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Lisa Helps is seen in this file photo.

Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail

The winners of mayoralty races across British Columbia on the weekend were mostly male incumbents, but 15 newcomers were also elected, as were 44 women and two South Asians.

Among the new female mayors is Lisa Helps, who served three years as a city councillor in Victoria before barely winning the top office, getting 9,200 votes to incumbent Dean Fortin's 9,111.

"I think that very narrow margin sends a message to voters," Ms. Helps said on Sunday. "What the 89-vote margin says is, you know what, democracy is important and every vote counts."

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Ms. Helps, who will be sworn in Dec. 4, said she is not wasting any time making plans and has set up a meeting with the city manager for 8 a.m. Monday.

Top of mind for her is dealing with the $92-million Johnson Street Bridge replacement project, which is threatening to run over budget, and finding a solution to a sewage treatment problem that has been debated in the region for years.

And she promised to bring a new era of accountability to city hall.

"If you've got questions or need anything . . . this is where you'll find me – on the other end of this phone," she said. "You'll get a call back and a straight answer."

Ms. Helps is a former Trudeau Scholar who was working on a PhD on the history of housing and homelessness in Victoria before she got sidetracked by politics.

She says it may be a while before she gets back to her research.

One surprise winner in the municipal elections is Lee Brain, the son of an oil company executive who was elected mayor of Prince Rupert on a platform that included opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.

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But Mr. Brain, who had no political experience before running for the mayor's job, said despite his opposition to oil, he is not against development of liquefied natural gas.

"People often lump oil and gas in the same category. I see them as two different things. I oppose the Enbridge pipeline because I don't think it makes economic or even environmental sense," he said. "I think LNG can be done much safer, much cleaner. There will be some pollution. . .but it's not to the effect of a crude oil spill on the North Coast. There's no way to really clean up crude, especially bitumen."

But he said the LNG industry is safe and "is something we need to support."

B.C. also has two mayor-elects who are South Asian, with Colin Basran, a former journalist with city council experience, sweeping to power in Kelowna, and Akbal Mund, a business consultant who had never been elected before, winning in Vernon.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Mr. Mund said of his victory. "I guess you could say [I am] humbled."

Mr. Mund said he grew up in a hard-working family that never had much money and is amazed where he finds himself.

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"You never think you'll be in a position to own your own home . . .and now, I'm mayor. If my parents were alive, they'd be going yippee-ya," he said.

Mr. Mund said his election, the victory of Mr. Basran and several other South Asians as councillors throughout B.C. have no special significance.

"It may have meant something special 30 years ago," he said. "We are such a cultural melting pot now, it just doesn't matter [what race a candidate is]."

Of the mayors elected in B.C. in cities, towns, districts and villages, 115 were male and 44 female, according to preliminary data compiled by Elections BC. Fifteen of the mayors elected had no political experience, while 85 were incumbents, and the others had held different offices or didn't provide information.

The candidates who won with the biggest margins were incumbents: Derek Corrigan, who had more than a 19,000 vote lead in Burnaby, Malcolm Brodie, who won by more than 16,000 votes in Richmond, and Peter Milobar who led by more than 14,000 votes in Kamloops.

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