Economist Rob Wickson joins Atwell, Haynes in Saanich mayoral race

Economist Rob Wickson, president of the Gorge Tillicum Association, is the third Saanich mayoral candidate to tout his collaborative leadership style.

“Saanich has the chance to lead, but only if we have collaborative leadership that can work with the entire district council and the wider community,” Wickson said Friday.

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“As a business owner and a volunteer, my focus has always been bringing people together, finding common ground, and then moving forward together to build success.”

Mayor Richard Atwell and Coun. Fred Haynes, both elected in 2014, are also running for mayor.

Atwell and Haynes say they welcome Wickson to the race.

“I look forward to the debates and encourage residents to come out and participate,” Atwell said.

Haynes rejects any suggestion that Saanich council is not collaborative or hasn’t worked over the past year. While members are diverse, only one member, he said, naming Atwell, has been “unable to transition from acting as a critic in opposition to the rigours of working within a legislative framework.”

Saanich could have at least four new councillors after the Oct. 20 election. Three have said they don’t plan to run for re-election, and Haynes is running for mayor.

Wickson has three times run unsuccessfully for Saanich council — in the 2008 and 2011 elections and the September 2017 byelection.

But even though he hasn’t served on council, Wickson believes his experience with community associations, chambers of commerce and dealing with council gives him more relevant and needed experience than many council candidates — and even the two incumbents he’s facing off against.

“I have participated at the council table for the last 20 years,” he said. “But over the last four years things have seemed difficult and taken longer than they should.

“The people I see running for leadership of council, I don’t think they can do the job as well as I can, pure and simple,” he said. “If you look at what I’ve done in the community, I’ve done way more.”

Wickson is a founding member of the Gorge Canada Day Picnic, a director of the Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society, and a member of Saanich’s active transportation committee and the Douglas/Uptown corridor advisory committee. He has also served as president of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, and president of Bike to Work Week Victoria.

As a partner in Discovery Economic Consulting, with Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, Wickson acts as an expert witness in B.C. Supreme Court for issues around economics — valuable experience for being mayor, he said.

Wickson said he wants to focus on Saanich as an affordable, livable, vibrant and walkable municipality through land-use planning that protects greenspace and captures the full opportunity of development in the Uptown-Douglas Street corridor and ensures neighbourhoods are sustainable and vibrant.

Atwell is running as part of a non-partisan “team” under the banner of United for Saanich with Coun. Karen Harper, who won her seat in a 2017 byelection, Kathleen Burton, executive director of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, communications specialist Ian Jessop and businessman Cory Montgomery. He says the team can work together in the same direction for Saanich adding that the current council has at times been “highly combative and unproductive.”

Haynes has rejected the idea of slates, saying what Saanich council needs is nine independent members, but suggests he has some council support: “Not just the community has been calling on me to run since January.”

Wickson said he respects anyone who runs for mayor or council, but says whomever leads council should not start off the race saying they prefer some councillors over others.

Also running for council are incumbents Susan Brice, Judy Brownoff and Colin Plant, and newcomers Nathalie Chambers, Zac de Vries, Rebecca Mersereau, Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Rishi Sharma and Ned Taylor.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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