With a 9-0 record under his belt, oddsmakers would likely favour incumbent mayor Frank Leonard over somebody with a 4-1 record in the Nov. 19 municipal election. But David Cubberley, a former councillor and MLA, represents the strongest challenger Leonard has faced for Saanich’s top job since he became mayor in 1996.
“I think I have the skills and experience, and I think 2011 is a good time to offer that to Saanich because it’s been 15 years since we’ve had a full-on election for mayor,” Cubberley said. “We’re at a critical juncture … and I really think that Saanich is missing a lot of opportunities.”
Leonard doesn’t see those missed opportunities. He says this soon-to-end term has been his best in office, complimenting the current council’s unique ability to work well together that has resulted in huge strides on projects such as Mount View Heights, Panama Flats and, most recently, Haro Woods.
“The past three years have been the most productive and most rewarding yet. We’ve got good momentum on some of our bigger files, and I’d like to keep getting the results that are good for Saanich,” he said.
Leonard and Cubberley are no strangers. The pair worked together on council for a dozen years, from 1990-1993 and 1996-2005, and both say their leadership style revolves around inclusiveness.
“My style is to try and build bridges, get people moving in the same direction,” Cubberley said. “I tend to head towards the middle of the road in decision-making, find the road that accommodates all ideas.”
For Leonard, he believes politicking and governance are two separate things, and when it’s time to get down to business and govern, politics don’t matter.
“I make a point of working well with whoever’s elected. You have to respect the will of the voters – that’s who you work for,” he said. “After Nov. 19, you put the election behind you and move on with the job.”
Leonard has been elected mayor five times – twice by acclamation, in 2002 and 2005. He won the 1996, 1999 and 2008 elections handily, receiving at least two-thirds of the vote in each contest.
“If you get a serious, credible candidate running against an incumbent, as is the case here – both men have a profile, both men have a network of people that’ll mobilize support – I think (interest in the election) can only go up,” said Michael Prince, a political analyst and University of Victoria’s Lansdowne professor of social policy.
Turnout at municipal elections since Leonard’s first election has steadily decreased, and hovered at 20-per-cent in both 2005 and 2008.
“Some might say it’s an indication of general satisfaction, others might say it’s apathy,” Prince said. “If there’s a key issue that divides (Leonard and Cubberley) or defines them, that’ll make it interesting. Almost always it’s about personality, about community connections.”
Leonard, 57, has lived in Saanich more than 40 years. Prior to taking on mayoral duties full time, he managed three Kal Tire stores in Victoria. He has two adult children and a 20-month-old son. He’s now married to former Saanich councillor Jackie Ngai, and they live in the Quadra/Cedar Hill community.
Cubberley, 64, has lived in the same Grange Road home since 1988. A former writer, communications director, political consultant and ministerial assistant, he is married to Susan Vasilev. They have a 12-year-old son, Bryn.
Both men have dabbled in provincial politics. Cubberley was elected Saanich South MLA in 2005 as an NDP and stayed on for one term. (He also ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2002.) Just prior to becoming mayor in 1996, Leonard ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals in Saanich South.
The current mayor says during his first run at council in 1986 he campaigned on the idea of more recreation centres, advocating for a swimming pool in Saanich west.
And the thing he’s tried unsuccessfully to do since his first election and has yet to achieve?
“(I’ve always) wanted to fix up Gyro Park. We’ve done some minor improvements … but the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association and neighbours have never wanted much done,” he said, after a bit of thought.
Cubberley says “needlessly brutal development and losing all the trees” was what prompted him to run in 1990. He campaigned on stopping the mishandling of lands and improving cycling infrastructure – two topics he’s still championing in 2011.
“Uptown was the biggest missed opportunity in the community. Land-use without transportation plans doesn’t make sense,” he said. “What we have there today is what we had before shovels went into the ground. Uptown’s an automobile-centric development, and that suggests we have to look at our future. What is the Saanich of the future?”
A future that will be decided by voters this November.
Election 2011 kick-off
What are the issues that matter most to you?
From rapid transit and major infrastructure projects to urban deer and environmental sustainability, your municipal politicians must be ready to discuss a plethora of subjects that’ll help you make your decision when you get to the ballot box.
Send your thoughts to email@example.com
Did you know?
• Municipal elections were held every year in Saanich up until 1988, with two-year terms for each politician.
• The reeve (mayor) and four aldermen (councillors) would be elected every odd year, while the other four aldermen would be elected every even year.
• Since 1990, all of Saanich’s municipal politicians are elected at the same time (third Saturday in November) and serve three-year terms.