North Saanich’s very civil race for mayor

North Saanich mayoral candidate Geoff Orr took a few minutes this week to repair two vandalized campaign signs — his own and his opponent’s.

Orr, who is running against Dorothy Hartshorne, noticed the damaged signs at the Lands End Road and Pat Bay Highway overpass and decided to fix them both at the same time. “Pleased to help out the Hartshorne sign team — because it is the right thing to do,” he posted on Facebook.

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The good deed, which earned him a thank-you from Hartshorne, typifies the respectful tone of the North Saanich mayoral race so far.

The district has had its share of conflict over the years around issues of growth, development, housing and how best to protect the region’s rural character.

But none of that rancor has surfaced in the campaign to replace longtime Mayor Alice Finall, who is stepping down after three consecutive terms.

Orr and Hartshorne are the only two people running for office in the district after the entire council was acclaimed last month, and both candidates seem determined to steer clear of negative politics.

In separate interviews, they refrained from criticizing each other, touted their inclusive leadership styles and heaped praise on Finall for her dedicated service to the community.

Hartshorne, who was a councillor from 1999 to 2005, came within 158 votes of defeating Finall in 2014, but says she has nothing but respect for the outgoing mayor.

“The reason I ran against Alice Finall was not because I was criticizing Alice Finall,” Hartshorne said. “I ran for it because I want the job.”

The former owner of a tree service business and past constituency assistant to a Liberal MLA, Hartshorne, 63, promises decisive leadership and improved communication with the district’s residents.

Hartshorne plans to strengthen ties with the mayors of Central Saanich and Sidney to tackle issues around affordable housing, transportation, economic development and the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“We work together very, very strongly now with our emergency services and our rec centre, for example; but we can make this relationship even better and even stronger,” she said. “And I’m not talking about amalgamation.

“If it is the community will to amalgamate, I will follow the community will … .[But] I am not in favour of amalgamation because I really believe that you lose the flavour of your community if you amalgamate.”

Orr, who enters the race after one term on council, topped the polls in the last election and has earned endorsements this time from returning councillors Jack McClintock, Murray Weisenberger and Heather Gartshore.

A mechanical engineer and the retired owner of a software company, Orr, 57, describes himself as a “centrist” politician — a style he attributes to his eight years as president of the North Saanich Residents Association.

Orr argues that it’s possible for council to manage the perennial “tug of war” between groups that want to protect the area’s rural character, and those pressing the district to provide non-market housing for moderate to low-income households.

Veteran Coun. Celia Stock, who was acclaimed to a third term, is expecting a close race between the two mayoral candidates.

“They’re both experienced candidates — they’ve each got a lot to offer,” she said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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