Letter: Saanich needs accessible leaders during turbulent times

Conversations about change need to be plentiful and they need to start now, says Rob Wickson

As Saanich is about to launch into a serious discussion and examination about  our local governance systems, it is extremely important that there be some mature perspectives at the council table, and from what I have seen lately, the most experienced elected councillors are not living up to that standard. Let me give you a clear example.

On March 26, the Gorge Tillicum Community Association held their 17 annual general meeting. In January, we decided that it we should invite the new mayor and council to come by for a conversation and meet the community.

As president of the GTCA, I personally contacted each councillor and the mayor by telephone to ask them if they would be available and to put the event into their calendars.

All but one councillor said yes and gave me a commitment that they would attend. After those phone calls, we proceeded to publicly invite everyone and publicized heavily that our mayor and council were coming to the AGM to have a conversation with the GTCA membership in a casual informal setting. Food was being provided by the Gorge Urban Farmers and expectations were high.

It looks like we expected too much. None of the six incumbents showed up. We received excuses, perhaps two that were acceptable. The new mayor and (new) councillors arrived even before the membership. Interest and enthusiasm shows.

Personally, I feel the membership of our community was let down. All we asked for was our elected representatives come out to meet us in a casual friendly environment without further expectations or demands. This example clearly shows what is wrong with governance in Saanich. It starts with our council.

The results of the recent election showed a couple of key points. First and foremost, we elected a new mayor who has virtually no prior experience and who ran on a platform of doing things differently. That sounds familiar (Naheed Nenshi of Calagary comes to mind).

Mayor Atwell, along with the two other first-time councillors, managed to top the polls over the  majority of incumbent councillors while most of the them finished farther down the list.  This was a clear message: the voters of Saanich wanted a change in leadership and they assumed the incumbents would help with that change.

So far we have not seen much change. We can see a couple of rookie councillors pushing their new ideas – thanks for that.

Efforts to support the mayor’s agenda seem weak at best.  Let’s not forget, the push for something different won the election.

Now is the time to take a hard look on how things have been done in Saanich the last number of years.  It has always seemed to me to be a big wall of prevention.

Instead of seeking a way to get things done, we always seemed to hear from both council and staff that it can’t be done or it can only be done at great expense. It therefore appears the conversation needs to dig deeper, but there is very little will by some to take this on.

There are a great many folks in Saanich who have been asking to be listened to. We have thoughts about how we should be communicating with each other, but is there anyone listening to us even about that?

The conversations need to be plentiful and they need to start now.  The GTCA Annual General Meeting was an opportunity missed.

Rob WicksonSaanich