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Election analysis: Marianne Alto is Victoria's next mayor—and Stew Young is ousted in Langford

What the turnovers across Greater Victoria councils mean for the municipalities' futures

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

Election analysis: Marianne Alto is Victoria's next mayor—and Stew Young is ousted in Langford

What the turnovers across Greater Victoria councils mean for the municipalities' futures

Langford Now candidates celebrate following a clean sweep of the Langford election. Photo: Zoë Ducklow / Capital Daily
Langford Now candidates celebrate following a clean sweep of the Langford election. Photo: Zoë Ducklow / Capital Daily
City Hall
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Election analysis: Marianne Alto is Victoria's next mayor—and Stew Young is ousted in Langford

What the turnovers across Greater Victoria councils mean for the municipalities' futures

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Election analysis: Marianne Alto is Victoria's next mayor—and Stew Young is ousted in Langford
Langford Now candidates celebrate following a clean sweep of the Langford election. Photo: Zoë Ducklow / Capital Daily

For full election results, see our election page, here.

Langford’s mayor of 30 years has been unseated, along with his council. 

Scott Goodmanson, a political newcomer, will be Langford’s new mayor, supported by Langford Now’s full slate of candidates and incumbent Lillian Szpak. 

“Now we can do everything we’ve wanted to do,” Coun.-elect Mary Wagner said. Her colleagues at Langford Now were elected by a decisive majority, defeating the incumbent council, who had served in relative cohesion for decades.

At campaign headquarters (City Centre Grille in Langford) on Saturday night, Wagner recalled turning to 18-year council veteran Szpak for advice. “I’m thinking about running [for council] in four years, what do you think?” 

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Szpak’s answer was: “Don’t wait. Run this year.”

Wagner went on to earn 4,844 second only to Colby Harder, a 26-year-old political newcomer who earned 5,072 votes. 

Young was ousted by a slim margin of 687 votes. None of Young’s slate of council candidates, Community First Langford, were elected. Incumbent Denise Blackwell and independent candidate Wendy Hobbs also lost out. 

Goodmanson was as surprised as his new council at the results, and credits the voter decision to his campaign of listening to Langford residents. 

Scott Goodmanson. Photo: Zoë Ducklow

“I was just listening to them. There were tears, a lot of times, because they were so frustrated at not being listened to,” he said. “I offered something different [from Young], and this is Langford speaking… I’m really hoping there’s a lot of people excited in Langford right now.” 

Voter turnout was 24% in Langford. That’s higher than the typically low turnout there (18% in 2018), and bucks the regional trend, with most municipalities’ voter turnout declining this year.

The Langford Now slate grew out of a Facebook group called Langford Voters for Change, which started as a conversation between neighbours about how the city was developing. Founders quickly learned they weren’t alone, and the group found common ground in feeling Langford was developing too quickly. 

It was their hoped-for result, but the council-elect admits to being surprised. 

“What we're hearing from complete strangers on the streets was, ‘Yes, we're behind you,’” Coun.-elect Keith Yaccucha said. He realistically expected three out of their slate of five to be elected. “To see the sweep we've had, I'm blown away.”

Young himself had dismissed the slate, saying in an interview with The Westshore this week, “There's too much Not In My Backyard. We see it in Langford with the Langford Now people; they don't understand that we're in a housing crisis, and they want to stop businesses and stop development, and that's going to kill jobs.”

Young continued blasting the Langford Now candidates in an interview with CFAX Radio on Saturday night, calling them inexperienced and accusing them of spreading misinformation.

Over in Colwood, Doug Kobayashi decisively beat out incumbent mayor Rob Martin by 1,343 votes. Council is also mostly newcomers, with just two incumbents: Cynthia Day and Dean Jantzen. 

Alto to lead progressive-leaning council in Victoria

Mayor-elect Marianne Alto won 55.5% of the vote, beating Stephen Andrew by more than 5,000 votes.

Alto, who has served on council since winning a 2010 by-election, will be the only member of Victoria’s outgoing council to return to the chamber. Ben Isitt—the only incumbent councillor to seek re-election—failed to win a seat. Isitt’s vote share dropped from 14,205 votes in 2018 to 8,098 this year.

Victorians “elected some very diverse people with some incredibly good ideas and some interesting visions,” Alto said. 

In his note of concession, Andrew told his supporters that they are “needed now more then [sic] ever.” 

“During this campaign, we offered a vision for change and new priorities to lead us away from the divided community we have become,” Andrew wrote on Twitter. “We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we made sure your voices were heard.” 

Political neophytes Jeremy Caradonna, Susan Kim, Matt Dell, Kirsta Loughton, and Dave Thompson all secured council seats, as did former councillor Chris Coleman and Stephen Hammond, who had previously lost his mayoral bid against Lisa Helps in 2018. James Bay Neighbourhood Association president Marg Gardiner was also elected, following an unsuccessful run for council in 2018.

