really know anybody in the political ring. After the first all-candidates meeting he told me that he was happy to see a young woman entering politics with a passion for the environment. He took me under his wing for the rest of that election and we became fast friends after that.
What did you learn from Vic?
After the election, which I lost, I was invited to sit on the Planning Transportation and Economic Development Committee with Saanich and Vic was the Chair. Even though I had a degree from UBC with a focus on urban planning, I learned more from Vic about how a municipality works than I could have done by getting a Masters degree.
We enjoyed so many chats about smart growth planning and making decisions based on long term outcomes. Vic instilled in me that politics was not necessarily about winning or losing an election, it was more about influencing change for the long haul. I think about that a lot and his words motivate me to keep plugging away.
He seemed to have a love of Saanich. Did he express that to you, and how?
Vic absolutely loved Saanich. He was dedicated to making Saanich better 100% of the time. He would never let a “teachable moment” pass by regardless of who he was speaking to. We had many discussions about how Saanich had the foundations in place to be a “natural city” but we were dropping the ball due to short term decision making. The Uptown Shopping Centre was one of his favourite topics and he was continually disappointed that we had created a car-centric development at a time when we should be moving away from this sort of planning.
Was there a favourite meeting, ride, visit, moment?
Vic and I liked to have meetings over lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish downtown. I loved this as it meant we could share a bike ride to get there. I consider myself to be a pretty avid cyclist and 20 years younger than Vic….but I could barely keep up with him on those rides! I used to smile as I watched him barrel past the crowds on the Galloping Goose. It was Vic living and enjoying the results of regional planning that he believed in.
Did you ever agree to disagree?
Nothing ever got in our way as friends, even though he was non-partisan. When I became a provincial politician and chose a party to run with, Vic made it very clear that he supported me but would have to refrain from supporting me politically. This didn’t surprise me. That being said, we had many political discussions, and he never missed an opportunity to push the envelope on sustainability at the provincial level. I counted on him for that.
What do you feel was his greatest challenge?
Vic was ahead of his time and that was his challenge. To sustain his commitment and to continue
the good fight in the face of naysayers probably took a toll. Sometimes I could tell it was wearing on him and I hear see his frustration, but that never lasted long.
What legacy do you feel Vic has left his community?
I think one of Vic’s legacies is that he has changed the working language in the Saanich Chamber. I think his influence will be long-lasting.
How could Saanich and the CRD best honour Vic Derman.
I believe the best way to honour Vic is to support progressive decision makers around the council table, so when faced with a tough decision, they will ask themselves, “What would Vic do?”