Challenger defeats incumbent North Cowichan mayor by 10 votes

North Cowichan’s incoming mayor has squeaked to first place by just 10 votes to oust the current mayor.

Preliminary numbers show Coun. Al Siebring received 3,017 votes, giving him a narrow lead over Mayor John Lefebure who received 3,007 votes.

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A third candidate Joyce Behnsen pulled in 1,874 votes.

In Saturday’s municipal election, a total of 8,009 votes were cast out of an estimated 22,796 eligible voters.

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Lefebure said Sunday that he has asked the elections officer if such a close result would automatically trigger a recount. B.C.’s Local Government Act addresses recount criteria.

Citizens have been asking him about a possible recount. He said he wants to be able to tell them what he knows about the process.

Lefebure is familiar with close calls.

Two elections ago, he won by 22 votes and an automatic recount was ordered, giving him a 16-vote lead.

With the advent of electronic voting, “I don’t expect anything to change,” he said.

“I am not going to ask for any extraordinary recount.”

Lefebure said that a “very good council” has been elected.

“They are going to be a strong, progressive council. I think they are going to do great work,” Lefebure said.

“I am now free to carry on with my first love, which is construction.”

Lefebure is a designer-builder who has a seven-unit affordable rental housing project in the rezoning process for downtown Chemainus. “It is kind of like the dream project.”

“If all goes well, I’ll be hammering nails - building it stick-by-stick with my brother,” he said.

While he loved the municipal work, “I’m going to be having more fun with less stress on this new project.”

Lefebure was first elected to North Cowichan council in 1999. He served as mayor between 2002 and 2008 and again from 2012 to the present. He is also chairman of the board of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

He campaigned on taking a balanced approach that considers the social, economic and environmental impacts of decisions.

The environment can not be taken for granted, he said in his platform. Relationships must be built with First Nations through working on truth and reconciliation. Affordable housing and social issues such as addiction need to be addressed and tackled in concert with senior governments, he said.

Incoming mayor Siebring, a former broadcaster covering municipal council, has sat as a councillor in North Cowichan for a decade.

“The challenge now for me as mayor is to try to move forward and try to represent everybody and get ‘er done," he said. 

Issues include affordable housing, which Siebring said is best suited in areas which are densified and within walking distance to supermarkets and medical offices.

It’s time for a comprehensive review of North Cowichan’s bylaws rules and regulations. He is planning to create a regulatory review committee to look at what is obsolete, what needs to be modified and what should be retained.

“And further to that, how much are our regulations adding to the cost of housing?”

North Cowichan needs to look at how its rules contribute to the problem of the afforable housing shortage and how can it ameliorate some of that, he said.

Siebring was in favour of June’s vote on merging Duncan and North Cowichan. Although more than 50 per cent of North Cowichan residents voted in favour, Duncan voters turned it down.

The six council seats went to incumbents Rob Douglas and Kate Marsh plus newcomers Christopher Justice, Tek Manhas, Rosalie Sawrie and Debra Toporowski. A total of 14 candidates competed for a job as councillor.

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