Coun. Fred Haynes (left) and Mayor Richard Atwell (right), here appearing with Nagasaki nuclear holocaust survivor and prisoner of war Rudi Hoenson in August 2017, accused each other of lacking leadership during Monday’s council meeting. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Candidates for Saanich mayor clash over finances

Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Fred Haynes accused each other of lacking leadership during debate.

A short but sharp exchange between the two declared candidates for Saanich’s top political job preceded council’s decision to spend up to $200,000 towards the creation of a new budget process.

Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Fred Haynes accused each other of lacking leadership during the exchange, which erupted after Atwell said that he would be voting against the recommenation from staff to develop options for a four-year engagement cycle.

Atwell said staff should instead draw inspiration from the participatory budget planning process that the City of Victoria uses. It is readily accessible and has received praise from outsiders, including members of Saanich council, he said. “And it’s definitely cheap,” he said. “It’s definitely cheaper than $200,000.”

While the funding would come from Saanich’s strategic reserve fund, taxpayers would still be paying it, he said. “I would like to see our process improve, but I’m not going to spend $200,000, when we can just be looking next door, and working at a peer level, and copying an improved process – or one that is at least perceived as improved.”

Haynes then called a point of order to ask Atwell, why he had not raised these points before Monday’s meeting. “Why did you wait until council?” asked Haynes. “I don’t understand the process that you are in. You created the finance committee to exactly deal with these issues.”

Atwell tried to interject, but Haynes pressed on. “You had your time at the finance committee,” he said. “You raised none of this then, and then you ambushed the decision of that committee, and staff, and this council. This is poor leadership, Mr. Mayor.”

Atwell said he had time to think about how much money this process was going to cost. “There is a $200,000 cheaper solution right next door, and all we have [to do] is look at it, ” Atwell said. “And if you are criticizing me because of leadership, I think it is a lack of leadership on how we spend money, when we could be looking for another process that is close by.”

Responding to Haynes’ criticism that Atwell was undermining the committee, Atwell said it did not matter from where the idea originated. “Councillor, with respect, and I don’t think you have listened to me and heard what I have said, I don’t think this is a good use of taxpayers’ money. I think we can go next door and greatly improve the process. It doesn’t matter if it has come through the [finance] committee.”

Atwell said Saanich had considered creating such a process in the past following a committee recommendation in 2015, before turning it down because of costs. “I don’t know why there has been a Come-to-Jesus moment on spending the money now, when no one wanted to spend it in 2015.”

Council eventually approved the staff recommendation with Atwell opposed.

While efforts to improve the budget process date back to at least 2015, they gained steam with the final report of the Governance Review Citizens Advisory Committee , which lamented the lack of public input.

“We believe there should be more meaningful public engagement and education process at the start of the budget cycle,” it read.

Saanich has also received criticism for failing to integrate its budget with other planning documents in a more holistic manner.

Just Posted

Saanich recognizes residents for their environmental efforts

Shelagh Levey won the Long-Term Achievement award for her leadership in environmental protection.

Officials worry of fire risk at homeless camp

Regina Park camp has grown to 77 tents

Man pleads not guilty in 1987 slayings of Victoria couple

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court

BC Supreme Court rules in favour of Victoria’s plastic bag ban

Court dismisses a challenge by the Canadian Plastic Bag Association

More than 150 tremors hit Vancouver Island in last 24 hours

Seismologists monitor to see if pressure will be added to major fault

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Busy Borden better, but still dangerous for cyclists

Cycling lane eases Lochside transfer but drivers still confused

Port of Prince Rupert names Shaun Stevenson as new CEO

Stevenson has worked for the port for 21 years as vice president of trade development

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

Fake attempted abduction not funny to B.C. neighbourhood residents

Two teenage boys won’t face criminal charges after scaring girl

Mosquitoes out in full force already? Blame the weather

But a B.C. mosquito expert says the heat wave will help keep the pests at bay

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

Most Read