Monday, September 17, 2018

With Mayor Brain destined to be acclaimed; focus now turns to Council and School District races to build interest in 2018 campaigns

As the final seconds counted down on Friday to the end of the nomination period for the October 20th municipal elections, there would be no rush to City Hall for anyone considering a challenge to Mayor Lee Brain, with the incumbent now assured of another four years at the helm through acclamation once the nomination challenge period comes to an end later this month.

The lack of a challenger making for the first time this century that the top job in Prince Rupert Municipal politics will go uncontested. Something that will unfortunately for the democratic process, make for an absence of debate or discussion on key local issues at the Mayoralty level; or offer exposure to some other views on the issues of the community and how the city should be governed for the next four years.

While the lack of a competitor for the Mayoralty in Prince Rupert would seem to be an tacit endorsement of Mr. Brain's work over the last four years, it also makes for a somewhat disappointing turn of events, considering the range of topics that could have made for a fascinating election period and debate.

With Mayor Lee Brain set to be
acclaimed in the 2018 municipal election,
it will be up to the candidates  for
Council positions to generate
some interest in 2018 Municipal election

This years nomination process has made for a marked change from just four years ago when four contenders sought the Mayoralty, an election which launched Mr. Brain onto the local political scene with a significant splash against three established contenders in the campaign, with the then relatively unknown candidate capturing close to sixty percent of the vote of the 2014 campaign.

Mayoralty results from 2014
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)

The lack of a competitor for 2018, also runs counter to the interest earlier from 2011 as well when three contenders Jack Mussallem, Kathy Bedard and Corina Morhart took up the campaign trail.

Mayoralty results from 2011
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)

The acclamation of 2018 also makes for a 180 degree shift from 2008, when Prince Rupert had one of its closest Mayoralty races in recent time. A hard fought race between Jack Mussallem and Don Scott. The results of which found Mr. Scott but 157 votes shy of taking office.

Mayoralty results from 2008
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)

In the Prince Rupert City Council race, this years count of eight on the nomination list almost parallels that of 2014, when nine names stood for election, making for a mix of incumbents and new comers on the local political scene.

City Council results from 2014
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)

This years ballot will make for an equal split of incumbents Barry Cunningham, Blair Mirau, Wade Niesh and Gurvinder Randhawa, with the four new names of Nick Adey, Charmayne Carlson, Sarah Dantzer and Reid Skelton Morven all looking to claim seats as well

In 2014, two incumbents lost their seats as the winds of change made their presence known around City Hall.  However, with Councillor Thorkelson retiring from Council and the passing of Councillor Nelson Kinney from earlier this year, the remainder of the incumbents may have a bit of a margin of error to work with when it comes to the final count of six on October 20th.

Looking back at some recent history however, shows that the number of nominees for 2018 is down significantly from the elections of 2011 when twelve candidates sought office and that 2008 when there were fifteen contenders for the six council seats.

City Council results from 2011
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)
City Council results from 2008
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)

The dramatic drop in potential recruits for civic office should make for a bit of an alarming trend and Prince Rupert is not alone in that trend, with some observers from around British Columbia suggesting that the change to a four year electoral term may be the key factor for the drop.

The commitment of time required for service in office perhaps making for too larger a burden for residents who may not feel up to the grind of four years of meetings, workshops and the other associated duties required for office.

That debate however, will have to be the focus for political science classes and municipal - provincial discussions of the future, where new ways of engaging the public in the political process clearly need to be examined and addressed, in order to determine why there is such a disconnect between the public and the prospect of seeking office.

For this year, we will salute the eight contenders in Prince Rupert's Council race, as well as to watch the race in Port Edward where Mayor Dave MacDonald faces a challenge from two contenders, along with a council race that also could make for a change in the seating arrangements at the District of Port Edward Municipal Hall.

The School District race also offers up a strong mix of incumbents and new names with new ideas to share with the voters. Something that may help to stoke some interest from the voters to determine who will help guide education in the region for the four years ahead.

What will be well worth watching this year is whether an absence of race for the Mayoralty will translate into a lower than normal vote turnout, something that was already at the low side of the spectrum to begin with.

Prince Rupert Mayoralty and Council voter turnout over the last three elections
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)

For Prince Rupert the Voting pattern has been one hovering between a low point of 35 percent in 2011 and the numbers of 2014 which reached 45 percent.

And while the engagement rate in Prince Rupert did not crack the fifty percent mark, Port Edward residents can take some pride in going against that trend towards low participation, with close to 63 percent of Port Edward's eligible voters going to the polls, when elections were held and positions not filled by acclamation.

Port Edward Mayoralty and Council voter turnout over the last three elections
(Civic Info --click to enlarge)

While many agree that it should be a civic duty to get out and vote, as the numbers show, that message doesn't always resonate with those that are supposed to do the voting.

As we head into the heart of the political campaign for 2018 in Prince Rupert, the burden to capture the attention of the voters will this year fall to the Council candidates and those of the School Board.

It is through their campaigns where the positions outlined and ideas for the future will hopefully resonate with voters, giving them the push to head to the polls in political engagement on October 20th.

An added wild card to this years election cycle is that election day of  Saturday, October 20th will fall on the weekend of a province wide School Professional Development Day on Friday, which could mean that a significant portion of the voting pool may not even be in town when the votes are counted.

Something that will make the advance polling process even more important than it has in years previous, for candidates that means having to get their best foot forward early and to make sure that the message to get the vote out is heard across the city.

As the campaign moves forward we'll be keep up with some of the trends and make note of some of the issues that could or should make for part of the debate of those seeking office, you can follow along with our notes from our archive page here.

All of the charts above come from the Civic Info website, which tracks the results and trends of municipal and School District elections over the course of the previous three electoral cycles.

Voters looking to view some of those trends and notes can access can get a good glimpse from the Civic info site at how the voting patterns have evolved over the course of much of the last fifteen years.

Whether the trend of lower participation continues will be up to those who have the right to vote and whether they choose to exercise it on the 20th of October.

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