It took nearly 40 minutes before Saanich mayoral candidates David Cubberley and Frank Leonard disagreed on something at their first debate.
Most of the hour-long mayoral candidates meeting Thursday night at Camosun College was quite friendly, with both candidates agreeing on how to tackle the vast majority of issues – from light rail transit and sewage treatment to secondary suites and deer management.
“You’re not getting much debate here,” moderator Alan Perry commented partway through.
The one thing Cubberley and Leonard did disagree on: using articulated buses to move more students to and from the University of Victoria.
“Drivers are saying they would have better success with the articulated buses going to UVic because they’re passing people by, but there’s still room upstairs on the double decker,” Leonard said.
“I’m not sure I want to see us to go to articulated buses,” Cubberley responded. “If you have ever ridden on one, the ride in the pump, (which) is the trailer in the back, is very bad, no senior will use it. And they often have a very inefficient layout inside, so you wind up with a lot of people standing.”
The disagreement is a relatively minor one during a campaign that many see as the first real mayoral race in Saanich since Leonard was first elected mayor 15 years ago.
Cubberley says the reason they agree on many of the topics at the all-candidates meetings is because those large topics have already been vetted through the community and both he and his opponent know where public opinion lies.
“I’m not going to pick fights where we feel the same way about things,” he told the News Friday. “(Light rail and sewage) are not issues in the election campaign. Neither one of those is a doorstep issue.”
“I’m not focused on the competition, per say,” Leonard said. “My focus is talking to the people of Saanich and having a performance review. I don’t look at this as a horse race.”
Both candidates say they differ greatly on a number of topics that will impact Saanich residents.
Leonard says where he and Cubberley differ most is on respecting the taxpayers’ ability to pay. “I think he has a lot of things he’d like to do more of and faster, and that all costs money.”
Cubberley says Leonard isn’t “owning his own history on issues, and he’s moving toward positions I’m taking to neutralize them.”
“I want to point to a lack of leadership (from Leonard) up until going into this election, essentially,” he said. “He taking defensive positioning.”
For their last chance to be heard, Perry offered both mayoral candidates a chance to pose one question to the other.
Cubberley criticized Leonard for not acquiring Panama Flats earlier than Saanich did, resulting in a much larger price tag. “Why did you go down the path of trying to use the courts … rather than acquire the Flats earlier than you did?”
“Panama Flats came on the agenda when we were trying to enforce the deposit of fill bylaw. I’m a little puzzled that David’s criticized council for not using the deposit of fill bylaw at Babe’s Honey and criticizing us for using it at Panama Flats,” Leonard responded. “We did put a stop work order for Panama Flats to protect it. The court would not uphold it and sent it on to full trial.”
Cubberley said he found it “ironic, in a grim sense,” that Saanich took an agricultural land holder with an approved farm plan to court.
“(Saanich) chose to dispute that deposit of fill (at Panama Flats), which was to create cranberry farms, which was futile – you cannot stop an approved farm plan,” he said. “But when it came to a land owner that did not have an approved farm plan (at Babe’s Honey), Saanich did not intervene.”
Leonard did not pose a question to Cubberley. “My conversation is with the people of Saanich.”
The third mayoral candidate, David Shebib, did not attend the meeting.