Northern Economist 2.0

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Thunder Bay City Council Races Growing

Well, what a difference a couple of weeks makes.  It would appear that the fall municipal election has finally caught the attention of the local community and the number of candidates is up considerably from my post two weeks ago.  In my July 7th post, I noted that with only a few weeks to go before the July 27th deadline, the number of candidates who had filed for election in Thunder Bay's city council race was down dramatically.  However, since then it would appear that a larger number of candidates have come forward.

In the 2014 election, the total number of candidates (including all the school boards) was 78 of whom 51 were running for spots on Thunder Bay City Council.  As of today, there are a total of 67 candidates registered of whom 40 are seeking a spot on City Council.  While the numbers are still down, the gap is not as great as several weeks ago.  The remaining week will likely see other candidates come forward.  For those of you who might think yours truly will be inspired to run I can assure you it is an honor I do not currently aspire to. (I thought the italics would be an amusing touch).   However, I am certainly glad others are taking the initiative first because the role is important and second because the perambulations of Thunder Bay City Council are often a source of inspiration for my blogging.

The accompanying figure compares the number of candidates who had filed their papers for a city council run by July 7th and the number as of today.  The number of candidates for Mayor has grown from 8 to 9 and there is potential for at least one more as current incumbent Keith Hobbs is apparently mulling entering the race after earlier declaring that he would not be seeking re-election.  The mayoral race was already well subscribed with at least four higher profile candidates and the entrance of Mr. Hobbs will make the already tight race even more interesting.  It will be a veritable Clash of Titans worthy of commemoration in a Marvel cinematic universe movie.  In making their decision for Mayor, it might help voters to imagine which Marvel superhero each candidate represents.

The At-Large race has seen the most phenomenal growth in candidates and with only two incumbents there will be at least three new At-Large councilors come election day and perhaps more if Thunder Bay voters decide they really want a clean slate on the next council.  While some local politicians have stated that it is important to have experienced members on council the fact is that any council should have a balance of old and new to provide different perspectives.  Even in the unlikely event that there is a complete sweep of incumbents, it remains that the main purpose of a city councilor is to educate themselves and make informed decisions with the information provided.  Indeed, much of the policy and administrative process in Thunder Bay is driven by local interests and City administration and not hands-on councilors.

But a complete sweep is unlikely as Thunder Bay voters tend to be very conservative in all aspects of their politics except actually electing members of the Conservative Party.  Neebing Ward still only has one candidate and unless something changes between now and July 27th, the current incumbent will be acclaimed.  In the scenario where everyone else is new, the Neebing Ward councilor will become City Council's senior statesman.  The McKellar Race shows that there are now 4 as opposed to 5 candidates as one of the candidates has switched to At-Large while Northwood and Red River are still at two while Westfort remains at three. Current River and McIntyre now both have two candidates- up from one previously.

It seems that the most interest when it comes to Thunder Bay municipal politics is not for the drudgery of being a ward councilor with a more direct set of constituents but being either Mayor or a mini-Mayor (the At-Large councilors) with the freedom to more broadly forage across policy issues and to a certain extent pick and choose what you want to ruminate on as a councilor.  Some have argued that Thunder Bay should do away with Ward councilors and go with an entirely At-Large system.  Given the relative lack of interest in candidates seeking ward position, there may be a case for this.  On the other hand, one should be careful what you wish for. A council composed of 13 At-Large candidates each with a mandate for the entire city could undermine the position of Mayor in the long run.

Looking forward to nominations wrapping up and the start of the campaign.