by Michele Murphy, photos from Facebook
When there is an issue on the table that is likely to make a significant difference in the pocketbook of the electorate, they are more likely to show up to vote.
While Saanich’s Nov. 15 municipal election may not enjoy the same turn-out that Scotland’s did (84.5% for those of you that missed it), and its issues may not be as big as forming a separate country (Republic of Saanich?), Saanich may be facing larger concerns than it has in the recent past – and as such – attract a larger voter response – or will it?
“The major issues were just starting to brew last election,” says Saanich mayoral candidate Richard Atwell. “They have now become the focus of this election,” he adds.
Mayor Frank Leonard would not comment at this time on whether the municipality faces what he feels are ‘big’ issues. He did say that he approaches elections as more of a performance review. “The residents and I discuss how I have worked with Council and the community to achieve our goals,” he explains.
When asking Atwell what the major issues in Saanich are he responds, “Sewage treatment, amalgamation and CRD governance now take centre-stage. We have reached an impasse on all three and in order to move ahead, we need new faces on Saanich Council. We can no longer keep kicking-the-can down the road.”
Saanichites have a history of being ballot-box averse in municipal elections. The 2005 and 2008 elections saw only 19 and 21% of eligible voters show up to make their mark. Even the 2011 election – an election that saw a significant mayoral candidate come forward to challenge the often-acclaimed Mayor – only saw a minimal improvement over previous elections with 75 per cent of voters choosing to stay home.
The media-of-the-day framed the 2011 campaign that saw retired Saanich South MLA and former (three-times elected) Saanich municipal councillor David Cubberley bid for Saanich’s top-job as primarily a popularity contest naming no substantive issues facing the electorate.
Could it be the disinterest in the democratic process was a result of asking the public to play judge in a personality contests instead of thoughtfully considering the actual issues facing their community?
Let’s take a look at some of the issues that have been identified:
Atwell comes to the race as the founder and organizer of both Stop a Bad Plan and The RITE Plan, two organizations that were born out of a frustration with the sewage treatment plan that the CRD has created.
Atwell says, “The sewage project in present form will come with a substantial and long-term tax increase which will ultimately impact everything else that we want to achieve in Saanich. We cannot afford to pass this debt onto the next generation and so we must find a better value solution, but so far no one on council is looking.”
Leonard told the Victoria Times Colonist last May that he feels that, “The Capital Regional District should go back to the province for help in finding a solution to its sewage treatment dilemma – only this time it should knock on a different door.” Adding that he felt that given the number of years Saanich has been at this and the circumstances it finds itself in, having the government’s help to move to the next stage would be worthwhile.
On amalgamation Leonard told Saanich Voice Online, “The current campaign to reduce the number of small municipalities is not a debate Saanich need be a part of.”
Atwell says that he supports asking the province to study amalgamation. “The public wants to weigh-in with their opinion but so far Mayor Frank Leonard and the rest of Saanich Council have refused to allow even a question on the municipal ballot,” says Atwell, adding, “that’s undemocratic.”
Leonard was quoted recently as saying that, “The only government bigger than Saanich around here is the CRD, and that doesn’t help the bigger is better argument either.” Perhaps not a glowing endorsement of our regional problem-solving body.
Atwell feels that the CRD has become dysfunctional with the current players. “CRD decisions affect everything that we do, from transportation solutions to waste management and other infrastructure,” says Atwell. “We must find affordable solutions and for that we need new decision makers who can work collaboratively with others to find them.”
What issues exist and how Saanich mayoral candidates propose that they will lead Saanich through these issues may make a significant difference both in the lives and pocketbooks of
Saanich residents. Are these the issues that matter most to you? What more do the candidates have to say? SVO encourages you to check out the candidate’s websites, send them an email, attend an all-candidates meeting.
Whatever issues are important to you, getting informed and turning up to vote is your best chance to have your say on them. While there won’t be a vote on Saanich becoming its own country there are important issues being decided and you don’t want to be left out.
Go to www.saanich.ca/elections for more info on the Nov 15 Saanich elections. Oct 10th will be the closing of the nomination period, at which time we’ll know all the candidates.