Saanich police and firefighter unions are throwing their support behind Mayor Frank Leonard in his bid for re-election, but the move is drawing criticism from Leonard’s opponent.
On Friday, both the Saanich Fire Fighters Association, Local 967, and Saanich Police Association endorsed Leonard at his campaign office on Cloverdale Avenue.
“Mayor Leonard has shown his dedication to public safety and has had an open-door policy to our association,” said Aaron Charlton, Saanich Fire Fighters Association president. “He’s proved to us that safety for the public and our members is top priority.”
Todd Lamb, vice president for the Saanich Police Association, said his members “overwhelmingly voted to endorse Mayor Leonard in his campaign for mayor.”
Lamb said Leonard’s leadership style and commitment to public safety through adequate staffing and equipment has been well-received by police.
“Public safety is something I take very, very seriously,” Leonard said. “I’ve always had a good relationship with the unions.”
Mayoral candidate Richard Atwell said Leonard, who chairs the Saanich Police Board, shouldn’t be accepting an endorsement from the union that represents police officers.
“It is imperative that the Mayor be impartial in oversight and avoid any perceived conflict of interest, which we’ve seen the Mayor emphasize before with his 102 missed meetings at the Capital Regional District,” Atwell said.
The 102 missed meetings refer to Leonard’s absence at the CRD board and core area liquid waste management committee, which oversees regional sewage treatment. Leonard said earlier this month he was exercising “an abundance of caution” in avoiding the meetings, as his son works for a multi-national company that has bid on and won sewage-related contracts. Leonard is also involved with the B.C. Municipal Pension Board, which owns shares in another sewage bidding firm, Corix.
“Leonard seems to be conflicted about what constitutes a conflict of interest,” Atwell said.
Lamb said the Saanich Police Association wasn’t approached by Atwell nor mayoral candidate David Shebib, though he said the union would have put those endorsement requests to a vote as well.
This is the second campaign where Leonard has sought and received the endorsement from police and fire unions.