It’s more than a year away, but the civic election in Sidney is already looking like it could be quite uncivil.
Two community organizations are this month considering how involved they wish to be in the October 2018 municipal election. One group is already looking at organizing potential nominees to run as a slate against five incumbent members of council, including the mayor.
Richard Talbot, a retail consultant who has been at loggerheads with the current council over commercial development in town, is leading the most active group. It’s an offshoot of the Support Our Sidney (SOS) group that began in protest of plans to build the Sidney Gateway (now Sidney Crossing) retail and commercial project. They are already calling for people to be part of a working group that will solicit potential nominees to run for council and for the mayor’s chair.
Talbot is pulling no punches about the group’s intent — he is using the slogan “Make Sidney Priceless Again!” in emails. He told the News Review it’s a deliberate emphasis on finding someone who will challenge — and potentially replace — Mayor Steve Price.
“The goal of this group is to remove the ‘Gateway Five’,” Talbot said, adding their beef with the current council is their approval of a land rezoning to enable the development to proceed, during what he termed “an appalling public hearing.”
Talbot’s ‘Gateway Five’ are councilors Cam McLennan, Peter Wainwright, Mervyn Lougher-Goodey, Tim Chad and Price. Councillors Barbara Fallot and Erin Bremner-Mitchell are not being targeted specifically. The latter two councillors voted against rezoning land to accommodate potential commercial development at that 2016 public hearing.
The proposed Sidney Crossing is also the root of the formation of the SOS itself. The group feels such a commercial site would be to the detriment of downtown businesses.
In a letter to the PNR following the online publication of this story (Price was asked to comment prior to publication), Mayor Steve Price called the SOS’s plans for the 2018 municipal election “disappointing,” adding “Richard Talbot and his … organization continue on with their campaign of negativity and fear.”
“As Mayor of the town of Sidney, and previously as a two-term councillor, I prefer to approach things on a more positive and community-minded note,” Price stated.
“I do not intend on letting our town or our residents down and will be running for mayor again in 2018,” Price continued. “Our residents will have a clear choice to make — elect an experienced mayor and council who will keep our town prosperous, positive, friendly and progressive, or hand it over to special interest slates who will jeopardize Sidney’s success for isolated and impractical reasons.”
A second group, the Sidney Community Association (SCA), is also considering the next civic election. President Jocelyn Gifford said she mentioned the upcoming election at their annual general meeting in June, stating it should be on their radar and they should be considering just how involved they wish to be.
She said it’s very early in discussions among their board and membership, adding they will have to talk about how involved they wish to be and how that might affect their non-partisan status. Gifford added some of their members are also members of the SOS, however the organizations have different approaches “on how to conduct ourselves.”
She said while it’s very early to be talking about the election, she expects a conversation will be had at a meeting of the board and SCA members in September.
Talbot said there’s another group in Sidney also considering the next election, but he would not say who they were, as he is not privy to their position. He did say he feels all three groups should consider coming together, to avoid vote-splitting.
He added his group already has commitments from six people who wish to be part of an election committee. Talbot said they’ve also spoken with potential candidates, but said because it’s so early, and full decisions have not yet been made, he would not name them.
He said he expects more activity with the group after Labour Day.
Wainwright, in response to a PNR email for comment, had little to say.
“My only comment is that I think it’s too early to start the campaign for next year’s municipal election,” he wrote.
In an email, Lougher-Goodey noted that the SCA “are hard working and attend every council and committee of the whole and provide thoughtful comments on the issues of the day.”
He said he hasn’t made up his mind on whether to enter the fray in 2018 and, as is his practice, doesn’t expect to do so until closer to the actual election period.
“We are more than a year away and a lot can happen over the year to influence my decision.”
The News Review asked all five councillors and the mayor for comment. We will update the story as responses are received.