Victoria: Lisa Helps shakes off rivals to win second term as mayor

Incumbent Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps hung onto her job Saturday as the opposition vote split between challengers Stephen Hammond, Michael Geoghagen and Bruce McGuigan.

Helps had 42.6 per cent of the vote versus Hammond’s 29.3 per cent and Geoghagen’s 14.6 per cent. Sociology professor Bruce McGuigan, 59, ran fourth with 8 per cent of the vote.

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“This campaign has been a referendum on the future of the city,” Helps, 42, said to a boisterous group of supporters after being declared the winner. That future is one of inclusivity, reconciliation and sustainability, she said.

While winning through a split in the vote, Helps actually increased her margin of victory.

“My goal was to win the election by 2,000 votes. We won by over 3,000 votes,” said Helps, who some dubbed “Landslide Lisa” after her 89-vote victory over Dean Fortin in 2014.

Victoria voters rejected Hammond’s NewCouncil.ca slate in its entirety, opting instead to swing to the left, voting in the three-member Together Victoria slate of Laurel Collins, Sarah Potts and Sharmarke Dubow. Veteran Coun. Pam Madoff was defeated.

Councillors Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday, Marianne Alto, Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Geoff Young were re-elected.

Helps said there was a clear reason why her message resonated over Hammond’s.

“My message and our message was based on positivity, was based on hope for the future. There was no negativity. There was no anger. There was no fear. And at the end of the day, that’s what people want.”

Although Helps was re-elected mayor, a big question is who will actually be leading council.

Isitt has a paid membership in the Together Victoria electoral organization. He and Loveday ran as independents, but unofficially campaigned with the three Together Victoria candidates and had a joint mailout with them. Those five votes give them a council majority.

Helps said she looks forward to working with the new council, noting that the values of the Together Victoria team align closely with her values.

“I think we’ve got a strong team. We’ve got a good balance of experience and new councillors and I think that’s good,” Helps said.

Helps, who served one term on council prior to becoming mayor, became a lightening rod for controversy over the past four years, seemingly carrying the weight of every council decision from bike lanes to new development.

Opponents slammed her during the campaign for what they saw as a top-down approach to consultation, saying Helps had developed a pattern of pushing ahead with decisions, only to later back down or apologize when it became clear the neighbourhood wasn’t on board.

Helps, who maintained she was the only candidate with a detailed plan of action for the future, countered that she did listen and that focusing on two or three consultation processes that didn’t succeed ignored hundreds that did.

Hammond, heading the NewCouncil.ca slate, gained profile as a neighbourhood activist and founder of the Mad As Hell group that complained of city inaction during the months-long tent city that set up behind the Victoria courthouse in 2015/16.

“The electorate always makes the right decision and we hope for a wonderful and prosperous four years for the city,” Hammond, 59, said.

Geoghagen, 52, a Saanich resident and political lobbyist, promised to deliver more affordable housing by cutting bureaucratic red tape and pushing the province to build thousands of units of student housing at UVic and Camosun campuses.

Vote count delayed 

There were still voters in line when the polls closed at 8 p.m. in Victoria. The city said those in line would be able to vote.

So many people were lined up to vote in Victoria when polls closed at 8 p.m. that counting of ballots had to be delayed.

“If they got there before 8 p.m. then they are going to get to vote,” said city Director of Engagement Bill Eisenhauer.

“So whether they are inside or whether they’re in the line outside, the elections staff will be making sure that everyone who is there at 8 (p.m.) will be voting.”

That means results would be delayed as counting of the ballots can’t begin until all ballots are in, Eisenhauer said.

“So as long there are people in the voting stations who still haven’t voted we won’t be showing any results,” he said.

Eisenhauer did not know how many polling stations were lined up at closing time but said “it is more than one.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

 

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