Jack Knox: Meet the man running in all 13 races for mayor

Jack Knox mugshot generic

Perennial political protester David Shebib is running for mayor in all 13 capital region municipalities.

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That’s 11 more mayoral races than he entered in 2011, when he polled 161 votes in Victoria and 173 in Saanich.

Shebib has, in fact, contested roughly a dozen campaigns — municipal, provincial and federal — since first running for office in 1979. The high-water mark came in 1981 when he got 14 per cent of the vote when challenging Victoria Mayor Peter Pollen.

Asked why he’s going after every mayor’s job, he says that in part it’s because he can. People may run in as many cities as they like. They need not live or own property in the municipality. They just have to be 18, Canadian and have lived in B.C. for at least six months.

“It’s ludicrous to think you need 13 mayors,” Shebib says. Ludicrous to have 13 municipal halls, too. The only one he likes is North Saanich’s because it has an edible garden in front. He promises to step aside for any candidate who has a better garden than his.

The 71-year-old is not, in truth, a big fan of government at all. “I believe in self-government.” If elected, he would tell his fellow councillors that their services are not required.

Not that he is likely to be elected. History shows the odds are higher that he’ll get arrested, as happens occasionally when he clashes with authority.

So why run? “Some people are on a mission.”

Shebib is the very definition of a fringe candidate, a big-tent word encompassing iconoclasts, satirists, windmill-tilting idealists, one-issue soapboxers and those who not only march to the beat of their own drummer but have a whole horn section that no one else can hear.

Fringe does not mean unworthy of a voice. (Note that Victoria mayoral candidate Changes the Clown, a.k.a. Rob Duncan, is running to bring attention to child poverty.) It does mean you’ll have a hard time getting heard, though.

Only those with a serious chance to win get serious attention. Read about Toronto’s mayoral campaign and you would think it’s a three-way race — which, in reality, it is. But there are actually 65 names on the ballot for Rob Ford’s job, including Mizz Barbie Bitch, a dominatrix who wants to “whip Toronto into shape.”

Compared to that, Victoria voters have it easy with just eight mayoral candidates to sort through. (That’s twice as many as in 2011, but way down from 1999 when the capital had 14 mayoral hopefuls, including Shebib and a woman who promised to give up a third of her salary to buy fruit trees for the hungry.)

Don’t forget, though, that the eight standing for mayor are among 241 candidates chasing 124 seats on 13 municipal councils and three school boards in Greater Victoria. Quick, name 12 off the top of your head.

Every so often officialdom tries to weed out the “frivolous” names cluttering the ballot. But when the City of Victoria stiffened nomination requirements a few years ago, raising the deposit fee to $100 from $25 for councillors and $50 for mayoral candidates, and increasing the number of nominators to 25 from two, Shebib just shrugged. In 1984, it took him only two hours to persuade 50 people in a grocery store to sign his nomination papers when he ran against prime minister John Turner in the Lower Mainland (though he only got 20 votes on election day).

Besides, how do you define frivolous? (Some would say it’s having 13 municipalities in a city of 350,000.) In Kamloops, where the biggest issue is the proposed Ajax mine right next to town, it looked as though the mayoral race would be enlivened by the entry of Mr. Open Pitbelly, a woman who, according to the Globe and Mail, “straps a model of an open-pit mine to her stomach to illustrate job creation through environmental disaster.” Unorthodox approach, but a legitimate issue.

Alas, Pitbelly, who was reportedly inspired by the 1974 campaign of tap-dancing Vancouver mayoral hopeful Mr. Peanut, pulled the plug on her candidacy, leaving the Interior city with a two-man fight between the incumbent and an unemployed challenger who is running because he is “bored.” Sigh.

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