Saanich politely warms for election battle

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: by and large, municipal politics is not flashy. There are few long-running scandals, almost no attack campaigns, and character assassinations are kept to a minimum

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: by and large, municipal politics is not flashy. There are few long-running scandals, almost no attack campaigns, and character assassinations are kept to a minimum.

Coupled with the capital’s painfully long-standing tradition of politely refusing to change every three years, this means municipal elections garner little more than a nod from the media before we move on to bigger and better things. But with a legitmate challenge looming for one of our region’s most established political figures, Saanich might just deserve a second look.

Frank Leonard has had an office in the Saanich Municipal Hall for 25 years, with 15 of those years as mayor. He has done all of the things one would expect of a mayor — chaired the CRD and other boards, sat on committees, and kept things in Saanich puttering steadily along for oh these many years.

“I treat this as a performance review,” says Leonard, citing the acquisition of Panama Flats, protection of Harrow Wood and the creation of senior’s and transition housing facilities as examples of his effective leadership. Assuming business as usual in the coming election, Leonard sees the next few years focusing on waste reduction, infrastructure, affordability and public safety.

David Cubberly, meanwhile, has spent four terms on Saanich council, the last one doubling as a CRD director, and was elected as MLA for Saanich South as a member of the NDP between 2005 and ’09. Cubberly says his successful return to local politics would bring a welcome change to Saanich. “What it’s inevitably about at this point is whether it’s time for a change.”

While he and Mayor Leonard see eye to eye on questions of finance, Cubberly says he would bring a stronger focus on quality of life and pedestrian infrastructure and a louder voice on issues like the recent Juan De Fuca debacle.

With the oft-glacial pace of politics in the capital, it may be another 15 years before Saanich gets two decent candidates for mayor again.

So while it makes for slow news when even the most contested race in the region is characterized by polite disagreement and subtle differences in policy direction, the sheer rarity of this year’s election makes Saanich the one to watch in the coming months. M

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