NDP’s Mitzi Dean cruises to comfortable victory in Esquimalt-Metchosin

Esquimalt-Metchosin will remain NDP orange as political neophyte Mitzi Dean cruised to a comfortable victory on Tuesday.

Dean, 48, executive director of Pacific Centre Family Services Association, outpaced Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, running as a Liberal, and Metchosin Coun. Andy MacKinnon, who ran for the Green Party.

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Cheers went up in Dean’s campaign headquarters when the first poll reported with the narrowest of margins: nine votes for Dean, compared with MacKinnon’s eight and Desjardins’s six. Her lead grew as results rolled in.

Dean was up by about 4,000 votes with 74 of 80 ballot boxes counted.

“We’re hearing a consistent message that we need to handle affordability,” Dean said. “We need some practical solutions to that. We need to invest in services and make sure that the services that are there where people need them and when people need them.”

Dean picked up the New Democratic banner after three-term MLA Maurine Karagianis decided not to seek re-election. Well known in the West Shore for her advocacy work with families and children, Dean zeroed in on affordability, lack of local doctors and transportation as a key issues in the campaign.

As Dean’s lead grew, Karagianis said she was excited that it appeared she was going to win. “She’s an exceptional individual. She’s got a great background, great expertise. I think she’s going to be a terrific MLA.”

Desjardins, considered a star candidate for the Liberals, had been hoping her high profile as Esquimalt mayor and two-term chairperson of the Capital Regional District would help propel her to office.

“I’m disappointed. But it’s a tough night all around. It’s a scary night all around,” Desjardins said.

“I think my volunteers did a great job. I think we were up against a number of things that were larger than our riding and that just helped to carry forward the NDP vote. Frankly, the Greens in our riding came up as well.”

Desjardins took a leave of absence from her local government duties for the campaign and will return to municipal office after the May long weekend.

MacKinnon congratulated Dean on her victory. He said he knew going into the campaign it was going to be an uphill battle.

“I was told from the start that this is a traditionally NDP riding and it would be an extraordinary event if it went to another party,” MacKinnon said.

“So I guess in that regard it’s an NDP riding that’s gone to the NDP. But I think everybody ran a good campaign and I congratulate Mitzi Dean and the NDP for winning the riding.”

Esquimalt-Metchosin has gone NDP in eight of the last nine elections by wide margins. Formerly known as Esquimalt-Royal Roads, the NDP garnered close to 50 per cent of the vote here in the last three elections. Liberal Arnie Hamilton took the seat for the Liberals in 2001 in the Gordon Campbell sweep.

The riding’s boundaries have been redrawn since the 2013 election. Vic West was dropped but Metchosin included. All of Esquimalt, View Royal, Colwood and the southern half of the Highlands remain in the riding.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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