North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones is rejecting suggestions that he lacks a mandate to push forward his agenda around the Official Community Plan.
“The fact is 60 per cent voted for rural, however they read that and 40 per cent basically voted pro-development,” he said. “We are 100-per-cent legitimate. If residents of North Saanich in four years decide that we are going in the wrong direction, they can make a decision then.”
He made these comments in an interview after Coun. Brett Smyth questioned Jones’ mandate during the debate around the creation of new OCP advisory committees. Council voted 4-3 to approve the creation of an OCP advisory committee chaired by Jones. It would serve as an umbrella for three, possibly four other committees – also chaired by Jones – to oversee specific aspects of the OCP review.
Council voted earlier to temporarily suspend the process.
“The idea that you, the mayor, has a mandate from the community is not true,” said Smyth. “The mandate of that election was 19 per cent (of eligible voters). That means that 81 per cent of people who live in this district are not necessarily on your side. So you have to bring them along. That’s the trick here. How do you bring these people along? How do you bring me along? How do you bring (Coun.) Phil (DiBattista) along? How do you get people along with this, so it actually gets traction and isn’t perceived as a political move?”
During debate, Jones said “much of what you (Smyth) said is completely wrong” in arguing that he has a mandate.
“Basically, 60 per cent of the community voted that they were not happy with the OCP, not the small percentage that you said. “We are doing what the electorate asked us to do and part of that is putting this committee together.”
It was the second major clash in as many meetings between Jones and Smyth, the first having come in late November when Smyth accused Jones of “political posturing” during debate prior to council’s narrow 4-3 vote to temporarily suspend the OCP process.
That charge led to a social media discussion about Jones’ mandate. Jones said he does not look at Facebook or any other social media site.
“If people on Facebook or any platform wish to make comments, they come do at council meetings or they can make contact with me,” he said. ‘They have not.”
Looking at the numbers, Jones received 2,226 votes, almost 1,400 votes ahead of second-placed Nancy Borden and more than 1,500 votes of former councillor Murray Weisenberger, perhaps the most full-throated defender of the OCP process review under the previous council. So of the 3,752 residents who voted for mayor, Jones received 59.3 per cent of those votes. Of the 3,789 voters who cast ballots, 37 did not vote for mayor.
When held up against the estimated eligible pool of voters of 10,694 according to CivicInfo, Jones received 20.8 per cent of the vote. The number rises to 21.7 per cent when looking at registered voters (10,236).
But Jones later argued that this same logic also applies to Smyth’s number. Smyth received 1,540 votes to claim the sixth and final spot for the office of councillor — or 14.4 per cent of the cast ballots.
Overall, turnout in North Saanich was 35.4 per cent.
The debate over how many people voted for whom amounts to related but separate questions about legitimacy in the broader sense and the question of whose votes actually matter.
“Simple political statistics will tell that if you 35 per cent voted 60 per cent, then the chances are that if a 100 per cent voted — and 100 per cent never do vote — the same percentage would still apply or a very similar percentage would apply,” he said.
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