More voters turned out in Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich on Saturday to elect new municipal councils and school board trustees than in 2011.
In the Town of Sidney, where incumbent councillor Steve Price made the transition to mayor, 43 per cent of registered voters cast ballots, compared with only 31 per cent three years ago.
That 12 per cent jump in voter turnout was mirrored in North Saanich, where 53 per cent of registered voters came out, compared with only 41 per cent in 2011.
In Central Saanich, a lower voter turnout than their neighbours remained the trend, with only a 36 per cent response. That’s still up a couple of percentage points from 2011’s 32 per cent turnout.
With voter interest higher than in 2011, change was on offer at the polls in North Saanich and Sidney, while Central Saanich voters elected to maintain a status quo council for the next four years.
Town of Sidney
Councillors with experience make up the lion’s share of Sidney’s new council, including three incumbents and a past councillor.
Incumbents Tim Chad and Mervyn Lougher-Goodey survived to serve the new, four-year term, while two-term councillor Melissa Hailey did not. Kenny Podmore and Marilyn Loveless decided not to seek re-election and Larry Cross did not seek another term as mayor.
Peter Wainwright, a councillor from 1993 to 2008, made a comeback in this election.
Steve Price is the Town’s new mayor, after serving two terms as a councillor under Cross.
On Saturday and through the advance voting period, electors in the Town of Sidney gave Price the win with 1,312 votes, according to preliminary election results posted by the Town. He defeated challengers Cliff McNeil-Smith, former mayor Don Amos and Steve Duck.
“The residents of Sidney believe in what the past council has done,” Price said Saturday night after the results came in. “They want common sense leadership and the stability this council has worked on for the last six years.”
The experienced crew will be joined by newcomer Erin Bremner, who led the balloting with 2,269 votes, Barbara Fallot and Cam McClennan.
Bremner and McClennan were among the youngest candidates running in Sidney. Price said he’s looking forward to working with a council of highly-skilled people and the “new blood we need.”
Price called the group a strong new council for Sidney.
“Mayor-wise, the people were happy with the stability of council.”
Lougher-Goodey said he’s happy with the result and the new council.
“It’s a stable group,” he said, “and the new members will bring in fresh ideas.”
He added Bremner and McClennan should bring energy and some fun to the council as well.
Richard Talbot, chair of Support Our Sidney (SOS), a council watchdog group that had sought change on council and more emphasis on local business issues, said he is, on the whole, pleased with the election result.
“The good thing is that the majority (on council) will be there for change,” he said. “It is positive and it was a clean campaign.”
The SOS group was decidedly in the camp of the other three mayoral candidates and Talbot said Price did not garner the majority of all of the votes cast in the mayoral race.
Price won with 33 per cent of all votes cast in the mayoralty race — and only 14 per cent of all eligible voters in Sidney.
Talbot said the new council is a mix of experience and new blood. As for the SOS, he said they will continue to act as watchdogs and try to broaden their scope to include not only businesspeople but homeowners as well.
Price said the new council will be sworn in at an organizational meeting on Dec. 1. He said the council will then undergo in-house training and joint training with the council in Esquimalt.
District of North Saanich
Incumbent Mayor Alice Finall survived election night in North Saanich — by 158 votes.
Finall defeated challenger Dorothy Hartshorne with 2,416 votes to 2,258 in a close race. Finall was elected by acclamation in the 2011 contest.
Finall will also oversee a changing of the guard in North Saanich as four of the five Team North Saanich slate candidates — including three incumbents — were not elected. Making up the new council will be Geoff Orr, Heather Gartshore, Jack Thornburgh, Celia Stock, Murray Weisenberger and Jack McClintock
McClintock was the lone Team North Saanich member to get in, tied with Weisenberger at 1,904 votes in the preliminary results out of the District Saturday night.
The other Team North Saanich slate candidates — Steve Pearce, Craig Mearns, Conny McBride and Dunstan Browne — were not re-elected. The slate held the majority on council during the last term of office. Their policies on housing and development, as well as their contribution to the discord on council over the last three years, were seen as this election’s big issues.
Finall told the News Review Saturday night that she felt the result was a vindication of her position on council these last three years — one of supporting the official community plan and trying to maintain civility at the council table.
“I’m extremely pleased,” she said, adding voters didn’t like the behaviour of the previous council.
“This vote is almost identical to the votes I received in 2008,” she said.
The behaviour of council was a hot issue this election and Finall said she has no immediate plans to address the matter, noting that those people elected Saturday night “have shown they can conduct themselves in a civil manner.”
District of Central Saanich
Ryan Windsor is Central Saanich’s new mayor.
Windsor topped the mayoral poll in the district with 2,998, compared with Jack Mar’s tally of 1,955. Windsor reported the results when called by the News Review at around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night. His figures were later backed up by the District’s preliminary count.
Windsor will be joined on council by Zeb King (incumbent), Alicia Cormier (incumbent), Carl Jesnen (incumbent), Christopher Graham, Bob Thompson and Niall Paltiel. Thompson and Graham have been on Central Saanich council in the past. Paltiel is a newcomer.
Windsor said the result shows that voters were looking for a stable, middle of the road council.
“I’m happy to be working with this new council,” Windsor said. “I am prepared to work with them.”
He said the next two weeks before the new council’s first meeting on Dec. 1 will give him time to think about appointments to the various council committees, and to work out what his first priorities are going to be.
“It’ll give me time to think about how we are going to shape this new council.”
Paltiel, 22, was the youngest candidate on the ballot and garnered the mote votes, 3,168. Paltiel told the News Review that he did not expect to lead the polling.
“I was just hoping to squeak by, but I’ll take it,” he said.
Paltiel noted he kept his expectations realistic.
“I’m a first time candidate and had little name recognition,” he explained. “I think the odds were against me.”
He said things started to change after the all candidates meetings, where he found he was no longer running into people during his campaign who wanted to know who he was and what his background is.
“It went from that, to talking about the issues.”
Paltiel said his message of growth, jobs and affordable housing seemed to reach the electorate. A native of Central Saanich, Paltiel said his age should not hamper his work as a councillor.
“Honestly, the first six months is going to be about learning the role,” he admitted. “Then, we can review our priorities (on council) on local walkability, growth and zoning clarity.”
Paltiel said he has been attending council meetings regularly and now he’ll get to see what goes on behind the scenes. He said he will rely on the district’s assets — an excellent municipal staff and experienced councillors.
Steve Price in Sidney won the mayoral race in his community with 33.7 per cent of all votes cast for mayoral candidates. (14 per cent of eligible voters)
Alice Finall won with 50.7 per cent of the votes cast for mayor in North Saanich. (26 per cent of eligible voters)
Ryan Windsor received 59 per cent of the mayoral votes cast in Central Saanich. (21 per cent of eligible voters)
Updated: To correct mayoral vote percentages. Previous percentages were based on votes compared with total eligible voters in each municipality.