Elections always leave their mark on city politics. The flurry of activity — gladhanding and backroom dealing, press conferences and endless meetings to talk about some new Vision for the Future — leaves behind a political vacuum, a feeling of “What now?” for winner and loser alike. With the November election finally fading out of public memory, it feels like a good time to check in with the underdog, Open Victoria.
“First of all, we’ve been licking our wounds after we were smoked in the election,” admits Open Victoria’s campaign manager Bernard Von Schulmann. The organization backed four candidates: Paul Brown for mayor, Aaron Hall, Linda McGrew, and Sukhi Lalli for council, none of whom walked away from November’s upset with a seat in City Hall. Despite this setback, we can expect Open Victoria to remain a feature of Victoria’s political landscape.
“The idea is not to disappear and go away,” says Schulmann. Instead, Open Victoria must decide what to focus its attention on in the wake of the election. Of the two ideas being considered by the organization, the most promising is the formation of a municipal watchdog, documenting council meetings and informing the public about the workings of Victoria City Hall. The other option is to form a permanent political organization and begin preparing for the next election.
Schulmann says the organization wouldn’t have a specific focus as a watchdog, but the immediate future seems to build on what we heard from it during the election.
“There is a concern about the current finances of the city and there is a strong concern about the general openness of municipal government,” says Schulmann.
Open Victoria is at a crossroads, and neither direction will be easy. If it decides to be a watchdog, the group will have to work hard to rebuild the bridges burned during their failed campaign, especially those leading to the mayor’s office.
As a purely political organization, Open Victoria will need to set itself apart or risk being lost in the endless chorus of disgruntled community groups calling for change.
One thing is certain: there can be no middle ground. Open Victoria must commit to either accountability or politics — that or simply fade away with the rest of our memories of the election. M