Monday, October 16, 2017

2017 Alberta municipal elections today

Voters in Alberta will be heading to the polls today to elect the municipal councils and school trustees in 287 of Alberta's 354 municipalities. This includes 17 of the province's 18 cities (Lloydminster, which is partly in Saskatchewan holds elections on Saskatchewan's municipal election day), 108 towns, 89 villages, 5 specialized municipalities, 64 municipal districts, 1 improvement district and the “Special Areas Board”, which covers Alberta's three “special areas”. Alberta's 51 “summer villages” held their municipal elections in the summer.

Out of Alberta's 17 cities holding elections, only two: Alberta's largest cities of Calgary and Edmonton- elect their councils using a ward structure. The remaining 15 cities elect their councils on an at-large basis. However, in most of Alberta's 69 mainly rural municipal districts and specialized municipalities, councils are elected from wards or “divisions”. In most of the municipal districts, mayors and reeves (equivalent of mayor) are not directly elected by voters, but elected from within the municipal council, much like how Premiers are chosen in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Some towns and most villages do not have direct elections for mayor either.

Across the province, there will be no election for head of council (mayor or reeve) in the municipalities of Bashaw, Bonnyville, Bow Island, Brazeau County, Brooks, Cardston, Coalhurst, Cold Lake, Crowsnest Pass, Daysland, Eckville, Fairview, Grimshaw, Hanna, High Level, Jasper, Killam, Lamont, Manning, Mayerthorpe, McLennan, Milk River, Millet, Morinville, Olds, Picture Butte, Provost, Rimbey, Sedgewick, Sexsmith, Slave Lake, Standard, Stettler, Swan Hills, Sylvan Lake, Three Hills, Valleyview, Vulcan, Wainwright and Wembley. Entire councils were acclaimed, meaning there will be no elections at all in the municipalities of Barnwell, Bashaw, Beiseker, Bittern Lake, Breton, Castor, Cereal, Champion, Chauvin, Coalhurst, Cremona, Czar, Daysland, Dewberry, Donalda, Donnelly, Eckville, Ferintosh, Girouxville, Halkirk, Hill Spring, Hussar, Irma, Kananaskis Imrpovement District, Killam, Lomond, Lougheed, Manning, Mayerthorpe, McLennan, Munson, Myrnam, Nobleford, Onoway, Peace No. 135, Ranchland No. 66, Rockyford, Rosalind, Rosemary, Sedgewick, Standard, Valleyview, Wabamun, Warburg, Warner No. 5, Waskateneau, Wembley and Youngstown. In Beaverlodge, Bowden, Spirit River and Viking, only elections for mayor will occur, as the entire remainder of their councils were acclaimed. And finally, Not enough candidates came forward for Kanasnaskis Improvement District, County of Forty Mile No. 8, Cowley, Hines Creek and Vauxhall.


In both of Alberta's two major cities (Calgary and Edmonton), both incumbent mayors are running for re-election. Of the two, only the mayoral race in Calgary will be competitive as incumbent mayor Naheed Nenshi faces stiff competition from Bill Smith, the former president of the provincial Progressive Conservative Party. There are eight other candidates running for mayor, including fiscal conservative city councillor Andre Chabot, who is running in third place. 

Calgary's main mayoral candidates
Polls are split on the outcome of today's election; Mainstreet Research has consistently shown Smith ahead, with their final poll published Friday giving Smith a 13 point lead over Nenshi (52% to 39%). However, a poll conducted by Forum Research for the Canadian Municipal Election Study shows the opposite result, giving Nenshi a 17 point lead (50% to 33%). The methodologies of the two polls differ; Mainstreet was done by IVR while the Forum poll was done online from a sample drawn originally from a telephone recruit. The Forum poll was done over a longer period of time (September 28 to October 12) with a smaller sample (n=843) size compared to Mainstreet's poll of 1500 respondents done over just two days (October 10 to 11). While I have more faith in the phone-to-web methodology, the longer period of time in field raises some doubt as to the accuracy of the Forum poll. On the flip side, Mainstreet has consistently shown Smith to be leading among younger voters, which makes absolutely no sense. One thing is for sure though, municipal elections are hard to poll for, thanks to them typically having lower turnouts. The Calgary mayoral race will not only be interesting for the clash of its two front-runners, but also a clash of competing polling firms and their methodologies.

So, why could such a popular mayor potentially lose? Well, the obvious answer is Calgary is a very conservative city, but that only scratches the surface, as it has had a history of electing more moderate mayors (Nenshi's predecessor, Dave Bronconnier was a card-carrying Liberal). The big reason is the desire to have a conservative at all at some level of government in the city. After all, this is the first ever municipal election in the province while under an NDP administration. And with the much-hated Justin Trudeau's Liberals in power on a federal level, local conservatives are thirsty for a conservative municipal government, something that Nenshi does not represent. Nenshi is also seen as being an arrogant “charismatic brainiac”, as Macleans puts it, and has admitted to being “irritating” which is sure to put off more populist leaning voters.

