On your mark, get set, go
The candidates have started to do their part. Now it’s your turn.
On Monday, a record number of Red Deer city council candidates took the leap into already choppy election waters when they filed their nomination papers at City Hall.
As the campaign winds really start to blow, the 35 candidates (five for mayor and 30 for councillor) are going to woo you, worry you and maybe even waste you after one too many long election forums.
Your job as a voter: shift through the rhetoric, the criticisms, the promises, the numbers, to select one mayor and eight councillors come Oct. 21. You will want to try to pick the best and brightest from a slate so large it threatens to overwhelm voters.
Still, the big number of candidates speaks well of a community that’s engaged — or at least is about to be. Ideally, we will see city residents turn out in droves to the polls, ending the very troubling trend of declining numbers of voters showing up to cast their ballots. Voter turnout in Red Deer’s 2010 election was a paltry 23.9 per cent.
But with the mayor’s seat up for grabs by someone new, and a plebiscite asking about city council moving to a ward system instead of the current at-large system, there should be more interest than usual in the municipal election. Ongoing issues have already churned the waters, like bicycle lanes, fluoride in water, crime and safety, municipal spending, and don’t forget the chickens, well prior to Monday’s formal kickoff of the election campaign.
In the pre-run to nomination day, we’ve seen a partisan group of six candidates who call themselves Red Deer First band together in an effort to get elected. We’ve not seen this before locally.
It’s a different approach to municipal politics in Alberta, which have historically been nonpartisan.
Personally I prefer a more individualistic approach.
Having a council made up of representatives who all think the same is not likely to fully represent the diversity in this community.
If there are any partisan politics involved, I say leave it at home.
In terms of the city’s mayoral race, with five candidates, there’s promise it will be a race to the finish line. The two top city councillor voter-getters in the 2010 municipal election, Cindy Jefferies and Tara Veer, are in contention to replace Morris Flewwelling, who is not running again.
They are both strong candidates. The downside is that one for sure, and maybe both, will not sit on council after the election.
In the 2010 election, both each received more votes in the election for councillor than Flewwelling got for mayor.
Veer had 10,311 votes and Jefferies got 9,278 votes.
The surprising thing last time around in the mayoral election was that the one person who ran against Flewwelling, Hilary Penko, a virtual unknown, received 6,219 votes to Flewwelling’s 8,100.
If the 2010 results are any indication, it’s going to be a close race between Veer and Jefferies, and every vote cast could be the decisive one.
The other three mayoral candidates are underdogs — William Horn, Chad Mason and Dennis Trepanier. They are relatively unknown. Incumbents tend to have the advantage in municipal politics.
But who knows — a well-run campaign with good organization can be a recipe for success. No democratic election is over until it’s over. Calgary found that out in 2010 when Naheed Nenshi surprised an awful lot of pundits and other mayoral candidates in that city.
Red Deer voters have a big job ahead, sorting through so many candidates.
The candidates, win or lose, deserve credit for putting themselves on the line.
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 403-314-4332.