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.