An election brochure continues to generate controversy during the final days of the municipal election campaign in Saanich.
Mayor Richard Atwell — head of the United for Saanich slate — said Monday afternoon the District of Saanich needs to be clear about why the chief election officer has issued a notice that asks the slate to “immediately” discontinue the distribution of an election brochure titled Saanich Municipal Election Handbook.
“Please note that this document may be perceived as being issued by the District of Saanich,” said Angila Bains, Saanich’s chief election officer in a letter to United for Saanich in the middle of last week. “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.”
Atwell said Monday United for Saanich has yet to receive any response from the municipality about the reasons behind the notice.
Atwell last week called the charges vague. “The election officer has not stated with any specific examples what the problems are,” he said last week, noting that the brochure does not feature the municipality’s logo, contact information, or colour scheme as part of its branding.
Since Saanich issued the notice against United for Saanich, the brochure has appeared at an all-candidates meeting hosted by Saanich Neighbourhood Place Sunday, among the campaign literature that candidates could display attending the event.
Atwell said the brochure appeared at that event, because it is “compliant” and Saanich refuses to say what is specifically wrong with it.
“Until Saanich responds and clarifies its position, we will continue to follow the guidance of Elections BC,” he said, adding that the slate will also distribute the brochure at the last all-candidates’ event Tuesday, unless Saanich clarifies its complaint.
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 Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (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.
The Saanich News has made several requests to the District to detail its reasoning behind the notice, but has not received a formal response.
It is also unclear how the District plans to respond to an email that one of Atwell’s rivals — Coun. Fred Haynes — has sent to Sonia Santarossa, Saanich’s deputy election officer, in which he raised the on-going presence of the brochure.
“This presents a growing concern,” he said. “There are additional all candidate events this week. These materials are recognized by your office to misrepresent the official position of Saanich. They are seen to be deceptive and deceiving the voters. This issue is especially a concern for senior citizens. This weekend, we have heard repeated accounts of seniors believing this is an official election recommendation from Saanich.”
The District of Saanich has also not yet responded to this latest development.
When asked about the letter, Atwell said that United for Saanich is “campaigning on a positive message of change to move Saanich forward.”