Northern Economist 2.0

Showing posts with label candidates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label candidates. Show all posts

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Why So Few Seeking Municipal Office?


With the July 27th nomination deadline for municipal office in Ontario rapidly approaching, attention has been drawn to the observation that the number of candidates seeking municipal office in Thunder Bay seems to have dropped.  The accompanying figure plots the number of candidates seeking a position on Thunder Bay City council as of July 6th.   With the exception of the race for Mayor which has seen a healthy increase in both the quantity and quality of candidates, there has been a drop in most of the other ward races with McKellar Ward being an exception.  

 

Current River had four candidates last election while at present there is only one.  McIntyre and Neebing also only have one candidate whereas they had four and three respectively last time.  Northwood and Red River are down to two each from four each last time and Westfort only has three compared to four last time.  The drop is most noticeable in the At-Large Race which had 19 candidates in 2014 and only 5 to date.  The total number of candidates for the City of Thunder Bay was 51 in 2014 and currently sits at 28 – a drop of 45 percent.

Of course, the decline in the At-Large race is partly a function of the fact that a number of At-Large councillors have opted to run for Mayor.  Given that the number of candidates running for Mayor has grown while the councillor candidates have declined, it suggests that being the top dog in Thunder Bay is perhaps a more attractive job than being a councillor. Another possibility is that there is a general lack of interest in running for municipal office in Thunder Bay this time given that the same faces have had the positions locked up for years barring the entry of fresh faces and repeated defeats have reduced the candidate pool in the long run.  Even though there are now some openings, there may also be a feeling of why bother given the headaches of holding office in a city with so many economic and social challenges.

Yet, there may be other explanations.  Explaining this decline, the Thunder Bay City Clerk has suggested that the earlier deadline compared to other years may be a factor.  In the past, candidates had from January 1st to mid-September to decide to run but a change in the Ontario Municipal Act shortened the period to May 1 to July 27.  This could indeed be the case given that Greater Sudbury, which is a larger city than Thunder Bay at present (July 7th) also only has 28 municipal candidates seeking office down from 70 last time and they have 12 wards plus a mayoral race.  There were ten candidates for Mayor in Sudbury in 2014 and currently there are only 4.  Of the twelve ward races, ten are down from 2014 (See Figure).


If this drop in the number of candidates is replicating itself across Ontario it means that the changes to the Ontario Municipal Act that have shortened the nomination period may actually serve to reduce the quality of our local democracy by having the unanticipated effect of reducing the candidate pool.  Deciding to run for office is not something that one takes on lightly and a longer period to decide may be beneficial.  Certainly, having the deadline in the middle of summer when minds are preoccupied with vacations may also not be a help.  On the other hand, if you are going to run why should a shorter decision period matter? Perhaps there are other changes that have occurred that have made filing more onerous? Has the volume of paperwork or the fee required gone up? There are still about three weeks left to go before the nominations close.  We will have to see if a surge in candidates declaring occurs.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Choosing Thunder Bay's Next Mayor


O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Henry V

The municipal election process in Thunder Bay culminating this October is starting to pick up steam and there are now two candidates in the running for mayor: Iain Angus and Larry Hebert.  Both are long time stalwarts of Thunder Bay City Council and have contributed years of valued service to the community in assorted capacities.  Both also topped the polls last election for the position of Councillor at Large with Angus at 15,861 votes and Hebert at 14,664.  Given that the two top contenders for the Mayor’s Chair last election came in at 14,463 (Keith Hobbs) and 12,051 (Ken Boshcoff) votes, they are certainly credible contenders for the position of Mayor. 

Of course, when one looks at the current composition of City Council, there is indeed an embarrassment of riches when it comes to potential candidates for Mayor.  It is always time for a female Mayor in Thunder Bay and given Rebecca Johnson’s sterling career of community service, one would expect that she would also consider a run for Mayor. It would be credible given she garnered 14,620 votes last election in the At Large race.   Frank Pullia has carved out a strong role both as an advocate for community causes as well as a strong showing in the finance portfolio at City Hall.  At 14,112 votes last election, he is a key contender.

And of course, who can forget the ubiquitous Aldo Ruberto whose passion for quality of life issues in Thunder Bay plus 14,311 votes in the last At Large Race also puts him within reach of the Mayor’s Chair.  There are also some strong candidates in the ward Councillor category – the names that particularly come to mind are Joe Viridiramo and Andrew Foulds.  They are both high profile candidates committed to their city and with exposure across the community.

Of course, they cannot all be mayor but being the Mayor in Thunder Bay is important given the need for a sustainable economic future that embraces all the people of Thunder Bay and the leadership role that Thunder Bay plays in the region.  It is important to have as strong a slate of visionary candidates as possible to generate the ideas we need to move forward.  This election is an opportunity for defining debates and visions in the areas of economic development, First Nations relations and social and urban affairs and what better way than a strong Mayor’s race with many quality candidates. 

It should be noted that the race for Mayor need not be relegated to current City Council incumbents.  There are many individuals in Thunder Bay who also have strong community leadership credentials and it would be a shame if Ken Boshcoff or Shane Judge did not put their names forward again. Indeed, Shane Judge apparently will be running.  It is also a shame that Lisa Laco has stated she is not running.  And then there is the business community.   Having someone prominent from our local business community step up would also bring a vital perspective to the municipal election especially with respect to issues of business development and taxation. 

This is a crucial time for picking Thunder Bay’s next Mayor and council given the many challenges that have faced our community over the last four years and that will continue in the future.  We are also picking a Mayor who will be the public face of our community at an important milestone – the 50th anniversary of Thunder Bay’s creation that will occur in 2020.  Having a strong mayor’s race full of vigorous visions would be the ultimate community contribution our community leaders could make.  Having a strong slate of candidates for Mayor would be a vote of confidence in the importance of municipal politics in Thunder Bay and the importance of civic leadership in shaping our future.  It is time for our accomplished community leaders to step up to the leadership challenge and run for mayor.