Nenshi has been the city's mayor since 2010, when he won with an insurgent candidacy, harnessing the power of social media to engage voters with his platform, en route to winning 40% of the vote in a three-way race. His election was a big surprise, due to his more progressive politics in a city known for its conservatism. With his win, Nenshi became the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city, and in 2014 was named “World Mayor” by the City Mayors Foundation. In 2013, Nenshi was easily re-elected to the city's top post, as incumbent mayors often do in their second elections. Nenshi won 74% of the vote in his race against former Tory MLA Jon Lord, who won 21% of the vote. In his win, Nenshi won every single ward in the city. His best ward was Ward 8, which covers the inner-city area, where he won 83% of the vote. He also did very well in Ward 3 (winning 81%), which is in the city's northeast corner. This area is home to a large number of immigrants and tends to vote Liberal or NDP in provincial and federal elections (as does Ward 8). Nenshi's worst ward was Ward 10, located in the city's east end, which was also his worst ward in 2010. There, he still won 61% of the vote. Ward 10 is not the most conservative part of the city, but it is the ward of fiscally conservative councillor Andre Chabot.

2013 ward map

2017 ward map

The City of Calgary's ward map has changed for this election. The city will continue to have 14 wards, but population shifts in the city means the north half of the city will gain a ward, while the southern half of the city loses one. The north will now have the same number of councillors as the south. The most significant changes to the map came in the northeast of the corner, which sees Ward 3 move completely west of the Deerfoot Trail, which has a domino effect, as Ward 5 moves north to compensate, forcing Ward 10 to also move north, and also Ward 9.

While there is a progressive vs. conservative fight at the top of the ticket, there are several wards where there will be similar ideological battles for council seats, thanks in part to various conservatives in the city organizing to defeat progressive and moderate leaning candidates. Races to watch (with thanks to Calgary resident njall from the US Election Atlas forum):

- Ward 3 councillor Jim Stevenson is not running for re-election, opening this seat up. Polling done by the right wing advocacy group “Commons Sense Calgary” shows this as a close race between centrist Jyoti Gondek and moderate progressive Ian McAnerin.
- Thanks to the ward redistribution, Ward 5 councillor Ray Jones is running in Ward 10, which covers much of the same territory. This has created an open race in the ward. Polling suggests George Chahal has a healthy lead here, but there are a lot of undecideds in this minority-heavy ward.
- Ward 6 councillor Richard Pootmans is not running for re-election. Conservative candidate Jeff Davison has the lead in polling, with centrist Esmahan Razavi in second place.
- Ward 7 progressive-leaning incumbent Druh Farrell is in a tight race against centrist candidate Brent Alexander in this ward.
- Ward 8 progressive-leaning incumbent Evan Woolley is in a tight race against conservative-leaning candidate Chris Davis
- Ward 9 progressive-leaning incumbent Gian-Carlo Carra is in a tight race against conservative-leaning candidate Cheryl Link
- Ward 5 incumbent councillor Ray Jones, a moderate conservative is running Ward 10 where he has a decent lead with a lot of undecideds. There are 10 other candidates running against him, and all are polling in single digits.
- Another open seat is Ward 11 where Manning Institute researcher Jeromy Farkas has a decent lead in polling over a split opposition.

In all the other wards, the incumbents are conservative leaning and are though to be shoe-ins to be re-elected.


In contrast to the mayoral race in Calgary, the one in Edmonton is sure to be a snoozer. You see, mayor Don Iveson is on his second election, which usually means a cake-walk election for incumbent mayors. And that is exactly what he is about to get. Iveson faces no serious challengers, and polling backs this up. Mainstreet's latest poll has him winning leading with 46%, 39 points ahead of his nearest rival, perennial candidate (and former Wildrose candidate) Don Koziak, who was at 7%. 35% of people are undecided, but I have a feeling many of those people will not even vote. A poll conducted by Leger conducted a couple of weeks ago showed a near-identical result, with Iveson leading over Koziak (45% to 7%). In addition to Iveson and Koziak, there are 11 other candidates running for mayor.

Edmonton's two main mayoral candidates

The 2013 mayoral election in Edmonton was supposed to be a three-way race, but Iveson, a two-term city councillor was easily elected with 62% of the vote, defeating former Liberal MLA Karen Leibovici who won 19% of the vote and councillor (now Conservative MP) Kerry Diotte, who won 15% of the vote. Iveson's best ward was Ward 8, which covers the Strathcona part of the city, an area that regularly votes NDP in provincial and federal elections, and is easily the most left wing part of the city. There, he won 70% of the vote. Iveson's worst ward was Ward 1, which covers West Edmonton, an area where Leibovici represented when she was an MLA.

With the race for mayor being all but decided, the real races in the city will be for the city's 12 council seats. Like Calgary, Edmonton saw its ward boundaries change, but they were much more minor in scope. The most significant change was between the borders of wards 9 and 10 and between wards 11 and 12, to account for the growing suburbs in the south end of the city. Ward 10 gains the neighbourhoods of Twin Brooks, Blackburne, Blackmud Creek, Cashman, Cavanagh, Callaghan and Allard from Ward 9, while Ward 12 gains the neighbourhoods of Minchau, Weinlos, Bisset, Pollard Meadows, Daily Grove and Crawford Plains from Ward 11.

