Tuesday December 8, 2020 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 11:40 am December 9, 2020 and December 11, 2020]
by Kiley Verbowski | Island Social Trends | Mary P Brooke, editor
In last year’s federal election, Laurel Collins was elected Victoria’s Member of Parliament, leaving one of eight Victoria City Council seats vacant.
The by-election to fill that vacant seat — to be held this coming Saturday December 12 (with advance voting already behind us) — was originally scheduled for April 4 of this year. But that plan was cancelled in March due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Typically, a new city councillor must be elected within 80 days.
The Victoria municipal by-election was initially expected to cost $170,000, and $90,000 of that amount had already been spent before the cancellation in March.
According to city staff, an additional $350,000 could be needed to properly fund the by-election.
The current four-year municipal election cycle across BC runs 2018 to 2022.
The issues presented to voters:
Hot button issues for this election are the housing crisis, homelessness, crime, transportation, and sustainability.
The pandemic has spotlighted Victoria’s need for more affordable housing, and a united plan for the unhoused community.
The city’s crime rates have generally increased during the pandemic, primarily in the category of business break-and-enters.
Many candidate platforms address some form of transportation infrastructure including bike lanes, traffic management, pay parking, and proposing the electrification of buses.
Some candidates have expressed a need for the city to plan a sustainable pandemic-recovery plan that spans every aspect of city planning.
The election is incidentally occurring at the midpoint of the council’s four year cycle, and Stephen Andrew, one of the candidates, has noted that this may be a barometer of the council’s current direction.
Andrews is a former broadcast journalist, and this is his third attempt into municipal politics, including the 2018 city council election.
Stephanie Hardman is another candidate with a high visibility campaign in the Victoria area. She was nominated in January by Together Victoria, the registered elector organization that current councillors Sarah Potts and Sharmarke Dubow are associated with.
Nine candidates are officially in the race. The full list is Stephen Andrews, Rob Duncan, Riga Godron, Stephanie Hardman, Bill Heflin, Sean Leitenberg, Hailey McLeod, Alexander Schmid, and Roshan Vickery.
Two more names will appear on the ballot (Jason Heit and Keith Rosenberg) because they missed the deadline to formally withdraw.
Voting during COVID:
There were eight advance voting opportunities this month, and a mail-in ballot option.
A safety plan, made in conjunction with WorkSafeBC and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, has been prepared for all six voting places for voting day this weekend.
More information on the candidates and how to vote can be found on the City of Victoria website.