Helps, who endorsed Alto as well as Caradonna, Kim, Thompson, Dell and Loughton, called the night’s result a heartening one that gives the city “five strong councillors with a clear vision for Victoria's future and the obvious ability to work together.

“Victorians have made their preferences clear for a city council that is compassionate, future leaning and takes a calm and thoughtful approach to creating the vibrancy, prosperity and the housing we all need,” Helps told Capital Daily.

Alto said the election results indicate that voters have “an appreciation for what’s been done” in Victoria over the past four years—an interpretation that dovetails well with her promise to accelerate the city’s existing housing policies. Alto has also pledged to reconsider the Missing Middle Housing Initiative, calling the previous council’s failure to pass the policy a mistake.

"There is no doubt that housing and its impact on affordability is going to be one of our biggest challenges, but there are so many other challenges ahead as well," Alto told reporters at her campaign headquarters following her win. "This really will be a council and a city for everyone and that's because of the decisions that Victoria residents made tonight."

With Esquimalt voting to pull out of their policing agreement with Victoria, Alto told Capital Daily she is “quite excited” about the opportunity to reconsider the future of how police services for Victoria’s downtown core is funded.

The biggest loser of the night was the VIVA slate, founded by former People’s Party of Canada candidate John Randal Phipps. VIVA, which fielded seven candidates for council as well as six for the Greater Victoria School board, fired its media relations representative in early October after an email purporting to be from a director of child care services with Island Health encouraged recipients to vote for the VIVA slate, as well as Andrew, council candidate Jordan Quitzau, and school board trustee candidate Judith Zulu.

Outgoing NDP Premier John Horgan disparaged the chances of extreme-right candidates during a press conference at the Union of BC Municipalities convention.

“Thankfully we live in a free society, and people can put their hand up and say, vote for me,” he said, adding that he believes the majority of people are more thoughtful than "anonymous voices on Twitter."

He dismissed the People’s Party of Canada, in particular, as "a lot of noise, a lot of attention, a lot of cameras—6% of the vote."

Not a single VIVA council candidate cracked 1.3% of the vote.

Voter turnout in Victoria was 38%—down 7% from 2018 when 45% of eligible voters cast a ballot.

Esquimalt mayor will serve fifth consecutive term

Esquimalt residents will keep the same mayor they have had since 2008—the longest serving mayor-elect in the Capital Region. 

Barb Desjardins has been reelected for her fifth consecutive term, beating former Victoria councillor and registered nurse Sonya Gracey by 475 votes. Overall, voter turnout in Esquimalt dropped from around 30% in 2018, to 23.5% this year. 

“My first priority is always sitting down with council and doing strategic planning,” Desjardins told Capital Daily in the minutes after her win. “We have a lot of things that are just starting and on the go, and of course, policing is one of those things.” 

This past year, Esquimalt council voted to end the framework agreement that binds their policing services to Victoria, citing rising costs associated with the township paying for Victoria’s share of police. 

Desjardins stood by this decision throughout her campaign. “We need to either have everybody pulled together in an amalgamated fashion, or we want out of this marriage,” she said earlier this week

Her opponent in the mayoral race, Gracey, had also advocated for more funding from other municipalities to police Victoria’s downtown core, but disagreed with the prospect of divorcing from Victoria’s police force altogether. Gracey’s loss means Esquimalt’s leadership will not be moving in a different direction on the subject of amalgamation.

Desjardins will be joined by incumbent councillors Tim Morrison, Jacob Helliwell, and Ken Armour. However none garnered as many votes as Duncan Cavens who has never served on council before, but has sat on the township’s Advisory Planning Commission since 2017. 

Close Saanich race turns mayorship over to Murdock

Dean Murdock will be the next mayor of Saanich. The 40-year-old former three-term councillor and CRD director eked out a win, just 152 votes ahead of his rival, incumbent Mayor Fred Haynes. 

Murdock told Capital Daily late on Saturday night that he knew the race would be close.

“We were hoping for a more definitive result, but it was a win and means that the message we were putting out there, was the one we were hearing on the doorsteps: that people… wanted less talk and more action.”

Murdock ran on a platform heavy on accelerating Saanich’s active transportation and transit plans, and increasing housing supply. The latter will be put to the test in short order with Saanich preparing to enter into its own Missing Middle process in 2023, while Murdock said transportation resonated throughout the campaign. 

“What I was hearing on the doorsteps was real concern that Saanich was not doing enough to create a safer walking environment, a safer cycling environment,” he said. “And while Saanich has excellent plans, it was very slow on delivering action.”

The mayor-elect is also a proponent of civilian-led response teams composed of healthcare workers to respond to mental health calls, rather than police. In contrast, Haynes called for more funding for the police department to handle these calls, during his term. 

Voter turnout dropped significantly in Saanich since the last election: 31.2% versus 2018’s turnout of 38.3%.

Three incumbent councillors—Zac de Vries, Colin Plant, and Susan Brice—each received more votes than Murdock. Teale Phelps-Bondaroff, who received the eighth-most vote in the council race, beat out Rishi Sharma by just 11 votes.

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