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).