2013 ward map

2017 ward map

According to political scientist John Brennan, these are the city council races to watch in Edmonton:

- Ward 3 incumbent Dave Loken has had the support of mayor Don Iveson, which is a rarity in municipal politics. He is being challenged by a number of strong candidates, which might divide his opposition in the ward.
- Ward 4 is an open race with former Liberal MLA Ed Gibbons deciding to not run for re-election. Brennan believes the main candidates will be Rocco Caterina (son of councillor Tony Caterina, a Tory), New Democrat Aaron Paquette, public servant Alison Poste and Tricia Velthuizen, a research analyst for the new United Conservative Party.
- Ward 5 is another open race with incumbent Michael Oshry not running for re-election. The race will be between four main candidates, businesswoman Sarah Hamilton who was endorsed by former mayor Stephen Mandel, a Tory; Dawn Newton an active member of the Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton; Miranda Jimmy, an indigenous woman who is the program manager of the Edmonton Heritage Council; and David Xiao, the former PC MLA for Edmonton-McClung, which covers part of this ward.
- Ward 6 incumbent Scott McKeen, a former columnist for the Edmonton Journal may see a challenge from businessman Tish Prouse who lost his bid in Ward 7 in 2013 and from another businessman, Bill Knight.
- Ward 7 will see Tory incumbent Tony Caterina face off against two progressive opponents who may split the vote: Kris Andreychuk, the city's supervisor of public safety and Mimi Williams, a perennial candidate and activist who received the endorsement form the Edmonton and District Labour Council.
- Ward 8 is home to the city's most left wing city councillor, Ben Henderson. He is facing off against two other centre-left candidates, James Kosowan and Kristen Goa, both New Democrats.
- Ward 9 is an open seat, thanks to incumbent councillor Bryan Anderson not running for re-election. Brennan sees this race as being between engineer Tim Cartmell and physician Rob Agostinis. Cartmell has the endorsement of Anderson, and a former Tory MLA, while Agostinis has the endorsement of the Edmonton and District Labour Council.

Red Deer

With over 100,000 people, Red Deer is now the third largest municipality in the province, having passed Strathcona County in the last census. It is also the largest municipality in the province without a municipal ward structure. All eight city councillors are elected on an at-large basis; Each voter in the city votes for eight councillors, and the eight candidates with the most votes are elected. In 2013, voters had a chance to change that in a plebiscite which asked voters whether or not they would like to have a ward system in place, but voters overwhelmingly opposed the measure, with just 28% of voters supporting the idea. 

Red Deer mayoral candidates

The race for mayor of Red Deer is between incumbent mayor Tara Veer and Sean Burke, who is owns a digital advertising provider business. Veer, who had been a city councillor was elected as mayor of the city in 2013, defeating fellow councillor Cindy Jefferies in a narrow 46% to 39% victory. This time it is unlikely to be as close. Her main challenger is focusing on social issues such as homelessness, and is an admitted recovering crystal meth addict, which may not fly well in this conservative city. Veer for her part is more conservative leaning, having worked for a Conservative MP in the past. 

Red Deer polling division map used in 2013

In the 2013 election, Veer won all but four of the polling divisions in the city, getting her best results in the city's more conservative, newer suburbs. Her best polling station covers the Clearview Ridge area in the city's northeast, where she won 58% of the vote. Jeffries appealed more to voters in the more left leaning central part of the city, where she won the remaining four polling divisions. She won a majority of votes in just poll, an area th
at covers the Downtown part of the city, where she won 54% of the vote.

Many thanks to the City of Red Deer's election office which sent me last election's poll division map, which could not be found on the web.

Strathcona County

The fourth largest municipality in Alberta is Strathcona County, a “specialized municipality” mainly consisting of the Hamlet of Sherwood Park, a large suburb on Edmonton's eastern fringe. Over 70% of the county's residents live in Sherwood Park, which is otherwise unincorporated. From Edmonton, the county runs north to Fort Saskatchewan and the North Saskatchewan River, east to Elk Island National Park, and south past Cooking Lake. The county elects a mayor, and eight councillors, one from each of the county's eight wards. Five of the wards are located in Sherwood Park, and the remaining three represent the more rural parts of the municipality. 

Strathcona County's main mayoral candidates

The race for mayor of Strathcona County will be an interesting one, as there are four credible candidates, three of which have some sort of partisan background. The only one who doesn't is the incumbent mayor, Roxanne Carr, who is nonetheless conservative enough to be the mayor of an Alberta suburb. Before becoming mayor in 2013, Carr sat on County council, representing Ward 2, which covers the north-central part of Sherwood Park. In addition to her, the other candidates are:
-Former PC MLA Jacquie Fenske, who represented the rural northern part of Strathcona County when she represented the riding of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville from 2012 to 2015. She was previously a county councillor, representing Ward 5, which covered that same rural northern part of the county.
- Former mayor Linda Osinchuk, who was mayor from 2010 to 2013 when she was defeated by Carr in a very close two-way race. Since her defeat, Osinchuk ran in the 2015 election for the Wildrose Party in the riding of Sherwood Park, finishing in third place. Interestingly, the woman she beat to become mayor in 2010 (Cathy Olesen) was her PC opponent in 2015, who finished in second place behind the NDP. Before becoming mayor, Osinchuk represented Ward 3 on County council, which covers the south-central part of Sherwood Park.
- Rod Frank, who was the Liberal candidate in the 2015 federal election in Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, coming in 2nd place behind the Conservative candidate, winning 20% of the vote. Interestingly, Frank is eschewing the fact he ran as a Liberal, and claims to have run as a “fiscal conservative and social progressive”, which doesn't really describe the 2015 Liberal Party platform in my opinion.
- Finally the candidate who will likely place last is David Dixon, who is running on the more progressive platform of the five candidates. His past political experience includes running for mayor of the District of North Vancouver in 2005, where he placed last with 6% of the vote.

The 2013 election saw an interesting divide in the County, and was only possible due to the sheer closeness of the result. Carr defeated Osinchuk by fewer than 500 votes, winning 51% to Osinchuk's 49%. The divide was not urban vs. rural as one might expect, but rather north vs. south. Carr, who represented a ward in northern Sherwood Park as councillor, won the five more northerly wards in the county, while Osinchuk, who represented a ward in southern Sherwood Park when she was a councillor, won that one ward in Sherwood Park and the two southerly rural wards. Carr's top ward was Ward 2 (59%), where she was the councillor and Osinchuk's best ward was Ward 6 (54%) in the rural southwest. 

