Good elections are the real politics, the kind that make you choke and gasp and swear and rage at the horrible finality of that last string of numbers that says “this is the next three years of your life.” Sitting in Victoria City Hall watching history in the making — the first time in recent memory that not one or two but three incumbent councillors lost in the court of public opinion — I had to step back from my own thrills and disappointements to congratulate the capital on embracing the real politics.
The new council is, in order of most votes: Geoff Young, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Lisa Helps, Ben Isitt, Marianne Alto, Pam Madoff, Shellie Gudgeon and Chris Coleman. While this in itself represents a significant shift in the politics present at city hall, it’s the politics of loss — what didn’t work — that paints a more vivid picture of our city’s voters. More than anything, this election proved that tradition and the ground campaign continue to rule in Victoria.
Heralded by the now ancient collapse of the Victoria Civic Electors, this election proved once and for all that slates do not win elections here. While tradition and recognition may have re-elected Mayor Dean Fortin and Dean Team members Pam Madoff and Marianne Alto, the team was unable to carry its other two members — John Luton and Lynn Hunter — into a second term.
At the same time, the Open Victoria slate failed spectacularly despite presenting a unified front in a very visible anti-city campaign.
The two new councillors responsible for much of Saturday’s upset — Lisa Helps and Ben Isitt — proved once again that the best strategy in this and arguably every election continues to be the ground campaign. Speaking again to the politics of the un-slate, both candidates ran independent, doorstep campaigns based on grassroots support rather than media and the public eye. Helps and Isitt ranking third and fourth also means that, unlike in previous years, grassroots and traditional politicians are becoming evently matched.
To neatly wrap up this column would be to do a disservice to the spirit of the real politics. Ultimately, only time will tell whether the grassroots politics of the ground campaign or the sluggish but reliable politics of tradition carries over into the actions of this new council. M