Mayor Richard Atwell (centre) is claiming victory in a dispute with Saanich over United for Saanich’s electoral brochure after the District announced that it will not pursue the matter further. (Photo submitted)

Election officer will not take action against Saanich slate brochure

Richard Atwell demands apology from District of Saanich

The head of United For Saanich is demanding an apology from the District of Saanich after its chief election officer announced late Tuesday that it will not take any actions against the group over an election brochure.

“Saanich now needs to acknowledge that it made a mistake during the campaign period and issue a public apology before the polls open on Oct. 20, ” said Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell.

RELATED: Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell refuses to stop distribution of election brochure

Atwell’s demand for an apology stems from a notice that United for Saanich received on Oct. 9 from chief election officer Angila Bains, in which she asked the slate to “immediately” discontinue the distribution of its election brochure.

“Please note that this document may be perceived as being issued by the District of Saanich,” it reads. “This notice is for United for Saanich and its candidates/official agents to discontinue the distribution immediately. As previously discussed with you all, the District of Saanich does not endorse any candidates nor does it allow for Saanich corporate branding in any candidate election materials. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.”

Atwell said last week this charge was vague. “The election officer has not stated with any specific examples what the problems are,” he said at the time, noting the brochure does not feature the municipality’s logo, contact information, or colour scheme as part of its branding.

RELATED: District of Saanich tells mayor’s slate to stop flyer distribution

The Saanich News made several efforts last week and this week to learn why the District had issued the initial notice. The Saanich News did not receive a reply to its multiple requests for comment prior to learning about Bains’ email.

“Saanich will not be taking any further action with respect to this matter,” it reads. “Saanich’s focus is on administering the 2018 General Local & School Trustee Election that is taking place this Saturday on October 20, 2018.”

The Saanich News has since asked the District for comment about its decision to drop the matter, but has not yet received an official reply to several questions about Saanich’s motivation behind the initial notice and its subsequent course of action.

Atwell said he had “no idea” what agenda the municipality might have been pursuing in issuing the notice.

He added Saanich’s decision to back down vindicates his position. “This is a victory for us,” he said.

Patrick James, a compliance specialist with Elections BC, said last week that the brochure complies with Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA). But he also said Elections BC does not facilitate municipal elections and only administers compliance with the LECFA when it comes to municipal elections. The LECFA does not regulate the content of elections advertising, apart from requiring an authorization statement, he said.

Rob Wickson said the whole issue is about Atwell trying to pick a fight with Saanich staff. “He is trying to make it a political fight, and it’s not appropriate,” he said.

Coun. Fred Haynes said he has no comment on the issue.

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