Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Saskatchewan municipal elections, 2012

Saskatchewan urban residents will be heading to the polls today to elect mayors and councillors in each of Saskatchewan's 15 cities, 145 towns and 270 villages and in half of the province's 296 rural municipalities and for school boards. The rest of Saskatchewan's municipalities hold elections on other dates. But the major races will be today, as residents of most of Saskatchewan will elect municipal governments to serve for the next 3-year term.

With around 600 elections happening across the province, there are too many races to keep track of, so I will highlight the major races, specifically in the province's two largest cities of Saskatoon and Regina. The mayoral races in both cities are expected to be quite interesting. Regina is seeing an open seat, while Saskatoon's mayoral race is too close to call.


Saskatoon's 10 wards

Saskatoon City council is headed by a mayor and consists of 10 councillors elected from 10 wards across the city. The mayor of Saskatoon is Don Atchison, who has headed the city for the last nine years. Atchison has been a controversial mayor, and has been dubbed by Rick Mercer as “Canada's craziest mayor” (that was before Rob Ford was elected). Atchison is right wing mayor, having been focused on being tough on crime and freezing property taxes in the past. Interestingly, he is running on the slogan of “for a progressive Saskatoon”. His main competitor in the race for mayor is public servant, Tom Wolf. Wolf is an outsider to city politics, but has a good chance at defeating Atchison. He is running a moderate, pragmatic platform that might be considered ever so slightly on the left. He certainly is to the left of Atchison. A poll from last week shows Atchison ahead of Wolf by six points (38% to 32%). There is a third candidate, Clay Mazurkewich who is polling at 1%. 21% of Saskatoonians are still undecided.
Saskatoon 2009 mayoral race

Back in 2009, the last election, Atchison won 8 out of 10 wards in the city against left wing candidate, councillor Lenore Swystun. The two wards she won were in the most left wing part of the city, in the southwest, an area the NDP still holds in the provincial legislative assembly. Atchison did especially well in the outer suburban part of the city, which corresponds to the best Saskatchewan Party areas provincially.

Regina's 10 wards

Like Saskatoon, Regina is also a city of 10 councillors, elected from 10 wards and headed by a mayor. Current Regina mayor Pat Fiacco is retiring, and so the race to succeed him is wide open. There are three main candidates. The favourite at this point is right wing city councillor Michael Fougere. Fougere is the former president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association and has represented the suburban Ward 4 (in the southeast part of the city) on Regina City Council since 1997. The other two main candidates are to the left of Fougere. Perhaps his main rival is Marian Donnelly, the former executive director of the Saskatchewan Recording Industry Association and has deep roots in the arts community. She appears to be the most left wing of the three main candidates. Not to be outdone is the (not to sound racist) dark horse in this race, Nigeria-born Meka Okochi. Okochi appears to be the superstar of the mayoral race, and that could propel him to a surprise result today. He is running a popular, pragmatic platform that is attracting many supporters. Okochi and Donnelly are fighting over the left in the city though, which means Fougere has the best shot at winning over a divided opposition. The most recent poll from last week showed Fougere at 30%, Donnelly at 17% and Okochi at 15%. 25% of voters are still undecided.

Regina 2009 mayoral race

In 2009, mayor Fiacco won the mayoral election easily with 84% of the vote. However, the turnout in the city was quite low, at just 25%. In fact, in Fiacco's worst ward (Ward 3, in the central part of the city) saw a turnout of just 14%! Fiacco had the support of 64% of those who bothered to vote in that ward. Meanwhile, Fiacco broke 90% in two suburban wards on opposite ends of the city, including Fougere's Ward 4.

Prince Albert
Prince Albert's 8 wards

There are three candidates running for mayor of Saskatchewan's third largest city. Jim Scarrow is the current mayor of the city and is running for re-election. He has been mayor for the last six years. His main competitor is 3 term city councillor Greg Dionne. Also running is Dean Link. In addition to mayor, Prince Albert has an 8 member city council, elected from 8 wards. One ward, Ward 7 has been acclaimed.

Moose Jaw
Moose Jaw's mayor Glenn Hagel will be retiring, opening the seat up to one of two candidates. The most high profile candidate for mayor is Deb Higgins, who represented the riding of Moose Jaw Wakamow in the Saskatchewan legislature from 1999 to 2011 for the NDP. The only other candidate running for mayor is city councillor Fraser Tolmie, who is a one term councillor. The council is made up of six city councillors, all elected at-large.

That's a wrap for now. Polls close at 8pm (10pm Eastern).

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