Just when Langford residents thought their municipal election was a little sleepy, things have started to heat up.
Councillor candidates running under the Time for a Change banner in the Nov. 15 election discovered through an email last week that their request to host a hospitality gathering for residents of Alexander Mackie Lodge was declined, because the Lodge’s board of directors was supporting the incumbent councillors.
An inquiry from Langford resident Etta Connor, who is helping promote the candidates, was met with a positive response initially by executive director Lawrence Saracuse. But when Connor emailed Saracuse on Oct. 29 to check on the proposed gathering, his reply stated the board had turned down the request.
The email, obtained by the Gazette, read, “… the Board has chosen to support the incumbent Councillors in Langford as they have a longstanding and very positive relationship. The other candidates, while the Board wishes them every success, will not be invited to the Mackie.”
Micky Fleming, co-owner of Cherish Community Living, which operates the Lodge, said the incumbents are not being invited to make presentations to the residents. She said council of the day is invited in annually for coffee and to tour the facility, to show appreciation for the support the city provided to help get Alexander Mackie Lodge built in 2006 and expanded in 2009. Coun. Lanny Seaton is currently on the board of the Lodge.
“It’s not that we’re against those other people, but we’re definitely a strong supporter of the current council,” Fleming said.
Both Elections B.C. and Tom Moore, the chief elections officer for Langford, told the Gazette the declined request to speak did not fall under their jurisdiction.
Terry Power, campaign manager for his wife Pauline Adams, a Neighbours candidate, said the group heard much the same response when they investigated whether being shut out at Mackie was illegal or inappropriate.
Fleming pointed out that the Lodge is private property, but added there are no political posters inside encouraging people to vote one way or the other. She acknowledged the annual walkthrough by incumbents has an understandably higher profile with the campaign in progress.
Power was concerned that the perceived incumbent advantage at the Lodge could make the difference between a candidate getting in or not, especially since it has been designated a official polling place. The difference between Roger Wade, the last councillor elected in 2011, and the seventh-place candidate, Grant McLachlan, was little more than 400 votes.
Fleming said the Lodge’s 135 residents are not discouraged from attending all-candidates meetings or other public events relating to the election.
“We’re not stopping anybody from going out and listening to anyone,” she said.