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).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nova Scotia municipal elections 2012

Voters in Nova Scotia will be heading to the polls tomorrow (October 20) to elect municipal councils in all of Nova Scotia's 54 municipalities as well as members of Nova Scotia's 8 school boards to be elected for the next four-year term.

Map of Nova Scotia's 54 municipalities

Nova Scotia's municipalities can be divided into 3 types. Regional Municipalities, Towns and Municipal Districts/Counties. Nova Scotia hasn't had any incorporated cities since a series of amalgamations in the 1990s. There are three Regional Municipalities in the province, including the two largest municipalities, Halifax and Cape Breton. These are unlike the Regional Municipalities in Ontario, for example, in that they are are no lower levels of government in those areas. They are quite large in size, having been created out of the former counties that existed in their place. Each of the three regional municipalities are headed by a mayor, elected at-large and have a number of councillors elected from “districts” (usually called wards in other provinces).

The second form of municipalities are towns, which are very small in geographic size compared to the regional municipalities and the counties and municipal districts. There are 30 towns in Nova Scotia. Each are headed by mayors, elected at large and have a number of councillors. 5 towns are divided into districts or wards, while the rest of the towns have their councillors elected at large.

The final form of municipalities are the counties and municipal districts. The only difference between counties and municipal districts are that the municipal districts are generally smaller than the counties, having been created out of counties themselves. However, their form of government is much the same. There are 9 county municipalities in Nova Scotia and 12 municipal districts. All but two of these jurisdictions are headed by wardens, while the remaining 2 (Lunenburg District and Colchester County) are headed by mayors, elected at large. The wardens are elected from among the elected councillors. Each county and municipal district are divided into a number of districts from which their councillors are elected.

Now that I have explained how municipal elections work in Nova Scotia, I will talk about the two main races in the province, in the Halifax Regional Municipality and in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Both councils are seeing a reduction in their size. Halifax has reduced the number of councillors from 23 to 16, while Cape Breton's is being reduced from 16 to 12. Both municipalities are also seeing open races for mayor, as in both cases, the incumbent mayors are retiring.

2008 Halifax Regional Municipality mayoral election - results by district

While the mayoral race is technically open (conservative mayor Peter Kelly is retiring), even with no sitting councillors vying for the job, the result of tomorrow's election is all but a certainty. Former Liberal MP Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour) is running for mayor, and all polls show him way ahead. The last poll taken in September showed Savage at 67%. His nearest rival is retired police man Tom Martin at 15% and businessman and activist Fred Connors at 10%. Martin for the record, managed the mayoral campaign of Sheila Fougere (also a Liberal) in the last mayoral campaign in 2008. She however has endorsed Savage. With the mayoral race a foregone conclusion, much of the interest surrounds some of the district races. The reduction in size of the council has meant a lot of incumbents will be facing off against one another:

Halifax's 16 new electoral districts to be used in this election

In District 1 (Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley), two right leaning incumbents (Barry Dalrymple and Tory Steve Streatch) are going at it against eachother. In District 3 (Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage), two left leaning incumbents hope to win the seat, Bill Karsten and Jackie Barkhouse. In District 6 (Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East), left leaning incumbent Darren Fisher is going up against former NDP MLA Jerry Pye. District 8 (Peninsula North) is also seeing to left leaning incumbents go against each other with Dawn Sloan against Jennifer Watts. District 12 (Timberlea-Beechville-Clayton Park West) sees incumbent conservative Mary Wile against moderate Reg Rankin. Only one district lacks any incumbents (District 15, Lower Sackville).

Cape Breton
Cape Breton's 12 new electoral districts to be used in this election

Cape Breton's mayoral seat is also open. 12-year incumbent John Morgan is retiring. The candidate who is widely expected to pick up the mayor's seat is former PC MLA Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North). Clarke left the Assembly last year to run for the federal riding of Sydney—Victoria for the Conservatives. He narrowly beat incumbent Liberal MP Mark Eyking. Clarke's main challenger is activist Rankin MacSween. Only 2 districts in Cape Breton will be seeing 2 incumbents facing off against eachother (Districts 6 & 10), while three seats will actually be open (2, 5 & 11). However, in District 11, only one candidate (long time school principal Lowell Cormier) declared, and therefore he has been acclaimed. The incumbent in District 9 was also acclaimed.

Across the province, 10 mayors have been acclaimed, meaning no elections for that position in those municipalities (Clark's Harbour, Digby, Kentville, Mahone Bay, Middleton, Mulgrave, Stewiacke, Trenton, Windsor and Colchester County). In fact, there will be no elections at all in Middleton and Mulgrave, as the entire councils in those towns have been acclaimed. In addition, the race for mayor in Hantsport will be the only one on the ballot, as the entire rest of the council has been acclaimed in that town.

School board
I wont get much into detail about the school board elections, just to note that there are 7 English school boards across the province and one French one spanning the entire province. Each school board is divided into a number of electoral districts. But, perhaps the most interesting thing about the races are that in the 7 English board races, there are seats reserved for “African Nova Scotians”. That is, if you're Black in Nova Scotia or have children that are, you get to vote for a special African Nova Scotian seat in whatever school board you live in. This is true for all 7 boards, not just the Halifax School Board (most Black African Nova Scotians live in the Halifax area).

Polls close at 7pm Atlantic time (6pm Eastern).