victoria election
From left to right: Stephen Hammond, Randie Johal, Andrew Reeve, and Gary Alberts announced they will run for election this October. (NewCouncil.ca/Facebook)

Victoria’s upcoming municipal election saw its newest contenders enter the ring Friday as NewCouncil.ca launched its campaign for mayor and city council.

The slate of candidates appeared for the announcement at Ships Point just after noon.

Gary Alberts, a RE/MAX realtor, Randie Johal, an employee of BC Transit for 33 years, and Andrew Reeve, a communications staffer at the B.C. legislature, will run for city council.

Stephen Hammond, who said he’ll be running to replace Lisa Helps as mayor, said NewCouncil.ca came about out of “a desire to create change.”

According to its website, NewCouncil.ca envisions a “transparent and democratic” Victoria that “makes decisions based on clear objectives, broad community input, best practices, and solid evidence.

In a press release, Hammond pointed to the recent removal of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue from outside city hall as an example of poor decision-making and disrespect for due process. “People are fired up, and fed up with a Mayor and Council that doesn’t listen to residents,” he said.

“It’s time for a qualified and highly effective City Council that will tackle the serious problems facing our city with professional management and a focus on fiscal responsibility, government transparency, and democratic decision-making.”

If elected, NewCouncil.ca would also order an independent third-party audit of the Johnson Street Bridge in its first week.

Envisioning a “safe, clean” Victoria

NewCouncil.ca’s platform states that they will ensure Victoria is a “safe, clean, and inviting” city for its residents and visitors, and would support social housing initiatives that are “safe, responsible, and respectful of existing neighbourhoods.”

In a Times Colonist oped published on Aug. 12, Hammond wrote that the city “can support housing in workable numbers for the most vulnerable, but it can’t be at the expense of the law-abiding, taxpaying neighbours.”

Hammond, a lawyer by trade, is one of the founders of Mad As Hell Victoria, a neighbourhood group that was created in response to the tent city that set up in front of the provincial courthouse downtown in 2016.

The group was critical of how the city has responded to tent cities around the Greater Victoria area, but appears to be inactive since September 2017.

When asked on Friday afternoon if NewCouncil.ca intends to open more supportive housing to assist Victoria’s vulnerable population, Hammond echoed the points of his oped.

“When you do that, communities are in horror when you suggest that you’re going to put something up near their place [of residence] … they’re seeing what’s happening in Nanaimo, and in Victoria, with the theft and the needles and everything around,” he said. “So it’s completely reasonable for neighbourhoods to say, ‘wait a second, we can’t take on too many people as long as you’re not giving us safety.’ And I think that’s fair.”

The municipal election will take place on Oct. 20.