Monday July 11, 2022 | OAK BAY, BC
by Molly Pearce, Island Social Trends
The unique interests and histories of the current District of Oak Bay Councillors will be sure to drive the central issues of focus in the municipality’s upcoming elections. Sustainable urban development to create affordable housing options and environmental and community health are looking to be among these priorities if the current council members run for re-election this fall.
Among the official Council Priorities decided upon for the period from 2019-2022, two stand out as being close to the hearts of Oak Bay Council members. The Council has decided to prioritize “ensur[ing] access to diverse housing options within the built environment” as well as “demonstrat[ing] leadership in fostering community health and resilience.”
The potential is clear for these two priorities to come into conflict with one another. Providing housing for residents while preserving the natural environment in a densely populated community may seem like a nearly impossible task. The current Councillors, however, seem poised to continue to tackle these problems head on.
Six councillors and mayor:
There are currently six councillors on Oak Bay council alongside Mayor Kevin Murdoch. The councillors for 2018-2022 term are Andrew Appleton, Hazel Braithwaite, Cairine Green, Tara Ney, Esther Paterson, and Eric Wood Zhelka.
Who among this list of councillors is running for re-election in October is not yet confirmed. They will likely announce their intentions regarding the upcoming election in the coming months, along with several fresh candidates.
The current composition of the Oak Bay Council may serve as a guide for the key issues of the next municipal election. Concerns as to the vitality of the area’s riparian ecosystems, as well as the challenges of sustainable urban growth, will be on the minds of Councillors Andrew Appleton and Cairine Green when—and if—they plan their 2022 election campaigns.
Appleton was elected for his first term on council in 2018. He focused on balancing the municipality’s need for housing the “missing middle”, meaning providing mid-sized housing options for young families and aging seniors looking to downsize, along with the desire to preserve the area’s unique natural environment. Green has served two terms on Oak Bay Council, after completing two terms with North Saanich Council. Both Appleton and Green have backgrounds in biology.
The strengthening of community health and resilience will likely drive the potential campaign of Councillor Tara Ney. With a background in preventative health resources for young people and trades workers and having served previously on the CRD Inter-Municipal Climate Action Steering Committee, a re-election for Ney would likely mean action in the areas of community and environmental health in Oak Bay.
Two of municipality’s current council members share a background in engineering and management. Mayor Kevin Murdoch’s background is with engineering in the high-tech industry, and he has also served as Council Liaison for the Oak Bay Environmental Committee. This is Murdoch’s seventh year on Council. He was elected Mayor in 2018.
Murdoch and council have had to grapple this term with the cost of replacing aging infrastructure, without having much wiggle room or reserve in the budget.
Eric Wood Zhelka also brings experience as a professional engineer, a background which may influence the future Council’s approach to dealing with the complex relationship between environmental sustainability, health, and urban development in the area. Zhelka has served as a Councillor for Oak Bay since 2014.
Braithwaite has served three terms on Council since 2011 and has a background in teaching, finance, and geophysics. Braithwaite is also Director of the Oak Bay Tea Party Society. Paterson was elected for her first term with Council in 2019 and has a background in real estate.
Election October 15, 2022:
Oak Bay residents will be keeping their eyes and ears open for who they can vote for in October, and what these candidates will bring to the table.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is an online news portal, posting daily news and deeper news insights with a socioeconomic lens.
Prior to Island Social Trends emerging in summer 2020, this publication was the weekly print/PDF West Shore Voice News (2014-2020), and before that the weekly print Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and the quarterly colour glossy MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010).
Island Social Trends Editor is Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR. Again this summer, freelance writers Molly Pearce (completing her B.A. in English Honours in 2023 at McGill University) and Jalen Codrington (B.A. in History and Philosophy, UVic, 2022) are contributing to Island Social Trends.