OLD NEWS: This week in Saanich history – March 16-22

The News’ weekly historical feature looks at Ida Chong’s victory to secure the Liberal party nomination for Oak Bay-Gordon Head

With one term on Saanich council under her belt, it was this week in 1996 that Ida Chong, a relative newcomer to politics, won the B.C. Liberal party’s nomination to run in the NDP-held Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

The article in the March 20 edition of the Saanich News describes the Thursday night vote by Liberal cardholders that saw Chong, an accountant, beat two-time candidate Paul McKivett.

“Signs in the air, rising and falling with a chanted name. IDA. IDA. IDA. There were McKivett signs too, but their holders had neither the energy or the numbers of that other chanting mob,” the story reads.

By the time the 575 ballots were tallied, Chong came away with 62 per cent of the vote.

“Chong’s speech was emotional, calling for unity and looking toward what promises to be a tough election,” the News article reads. “’We’re just getting started,’ Chong promised. ‘Our next step now is to defeat Elizabeth Cull and the NDP.’”

On May 28, 1996, Chong defeated Cull in a tight race where just 640 votes separated the two candidates.

The Liberal MLA spent her first term in opposition, before the Liberals won the 2001 election.

Chong was elected again in 2005 and 2009. Her last term as MLA did not come without its challenges, as she was targeted for recall by HST opponents. That recall attempt failed.

On May 14, 2013, Chong lost her long-held Oak Bay-Gordon Head seat to Andrew Weaver, the first-ever provincially elected Green Party member.

Last August, the Liberal government appointed Chong to the University of Victoria board of governors. The following month she took a position on the board of directors for the Rick Hansen Foundation.

In a recent interview with the News, Chong said she hasn’t ruled out another run at politics, but does not yet want to comment on whether that would be at the municipal, provincial or federal level.

In October 2012, Cull ran unsuccessfully for the NDP nomination in the federal riding of Victoria, losing to Murray Rankin, who went on to get elected. McKivett is now president of the Saanich Legacy Foundation.

editor@saanichnews.com

•••••

In other news this week…

• 1993 – Saanich council makes four amendments to its tree preservation bylaw after the province grants municipalities new tree protection powers. Council hears at the time that the bylaw is not strong enough and “Saanich could (still) lose a lot of green.” Last week council amended the bylaw in an attempt to mitigate the loss of the urban forest canopy.

• 1997 – Employees at Tillicum Centre’s Eaton’s store face an uncertain future after the company announces that location is one of 31 across the country that may face closures. Of three options on the table – closing, selling the store, or renegotiating the lease – the latter was what employees were hoping for. The Eaton’s store closed and was replaced by Zellers. The Zellers store shut its doors in mid-2012, and Target Canada opened in that spot in May 2013.

• 2001 – Saanich erects a statue of 81-year-old farmer Roy Hawes on the trestle overlooking the Blenkinsop Valley. The statue was installed to reflect the rich agricultural history in that community. The statue still stands on the wood trestle that crosses Blenkinsop Lake. Hawes was 88 years old when he passed away on Oct. 24, 2007.