Oh deer, Oh dear

Graeme Roberts’ e-mail was brief. Eight words summing up two stories that in the words of a famous cliché would “be funny if they weren’t so serious”.
It read: “Oak Bay – Oh, Deer! In Saanich – Oh Dear!”
The Oak Bay story is the never ending tale of Bambi and parents growing fatter by the day courtesy Oak Bay’s luscious gardens. Sharply drawn battle lines exist between those who would protect the flora and those who defend the right of the fauna to chow down where they wish.
The debate could be ended by a catch and release program or a cull and meat release drive. Either one could be carried out expeditiously. And the world would not come to an end.
The “Oh, dear” in Saanich is more serious. There, in the largest municipality on Vancouver Island, a new chief magistrate has swept into the local government China shop like the proverbial bull leaving a trail of confusion behind him. Some might say wreckage but I think Saanich council is far too strong to let a few bewildering decisions by neophyte Mayor Richard Atwell rattle the foundations of their belief in democratic decision making.
Council has already unanimously censured Atwell for telling chief administrator Paul Murray his services were no longer required. That he made the move without consulting with council was bad enough. That he made it before he was sworn in as mayor was even worse, and an early indicator that maybe his ideas on mayoralty power were not quite in line with reality.
Worse was to follow on December11 when a late evening altercation, described later by Atwell as “a small fracas”, caused him to dial 911 because, the local newspaper reported him as saying, “he had concerns for the safety of everyone concerned.”
Let’s connect a few dots from the Times-Colonist story on the “small fracas”.
1. Mayor Atwell had been invited to the home of a female election campaign worker and her partner. He said both were at home when he arrived around 8 p.m. He insisted earlier newspaper reports which had the partner arriving at the residence some time after Atwell were wrong.
2. Atwell said he didn’t know if anyone had been drinking but told reporters he didn’t have any alcohol with him when he arrived at the residence. No official time has been given for his departure.
3. During a three way conversation voices were raised but the newspaper report says Atwell “would not elaborate as to why the man, the woman’s fiancé, was upset” but admitted “there were raised voices.”
4. Atwell: “I got the sense he (the fiancé) was bothered that I have spent so much time with this woman working on the campaign as we have. And on that date he didn’t want me in the house. I think it was blown out of proportion a little bit.”
5. Newspaper report: “Atwell said he was outside the house at the top of the stairs when he was grabbed or hit from behind. He walked away and called 911.
6. Attending police recommended he file criminal charges but he said he didn’t feel that necessary. “It was a private incident…a non-event…but at the time in the heat of the moment…I felt for everyone’s safety I should call 911.”
7. He stressed in his press interview that he did not have a sexual relationship with the woman but acknowledged that during the election campaign he had talked with her about post-election job options – including the possibility of her becoming Saanich’s chief of staff. “I thought she would be able to do a job like that, but that job doesn’t exist in Saanich”
8.”Chief of staff” may not exist in Saanich, but there is an opening for a chief administrative officer, the one created by Atwell before he was adorned with the chain of office. He told the press the unnamed woman was no longer on the short list: “Because these are council decisions. I can’t even bring forward anyone’s name, there’s an administrative process for this I’m just one vote. I don’t have any influence like that to make these things happen.”
9. Atwell’s profile on LinkedIn lists him as: “Software engineer, San Francisco Bay area – computer hardware”, and under “experience”, “Owner Self employed, October 2007 – Present (7 years 4 months). Currently on sabbatical”.
10. When the election results were confirmed last November 15 the local newspaper reported Mayor-elect Atwell “seemed dazed” by his thousand vote victory over incumbent Frank Leonard. Time to shake off any latent dizziness – and update his LinkedIn profile. The sabbatical is over.


  1. Jim in the nicest possible way you really need to drop the attacks on Atwell.

    Chris Corps c: +1 (250) 813 3422


    1. Criticism of Mayor Atwell’s early actions will disappear quickly once he displays the understanding that as Mayor he is a public servant not a public master. His elected council and his constituents must trust him – and will if his actions are measured, thoughtful, and earn that trust.

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