Mayor Fred Haynes offered a broad but optimistic vision for the next four years during his inaugural speech as Saanich council met for the first time following last month’s municipal election that produced an historic council with five women.
Haynes said that voters asked council to “ensure Saanich continues to provide a safe welcoming place to live, work, play and prosper together. In short, a bright future for all generations.”
This promise of an inclusive approach also appeared in the proceedings that preceded Haynes’ speech. The evening featured several elements paying tribute to what Haynes had earlier called the primacy of First Nations, including a blessing from Christine Sam of the Songhees Nation, an historic first for Saanich.
Rev. Shana Lynngood of the First Unitarian Church of Victoria — a woman of African-American descent and married to her co-minister Melora Lynngood — also delivered a multi-faith blessing before a more traditional blessing from Pastor Gary Bennett and the administration of oaths by Supreme Court of British Columbia Justice Robert D. Punnett.
This commitment to inclusiveness also appeared in Haynes’ decision to break with tradition by allowing individual councillors to offer brief remarks to the packed council gallery themselves.
The moment was especially emotional for Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, who joined council on her third try. But it did not take long to find her voice as she engaged in humorous back-and-forth with Haynes over the sometimes fidgety communication system.
Symbolism aside, Haynes also used the occasion to send a political message about his priorities, when he noted that council had received floral pieces from Victoria and Jefferson Kreek.Their parents — Rebecca Sterrit and Adam Kreek — have been instrumental in lobbying Saanich to purchase a piece of surplus land from B.C. Hydro for the purpose of turning into parkland, and the municipality is currently negotiating with the Crown corporation, which has assessed the land at $6 million.
“Flowers and greenery symbolize the unique rural urban mix of Saanich,” said Haynes. “They underline the key importance of nature for our physical, spiritual and mental wellness. They link us to the key issues of retaining green space while providing more housing. These were two top concerns heard in the campaign.”
Haynes also identified the protection of Saanich’s urban containment boundary, respecting the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and the revitalization of agriculture as priorities among others, along with supporting young families and improving recreational opportunities.
While Haynes also identified “economic development” and “cost-effective services” as top concerns, his speech did not explicitly touch on taxation and other financial issues looming in the background, while appearing to emphasize ecological and social issues.
The evening opened with an inaugural procession accompanied by military bag pipes. Led by Sam as well as other members of the Songhees Nation, the procession included honour guards from the Saanich Police and Fire Departments, the 11th Field Ambulance Reserve Unit and the Canadian Armed Forces.
“This pageantry was not to celebrate the individuals you elected,” said Haynes later. “It was done because democracy is a big deal. Lest we forget, democracy came at great costs to men and women world-wide. It should be celebrated and never taken for granted.”
Haynes used the opening sections of this speech to thank voters for their trust in electing what he called “the most remarkably diverse [council] in the history of Saanich and his family for their support.
Haynes also used the speech to recognize former councillors Leif Wergeland Dean Murdock and Vicki Sanders, who did not run for re-election, as well as his predecessor, former mayor Richard Atwell.
Haynes called their respective contributions “profound” in wishing them well. “Thank you for your service to community,” he said. “Every success in your next endeavours.”