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Victoria, Saanich mayors spend big to win

Mar 15 2012

The mayors of Saanich and Victoria ran the most expensive campaigns of their careers in last year’s municipal election, according to disclosure documents.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin spent more than $76,000 — outspending his main rival, Paul Brown, by a margin of $5.36 to $1 — while Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard shelled out just over $62,000.

“Generally, it’s the same cost to run a campaign every time. You just do what you need to do,” Fortin said.

According to candidate disclosure forms — which must be filed by 4:30 p.m. Monday — Fortin lists election expenses of $76,721.90, including $20,815.42 for advertising; $13,719.28 for signs, pamphlets and brochures; and $36,299 for office expenditures.

His spending was up from 2008, when he spent about $50,000 in a narrow victory over businessman Rob Reid. (Reid spent $74,000 to come up about 600 votes shy of a win.)

It was a different story for Leonard, whose campaign was by far the most expensive he has run as mayor, as he faced what many viewed as the most serious challenge since he was first elected to the position in 1996.

“We expected a campaign similar to those run in Victoria — multilevel, more complete campaigns — ticking every box of what you do in a campaign,” Leonard said. “We expected the competition would be in that range.”

Leonard spent $62,061.40 in the November race against David Cubberley, who spent $46,252.58 and David Shebib, who spent nothing. Leonard beat Cubberley, a former NDP MLA and former Saanich councillor, 11,151 votes to 9,526. Shebib had 173 votes.

The most Leonard has spent in previous campaigns was about $20,000 in 1996, during his first bid for mayor, he said.

“What it reflects is that you need to have strong community support … willing to put forward donations of $5 or $500,” Fortin said when asked whether the cost of a campaign is being priced out of the reach of the ordinary citizen.

Fortin received about $18,500 in contributions from trade unions and the Victoria Labour Council — which was down marginally from the almost $19,000 in contributions he received from organized labour in his first mayoral campaign in 2008.

The largest corporate donation Fortin received was $3,239 from Island I.T., followed by $3,000 from Tri Eagle Development Corp.

Brown, meanwhile, listed expenses of $14,323 with the largest contribution — $5,525 — coming out of his own wallet.

Brown, who headed the fledgling Open Victoria slate, said it’s tough to run as an independent with no political connections or history.

Brown’s largest corporate donation was $1,000 from Bayview Properties.

Fortin received 10,080 votes compared with Brown’s 4,229. Steve Filipovic received 2,206 votes and David Shebib got 161. Fortin’s spending works out to about $7.53 for every vote he received.

Shebib listed no donations and expenses. Filipovic had not filed his disclosure as of Wednesday.

In Saanich, Cubberley spent $46,252.58. The largest expense was $18,234.14, which went on signs, pamphlets, flyers and brochures. Another $9,108.76 was spent on public advertising.

Cubberley’s highest campaign contribution was $3,296.72 from the United Steelworkers, with another $3,000 from the Victoria Labour Council. He put in $12,000 of his own money.

Leonard’s largest contribution ($4,546.20) came from Tone Fat Enterprises Ltd., which does business as the Golden Gate Restaurant at 721 Fisgard Ave. A major fundraiser for him was held there.

Rio Can, which owns Tillicum mall, contributed $3,000 and Focus Corp., an engineering company with a Saanich office, gave $2,500.

Leonard’s expenses have usually ranged around the $10,000 mark when challenged. He has been acclaimed twice, and some years hasn’t even had a campaign office.

In some years, polling was largely done by chatting to people in coffee shops. This year, the campaign spent $4,424 in polling and research expenses.

Leonard and his wife, Jackie Ngai, put in $300 of their own money.

The full financial disclosures are on the Saanich website, at www.saanich.ca.

In Oak Bay, Mayor Nils Jensen spent $12,254 to defeat former Coun. Hazel Braithwaite in the race for the top job. Braithwaite had not filed her expenses as of Wednesday.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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