Monday, October 20, 2014

The Race in North Saanich

North Saanich has been a very divided council for the last three years.    The council is currently split with four councilors on one side and the mayor and two councilors on the other side.   I do not know if  the 2014 election is not going to change this dynamic.

The one side is called Team North Saanich and is made up of three sitting councilors, Dunstan Browne, Conny McBride, and Craig Mearns and are joined by two new candidates, Jack McClintock and Stephen Pearce.

The other side is mayor Alice Finall and councilor Celia Stock.  I suspect that candidates Heather Gartshore, Geoff Orr, Jack Thornburgh and Murray Weisenberger would be very much on the mayor's side.   Elsie McMurphy is the other current councilor that normally supports the mayor but she is not running again for council but switched back to the School Board.

The most interesting "wildcard" in the race is Dorothy Hartshorne.  She was a North Saanich councilor until 2005 after which she moved to the Cariboo.   She is back in North Saanich and now wants to be mayor.   She is politically connected with the BC Liberals having served as a constituency assistance for Donna Barnett.   She is not part of Team North Saanich but knowing the her political leanings and those of the Team North Saanich, I think she should be a reasonable fit with them.

So what is the North Saanich election about?

Broadly the election is about three major issues

  • How North Saanich should develop and if the Official Community Plan needs to change to allow for more housing.
  • How much should the city hall restrict what people can do with their properties.
  • How North Saanich looks after its finances.

An example of an issue that has divided North Saanich is the Canora Mews development.  The project is located on a small triangle property between Canora Road, East Saanich Road and the road running out to the airport.  

The development is in my opinion a smart use of a property that had few other realistic uses.  It was much too small to have any functional value for agriculture    The development adds 40 houses into a rather small area of land.   It also adds density next to areas of existing density and finally it is located only 750 meters from the MacTavish transit exchange.   But....

There is opposition to the development because it is adding any density in North Saanich and it is seen as the thin edge of the wedge for a lot more higher density in North Saanich.  Areas next to developed parts of Sidney could see higher densities.  These areas were originally not within the urban containment boundary.  

The opposition to the current council majority is clearly quite vocal but will this manifest itself in a large voter turnout to elect a new council?

I know that Team North Saanich is making a big deal about over regulation of private property by North Saanich especially in relation to bylaws arising from the 2007 OCP.     The issues seem to be around the tree bylaw, access to the water for waterfront properties and finally the Fire Hazard bylaw.

Finally, there is a concern about the cost of local government from Team North Saanich.  Even with Airport and BC Ferries North Saanich has relatively high per capita property taxes of which almost all of that is borne by residential property owners.  At the same for a "rural" municipality it seems to spend a lot.  I can understand why some people in North Saanich wonder if they are getting value for money.

What is a likely outcome of the election?

With ten candidates running for six council positions the majority of the people on the ballot will be elected.  

Based on the 2010 by-election I think the Team North Saanich will have a strong core vote that only votes for the Team North Saanich people on the ballot.  This should mean very little benefit for other candidates from voters for the Team North Saanich.  Based on the 2011 election and 2010 by-election I see a significant core of support for Team North Saanich.  I think Team North Saanich incumbents will be re-elected and the two candidates have a strong chance of being elected.

I do not see any evidence of a strong campaign from Jack Thornburgh and Murray Weisenberger which would say to me they are likely to be on the bottom.  Jack did come very close to be elected in 2011 but there were only two incumbents in that election.

Celcia Stock is an incumbent and I do not think she will be defeated.

Finally, Heather Gartshore and Geoff Orr are both running serious campaigns and should have a shot of winning but that really depends on which part of North Saanich comes out to vote.  I think the Team North Saanich core vote is larger than those opposed to them.  I think the two of them will be close to be elected but not make it.

Alice Finall has been mayor for two terms but only did not have an opponent in 2011.  In 2008 she defeated the sitting mayor Ted Daly 55% to 45%.  Her election and the council elected in 2008 seems to be have been the catalyst for the creation of Team North Saanich.  

I know there are people rather upset with how she has been treated by the majority of the council but will this be enough to keep her elected?

Dorothy Hartshorne was a North Saanich councilor nine years ago.  She has been living in the Cariboo back is back in North Saanich now.   Does she have the team in place to meet enough people to have a chance of winning?   Can she step into the bickering council realm?  Will Team North Saanich supporters vote for her?  

I have no idea how the race for mayor will turn out.

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