A guide to the candidates in the Victoria City Council by-election

Local News

Homelessness, housing, sustainability feature in candidate platforms

voting victoria by-election polling place sign
Photo by Kate Korte.

On Dec. 12, Victoria residents will head to the polls in a city council by-election to choose a successor to Laurel Collins, who vacated her seat last fall after being elected as Victoria’s Member of Parliament. To get you prepared to vote, the Martlet delved into each of the candidates’ platforms and asked them why they should get your support.

Related: How to vote in the Victoria by-election

Stephen Andrew

Platform: affordable housing, fully funded police, arts and tourism support

Andrew, the Vice-Chair of Kidney Cancer Canada and former broadcast journalist, is making a third attempt to enter municipal politics. 

He is calling for the city council to invest in affordable housing and to balance building bike lanes with preserving parking spaces. 

Andrew says that other municipalities need to assist Victoria in housing those sheltering in parks. He says Victoria does not have the space or infrastructure to house everyone and provide them with necessary services and support. 

He also says that the Victoria Police Department is underfunded given the number of calls they answer. As well, Andrew promises to push for increased social service funding.

Lastly, Andrew promises to increase funding for tourism and the arts. 

Rob Duncan

Platform: homelessness, rental market, climate change

Duncan has a background in academia and holds a PhD in developmental psychology. He has run for mayor previously and has been an activist for issues such as childhood poverty and climate change.

He believes the city should build purpose-built rental properties rather than relying on measures such as buying hotels or opening up parks for camping for the unhoused. Duncan also proposes implementing vacancy controls, which prevent landlords from raising rents as much as they want once a tenant leaves.

Duncan would like to see the free bus program for students expanded to include more people through a pilot program, and supports electrifying the bus system. 

He also supports the creation of worker-owned co-ops to stimulate the local economy to reduce inequality and worker alienation.

Riga Godron

2020 platform not available at the time of writing

Godron is a long-time activist and childcare volunteer. She previously ran for mayor and city council.

Godron did not respond to the Martlet’s request for an interview and has not posted her platform online.

When Godron ran for council in 2018, she promised to be an advocate for children, eliminate pay parking, and foster sustainability through electrifying public transportation and implementing marine protection policies.

Stefanie Hardman

Platform: small business support; decreased cost of living; sustainability; homelessness, opioid, and mental health crises

Hardman is an urban planner and researcher who has worked for the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria. 

She promises to make Victoria “healthier, more sustainable, [and] more equitable.” Hardman says that she’d like to see the city utilize its zoning powers to create more rental units and enforce maintenance standards in rental buildings. Hardman says that new housing needs to be built with wraparound services to facilitate a successful relocation for the unhoused to their new homes. 

Hardman says she would push for the introduction of free transit for all and the construction of new bike lanes. She also says that the city must consider sustainability when accepting new development projects.

Bill Heflin

Platform: end to park sheltering , smart development,  mental health supports, improved infrastructure

Heflin is a Victoria lawyer who is running to protest the city’s allowance of sheltering in parks without arrangements for appropriate housing and support.

Heflin believes that the city needs clear policy on homelessness in order to support local members of the unhoused community who are specifically dealing with mental health struggles or pandemic-related financial loss. He also believes that the city needs to give unhoused individuals with substance abuse issues access to recovery programs and keep them separate from the rest of the unhoused population. He would also like to see city council discourage people from coming to Victoria from elsewhere in order to live on the streets.

In terms of infrastructure, Heflin promises to fix Victoria’s roads, water supply, and parking. He also says that he would like to see new developments implement sustainability measures such as rooftop gardens, rainwater catchments, and cisterns.

Sean Leitenberg

Platform: housing, homelessness, safety, revitalizing downtown

Leitenberg considers himself a businessman with a social conscience and is deeply concerned about the way the city has handled the homelessness crisis. He believes that his history of building affordable and social housing will allow him to bring a unique perspective to city council. 

During the campaign, he set up a tent in his front yard and is currently living inside it to protest the way the city is handling the crisis. 

“I did it as a message of protest to City Hall because they are using camping in the park as an alternative to housing,” said Leitenberg. “It’s a method of protest basically saying to the city ‘you’ve got to get proper housing built.’” 

Leitenberg would also like to see the property taxes for commercial properties reduced. He would like to see the 25 per cent property tax discount given by the city to continue but would like it to be passed down to tenants.

Hailey McLeod

Platform: housing, homelessness

McLeod is a recent graduate of UVic who moved to Victoria in 2014. Among her priorities are mandating that new housing projects have at least 20 per cent low income units and regulating AirBnB to create more space for long-term renters. 

She would also like to see changes in zoning codes to create more mixed-use properties that would allow for more rental space for both renters and small businesses. 

Having dealt with health and addiction issues herself, she states that providing services for people who are experiencing homelessness and addiction must be a top priority. 

McLeod promises to invest in local businesses, food pantries, and community centres to support seniors and youth. 

Alexander Schmid

Platform: improved transportation infrastructure, increased neighbourhood association involvement, civic pride

Schmid was born and raised in Victoria and holds a physics degree from UVic where he works as a laboratory instructor. 

His main policy proposals include improving traffic management and public transport infrastructure. He would like to modernize buses and increase their reliability. 

Schmid believes that local problems can be solved and resources can be allocated more efficiently with more involvement from neighbourhood associations.

He would also like to see fines increased for littering, such as introducing a $2 000 fine for discarding cigarettes on the sidewalk. He says renewing civic pride in the city would “pay off in many ways.” 

Roshan Vickery

Platform: increased neighbourhood diversity, heritage sites protection, small businesses, active transportation

Vickery is a long-time resident of Victoria who has been involved with numerous fundraising drives for local organizations and has worked as an auctioneer and appraiser for multiple auction houses in Victoria.

He says that, if elected, he will work to foster the establishment of local businesses instead of foreign chains and by working to give residents the services they need within a 15-minute walk from their house.

Vickery believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has given Victoria an opportunity to rebuild in a way that will benefit all residents and make it an accessible and green city. Vickery would also like to see the expansion of bike lanes and other avenues for what he calls “active transportation.”

Lastly, Vickery would like to see the city protect and maintain heritage buildings.

Two candidates, Jason Heit and Keith Rosenberg, have dropped out of the race but will remain on the ballot. Heit has publicly stated his support for Stephen Andrew and is urging those who want to vote for him to vote for Andrew instead.