Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection

Victoria voters go to the polls Dec. 12 to elect a new councillor, filling the seat vacated by Laurel Collins after she won a seat for the NDP in last year’s federal election.

Eleven candidates will appear on the byelection ballot, though two — Jason Heit and Keith Rosenberg — announced last week that they were shutting down their campaigns and endorsing Stephen Andrew.

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We asked the remaining nine candidates to tell us a bit about themselves and their top three issues or priorities, and answer four questions:

  • In which municipality do you live?
  • Do you ride B.C. Transit?
  • Are you a user of the Greater Victoria Public Library system?
  • Have you cycled in the city’s bike network?

In the coming days, we will ask them questions inspired by submissions from readers. Look for their responses on our website at timescolonist.com/election.

Stephen Andrew

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_0

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: No

Library: Yes

Bike lanes: Yes

Stephen Andrew is the former Executive Director of National Cancer charity and cancer survivor. He worked for CTV, CBC, CHEK, and C-FAX radio. He is vice-chair of Run Sport (TC10K) and raises money for numerous local organizations. He is married to Danny Everett Stewart, his partner of 30 years

Top issues

Public safety, smart planning and development, and fiscal responsibility. It is important to understand these issues are interconnected and include different issues within them.

Public safety is complex. It includes adequate funding to police services, investment in social and mental health issues, and holding senior levels of government to account for obligations within their jurisdiction. A safe community is inclusive and supportive.

Fiscal responsibility includes development of a workable budget, so the city stays within its means and avoid funding pet projects. It means responsibility to the taxpayer and citizenry and understanding tax and fee increases are not infinite.

Smart planning and development encompasses a host of important issues. Streamlining the development process. Delivering city programs effectively and efficiently. Finding innovative and aggressive ways to deliver more housing to the city, both market and non-market, both ownership and rental. Developing transportation plans and infrastructure that promote a healthy city.

Rob Duncan

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_5

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: No

Library: Occasionally

Bike lanes: No

Dr. Rob Duncan is a former academic social scientist with a PhD in developmental psychology; more recently, Rob was working on a second PhD in political sociology at UVic. As well as academia, Rob has worked in various areas including support work in homeless shelters and low-barrier supported housing.

Top issues

Victoria’s homelessness crisis. Housing is a human right, and people without housing are people whose human rights are being violated. Victoria should obtain funding from the federal Rapid Housing Initiative, and build purpose-built supported housing, rather than buying derelict motels that are unsuited for the purpose.

Victoria’s residential rental market crisis, which can be alleviated with policy changes, including working with the provincial government to implement vacancy controls on residential rents, and expanding the city’s inclusive zoning policy.

The planetary climate emergency. Victoria should expand its current fare-free bus policy and work toward electrification of the transit system as quickly as possible. Victoria should also put transit signal priority technology in buses, stop building fossil fuel-related infrastructure, and work toward creating a walkable community.

Riga Godron

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_6

Riga Godron did not reply to our questions.

This is what she wrote for the City of Victoria candidate guide:

“Love is the only reason to work toward improving everything around you at a local level for the future. The old ways of doing things were not work working. Each of us can choose to change, have the courage to follow through and commit to it everyday.”

Stefanie Hardman, Together Victoria

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_8

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: Yes

Library: Often

Bike lanes: Daily

I am an urban planner and researcher. I have worked with many nonprofits in Victoria, including the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. I calculated the living wage for Greater Victoria, worked as a planner with schools creating safe transportation routes, and dedicated years to crafting detailed housing policy.

Top issiues

My top priority is working together to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is driving an economic shock that has undermined our small businesses and made it difficult for people to meet their basic needs. I’m committed to extending deferral programs and providing targeted relief where it’s most needed.

My next priority is tackling the affordability crisis.

Housing, transportation and childcare costs continue to spiral out of control. It is essential that we increase our housing supply (including social and non-market housing, co-ops), strengthen protections for renters, and prioritize the creation of childcare spaces.

I also want to ensure our city is one where everyone feels safe. Like cities across B.C., we are facing public safety challenges and I would ensure strong support for emergency services, escalate our response to the overdose crisis, and champion Housing First programs with wraparound services.

Bill Heflin

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_4

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: Once or twice a year

Library: When it’s fully open

Bike lanes: No

I am a lawyer, practising for 43 years, including five in the B.C. Prosecution Service. I have a BA (Whitman College) and an LLB (UBC). I work in criminal defence and family law — mostly legal aid. I’ve worked in economic development, building approval and governor of Selkirk College.

