A former Saanich councillor says voters repudiated slates and sent a strong message of support to mayor-elect Fred Haynes, while ushering in a generational change.
Coun. Dean Murdock made these observations in analyzing the results of the 2018 general municipal election.
“I think Saanich voters clearly said that they don’t like slates,” he said.
Four of five United for Saanich members failed to win election during Saturday’s municipal election. Non-incumbent candidates Cory Montgomery (8,695), Ian Jessop (9,606) and Kathleen Burton (11,289) finished outside the Top 8, with Burton finishing behind slate member Karen Harper, who returned to council with 11,713 votes.
Mayor Richard Atwell, who headed the slate, lost his re-election bid to mayor-elect Fred Haynes, who secured 15,312 votes — 4,526 more than Atwell’s total. Rob Wickson finished with 5,546 votes, while David Shebib finished with 324 votes.
“He [Haynes] can certainly claim an unquestionable victory,” said Murdock.
Looking at the eight winning councillors, newly elected councillors Nathalie Chambers, Rebecca Mersereau, Ned Taylor, and Zac de Vries join incumbents Susan Brice, Judy Brownoff, Harper, and Plant.
Murdock said voters chose a council that combines experience, with new ideas and energy.
“This is a blend of perspectives,” he said.
It is a certain blend of demographics as voters elected, not one, not two, but three self-identified members of the millennial generation: de Vries, Taylor, and Mersereau. These choices speak to the issue of housing affordability and sustainability among youth, said Murdock, who looks forward to hearing their perspectives. Saanich also elected a strong advocate for farmland in Chambers.
While the new council will have inevitable disagreements, Murdock expects a much more collaborative approach.
“They have a chance to get things done,” he said.
While the previous council managed to achieve some strategic goals, he acknowledged the narrative of dysfunction that accompanied it.
With this context, observers often pointed to the relationship between Atwell and the rest of council.
Murdock said voters gave Atwell a mandate for change when they elected and Atwell himself brought a genuine desire for change to the table. If the initial phase of Atwell’s term had started differently in alluding to the spyware scandal, council could have worked more collaboratively, said Murdock. But a combination of circumstances and inexperience led to the perception of dysfunction, he said.
Looking at amalgamation, Murdock welcomes the outcome of referendum on creating a citizens’ assembly on amalgamation, because it promises to replace rhetoric with information.