Billing himself as someone who has never been afraid to ask tough questions, broadcaster Stephen Andrew entered the Victoria mayoral contest Friday with a campaign launch at Centennial Square.
“We need to answer those questions about what’s been going on in the mayor’s office, questions that up until now have been avoided, not even asked, or perhaps more importantly, not answered,” Andrew said to about 50 onlookers and supporters.
Andrew’s candidacy brings the number of mayoral candidates to eight. The others are incumbent Mayor Dean Fortin, Coun. Lisa Helps, former Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong, Rob Duncan who is running as Changes the Clown, Riga Godron, Jason Dean Ross and David Shebib, who is planning to be on the mayoral ballot in all 13 capital region municipalities.
While Andrew brings with him name recognition and has to be considered a serious candidate, the challenge will be to distinguish himself from others in the race, said Michael Prince, University of Victoria Lansdowne professor of social policy. “If his main issues are going to be echoes of what other people are saying, it might actually split the ‘anybody but Fortin’ vote and give the mayor a little bit of hope and encouragement he’ll get re-elected,” Prince said.
“In any competition, when you start to get three or four names in there of credible candidates, an incumbent has got to start liking his or her chances of squeaking through again.”
Running a mayoralty race in Victoria can be expensive. Three years ago Fortin filed election expenses of about $76,000.
Stephen, who was introduced at his campaign launch by accountant Derrold Norgaard, said campaign financing will not be an issue. “I have no concerns about money,” Andrew said.
In his speech Andrew said he wants give residents “something to vote for, not against.” He cited unhappiness in the business community and empty downtown storefronts as examples of Fortin’s failure to lead.
“Clearly, many business people believe that the current mayor is not addressing their concerns,” he said.
If elected, Andrew said his first priority would be to establish a system of portfolios “so that each councillor will focus on issues that have a significant impact on our city.” He said he planned to reduce the number of “closed-door secret meetings” at city hall including the weekly closed-door agenda setting session. “I will make sure that you know not only what’s on the agenda but also what hasn’t made it on the agenda so that you can hold council truly accountable.”
With the city agreeing to mediation with its contractors on Johnson Street Bridge costs, it’s time for Fortin to admit it will be more than the budgeted $92.8 million.
Andrew took a shot at Chong, who lives in Saanich, when he said unlike some candidates Victoria is his home. “I believe that when local politicians make decisions they should live with those decisions and feel the impact of those decisions — not go home at night to another city as though they are passing through.”
Helps, Fortin and Chong welcomed Andrew’s entry.
“His entry shows that there’s a real appetite for change. The other thing that Stephen entering the race will do is bring more people to the polls because every candidate that enters brings more people to the polls and that can’t be a bad thing for local democracy,” Helps said.
Fortin said some of his opponents have views about downtown that don’t mesh with reality. “We have led an unprecedented building boom in the downtown. People continue to want to invest in Victoria. We see it every day and we see it at every public hearing week after week,” Fortin said.
Chong said: “We live in a democratic society and you encourage people from all backgrounds, all ages and all kinds of skill sets to put their name forward if they believe they can make a difference.”