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Ousted Victoria councillors weigh future

Nov 24 2011
John Luton  

John Luton

Photograph by: Supplied photo, timescolonist.com

The future is anything but certain for three Victoria councillors voted out of office last weekend.

"I'm sorry I kicked the tents out of the square because I might need one," said Coun. John Luton, who was busy job hunting — firing out resumés and looking up old contacts.

"I'm scouring around looking for opportunities or options and doing my laundry; cleaning up the junk out of my little office at home so I can wade through stuff and get at my old computers and files and all the things you need to do to prepare yourself to be out in the real world again."

Prior to being elected to council three years ago, Luton had run the Capital Bike and Walk Society, a non-profit group dedicated to providing expert advice on infrastructure, programs and strategies to support cycling and walking.

Endorsed by Mayor Dean Fortin and a member of his "Dean Team," Luton placed ninth with 6,343 votes — 450 votes out of a council spot. He was closely followed by Coun. Lynn Hunter, another member of the Dean Team, with 6,101 votes and Coun. Philippe Lucas with 5,719.

Replacing them on council will be Ben Isitt, Lisa Helps and Shellie Gudgeon.

The losses took all three incumbents by surprise.

"There were all sorts of different things in play here. Shellie and Lisa out-worked us to an extent, that's part of it. I think myself and Pam and Lynn got lost in the Dean slate that we put together. ... For better or worse, it's because people have some apprehensions about teams or slates," Luton said

"None of us saw it coming, or if anybody saw it coming they didn't tell me," said Hunter, who, like Luton, is uncertain about what the future holds. Hunter said her immediate plans included flying to Calgary to visit her grandchildren, but beyond that she didn't know what the future holds. Active in volunteer work, she said she's been fielding lots of calls from organizations wanting her to get involved. "I also have to stop and figure out whether I can afford to be retired," she said.

Hunter said there's no telling why some of the incumbents were defeated. She doubts she will run again in three years. "We're still trying to figure out what happened. I guess it was too many progressives running and obviously the electorate wanted the new ones."

Hunter, a former New Democrat MP, said she ran a financially cautious campaign and was probably considerably outspent by some of her opponents.

Lucas may be gone from council, but that doesn't mean the new council won't be hearing from him.

"I have considered becoming a political pundit," Lucas said. "I think I might be a fine commentator and critic of municipal politics for this city," Lucas said. "It's something for the current city council to look forward to."

Long involved in issues such as harm reduction, homelessness, environmental sustainability and food security, Lucas plans to continue his volunteer work with establishing a public market in the downtown and continue with his academic work on drugs and addiction research.

"I want to try to find a way to have the maximum positive impact on the community while doing work that's fulfilling and that I'm passionate about," Lucas said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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