Reflecting on wins and losses in the municipal elections

Don’t bother looking for a region-wide theme because each illustrated its individuality in Saturday’s municipal elections, says a UVic professor.

“My take-away is that local politics is local,” said Michael Prince, UVic Lansdowne professor of social policy.

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Some municipalities saw turnout spike amid voter discontent — typically those which saw incumbent mayors defeated, he said.

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Four capital region mayors lost their jobs — three to current councillors and one to a rival who had sat on council in the past.

Oak Bay voter turnout was 54 per cent in an election that saw current Mayor Nils Jensen defeated by Coun. Kevin Murdoch. Jensen pulled in 29.6 per cent of the vote while Murdoch collected 69.7 per cent.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell was defeated by Coun. Fred Haynes, and Sidney Mayor Steve Price lost to bookstore owner Cliff McNeil-Smith, a former councillor.

And Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton was beaten by Coun. Rob Martin.

In other municipalities, like the Highlands where everyone was acclaimed, “It seemed almost to be a (matter of) politics of contentment, satisfaction,” Prince said.

Mayors were acclaimed in four municipalities: Metchosin, Central Saanich, View Royal and the Highlands.

Least surprising to Prince was Mayor Stew Young holding on to Langford’s top job with 82 per cent of the vote cast in that race, easily beating Robert Fraser, who came in with 16.4 per cent. An example of another local stable municipality, Langford’s overall turnout was 18.49 per cent.

In Victoria, Mayor Lisa Helps grew her support, and was aided by having multiple challengers, which helped to divide the vote, Prince said.

Voters reacted differently to slates in Saanich and in Victoria.

The five-person United for Saanich group was led by Atwell. Prince said the slate, “didn’t really pan out for Atwell. (Incumbent councillor) Karen Harper got re-elected but beyond that, the idea for a slate for Atwell and four other candidates didn’t really amount to much. A stunning reversal there.”

In Victoria, Steve Hammond, who ran unsuccessfully against Helps, had no luck with his team of three councillor hopefuls.

But the story was different for Together Victoria which saw three newcomers elected: Laurel Collins, Sarah Potts, and Sharmarke Dubow.

Victoria’s election results revealed a “story of a new generation of politics,” Prince said.

“You’re seeing a transition of power away perhaps from the baby boomer generations to a younger generation taking leadership roles and getting onto council.”

Prince anticipates the Together Victoria candidates, plus Councillors Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday, and Marianne Alto may agree on many matters. “I think there is a lot of overlap,” he said.

He predicts in coming years that citizens will see common voting patterns among those council members.

“Just looking at the face of it, you’d think this is a council that is going to shift more to emphasizing social issues even more so.”

These could include quality of life, social services, homelessness, parks and recreation, and homelessness and addictions, he said.

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