Victoria byelection winner Stephen Andrew promises change, 'balance' on city council
VANCOUVER -- The newest member of Victoria's city council says he hopes to be a voice for all Victorians.
"Victorians have said they want a change. They want a change in the way the city is run, and you know what? They're going to get it," victorious councillor-elect Stephen Andrew told CTV News Vancouver Island after watching the final votes come in Saturday night.
There were nine candidates vying for the council seat vacated by Laurel Collins, who resigned to become a federal MP.
Andrew took the lead from the first ballot and saw the gap between himself and his closest rival Stefanie Hardman grow throughout the night.
In all, Andrew won 6,937 votes, compared to 3,783 for Hardman. The next closest candidate was Roshan Vickery, with 603.
The former broadcaster described his victory as "overwhelming," but said he still felt the stress of the situation until the final polls reported.
"I've watched a lot of elections recently, and I've watched a lot of votes go back and forth, and I wanted to be sure," Andrew said. "You never know until you know."
The victorious candidate said his victory would bring "balance" to city council, which has seen many tied votes on contentious issues in recent months, with rough voting blocks emerging.
On one side, Together Victoria's two councillors, Sara Potts and Sharmarke Dubow have been joined by councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday. On the other, Mayor Lisa Helps has been joined by councillors Geoff Young, Marianne Alto and Charlayne Thornton-Joe.
Collins was a member of Together Victoria, and Hardman was the political group's endorsed candidate in Saturday's byelection.
Andrew was not a member of a political group, but he received the endorsement of Young and presented himself as a pragmatist who could help break the council's deadlock.
"What we've said all along is that this is going to bring balance to the council table," Andrew said Saturday night. "It literally brings that balance, and the mayor can now cast the deciding vote if there is a split on council."
On Sunday, Helps offered her congratulations to Andrew and expressed relief that the byelection, which was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has finally concluded.
“We've been running short-handed for well over a year, so it's really great to see that seat filled," Helps told CTV News.
Andrew will be sworn in this week and will join the council when it resumes in the new year, Helps said.
Andrew said his priorities as a councillor will include improving public safety, ensuring "smart planning and development" and steering the city's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but stressed that he hopes members of the public will reach out to him directly to weigh in on issues.
"I'm definitely going to be a difference," Andrew said. "I'm going to listen to all views. I'm not going run on an ideological view, and I think the real thing that is exciting is that this has really sent a message to council. Everyone around that table, even the Together Victoria councillors and their allies, need to take note of this vote today."
A total of 12,327 votes were cast in Saturday's byelection, a total that equates to roughly 17.5 per cent of the city's 70,343 registered voters.
With files from CFAX 1070's Sandra Hall and CTV News Vancouver Island's Eric Lloyd and Robert Buffam