The council will be almost entirely new, but in the end, Victoria residents went for experience in picking Marianne Alto to step into the mayor’s role held by Lisa Helps for the last two terms.
Alto, who has served as a councillor for 12 years, captured 55 per cent of the vote. Her closest rival among the eight mayoral candidates, fellow Coun. Stephen Andrew, was second with 36 per cent of the vote.
“I’m a bit stunned but incredibly overwhelmed and and humbled,” said Alto in an interview Saturday night. “It’s kind of incredible — an interesting combination of a very new council, but there was clearly an appreciation for a steady hand in the mayor’s chair.
She said with a brand new council to work with, she’s excited to get to work, though she will be making it clear that the tone of discussion and debate will be civil and the focus will be on finding solutions together.
Alto said the key is to remember council’s job is to work for the people of Victoria. “Our responsibility is to the collective,” she said.
Andrew conceded just after 9:30 p.m. as the polls showed Alto well ahead.
In a speech to supporters, Andrew wished Alto luck, urging her to ensure the citizens of Victoria are at the centre of decision making.
“We heard consistently throughout the campaign that people want a city that includes their voices,” Andrew said. “People are tired of a city government that seems to be powered by politics and forget that a key mandate of a local government is to ensure that council represents you.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted tonight, but we did elevate the discussion around public safety, good governance, and creating a liberal city for everyone.”
With 30 of 48 polls reporting by just after 10 p.m., the eight councillors elected appeared to be Jeremy Caradonna, Matt Dell, Susan Kim, Krista Loughton, Chris Coleman, Dave Thompson, Stephen Hammond and Marg Gardiner. Though there were some polling stations yet to report, Coun. Ben Isitt appeared not to be on the new council.
Isitt was considered a sure thing by many observers, due to the support he pulled in 2018, when he drew more votes than any other candidate on the ballot. He was the only councillor seeking re-election as a councillor.
If the results stand, it means only Alto will be left from the last council.
Andrew, who won a seat on council in a 2020 byelection, declared his intention to run for mayor in December 2021, about a year after he took his seat in the council chamber.
Alto, who has served as a councillor since 2010, said she decided to run against him in part because of the need for someone with experience and a big-picture outlook in the mayor’s chair.
She also wanted to carry on the work done by the previous council on reconciliation, housing and infrastructure.
“Not everything we did was good, but a lot of it was, and I actually think that most people in Victoria aren’t so troubled with what was done, but the speed with which it’s done,” she said.
“The city is changing dramatically and quickly and I’d rather have a hand in trying to manage and plan that than just let it happen randomly.”
Change was the central pillar of Andrew’s campaign — an attempt to distance himself from the previous council’s direction.
There were 37 candidates for eight council seats, six of whom were running under the Vancouver Island Voters Association Victoria banner, targeted by some rival candidates for its far-right political ties.
That slate got very little support, with only one candidate grabbing more than 1.2 per cent of the vote.