Strathcona County's ward map

The 2017 ward map will be nearly identical to the 2013 map, save for a minor border change between Wards 3 and 6.


Lethbridge is Alberta's fourth largest city, and just like Red Deer, it has no wards, electing its eight councillors on an at-large basis. The Lethbridge mayoral race will be between incumbent mayor Chris Spearman, University of Lethbridge student and Indigenous activist Martin Heavy Head and perennial council candidate Bob Janzen. Spearman was first elected as mayor in 2013, defeating three other candidates. Prior to that he was a businessman and had also run in the 2010 mayoral election, narrowly losing. He will likely win re-election, as his opponents are not as strong. His main opponent will likely be Heavy Head, who became the first Indigenous person to run for Lethbridge City Council in 2013, winning over 4000 votes, 1700 behind the eight place spot needed to be elected. Janzen has also run for council in the past, winning 1572 votes in 2004 and 938 votes in 2010.

Lethbridge's main mayoral candidates
The 2013 race in Lethbridge saw Spearman elected mayor with 46% of the vote. His next closest rival was city councillor Bridget Mearns, who had worked for a number of conservative politicians in the past. In total, she won 30% of the vote, 3800 votes behind Spearman. Spearman won every polling division in the city, but none of them with the majority of votes. His support was very evenly distributed, winning 49% of the vote in his best poll (which covers the Copperwood neighbourhood in the southwest of the city) and winning 42% of the vote in his worst poll, which covers the Downtown area of the city. His support was slightly better in the more conservative suburbs of the city, and worse in the left leaning inner-city.

Lethbridge polling division map used in 2013


Wood Buffalo

Up in the northeast corner of the province is the sprawling Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, home to Fort McMurray and not much else (just a number of small villages). Wood Buffalo happens to be the fourth largest municipality in the country in terms of geographic area. As it is home to a large non-permanent population, and due to a giant Wildfire that ravaged Fort McMurray at the time of the 2016 census, it is hard to gauge exactly how many people live in the municipality. Some estimates have the population being over 100,000, but the census reported 72000 people in the 62000 sq. km municipality, 67000 of those 72000 live(d) in Fort McMurray.

Wood Buffalo Municipal Council is elected via a ward system. The municipality has four wards; Ward 1 covers Fort McMurray and elects six at-large councillors. Ward 2 covers the northern two thirds of the municipality, and elects two at-large councillors. Wards 3 and 4 in the south elect one councillor each. Representation on council does not accurately reflect population; despite over 90% of the municipality's population living in Fort McMurray, its weight on council is only 60%.

Long time mayor Melissa Blake will not be running for re-election, making the race for mayor an open one for the first time since 2004. The candidates to replace her are realtor Allan Grandison, ward 3 councillor Allan Vinni, helicopter pilot Anthony Needham and former Tory MLA Don Scott, who represented the riding of Fort McMurray-Conklin from 2012 to 2015.

Wood Buffalo ward map

St. Albert

St. Albert is a suburb of Edmonton, home to 65,000 people. Its mayor, Nolan Crouse, is retiring after 10 years as mayor. He had decided to run for the provincial Liberal Party's leadership earlier this year, but dropped out after just two days. The race to replace him is between incumbent councillors Cathy Heron and Cam Mackay and former councillor Malcolm Parker. According to Dave Cournoyer's blog, the race has been divisive, as is apparently the norm in the city. On council, voters will elect six at-large councillors.

Medicine Hat

In southeastern Alberta is the province's sixth largest city of Medicine Hat. Its mayor, Ted Clugston is running for re-election after first being elected mayor in 2013. There are three candidates running against Clugston; former alderman (councillor) John Hamill, local broadcaster and teacher Scott Raible and Thomas “Tall Bike Tommy” Fougere, a local outspoken vlogger. On council, voters will elect eight at-large councillors.

Grande Prairie

In northwestern Alberta is the province's seventh largest city of Grande Prarie. Its mayor, Bill Given is running for re-election for the second time, after first being elected in 2010. Running against him is Grande Prairie Petroleum Association member Dick Baillie, Theodore Nikiforuk and Rony Rajput, who has technically dropped out of the race due to finding out he technically lives outside of the city, but will still appear on the ballot. On council, voters will elect eight at-large councillors.


Airdrie, an exurb of Calgary, is the fastest growing city in the province, growing from 43,000 to 62,000 people between the last two censuses. Last election saw its incumbent mayor, Peter Brown re-elected with no opposition, after first being elected in 2010 when the city was nearly half of its current size. This time around he is facing competition from four candidates. Brown will face some stiff competition from his deputy mayor, Fred Burley as well as volunteer Marie Lauer, senior manager Blaine Astra and retired businessman Bernie Biever. On council, voters will elect six at-large councillors.

Rocky View County

Rocky View County is a rural municipal district that surrounds the City of Calgary on its west, north and east sides, fully surrounding the City of Airdrie, and other exurban Calgary municipalities as well. It is the largest municipality in the province without a direct election for mayor. In fact, Rocky View doesn't have a mayor, it has a reeve, and he or she will be chosen from among the County's council following the election. The county is divided into 9 divisions, each electing one councillor. Incumbent reeve Greg Boehilke represents Division 6, located in the northeast corner of the county, and is running for re-election there against John McMurray. 

