New Victoria mayor and council sworn-in, bringing 7 new faces to city hall

New Victoria mayor Marianne Alto (centre), and councillors Stephen Hammond (left) and Marg Gardiner (right), at their inaugural meeting on Nov. 3. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC - image credit)
New Victoria mayor Marianne Alto (centre), and councillors Stephen Hammond (left) and Marg Gardiner (right), at their inaugural meeting on Nov. 3. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC - image credit)

The City of Victoria has a new mayor and almost an entirely new council, after a swearing-in ceremony at city hall on Thursday.

Marianne Alto, who had served as a councillor since 2010, replaces outgoing mayor Lisa Helps.

Only one of the eight new councillors has ever held a seat before — Chris Coleman, who served for six terms before taking a break over the past four years. Jeremy Caradonna, Matt Dell, Marg Gardiner, Stephen Hammond, Susan Kim, Krista Loughton and Dave Thompson are all first-time councillors.

While they're inexperienced at the council table, they're optimistic they can tackle the big issues facing the city — including housing and community safety.

Kathryn Marlow/CBC
Kathryn Marlow/CBC

Kim, who ran on a platform of making the city more affordable, sustainable and livable, admits she and her new colleagues have a lot of reading and learning to do. But she says their newness is also a strength.

"I think that it's a really beautiful opportunity to come at it with fresh eyes."

She says she's already hearing from Victoria residents who want to talk to her about development, and infrastructure concerns like the city's aging Crystal Pool. She says her first priority is to make sure residents know they are being heard.

Working together

Stephen Hammond, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2018 but was elected as a councillor this time around, says it's already evident from orientation sessions that the new government gets along really well — which will be their strength.

"I've been just thrilled with the informality," said Hammond, and "the ease with which we get along."

He says they've already been able to start talking about policy matters, which he says they'll likely do with passion — but also civility.

Passionate, but respectful

Mayor Alto says she'll set a standard at council chambers for debate to be passionate but respectful. She also says she wants council to take the time to learn, and catch up on the projects city staff are already implementing, before creating new policy.

Alto was a strong proponent of the last council's proposed Missing Middle Housing Initiative, which became so contentious that any decision to proceed was deferred to the new council. The plan would do away with single-family-residential zoning, making it possible to build townhouses and duplexes without having to get council approval.

Alto has said she hopes the new council will adopt the initiative.

In her inaugural address Thursday, the new mayor said she is impressed with, and inspired by, the "eclectic collective" of new councillors.

"I am filled with confidence. And excitement. And hope."

She said she will work with the new council to expand active transportation options, continue on the path of reconciliation, improve neighbourhood safety, and build housing.