Ida Chong is running for mayor, betting she can revive a political career that looked bleak after she lost her Oak Bay-Gordon Head seat in last year’s provincial election.
A year ago it seemed improbable she would be seeking to unseat incumbent Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin in this fall’s municipal election.
But, Chong said, she didn’t look at her defeat last fall as bitter sweet.
“I take on every election as challenge,” she said. You work very hard and you do your best … that’s all you can ask.”
Chong, a Saanich resident, spent 17 years in provincial politics as an MLA including 10 different ministerial portfolios as well as chairing various provincial government committees. Before that she served one term as a municipal councillor in Sannich
At a press conference last week, Chong said she decided to run for the Victoria mayor’s job because she believes Victoria needs “strong, proven, experience leadership.”
“I’ve represented this region for the past 20 years and I say I care passionately about Victoria and its future.”
University of Victoria political scientist Dr. Warren Magnusson said Chong’s entry has shaken up the race that appeared to be a two-person battle between Fortin and city councillor Lisa Helps.
“One of the challenges Ida faces is how does she reach out to the voters in a that city in the last provincial election voted NDP.”
Magnusson said Chong isn’t the first politician to go from provincial or federal politics back to municipal politics. Former MP Olivia Chow is currently battling to become the mayor of Toronto, and former premier Bill Vander Zalm attempted to become mayor of Vancouver while he was still the mayor of Surrey.
“The hurdles for someone coming back from provincial or federal politics is the perception of partisanship. At the municipal level, voters tend to want their politicians to be non-partisan,” Magnusson said
Fortin and Helps said they welcome Chong into the race because now city voters will have a clear choice.
Fortin said he’s proud to put forward his political record – “a record of building a progressive city, a record of building a livable city, a record of building a prosperous city.”
“I look forward to the upcoming two months for the opportunity to put forward both our record and vision for Victoria.”
Chong has her vision for the city too, but admits she is no shoo-in for the mayor’s post.
Chong says she has support from the business community, trade unions and “just every day Victoria residents.” Fortin and Helps claim the same level of support.
In the 2011 provincial election, Fortin took a comfortable number of votes from his closest competitor. This time, he said, the race is between himself and Chong.
Chong puts her odds at winning at about 50 per cent.
Magnusson said ideological differences will always play a part, but no matter if a politician is running federally, provincially or municipally it always comes down to getting out the vote.
“I think voters do deserve a choice,” Chong said. I believe I still I have something to give to public life.
“I’ll run hard and take nothing for granted. I’ll learn as I move forward and bring everything I’ve got.”