A North Saanich councillor has resigned after referring to the mayor as “Mr. Hitler” in a council meeting last week.
The municipality says Brett Smyth’s resignation is effective immediately.
Smyth was first elected in 2018 and re-elected Oct. 15.
A byelection will be held to fill the vacant seat, but a date has not yet been set by the district.
Smyth and new Mayor Peter Jones have clashed over the review process for the district’s official community plan. Their disagreements, part of a wider rift within the council, came to a head during a council meeting last Monday.
During a discussion about the mayor’s advisory committee on the official community plan, Coun. Phil DiBattista asked Jones if the resumés of members on the committee would be published.
“That is not going to happen,” Jones responded, saying the members “are extremely well known” to many in the community because most are currently or have previously sat on city commissions.
Smyth told Jones he was disappointed in that decision, saying the mayor can do whatever he wants because he has set up the committee “in a very political way.”
Jones asked Smyth to refrain from making his comments. “It is not a political approach. It is a practical approach to getting the new version of the OCP done,” he said.
“I cannot refrain from something that is the truth,” Smyth responded.
When Jones said he wouldn’t take any further questions from council, Smyth replied: “Thank you, Mr. Hitler.”
Smyth said Monday he’s not ready to comment on his decision. In his resignation letter, Smyth said his resignation was “made necessary, but not specifically, in light of my off-handed comment” at last week’s meeting.
“I would have preferred a more positive environment at the Municipal Hall but when all voices are not respected, then it is difficult to practice the patience required of an elected official,” he wrote.
In an interview, Jones said he was surprised and disappointed by Smyth’s resignation.
Jones said he understands there was pressure coming from some residents for Smyth to resign after his comment, but he didn’t think it was necessary.
“My view is we’ve all made inappropriate comments over our lives and should one comment change your life going forward? I would say no. So, do I wish he was still going to be on council? The answer to that has to be yes,” Jones said.
John Treleaven, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, said North Saanich, though sparsely populated, is home to the airport, the B.C. Ferries Swartz Bay terminal and about half of the manufacturing jobs in the region, making it “hugely significant” to the economic success of the region. “That’s why this issue matters. The health of the council and the leadership from that council matters,” he said.
Treleaven said residents deserve to know why Smyth resigned and looks forward to hearing his reasons.
The official community plan review process has polarized residents, with some open to development and others wanting to keep the district rural.
A consulting company working on the OCP review recently cut ties with the district, saying the mayor’s advisory committee comprises council members and individuals who appear to represent a one-sided perspective in the community.
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