Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Endorsement for Mayor of Victoria...

 ... and thoughts on the other candidates.

After attending last nights mayoral question and answer session hosted by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association I am ready to declare my personal endorsement for the mayoral race in Victoria. I will be voting for Lisa Helps.

To be fair I have liked what she has been saying from the beginning of the campaign but I needed to see her and the other candidates in person before I could decide. Especially so after Steven Andrew entered the race as I have always enjoyed his reporting style and have a perception from that of someone who is a "straight-shooter" etc.

Lisa's obvious knowledge of the issues, her voting record (ie. voted against the bad bridge deal) and her willingness to share ideas and try new approaches contrasted sharply with the other candidates. I can see why people I normally don't agree with are endorsing her (see: Gene Miller's article for Focus). Her experience on council and level-headed approach is in sharp contrast to the other options available.

Dean Fortin, the incumbent was never going to get my vote. His performance last night made me want to take a shower as he wriggled out of answering any hard questions and showed himself the smooth - verging on "slippery" - politician who has led the NDP farm team for so many years. I suppose you cannot be mayor without having repeated yourself hundreds of times but his practiced pandering to the crowd rang hollow too often and his sidesteps were masterful. When asked about sub-regional sewer as an alternate to the billion-dollar boondoggle he deflected the question by pretending to be willing to consider local options but only with a set of conditions that sounded to me like they would be impossible to meet within the city limits. If we are going to solve the sewage mess we have to have all options on the table including discussing any and all options for locating processing facilities.

Ida Chong has been brought in to lead the charge from the "business community" apparently. This strikes me as odd since it seems Lisa Helps has as much or more credibility in the small business world than career politician Chong. What really stood out was what an empty shell Chong is in this race. Despite having been provided the questions in advance by the JBNA it became clear over the course of the evening that she has no grasp of any of the issues James Bay residents are concerned with. To make it even worse, early in the evening she declared herself "non-partisan" and then immediately, and for the rest of the evening, steadfastly recited a litany from the neo-con playbook for every question. Like her former boss Christy Clark she simply ignored the questions asked and restated her pledges to control spending and freeze property tax rates for four years. The insulting part of that particular combination is that several times she declared in the same breath that she would build new and improved infrastructure. Not only did she not specify what exactly she would build but she never explained how she was going to do so without ever looking at tax rates. Sad to see this nonsensical rhetoric imposed on this race.

Stephen Andrew was, as I said, of great interest to  me going in. While I have previously stated that I am not supportive of candidates for mayor who have never served on council I was willing to listen to what he had to say. Although I enjoyed much of what he said I heard nothing to change my initial position. Just the opposite. He seemed lost and continued to fall back on his habits as a journalist. He had some nice opinion pieces but he is clearly a great critic. He would have made an excellent councilor and I told him after the meeting that had he been running for a council seat he would have had my vote.

The same thoughts applied to Jason Ross who spoke eloquently and persuasively about the issues. I did not agree with everything he said but I believe he is the kind of person that we could use on council. Unfortunately he chose to run for mayor. Perhaps he is following the Ben Issit route and will use any profile gained in the mayors race to boost a run for council next time. With so many in mayors race this time I don't think that strategy will work and I certainly heard nothing from him that would lead me to believe he is anything other than sincere. Looking forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Perennial candidate David Shebib managed to behave himself and actually contribute some articulate, if radical ideas to the evening. He was actually less annoying than Chong with her stock soundbites repeated ad nauseam and he out did her on the tax question. She only proposed a tax freeze while Shebib declared that we should all simply stop paying taxes. I also found it interesting that Shebib was the only one to call out the lack of media coverage of the event last night - even if he did over-estimate the population of the city by 30,000 people or so.

Finally there was Changes the Clown. What do I say about this guy. I support his desire to fight child poverty but since that is a provincial and federal matter I find his contribution to the mayors race to be little more than an annoying sideshow. Amazingly enough he was reasonably eloquent and every time he passed on the opportunity to answer a question not related to his platform I did a silent cheer and gained more respect for his efforts. In the end I found him less obstructionist than Chong. I only wish he had used his horn at least once as it got caught in his chair several times as he tried to get up to answer questions. For that much effort it should have given some entertainment.

So there you have it. My thoughts on the mayors race in Victoria thus far.
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