Meeting in her campaign office on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Marianne Alto pulls out a platform pamphlet after about 10 minutes and says, “I’m going to do something that politicians rarely do; here’s what I said I was going to do [last campaign]. Now let’s review.” As she is happy to point out, Alto froze council salaries to 2012 levels and put amalgamation on the ballot. Elected to the city council in a 2010 byelection, Alto was re-elected for her position in 2011. Her name will now appear on the ballot for a third time in the next municipal election, slated for Nov. 15.
Though not native to Victoria, Alto states, “I’ve lived in Victoria now longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. My parents moved around a lot as a child, but this is my home.” With a father in the Air Force, Alto never attended a traditional school. “I had an unusual approach to institutionalized learning,” she says. Despite the fact that she was only in a conventional academic institution for seven years, Alto holds a degree in natural research management and cartography from UVic, as well as a law degree from Dalhousie University.
In addition to her other accomplishments, Alto spearheaded an initiative to provide raw data from city departments to individuals who could turn that data into meaningful applications, like apps to remind residents the day before their garbage is collected. Other public data sets include expense reports from elected officials, and mapping data for local bike racks, parking spaces, and other city amenities.
Keeping with her theme of balance, Alto plans to invest back into communities around the Capital Regional District. She wants to provide living wages to those who need it, and wishes to limit the increase of property taxes to one per cent above the rate of inflation.
When asked what she likes about working with the community, Alto responds with a giddy sense of admiration for her own job. “You hope you’re doing the right thing, and making the right decisions that affect people the right way,” she says. “But a big part of it is just so joyful. I love my job.”
“I have a little key card that opens the city hall door after hours,” she says in near disbelief. “Every time I go there, I laugh and think to myself, ‘I wonder if they know they gave this to me?’”
As she wants to revitalize Douglas Street and generate more business growth downtown, her platform seems to remain a realistic one. She admits that it’s not a politically popular concept to raise taxes; however, she hopes that by raising wages as well, she will be able to strengthen the community and, therefore, strengthen the local economy.
Alto seems confident of her future position. “It’s a key and an opportunity to change and I’m very hopeful to do it again.”