Top issues

My top issue is public safety. Camping in public spaces should be eliminated by bylaw right now and enforced immediately. If council is determined to make some provision for the campers, make it by renting a non-public space for them. Separate the mentally challenged and substance abusers — house them separately.

We are allowing new construction in this city at a rate not seen in many years. We must make proper allowance for infrastructure, both transportation and water; dealing with groundwater; roof garden/green buildings and provision of open spaces. We don’t want water rationing again. Traffic is a bear.

The city should forgo significant amounts of revenue to assist struggling small business in our community. Costs to landlords can be reduced provided they are passed through to the business tenants. The city should consider cash incentives to businesses that are prepared to fill our vacant spaces in our downtown core.

Sean Leitenberg

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_2

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: No

Library: Yes

Bike lanes: Yes

I am a socially conscious businessman. I live in Victoria with my wife and son. Years ago, I started a company that now houses over 1,000 people. I attended the University of Toronto. I recently challenged the CRA in the Tax Court of Canada, returning millions of dollars to local residents.

Top issues

Safety — Victoria has quickly become a dangerous city with parks that are littered with needles. We all need to feel safe as we did just a few years ago. I support the Victoria police and see them as essential in order for us to return to a safe city.

Appropriate housing — Camping is not a solution for the homeless. Drug addiction and homelessness are not the same issue, though they often come together. Addicts requires specialized housing.

Affordable housing for the working families of Victoria can be achieved through zoning and planning, along with working with regional developers.

Rejuvenating downtown — There are few tourists, and with locals afraid to go downtown, many shops will be lost forever. I have been in private business from retail to hospitality and I know how difficult it can be to stay open and with each business lost so are local jobs and tax revenue.

Hailey McLeod

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_3

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: Yes

Library: Yes

Bike lanes: Yes

I was raised by a single mother in a small town in the interior of B.C., which deeply impacted my understanding of how inequality shapes people’s lives. I am a recent graduate from UVic, where I studied anthropology and Canadian history and currently work as a legal assistant.

Top issues

Increasing affordable housing through mixed-use zoning, Airbnb restrictions, and mandating all new housing projects include a percentage of affordable units.

Working to increase supports for those experiencing homelessness or facing eviction. Our bylaws also have a huge impact on the safety, security, and autonomy of unhoused people and all of the factors contributing to our overdose crisis should be addressed with the same urgency as COVID-19.

Addressing institutionalized racism and other forms of systemic discrimination in every facet of governance. This means making sure there is representation at every level of city management and ensuring resources go to support BIPOC businesses, artists, workers.

Alexander Schmid

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_1

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: Sometimes

Library: Yes

Bike lanes: Yes

I am a laboratory instructorat UVic, where I also graduated with a BSc in physics. I serve on the Victoria Centre Council for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada as liaison representative to UVic. I volunteer with public outreach programs to involve the public with night sky observations at DAO during the summer months.

Top issues

One of my priorities is in reference to transportation. We have the means to reduce the use of vehicles going into and out of Victoria by the use of rail, but nothing seemes to be happening except endless studies. My thrust will be: Start the service to Langford and then continue it farther up the island.

Citizens should be able to trust council when charts and statistics are issued by municipal administrations. Witness instead incidents like that reported in Focus magazine, City of Victoria Cheats on Emissions Count, by David Broadland. With my science training I will guard against this happening in the future.

I will work hard to improve the relationship with neighbourhood associations. I will listen to them closely, because they are the ”on the spot” eyes and ears that can promptly identify and raise issues of concern before council.

Roshan Vickery

Meet the candidates in the Dec. 12 Victoria byelection_7

Lives in: Victoria

Bus: Yes

Library: No

Bike lanes: Yes

I have lived in downtown Victoria for 20 years. I moved here in the 1970s. I work as a freelance auctioneer and appraiser after having worked at Kilshaw’s. I studied art history at UVic. I am the son of local jazz pianist Tom Vickery and support the arts and nonprofits.

Top issues

Our first priority is solving the homelessness crisis. We must begin by safely housing Victoria’s 250 tenters as soon as possible. Once this is done, we can connect housing to addiction and mental health treatment. I would also work to penalty those who prey upon the vulnerable homeless population.

Until there is a direct correlation between housing and income, we cannot have a discussion about affordable housing. Commodification of housing has had an immense impact on Victorians and needs to be addressed by all three levels of government.

Small business owners need to be given every opportunity to succeed and thrive. We should be offering incentives to value-added, locally owned businesses in the form of lower property taxes. We should impose a vacancy tax on empty storefronts. We should make downtown a safe, more welcoming environment.

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