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Vancouver Island councillor resigns after referring to mayor as 'Mr. Hitler'

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A municipal councillor on Vancouver Island has resigned effective immediately after referring to the mayor as "Mr. Hitler" during a public council meeting.

North Saanich Coun. Brett Smyth submitted his resignation letter to the district's director of corporate services on March 24.

"It has not been an easy decision, but one made necessary, but not specifically, in light of my off‐handed comment at a recent council meeting," Smyth wrote in the letter obtained by CTV News.

The comment was made during a March 20 meeting when Smyth took issue with the membership of an official community plan advisory working group, calling the member selection process political and not transparent.

"It is not a political approach," North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones responded. "It's a practical approach to getting the new version of the OCP [official community plan] done. So would you please refrain from referring to political approaches or anything similar?"

"I cannot refrain from something that is the truth," Smyth replied.

"OK, we're not taking any more questions," the mayor said. "It is advisory only so therefore we move on to the next item."

"Thank you, Mr. Hitler," Smyth responded.

In his resignation letter, the councillor said he "would have preferred a more positive environment at the municipal hall but when all voices are not respected, then it is difficult to practise the patience required of an elected official."

In a telephone interview Monday, Smyth said "some people wish to be offended" by his comment "and some people understand."

"I'm a pretty good guy," said the long-time farmer and produce market operator. "If I'm saying something like that, there's a reason for it. It's not that I’m unbalanced."

The mayor told CTV News on Monday he is disappointed that Smyth decided to resign, saying he appreciates Smyth's concerns around the advisory group membership, and said the community will suffer with the loss of the experienced councillor at the table.

"I didn’t expect that he would step down. My view is I still wish he had not. His comments are fair in the sense that there has been some dissension in council but that's typical," Jones said.

"He's done a lot of work for the residents of North Saanich and I would have liked him to complete his term because he has a lot to offer."

Smyth was first elected to council in 2018 and was re-elected to a second term last October.

In a statement Monday, the district thanked Smyth for "his years of dedicated service to this community."

The district says a byelection will be held to fill the vacant council seat in accordance with the municipality’s community charter.

"Details on a byelection will be made available soon," the district said.

Smyth, in his letter, wished the mayor and council "good luck in moving forward with a more collaborative and free‐thinking approach that has the best interests of all residents."

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