Rocky View County division map

There are of course many other races across the province, but those are the ones in the 11 largest municipalities. Polls will be closing at 8pm Mountain Time, which is 10pm Eastern.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Louis-Hébert by-election today

Voters in the Quebec riding of Louis-Hébert head to the polls today to elect a new member of the Quebec National Assembly. The riding was vacated in April when its MNA, Liberal Sam Hamad resigned. He had held the seat since 2003, taking the riding back from the separatist PQ in 2003.

Louis-Hébert is located in the western suburbs of Quebec City, taking in part of the former city of Sainte-Foy (specifically the districts of L'Aéroport and Pointe-de-Sainte Foy) and the former city of Cap-Rouge, plus the municipality of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures.

While the riding has existed since 1966, its boundaries before the 2001 redistribution covered less than half of its current territory, though the riding has been based in the western suburbs of the city since its creation. Before the 2001 redistribution, much of the riding was located in the riding of La Peltrie, which is now northwest of the city. Its new boundaries have proved to be good for the Liberal Party, as they won the seat in every election since. But by no means is it safe; Hamad won the seat in the 2007 election by fewer than 900 votes (over the ADQ), and had another close race in 2012, beating the CAQ candidate by a little over 2000 votes.

The riding is overwhelmingly Francophone (97%), with a small percentage (2%) being Anglophone. It is also overwhelmingly White (97%), mostly of French Canadian stock, but it has a non-negligible population of Irish ancestry. Most of the population is Catholic (86%) while 11% have no religion. The riding is significantly more wealthy than the province as a whole. The median income is $50,000 (compared to the provincial median of $33,000). 

2014 results by neighbourhood

Geographically, the main political split in the riding is between the rural area (such as Saint-Augustin) which tends to vote for right-of-centre parties and the urban part of the riding (Cap-Foy and Pointe-de-Sainte-Foy) which tends to vote the Liberals. This split was less obvious in 2014 with Hamad winning the seat by 23 points. In fact on election day, the Liberals won a slightly higher share of the vote in Saint-Augustin than in the Quebec City part of the riding. The right-of-centre CAQ also did better in Saint-Augustin, winning 36% of the election day votes there compared to 30% in Quebec City. Both left-of-centre parties, the PQ and Quebec solidaire did better in Quebec City, but are generally not a good fit for this wealthy riding.

Based on current polling, the race could see a close match between the Liberals and the CAQ. The Liberals are running Hamad's former assistant Ihsanne El Ghernati, who was chosen quickly after the previous candidate had to drop out, following complaints from his former employees. The CAQ is running Genevieve Guilbeaut, the former spokesperson for Quebec's coroner's office. She also was chosen quickly after their candidate dropped out after a controversy as well. As for the other parties, the PQ is running biologist Norman Beauregard and Quebec solidaire is running lawyer Guillaume Boivin. It will be the first test for the new NDP provincial wing which just re-registered its party status after a 23 year hiatus. They are running former MP Denis Blanchette who held the federal riding of Louis-Hébert from 2011 to 2015. The Greens are running their leader, Alex Tyrrell.

Polls close at 8pm.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Kamloops mayoral and council by-elections

Residents of Kamloops, British Columbia will be heading to the polls tomorrow in a mayoral by-election. The city of 90,000 people, located in the British Columbia Interior's Thompson Country has had its top job vacant since its previous mayor, Peter Milobar was elected to the British Columbia legislature in last Spring's provincial election. Milobar had been mayor since 2008, and sits as a member of the BC Liberal Party in Victoria. In addition to the mayoral by-election, there are two city council vacancies which will also be filled in tomorrow's election.

Politically, Kamloops is well known as a bellwether in provincial politics, the area has voted for whichever party that has won the most seats in every provincial election since the first Kamloops riding was created in 1903 (a longer streak than any other part of the province). This continued true in last Spring's election which saw both of Kamloops' ridings vote Liberal, as that party won the plurality of the seats in the BC legislature (the NDP would end up forming government with the help of the Greens). Federally, Kamloops has been more conservative than the country as whole in who it sends to Ottawa. It has been held by the Tories since 2004, and the Canadian Alliance before that (from 2000). Before 2000, the NDP's Nelson Riis held Kamloops' riding, so it has gone NDP recently. It has not voted Liberal since 1974. The 2015 election saw a three-way race between the Conservatives, NDP and Liberals.

Unlike some of the larger cities in British Columbia, there are no municipal parties on city council. But just like nearly every municipality in the province, there are also no wards. In addition to voting for mayor, residents get eight votes for city council for the eight positions available in regular municipal elections.

Map of Kamloops' 17 arbitrarily drawn polling divisions used in the 2014 election

In the last mayoral election in the city, held in 2014, voters got to choose which voting place to vote at, whether it was close to home, close to work, or wherever they wanted to. This means it is impossible to accurately map the results of the election, as not only are there no wards to map the results, there are no polling divisions with definite boundaries to map either. But, I still attempted to map the 2014 mayoral election, by dividing the city into zones with arbitrarily drawn boundaries surrounding the city's 17 polling stations used in that election. Using this method, I was still able to find an obvious pattern in the results. While Milobar easily won re-election with 78% of the vote, his support was much stronger in the city's suburbs, where he won most polls with over 80% of the vote. His support was much weaker in the inner part of the city, with his worst poll being located in the city's downtown, which he won with “just” 68% of the vote. Milobar's main opponent was Pierre Filisetti, an owner of local gardening and landscaping business, who would go on to plead guilty for assault last year in a bear-spray incident. Filisetti's support was stronger where Milobar's wasn't, and vise-versa. As a BC Liberal (which is a right wing party in BC), Milobar's strength was in the same areas that tend to vote for that party in provincial elections. Kamloop's central core, where Milobar's support was weakest usually votes NDP in both provincial and federal elections.


