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Civic vote: Saanich police union endorses Leonard's candidacy

Nov 08 2011
Frank Leonard, incumbent mayor of Saanich, has been endorsed by the union representing Saanich police. 

Frank Leonard, incumbent mayor of Saanich, has been endorsed by the union representing Saanich police.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, timescolonist.com

The Saanich Police Association has endorsed Frank Leonard for mayor of Saanich, the first time the union that represents officers and telecommunications staff has publicly supported a candidate.

Leonard said he is honoured at the endorsement. But some are raising eyebrows at the move, as whoever is mayor is also the head of the police board. That board deals with police issues.

Leonard said the mayor is responsible only for disciplining the police chief, not the officers. The Office of the B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner is the discipline authority when it comes to officers, he said.

"A union endorsing a candidate is not at all uncommon," said Leonard, who is facing a tough mayoral race against former Saanich councillor and former NDP MLA David Cubberley. "It is most common with NDP candidates."

It's the first time he has been endorsed by a union, said Leonard, who ran for the B.C.

Liberals in 1996 and narrowly lost to NDP candidate Andrew Petter.

Cubberley said it's fine for unions to endorse candidates, but that in this situation - with Leonard as head of the police board - there is the risk of a public perception of conflict of interest.

"It may be one of those endorsements that it is best to decline with thanks," Cubberley said.

If elected mayor, Cubberley said, he doesn't anticipate any problems working with the police.

Sgt. Steve Morgan, president of the Saanich Police Association, said Leonard has been committed to issues important to the police such as upgrades to facilities and improving infrastructure. This is the first time Saanich police have endorsed a municipal candidate but it has happened in other municipalities as well as at the federal and provincial level, Morgan said.

The association has about 170 members. The 35 members at the last association meeting voted unanimously in favour of the endorsement, Morgan said.

Endorsements are increasing as the Nov. 19 election day nears. Green Party leader Elizabeth May, the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, has endorsed Cubberley, as has Denise Savoie, the NDP MP for Victoria, speaking of his commitment to the environment and community.

Cubberley noted that Briony Penn, who also has endorsed him, ran for the Liberals in the last federal election. Leonard has the support of former Liberal MP David Anderson, as well as Hugh Curtis, a longtime popular Saanich mayor and former Social Credit provincial cabinet minister.

Olympian Simon Whitfield has tweeted his support for Leonard as well.

Leonard, too, has put out an endorsement of sorts. He is in favour of all seven incumbent councillors being re-elected. It's the first time he's done that in his two decades of campaigning.

"They deserve it. In my campaign, I talk about the accomplishments of the last term and I recognize these were the hard work of every member of council," Leonard said.

Some incumbents are affiliated with the NDP, some with the Liberals and others are unaffiliated.

The incumbents are Paul Gerrard, Vicki Sanders, Dean Murdock, Susan Brice, Vic Derman, Leif Wergeland and Judy Brownoff.

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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