Saturday, November 15, 2014

Voters send a mix of new faces and old hands to City Council for four years

The City Council race sometimes gets lost as the under card of the Prize Fight that the race for the Mayoralty becomes. But this year, the 2014 Municipal Council result certainly offered its own dramatic moments and brings a significant shift in the dynamic among the six elected Council members at City Hall.

With a fifteen percent improvement on the turnout compared to other years, the voters appeared quite keen to shake things up a fair bit for the next four years. 

4,293 out of 8,443 eligible voters filled out the required circles on their computer ballots, delivering the desire for a bit of change to the home of Municipal Government on 3rd Avenue West. 

For the familiar faces, three incumbents were returned to office, as Joy Thorkelson, Barry Cunningham and Nelson Kinney will all keep their place on the in/out board at City Hall. 

Two of the elected class of 2011 however went down to political defeat on Saturday. As Councillor Gina Garon and Councillor Anna Ashley both came up short of the benchmark point of 1,995 votes, the total votes mark in the election required to claim the sixth and final seat on Council for this years campaign.

Now making their preparations to bring their enthusiasm to four years of Prince Rupert's political agenda will be: Blair Mirau, Gurvinder Randhawa and Wade Niesh.  

Ray Pedersen rounds out the roster of those that ran for office this year. The final of the four new challengers for this election year campaign, came up short in his first bid for municipal office in the community.

For many observers of Saturday night's count however, the interesting numbers from the final tallies will be those that show how the top six finishers stack up in the way of final support when the numbers came in. 

From first to sixth the votes were allocated as such:

Blair Mirau  2,915
Barry Cunningham 2,897
Wade Niesh 2,119
Gurvinder Randhawa 2,053
Joy Thorkelson 2,044
Nelson Kinney 1,995

Of the top four vote getters on the night, three are brand new to City Council while Mr. Cunningham can probably still be considered in his honeymoon period from his by-election victory of last year.

Of the final two spots, it's a complete reversal of order from 2011, when Councillor Thorkelson topped the Council listings, with Councillor Kinney in second. 

The dramatic slide down the listings, will surely give both of the incumbents cause to consider how they approach the work of Council over the next term of office, particularly when it comes to the new focus that the voters seem to have suggested.

For Councillors Garon and Ashley now sent to the sidelines, Saturday's vote will certainly be a hard result to accept.  Both it seems were caught up in the push of the voters to bring some new perspective to the workings of City Council.

The current council will meet one more time, with their final Council session to come on Monday, November 24th.

The new team with a few surviving vets, will take to the workload on December 1st, when they and Mayor Brain will be sworn into office.

Like the new Mayor, they will face a fairly thick to do list from the very first night.

Large issues loom for the new Council, from the ongoing Watson Island court case, to decisions to be made after public consultation on Lot 444 across at Tuck Inlet, to name just two high profile topics of recent months. 

The 2014 campaign outlined a number of different themes,  with each of the newcomers offering up some different concepts as how best to handle them, many of them a significant shift from how those of the current council handled them in the past.

At the end of the campaign, the voters decided that the new ideas trumped some of the old. 

Holding a few spots open for those that have served Council the longest, though perhaps with a not so gentle nudge, that there may be the need to recalibrate their approach to the work of Council and the way that they tackle the many issues ahead.

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