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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

North Saanich councillor resigns after calling mayor 'Mr. Hitler' in meeting

Councillor Brett Smyth was five months into his second term

By Cameron Welch
March 27, 2023
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

North Saanich councillor resigns after calling mayor 'Mr. Hitler' in meeting

Councillor Brett Smyth was five months into his second term

By Cameron Welch
Mar 27, 2023
Brett Smyth (second from left) has resigned after the latest in what has been months of clashes with Mayor Peter Jones (centre). Photo: District of North Saanich
Brett Smyth (second from left) has resigned after the latest in what has been months of clashes with Mayor Peter Jones (centre). Photo: District of North Saanich
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

North Saanich councillor resigns after calling mayor 'Mr. Hitler' in meeting

Councillor Brett Smyth was five months into his second term

By Cameron Welch
March 27, 2023
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North Saanich councillor resigns after calling mayor 'Mr. Hitler' in meeting
Brett Smyth (second from left) has resigned after the latest in what has been months of clashes with Mayor Peter Jones (centre). Photo: District of North Saanich

Coun. Brett Smyth sent an “effective immediately” resignation email to staff at 8:14pm on Friday night, and it was received—without comment—by his former fellow councillors at Monday’s meeting. 

“It has not been an easy decision,” the second-term councillor wrote, “but one made necessary, but not specifically, in light of my off-handed comment at a recent Council meeting.”

That comment appears to have been saying “Thank you, Mr. Hitler” to Mayor Peter Jones on March 20 when Jones ended questions on an item that Smyth was criticizing him over. That item related to the same issue that those two have clashed over repeatedly during and even before their time on council together: North Saanich’s Official Community Plan (OCP). 

Jones was elected in part on a wave of opposition to densification of the municipality, which was on the table during the process of creating a new OCP. Jones has framed the election success as a mandate from residents, but Smyth and other councillors have argued that too much existing work is being thrown out on those grounds. Smyth has explicitly argued Jones lacks a sufficient mandate, and particularly objected to council voting 4-3 to not receive a revised OCP draft that was being prepared by staff. He was on the losing side of the 4-3 vote to create a Mayor’s Official Community Plan Advisory Committee (MOCPAC) of councillors and select community members.

Discussion about OCP committee led to heated council moment

MOCPAC main membership includes Jones and the three councillors that typically vote with him on OCP matters (Shrivastava, McConkey, and Stock). Those councillors also occupy most of the Mayor-appointed councillor spots on the four working groups (including all spots on Housing & Planning). Smyth sat on Agriculture & Food and on Climate & Environment, while McClintock is on Marine & Waterways and DiBattista is on none due to a dispute with Mayor Jones. 

While receiving information on MOCPAC composition from staff on March 20, Coun. Phil DiBattista had asked if the chosen community members’ CVs could be made public and their working group meetings live-streamed. Jones rejected both ideas, saying members were “extremely well known” to the public and that under the established structure the working groups would meet privately, then give recommendations to the public MOCPAC meetings. 

Smyth spoke up to object, arguing there should be more transparency, accountability, and assurance that “everybody’s voice” will be heard. He once again accused the mayor of being “political” with the MOCPAC and having set things up so he could do whatever he wanted—an allegation of dictatorial behaviour that prefaced the more off-colour one that followed a moment later. 

Jones admonished Smyth to “refrain” from calling his actions “political” rather than practical, to which Smyth retorted he “cannot refrain from something that is the truth.” Jones snorted and said no more questions on the staff advisory would be taken, to which Smyth made his “Mr. Hitler” quip and then the meeting proceeded. 

Smyth confirmed to CTV on Monday that that was the comment that his resignation was related to, and argued he had reason to act that way. Jones told the station that despite their disputes he wanted Smyth to stay and felt he had “a lot to offer.”  

Smyth's resignation letter.

Resignation laments months of conflict

“I would have preferred a more positive environment at the Municipal Hall,” Smyth wrote in his resignation, “but when all voices are not respected, then it is difficult to practice the patience required of an elected official.” Smyth wrote that he would particularly miss the “friendly professional relationships” he had with staff, and with residents he met. 

“I wish council good luck in moving forward with a more collaborative and free-thinking approach that has the best interests of all residents,” his letter concluded.

Outside of council, Smyth is a produce farmer; he runs Smyth’s Market Garden. 

Staff have indicated that they are preparing for a future by-election to fill Smyth’s vacated seat. 

Consulting company has also quit over OCP strife

Modus, the Vancouver company hired as a planning consultant for the OCP review, made a formal request in February to end its contract. As the Times Colonist has covered, Modus wrote that there has been a major change in direction and a “misalignment of values” regarding how to conduct engagement. 

Modus’s concern was not unlike Smyth’s: The letter argued that the advisory committee was stacked with only anti-growth perspectives but that Modus’s engagement work had found there to also be many pro-growth residents. Council is to receive a legal opinion at next week’s meeting.

With files from Michael John Lo and Tori Marlan

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Cameron Welch
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