In the race to replace Milobar, there are six candidates, but just one really stands out as his likely successor, councillor Ken Christian. Christian was the top vote-getter out of all city council candidates in the 2014 election, winning over 12,000 votes (comparatively, Milobar won over 17,000 votes). Christian has been on Kamloops' City Council since 2008, and was a school trustee prior to that. He has been endorsed by both Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone and former mayor and former Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake (both Liberals).

The two main candidates for mayor

The candidate who poses the most threat to Christian is probably Bill McQuarrie, who is a columnist for a local TV station. McQuarrie has been campaigning on a “diversified economy” and getting rid of property tax increases. Other candidates include: Non-profit director Glenn Hilke who ran for city council in 2014 (winning 1% of the vote), who is running on affordable housing and other social issues; Former logger Stu Holland, who wants to “represent working people”, and wants to open the proposed Ajax mine, which has been a divisive issue in the city; Mike McKenzie, who wants to “bring the city together” and is a self described “local and national youth and community representative”; and Todd McLeod, and air-ambulance paramedic.

The race for city council will probably be more interesting, as there are 22 candidates running for the two open positions. One of the positions was held by Ken Christian, who resigned to run for mayor. The second position was vacated by Marg Spina, who resigned her seat after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Notable candidates running are former councillor Nancy Bepple who was the NDP's candidate in Kamloops-South Thompson in this year's provincial election, and Kevin Krueger who was a local Liberal MLA from 1996 to 2013 (representing Kamloops-North Thompson from 1996 to 2009 and Kamloops-South Thompson from 2009 to 2013). Another strong candidate is Kathy Sinclair, who is the executive director of the Kamloops Art Council. Not being very familiar with Kamloops politics, I can't make many predictions, but would not be surprised if the city elects two right-of-centre candidates based on its politics.

Polls close at 8pm (11pm Eastern).

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Newfoundland and Labrador municipal elections today

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians head to the polls today to elect municipal governments across the province’s 276 municipalities. Up for election are municipal councils; mayors, councillors and in some cases deputy mayors.

Across the province...

Among the province’s largest communities (over 5000 people), only the Town of Clarenville is seeing its mayor re-elected with no opposition. However, two other towns over 5000 people will not have an election for mayor, as only one candidate stepped forward to replace an outgoing mayor. Former Tory MHA Terry French has been acclaimed as mayor of Conception Bay South and town councillor Craig Scott has been acclaimed as mayor of Torbay. 

Municipalities on Newfoundland
Municipalities of Labrador

In addition to Conception Bay South and Torbay, the municipalities of Gander, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador City, Mount Pearl, Portugal Cove-St. Philip's and St. John's will all definitely be getting new mayors, as their incumbent mayors are not running for re-election. In Labrador City, they've switched voting systems, so that there will no longer be a direct election for mayor at all. Instead, voters there will get up to seven votes to elect the seven members of town council, and the candidate with the most votes of those seven will be elected mayor.

Most communities in the province elect their councils on an at-large basis, with no municipal ward system. In fact, only two municipalities have municipal wards: St. John’s and Conception Bay South. St. John’s has five municipal wards, and Conception Bay South has four.  In both cases, these wards elect one member of council, but both cities also have at-large councillors elected across the city, who do not stand in one particular ward.

St. John's

As St. John’s is by far the largest city in the province, and the province’s capital, most of my focus on today’s municipal elections will be there. St. John’s has an 11 member city council consisting of the mayor, deputy mayor, five councillors elected from each of the five city wards, and four councillors elected on an at-large basis. Both the mayor and deputy mayor positions are elected at-large as well.

St. John's mayoral candidates

The race for mayor of St. John's could be quite interesting, as incumbent mayor Dennis O'Keefe is not running for re-election. The race to replace him is between three candidates: former mayor Andy Wells, city councillor Danny Breen and community activist Renee Sharpe.

Wells, a former union negotiator, served as mayor of St. John's from 1997 until resigning amidst controversy in 2008, after being appointed as chair of the provincial public utilities board. He had initially refused to resign after his appointment. While he was mayor, he was known for his numerous scandals and outspoken, abrasive personality. He decided to run for mayor after being suspended from his position with the public utilities board due to criticizing the St. John's City Council using a government email.

Danny Breen has served on St. John's City Council since 2009, representing Ward 1. He was re-elected in 2013 without opposition. Breen is seen as a contrast to Wells, being non-confrontational and consensus building. He is a Tory; he ran for the Progressive Conservative Party in a 2014 by-election in Virginia Waters, losing to Liberal Cathy Bennett.

Renee Sharpe is an ironworker welder with a local union, and her grandfather was mayor of Paradise. She is also a self-defence instructor and has worked with a number of community organizations. Not surprisingly, her platform is the most left wing of the three candidates.

(Oh, and there's also a tongue-in-cheek campaign for “Finn” a five year old Australian cattle dog, whose campaign on YouTube has become something of a sensation. Finn is an acting dog, having appeared in a movie and on TV.)

