Victoria’s 51st mayor, Dean Fortin, is running for re-election for a third term in office. A UVic undergraduate and graduate alumni, Fortin was first elected in 2008, and re-elected in 2011. The election will take place on Nov. 15.
“It’s important to have a progressive voice as a mayor, especially in the city of Victoria,” he said. “As a capital city, our voice is louder than a normal city of 82 000 people would be.”
Following his UVic education, Fortin practiced law and worked with street youth, beginning his experience with social justice in the city. “Always involve your residents, your communities, [because] they’re the ones with the wealth of knowledge and experience. They’re the ones you’re doing things with, not for,” he said.
He spent 17 years as the Executive Director of the Burnside Gorge Community Centre, and worked closely with the Victoria Association for Street Kids, now known as the Youth Empowerment Society. The multi-service agency provides youth and their families with a place to stay off the streets, counseling services, and more.
Fortin joined city council in 2002, and was elected to mayoral office in 2008. Once in office, he made headway in social justice, homelessness, and affordable housing. Fortin raised $37.5 million for the Johnson St. Bridge from the federal government, and says that he oversaw a 50 per cent reduction in property crimes from 2010-2013 in the downtown area. “If you’re the guy who didn’t get his window broken last night – you’re really happy. But if you did, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
In collaboration with bars, taxi companies, and police services, a late night task force was able to help quell disorder in the downtown region, which Fortin says encourages vibrancy in the city, and sustains progressive developments. “We’ve gone from 1 000 people living downtown to 7 000 people—that provides more eyes on the street, more fun, more activity, and helps support all those local businesses that really make a core city interesting,” he said.
Fortin recently made headway on mental health issues in collaboration with other mayors around the province. “We pushed hard and were able to rally all the mayors in British Columbia to call for greater increase in provincial funding for mental health and addiction services—and that was a great accomplishment,” he said. In early September, the Ministry of Health responded by prioritizing mental health and substance abuse services, investing $1.3 billion annually.
“It’s important to celebrate what you’ve accomplish, but it’s always important to set new targets and goals once you’ve accomplished them,” he said.
Milestones aside, Fortin admits the smaller daily decisions that are taken for granted are as important to maintaining a livable municipality. “Take a look at who your candidate is, because we make thousands of decisions that are never highlighted in our brochure or part of the platform.”
Fortin believes dealing with global issues at the local level, or “glocalization,” will be “one of the largest challenges we’re going to face next to the issues of poverty and social justice.”
“We recognize that 60 per cent of all greenhouse gases are created in cities—we have the biggest opportunities to have an impact on climate change,” he said.
A husband and father of two daughters, Fortin is carefully balancing his campaign, mayoral responsibilities, and his family. “It’s always important to strive to put your time in where it’s important—we’ll worry about sleeping later.”