By Carla Wilson, Victoria Times Colonist, 17 November 2002
Two incumbent mayors were dumped, Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government was sent a strong message from discontented citizens and a planned West Shore arena was in question early this morning after voters went to the polls across the region.
For thousands of people in Victoria and elsewhere, municipal elections turned into a report card on the provincial government.
Voters registered their discontent with the Liberals by giving Victoria candidate for mayor Ben Isitt, who criticized the province, a thumping 32 per cent of the ballots cast, with 5,047 votes.
Isitt, a UVic teaching assistant, failed to unseat Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe who still won handily with 9,655 votes, or 61.65 per cent of ballots cast.
This trend was evident in Vancouver where the left-leaning Committee of Progressive Electors saw all its candidates, including mayor-elect Larry Campbell, storm to victory.
In Saanich, four left-leaning councillors won seats on a council headed by acclaimed right-leaning Mayor Frank Leonard. The four other councillors are seen as Leonard backers.
In Victoria, Lowe also faces an evenly divided council, with four of the candidates he endorsed elected: incumbents Helen Hughes, who topped the polls, and Bea Holland, newcomer Charlayne Thornton-Joe, and former councillor Chris Coleman. The balance of power will tip in Lowe’s favour if he votes with those four.
Four members of the NDP-backed Victoria Civic Electors were elected to Victoria’s council.
Three incumbents, Rob Fleming, Denise Savoie, Pamela Madoff, along with newcomer Dean Fortin, won voters’ support.
Lowe was happy the VCE didn’t win a majority of seats on council. “I did not want to see party politics at our level.”
Isitt is heartened by his support. “It is overwhelming to have such a strong independent campaign. It shows the potential for forging a new united left force in B.C.”
Incumbent David McLean, who had been endorsed by Lowe, was defeated and former council maverick Bob Friedland failed to win back a place at the council table.
Police arrested and later released four people after about 50 rowdy anti-poverty activists crashed Lowe’s victory party. They demanded the release of four “political prisoners” in custody after a demonstration at the Memorial Arena earlier in the day.
Voters poured into capital region polls despite windy periods and driving rain. Several mayors — five out of 13 — were acclaimed. More than 200 candidates vied for 111 seats to run for 13 municipal councils, three school districts and the regional district.
Final results for the Victoria School District were still to come in at press time but in Victoria, all six VCE candidates were among the top nine vying for seats.
Colwood, Langford and Highlands residents are backing the West Shore arena. In the Juan de Fuca electoral area, it was rejected when 15 of only 29 voters. The critical vote from Metchosin was not in by press time.