The 2009 election was also an interesting race, between mayor Dennis O'Keefe, a Tory and city councillor Sheilagh O'Leary, a New Democrat. O'Keefe won the election with 57% of the vote to O'Leary's 42%, which is relatively close for municipal election standards, and closer than polls had predicted. O'Keefe won four of the five wards in the city, doing especially well in the city's conservative western and southern suburbs. O'Leary won the remaining ward (Ward 2), which covers the downtown and part of the east end, an area that typically votes NDP both federally and provincially.

Compared to 2009, which was a race between two conservative leaning candidates, O'Keefe increased his vote share by a slight amount in four of the city's five wards. However, his vote share took a large hit in Ward 2, going from 56% to 42%, thanks to the presence of O'Leary's candidacy. Overall, O'Keefe saw a slight decrease in his share of the vote, thanks entirely to the vote shift in Ward 2. Special thanks to the City of St. John’s elections office who sent me the ward-by-ward results of the 2013 mayoral race (data not available on the city's website).

O'Leary got back onto council in a by-election last year (in Ward 4), and is looking for a promotion as she is running for the deputy mayor position against Michelle Worthman. 

New St. John's Ward map

St. John's' ward boundaries were changed since the last election:
- Ward 1 loses the Pleasantville neighbourhood (to Ward 2) but gains the Penetanguishene neighbourhood (from Ward 4)
- Ward 2 loses the Cornwall Crescent and Albany Street areas (to Ward 3) but gains Pleasantville (from Ward 1)
- Ward 3 gains the Cornwall Crescent and Albany Street areas from Ward 2
- Ward 4 loses Penetanguishene from Ward 1
- Ward 5 does not have any boundary changes.

On council, the incumbents in three wards are not running for re-election. As noted, Ward 1 councillor Danny Breen is running for mayor and Ward 4 councillor Sheilagh O'Leary is running for Deputy Mayor. Ward 3 will also see an open race, as its councillor, Bruce Tilley is resigning. One notable candidate in that ward is Olympic gold medal winning curler Jamie Korab is running. As a fellow curler, I wish him the best!

In terms of predictions, I'm thinking that Danny Breen will probably win the mayoral election quite handily, as I think St. John's voters aren't going to want to deal with Wells' shenanigans again (crazier things have happened though, you only have to look south of the border to know what I mean!). I do wonder if Wells will even place second, as Sharpe appears to be running a more active campaign. We will know for certain after polls close at 8pm local time (6:30 Eastern).

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Saskatoon Fairview by-election preview

The Fall election season kicks off today with a provincial by-election in the Saskatchewan riding of Saskatoon Fairview. The seat was vacated in July when its MLA, Jennifer Campeau of the governing Saskatchewan Party, accepted a job with a mining company in British Columbia. Campeau was a former cabinet minister in the government of Premier Brad Wall (who will also be resigning soon). This will be the second provincial by-election in the province since the last provincial election in 2016. The first by-election was held in March in Saskatoon Meewasin, and saw the NDP's Ryan Meili win the seat which was previously held by the Saskatchewan Party on an 11-point two-party average swing. Saskatoon Fairview is an even lower hanging fruit for the NDP, as Campeau won the seat in 2016 by just three points over her New Democratic opponent (compared to the eight point difference between the two parties in Meewasin). 

The once immensely popular conservative Saskatchewan Party government has been becoming more and more unpopular in recent months, with polls showing them and the NDP in a dead heat. It looks like the province may be heading toward the urban/rural polarization last seen in the early 2000s, which had the NDP gobble up nearly all of the urban seats and the Saskatchewan Party win most of the rural ridings. Since Wall's first victory in 2007, the Saskatchewan Party has been able to win ever increasing majority governments by winning suburban seats in Regina and Saskatoon and ridings in some of the smaller cities. Saskatoon Fairview as one of those suburban seats the Saskatchewan Party wrested away from the NDP.

For now, both parties are effectively leaderless, with Wall announcing last month his plans on resigning the province's premiership, and with the NDP in the midst of a leadership election which will culminate next Spring.


Saskatoon Fairview is a middle class suburban riding on the west-side of Saskatoon. Most the riding was built up in the 1960s and 1970s following the area being annexed by the city. It continues to grow to this day with new developments being built in the Kensington and Blairmore neighbourhoods. Its older, core neighbourhoods are (from north to south) Confederation Park, Pacific Heights and Parkridge. The riding also contains part of the Massey Place neighbourhood, which was added to the riding before the last election after redistribution.

Saskatoon MLA list since 1967 (previously Saskatoon was a multiple member seat)

The riding is a traditional NDP seat, only voting for right wing parties in landslide elections, specifically 1982, 2011 and 2016. Even in 2011 and 2016 the race in Saskatoon Fairview was close, with the Saskatchewan Party winning it by just five points and three points respectively. With its current borders, the 2011 election would've been just as close as in 2016 (three point difference). The two-party swing between the elections was just 0.1% to the NDP, which was the exact same as the province-wide swing between both elections.

The riding's main political cleavage runs down 22 Street, with the area north of that street being more friendly to the NDP and the area south of that street being more conservative leaning. The socio-economic and political differences between both sides of the street are fairly minimal, but large enough to have shown up in recent elections due to how close they have been in the riding. Even the last federal election was close, with my calculations showing the NDP having narrowly won more votes in Fairview than the Conservatives (37% to 36% respectively), with the Liberals winning 24% of the vote. 

