In the recent municipal election, turnout in Victoria grew 42% to 24,447. In total, 39% of eligible Victorians voted.
›› Lee Herrin
Fernwood was no exception. If we allocate the advanced polls back to each neighbourhood on a pro rata basis, Fernwood’s turnout grew 46% to 2,231 ballots cast.
Higher turnout is a harbinger of electoral change. Rarely do people turn out in droves to support the status quo. Although the vast majority (63%) of voters in Victoria did not support the incumbent Mayor, because of Victoria’s predilection for multi-contestant mayoral elections, it was an extremely close race. Lisa Helps defeated Dean Fortin by 89 votes, or less than half of one percent of all ballots cast.
The race was close at most of the city polling stations. Lisa won the election handily in Fairfield, and nearly lost it again in Burnside-Gorge and Oaklands. Lisa beat Dean by only 50 votes in Fernwood (though Fernwood was least likely to vote for Ida Chong or any of the other candidates).
Just as mayors are different, each of a mayor’s administrations is different. Dean was first elected in 2008, one month after the collapse of the global economy. I took the job as Fernwood NRG’s Executive Director a year later, and my immediate sense was that there was little room to discuss civic investment in neighbourhoods. However, in the past three years (Dean’s second term), there was a significant shift and I have been publicly grateful for renewed investment in the Fernwood Community Centre.
There have been other improvements too. In the past three years it has been easier (but still not easy) to work with City Hall to try new things (a neighbourhood orchard) or to get help on important issues (opening our new out of school care program in the community centre).
This is a change I would like to see go a whole lot further, and I am optimistic it might: in my interview with Lisa Helps (see Feature: An Interview with Victoria’s New Mayor), she spoke about building stronger relationships with neighbourhoods and enabling real participation from neighbourhoods in setting civic priorities. To me, this sounds like Fernwood talk—which is not surprising since, to put it in the new Mayor’s words, “It’s a sense of new possibility that the Mayor is from Fernwood.”