Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes: He has a martial arts black belt, studies harmony

In his tranquil home on Prospect Avenue overlooking a mist-covered lake, Saanich mayor-elect Fred Haynes describes himself as a peaceful warrior.

Born in England, Haynes, 66, has an eighth-degree black belt, the highest rank in North America, in the Japanese martial art of Yoshinkan aikido.

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The practice aims to unify the life energy between opposing forces.

“Aikido is the art of reconciliation,” said Haynes. “It’s the art of dealing with opposing forces and bringing them to peace.”

Haynes has been interested in martial arts since he was a teenager. It was a passion that prompted him to move to Japan to “immerse myself in all things Japanese.” Among other things, he trained with the Tokyo riot police.

It was in Japan that he met his Aussie wife Cathy, who has her second-degree black belt in aikido. They married 25 years ago. They have three boys: David, 25, Luke, 24, and Carl, 23.

Haynes said he lives the aikido life, which embraces the harmonious spirit.

But it was not the dominant spirit in the Saanich mayoral race between one-term councillor Haynes and one-term mayor Richard Atwell — a battle punctuated by legal confrontation and muckraking.

Each saw himself as wholly different and a victim of a campaign by the other to undermine him.

Asked for analysis, former four-term councillor Vicki Sanders suggested Saanich residents have elected a mayor who is just as ambitious about his goals as Atwell was, but with a different style.

“They have been in an election campaign for four years. They never stopped. I have to agree with ex-mayor Atwell that Coun. Haynes was running for mayor from the time he was elected. There’s no doubt about that. So you had a mayor and wannabe mayor.”

“[Council] wasn’t in chaos in the sense of people ripping each other’s faces off or anything like that. It was just badly run, there was just no leadership and they were always campaigning,” said Sanders. “It didn’t make me leave, it just wasn’t the same atmosphere [as when veteran mayor Frank Leonard was in office].” In spite of this, she said, a lot of work still got done.

It’s that kind of talk that frustrates Haynes. He calls Atwell’s complaints nonsense: “I spent two years really working hard to try to work with him. … He’s an enigma to me.”

“It was a highly functioning council,” said Haynes. “We worked really hard and collectively.”

An “amazing amount of new policy” was passed on seniors, youth, land use, a facilities master plan, student housing, derelict boats, recognition of First Nations and diversity, he said. Haynes said he introduced more than 25 resolutions that came from the community.

Now that he has won, he’s “ecstatic with enthusiasm at this wonderful new council” and wants only to look forward. He outpolled Atwell 15,312 to 10,786.

Just past 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 22, two days after the election, Haynes is stirring scrambled eggs in a wok. He speaks in a hushed voice so as not to wake his wife. A mild-mannered golden labradoodle named Beowulf wanders. A pool table dominates a family living room.

Haynes grew up in a small house in Kings Cross, London, a twin and one of five children. When he was just nine, his “incredibly bright mother,” a seamstress, was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. That left his father, a carpenter who built houses, to provide for the family.

“Back in that day, one salary was good enough … could feed a family,” Haynes said. “We just muddled through.”

Haynes’ father made a good wage, but it registered with a young Haynes how easily a family could be homeless or slip into poverty: “We were a step away.” Family love and community made the difference, he said.

It’s why today, affordable housing and mental wellness are priorities for him.

Haynes reflects that he built resilience under both the abundance of love his mother showered on him and the poor mental health that sometimes left her unable to cope or control her temper.

He also shored himself up in the face of challenges at school: “When I was a young boy, I was being bullied at school, so I thought I would take up the martial arts.”

He can’t remember clearly why he was bullied, but said he was a small boy, had a sick mother and had dyslexia.

Dyslexia didn’t stop him from pursuing higher education: “I just had a vision of where I could get to in life.”

Inspired by a biology and a physical-education teacher, he wanted to teach. That meant taking the same English course five times — spending an extra year in high school. “I was bright, but I couldn’t write or spell.”

Working at jobs while going to classes, he earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in science from the University of Guelph in Ontario. With a goal to become a university professor on a Commonwealth scholarship, he graduated with a PhD in medical research.

But at age 36, having had a lifelong fascination with Japan, he left Toronto for Tokyo. His mother died while he was abroad.

It was Haynes’ part-time work in a Japanese pharmaceutical company writing science papers that would see him develop his own company publishing health-care business directories.

The Hayneses moved back to Ontario and 16 years ago moved to Saanich.

Cathy Haynes, enjoying a morning coffee, watches the fog on the water that has yet to lift.

She said her husband’s enthusiasm for serving on organizations since a young age, his natural delight in socializing, endless energy, willingness to take risks and tenacity in getting things done all make him a perfect fit for the mayor’s job.

As the mayor’s wife, she wants to stay out of the spotlight. She talks of their harmonious coexistence as introvert and extrovert.

The couple’s casual and calm home is interrupted by the sound of ringing phones as congratulations continue to pour in and eager councillors ask when they can get to work. They’ll be sworn in on Nov. 5.

Haynes’ harmonious spirit is evident here. His test will be if he can bring that to Saanich council.

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