Results by neighbourhood (2016 provincial and 2015 federal elections)
Click to enlarge

In both the 2015 federal election and the 2016 provincial election, both Confederation Park and Pacific Heights narrowly went NDP, while Parkridge voted for the Conservatives and the Saskatchewan Party by seven points and 10 points respectively. While only partly in the riding, Massey Place is the most pro-NDP neighbourhood, perhaps owing to the fact that it was it was in an NDP seat before being redistributed into Saskatoon Fairview. The new Blaimore SC development is becoming more NDP friendly as it grows, while the new Kensington neighbourhood is attracting more conservative voters, but was also the Liberal's best neighbourhood in both the last federal and provincial elections.

The political difference between the northern and southern parts of the riding is a result of its demographics. Massey Place has a median income of $29,000 (according to the 2010 National Household Survey) which is slightly below the provincial median, while Confederation Park and Pacific Heights have median incomes of $30,000 and $31,000 respectively. However, Parkridge in the south of the riding has a marginally higher median income of $34,000. Parkridge is also Whiter than the rest of the riding; It is 75% White, while the rest of the riding ranges from 60% to 66% White. Meanwhile, Confederation Park in the north part of the riding is especially diverse, with Indigenous Canadians making up 17% of the population and Filipinos making up 14% of the population. One other difference about Parkridge is that it is a newer neighbourhood, being built up in the 1980s and 1990s, while the northern neighbourhoods were built in the 1960s and 1970s.


The NDP looks to recapture this riding with their candidate, Vicki Mowat who also ran there in 2016. She works as an executive assistant at the University of Saskatchewan, and defeated two other candidates for the nomination. Looking to retain the seat for the Saskatchewan Party is school trustee Cameron Scott. The Liberals, Greens and the somehow-not-dead-yet Progressive Conservatives are also running candidates, but should not be a factor. Despite the fact the Liberals got a quarter of the vote in the riding in the 2015 federal election, their provincial counterparts are not well organized at the moment.

There have been no polls published of the by-election race, and there has not been as much excitement as the Saskatoon Meewasin election in the Spring. To me, this is a sign of a probable NDP victory. The last election in Fairview may have been a close one, but it was only won by the Saskatchewan Party because the province-wide result was a landslide. With provincial polls suggesting the NDP is in a much better position, they should have no problem winning the seat. We will know for certain after polls close at 8pm (10pm Eastern).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Point Doulgas by-election: Post mortem

I haven't made many “post-election analysis” posts on this blog, but it's never too late to start, right? As expected, the NDP managed to win last week's provincial by-election in Point Douglas, Manitoba. A seat they have never lost, and which gave them their best result out of all ridings in the 2016 provincial election. Even though the NDP won, the by-election result was a bit of a disappointment for the party, as they won less than 50% of the vote for the first time in the riding's history.

Preliminary results show the NDP's Bernadette Smith winning 44% of the vote (down from 58% in 2016), with the Liberal's John Cacayuran winning 29% of the vote in second place (up from 19%). This was the Liberal's best showing in the riding since the 1990 election. The Tories finished third with 16% of the vote, only down a quarter of a percentage point from 2016. The Greens finished in fifth, behind the libertarian Manitoba Party. Overall turnout was down 10% from last year's election, to just 32%. While bad, it's not unusual of for by-elections to have turnouts in the low 30s, and considering how low turnout usually is in this riding, it's not that bad.

Elections Manitoba published the preliminary results by polling division, which has allowed me to delve deep into the results to see just what happened on election day. I sure hope they used the same poll map as in the last provincial election.
Race and income by census tract (2011 National Household Survey)

Except for the one polling division in the southeast corner of the riding, Point Douglas' electoral geography is usually quite homogeneous, as the NDP has historically swept almost every poll in this riding. Last week's by-election did identify a political cleavage in the riding, that I believe is most likely based on ethnic lines. The Liberals ended up winning 8 of the 40 polls in the riding, and tying the NDP in one other. Most of these poll wins came from the northwest part of the riding, which has a lower Aboriginal population than the rest of the riding, and a higher Filipino population. This part of the riding is over one-quarter Filipino, which is the highest proportion of Filipinos in the riding. Most of the rest of the riding has a large Aboriginal population (with about 50% of the population in these areas being Native), and these areas stuck with the NDP, who just so happened to be running an Aboriginal candidate. The poll in the southeast corner of the riding stuck with the Tory candidate. This one poll is in an area that is very different from the rest of the riding socioeconomically, with an average income of over $60,000 compared to the low $20,000 range in most of the rest of the riding.

The swing map reinforces my theory of Filipino voters switching their allegiances to the Liberals. Some polls in the northwest of the riding saw up to 30% swings away from the NDP. In fact the poll which was the NDP's best in 2016 was even won by the Liberals! That's not to say it was all bad news for the NDP, as a few polls actually swung in their direction. One poll even saw a nearly 30% swing away from the Liberals! These swings to the NDP came from areas that are the most Aboriginal in the riding, and are also among the poorest parts of the riding.

Contributing to the election results was a likely turnout difference between Filipino and Aboriginal voters, as the northwest part of the riding saw the highest election day turnout, while the poorest and most Aboriginal parts of the riding tended to see the lowest turnout. In fact, there is a clear correlation between swing and turnout; areas that swung the most to the Liberals had a higher turnout, while those areas that had the lowest turnout swung to the NDP (or at least had a lower swing to the Liberals).

What does this all mean for Manitoba politics going forward? Well, not too much, as both the Liberals and NDP are leaderless at the moment. However, it does expose a potential ethnic cleavage in Winnipeg's north end, which may cut into the NDP's dominance of this working class part of the city. We've already seen the Liberals not only make inroads, but sweep this part of the city in the last federal election. I'm not saying they will do this on the provincial level, but winning over Filipino voters will help the Liberals win a few more seats in the region.