Saanich: Fred Haynes bounces incumbent, wins mayor seat

Former teacher and one-term Saanich councillor Fred Haynes has scooped the mayor’s office from Richard Atwell.

“It’s going to be the most amazing council and I’m looking so forward to being a part of it,” Haynes said Saturday evening.

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The 66-year-old publisher of business directories outpolled Atwell, 48, a software engineer, who ran under a United for Saanich slate, 15,312 to 10,786.

Of Atwell’s slate, only incumbent Karen Harper, who won her seat in a 2017 byelection, was elected.

“[Atwell] had a term to show what he could bring to Saanich and Saanich voters have decided it wasn’t enough,” Haynes said.

“I think Saanich was looking for a new approach.

“I'm delighted to see many of the independent candidates look like they are going to be elected, I’m delighted to see the age diversity this campaign saw.”

Incumbents Colin Plant, Susan Brice and Judy Brownoff were also re-elected, along with newcomers Rebecca Mersereau, Ned Taylor, Zac de Vries and Nathalie Chambers.

Atwell offered Haynes congratulations, adding: “He’s wanted this for a long time. He’s worked really hard on it. I tried to do my job. So I felt I was mayor all that time and I was constantly competing with someone who was a candidate.”

Atwell said he was “out-campaigned” by Haynes. “I think he put business aside and a lot of things aside for four years.”

Atwell came to office in 2014 in a surprising victory over Frank Leonard, who had been in office almost two decades.

The outsider’s win was soon overshadowed by a year of controversy, marked by rancor between Atwell and some of the council.

Haynes also defeated Rob Wickson, 66, a small-business owner, economist and community leader, and David Shebib, a former junk collector who attracted media attention when he invited homeless campers to stay at his rented property on West Saanich Road.

Haynes committed during the election to balancing new housing with green space, fiscal management and respecting voter input on a citizens’ assembly to study amalgamation with Victoria.

Haynes tried to distinguish himself from Atwell as independent, open-minded on the issue of amalgamation and more able to effectively lead council.

During the election, Haynes said: “If this mayor was doing a good job, I would have been glad to stay on council.”

Homelessness and a lack of affordable housing became a focus of debates, as a tent city that set up in Regina Park in April wasn’t shut down until mid-September.

Atwell suggested B.C. Housing look at the vacant Emily Carr library as a possible supportive housing facility and Haynes countered that the space was unsuitable.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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