London election returns incumbents, introduces fresh faces to city council

A sign points voters towards a polling station at City Hall in London, Ont., on Monday, October 22, 2018. London is the first municipality to adopt a ranked ballot system in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins

There’s almost an even split between the number of incumbents who will return to London city council this upcoming term, and the number of newcomers who’ve claimed a seat.

The results are still technically unofficial following Canada’s first-ever ranked ballot election on Monday, but winners were declared in all 14 wards Tuesday afternoon.

READ MORE: Ed Holder elected as mayor of London

Eight incumbents will be joined by half a dozen fresh faces, including the first openly gay person and the first black woman elected to London city council.

Veteran city councillor Bill Armstrong was defeated in ward 2 by Shawn Lewis, a former assistant to local NDP MP Irene Mathyssen.

“I’m proud to carry that flag [as the first openly gay city councillor] first past the finish line, but I won’t be the only one,” said Lewis. “There will be others who will follow in my footsteps and it’s because the city itself has changed in such a positive way.”

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He’s eager to represent east London residents, many of whom feel as though their voices are less valuable than residents in other wards.

“I plan on hitting the ground on day one running,” Lewis. “My first priorities are listening to the parents from our area schools and the Bonaventure school and Lord Nelson public school, parents who are saying ‘we need traffic calming in our neighbourhoods.’ When it comes down to it, it’s the people in neighbours who should have the final say.”

READ MORE: Councillor results streaming in from city hall, as election officials tally results of ranked ballots

Arielle Kayabaga, who came to London as a refugee, claimed the ward 13 vacancy left by unsuccessful mayoral candidate Tanya Park. She said she’s proud to break barriers and make history with her victory.

“People are talking about the fact that it is a big deal and representation matters,” Kayabaga said. “Breaking barriers for a lot of people, it matters, and I’m hoping to see other people take the torch and run with it as well.”

She believes tackling poverty should take precedent over concerns surrounding bus rapid transit (BRT).

“There’s a hike of homelessness in our city right now, and there’s a lot of reasons why there’s a hike of homelessness in our city and we need to get to the bottom of it,” Kayabaga said. “I think that providing basic needs to Londoners should be our first and main priority before anything else is prioritized.”

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Her future colleague Paul Van Meerbergen feels differently. The returning councillor, who defeated incumbent Virginia Ridley to reclaim the ward 10 seat, said his constituents want London to scrap the current BRT plan and overhaul the road system.

“I will be reflecting what they want; they do not want this project,” Van Meerbergen said. “At the same token, they see choked traffic everywhere, but they don’t see the bus rapid transit as the answer to this choked traffic that we have in London. I mean, we’re a city of 400,000 people but we can’t get around our own area.”

Van Meerbergen also said he wants to focus on keeping tax increases to a minimum.

Steve Hillier, who works at Haymach Canada, is another newcomer who defeated incumbent Jared Zaifman in ward 14.

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Wards 8 and 12 were guaranteed to have fresh faces as both incumbents, Paul Hubert and Harold Usher, decided not to run again. Business owner Steve Lehman takes over the seat in ward 8, while mental health advocate Elizabeth Peloza claimed victory in ward 12.

READ MORE: Incumbents win majority of London school board trustee elections

On Monday, London became the first city in Canada to vote using a ranked ballot system to elect both the mayor and ward councillors.

The following is a complete rundown of the council winners:

  • Ward 1: Michael Van Holst
  • Ward 2: Shawn Lewis
  • Ward 3: Mo Salih
  • Ward 4: Jesse Helmer
  • Ward 5: Maureen Cassidy
  • Ward 6: Phil Squire
  • Ward 7: Josh Morgan
  • Ward 8: Steve Lehman
  • Ward 9: Anna Hopkins
  • Ward 10: Paul Van Meerbergen
  • Ward 11: Stephen Turner
  • Ward 12: Elizabeth Peloza
  • Ward 13: Arielle Kayabaga
  • Ward 14: Steve Hillier

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