Saanich’s chief electoral officer has asked the slate headed by Saanich’s mayor to “immediately” discontinue the distribution of a brochure because voters may confuse it with a municipal document, but Mayor Richard Atwell said the document looks nothing like a Saanich document.
“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. “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.”
This notice from Saanich’s chief election officer to an electoral group led by Saanich’s chief elected officials marks another turn in a turbulent election campaign that has included plenty of public recriminations and sniping.
A lawyer representing Atwell earlier this year sent a cease-and-desist letter to the campaign of his rival Coun. Fred Haynes, claiming that Haynes’ campaign literature misrepresented Atwell’s association with Amalgamation Yes. (Atwell, for the record, insists that he has never been a director of the organization, and the lawyer representing the group has since admitted his office entered Atwell’s name in the registry by mistake). Atwell now finds himself faced with a similar charge about misleading the public.
Atwell said the charge from the District is vague.
“The election officer has not stated with any specific examples what the problems are,” he said, noting that the brochure does not feature the municipality’s logo, contact information, or colour scheme as part of its branding.
“I don’t think a reasonable person would come to the same conclusion,” he said, adding that he is still waiting for District to explain its specific reasons.
Atwell also points to a letter that quotes Patrick James, a compliance specialist, with Elections B.C.
“This brochure is in compliance with the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act,” it reads. “Elections BC does not mandate the removal of materials, which are compliant under the act.”
The document bears the title of Saanich Municipal Election Handbook and urges voters to elected United for Saanich headed by Atwell. Its membership also includes incumbent Coun. Karen Harper, and three non-incumbent candidates: Kathleen Burton, executive director of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary; Ian Jessop, a former political spokesperson and broadcaster; and Cory Montgomery, a local businessman.
The guide — whose blue colour scheme matches the slate’s election signage that appears in Saanich — offers personal details about the slate’s five members and policies that they promise to promote in office in urging voters to elect the slate. A survey of the brochure found no markings that reference the District of Saanich.
The document also includes a picture that shows the slate in an informal setting, and urges voters to vote for the creation of a citizens’ assembly to study the proposed amalgamation of Saanich and Victoria.
Saanich issued the order after receiving complaints from the public earlier this month.
The brochure has also drawn attention on social media.