Candidates forums are designed to help voters reach a decision by election day. Sometimes, they also help candidates make decisions, too.
North Saanich mayoral hopeful Peter Miller, citing a lackluster performance at the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and Peninsula News Review forum on Oct. 30, announced his withdrawal from the race the following morning. He is encouraging his supporters to support challenger Dorothy Hartshorne.
Miller admitted he wasn’t familiar with some of the issues raised in questions posed at the forum and an hour after leaving the forum, he had decided to pull out.
“I got involved to defeat Alice Finall,” Miller said, who made it clear during the forum that he had hoped to replace the incumbent mayor’s brand of leadership with his own.
Afraid of splitting the vote, Miller said he decided to throw his support behind mayoral candidate Dorothy Hartshorne.
“I apologize to my supporters but feel I was going to split the vote,” Miller stated in an email to the PNR. “My intent was to win and I now I can honestly say I couldn’t. I was happy to pursue the top spot in North Saanich but I think my inexperience showed through.”
It is, however, too late to remove Miller’s name from the ballot in North Saanich. The District said the ballots have already been printed — and include Miller’s name. The request to withdraw from the election has been forwarded on to the Minister of Community Services, according to the District. A decision is expected soon on whether the minister will accept the withdrawal and what steps the municipality can take to remove Miller from the ballots.
This leaves Hartshorne as the only credible challenger to Finall, who has served two terms as mayor of North Saanich. A third candidate, David Shebib, is running in all 13 Victoria-area municipalities and is decidedly anti-government and did not attend the Oct. 30 forum.
Finall opened the forum stating her desire to preserve agricultural land against what she termed ad-hoc housing developments. Hartshorne said she’s pushing for a review of the OCP, expediting process at the council table and reaching a level reasoned debate.
The format of the all candidates forum saw all mayoral and council candidate questions asked the same questions.
Asked if they would support an OCP review, nine of the 13 said they do — council candidate Heather Gartshore said no, as it’s too expense but added a tweak of the planing document would be appropriate. Council candidate Geoff Orr also said no, but added an update might be the way to go. Jack Thornburgh said he doesn’t favour that unless voters ask for it and noted the current OCP was sabotaged during the last term of council.
Dunstan Browne did not answer directly, only stating that Finall had changed her mind about the OCP review.
Browne would later be stopped by a moderator during his closing remarks, after the panel had been warned not to make personal comments about other candidates.
Housing development and affordable housing issues were on the minds of voters, as was agriculture, waterfront property owners and arts funding.
Candidates Browne, Craig Mearns, Conny McBride, Jack McClintock and Steve Pearce made it clear they were part of Team North Saanich, a registered municipal political party. At the same time, other candidates stated they were “independent” of such party politics. Council candidate Murray Weisenberger noted he “was aghast there’s a slate of candidates in a community of 11,000 people,” to which he received a round of applause.
Weisengerber was the only candidate who said they hope voters say ‘yes’ to the amalgamation question on the Nov. 15 ballot.
The others said they agree the question should be asked, but the majority of candidates said they felt amalgamation is just not right for North Saanich.
Watch for more civic election coverage in the News Review leading up to Nov. 15.