Thompson voters produced a basically status quo election result on Oct. 26, sticking with their current mayor and re-electing all of the incumbent councillors that they could, while adding four newcomers to council’s ranks.
Colleen Smook was given a second term in the head of council position, taking 964 votes, about 250 more than Les Ellsworth, who was defeated in his bid to move from councillor to mayor. Ron Matechuk finished third with 388 votes.
Overall, the number of votes cast for mayor was lower than in 2018, as was the total number of votes for councillors. Approximately 11,000 votes were cast for council candidates, which works out to an average of 925 votes per candidate. That means about half of the approximately 2,000 voters who showed up on election day or voted through advance, mobile and mail-in voting didn’t select the maximum number of eight candidates. And although incumbent Kathy Valentino was the top council vote-getter, the second and third spots went to rookie candidates Sandra Oberdorfer and Louis Fitzpatrick.
Turnout was the lowest it’s been in the last four elections, with only 27.3 per cent of people who could vote, not much more than a quarter, bothering to make a choice. That could point in part to general satisfaction or perhaps to a more troublesome systemic dissatisfaction, with many voters having decided that it doesn’t really matter much at all if they even exercise their democratic right, which is an indictment of the ability of politicians and the electoral system itself to respond to the needs and concerns of citizens. To be fair, however, it’s not out of line with voter turnout in municipal elections in general, so one must be careful not to read too much into the numbers.
Keeping the same mayor and two of the four councillors who often voted with her over the course of the past four years means there will likely be at least some continuity in policies from the current term to the upcoming one. On the other hand, the fact that two of the councillors who frequently voted differently than the mayor were re-elected means it’s not going to be a cakewalk either. They may not realize it yet, but if those voting patterns continue in the future, the four new councillors could have substantial policy-shaping power as swing voters. It’s pretty certain that at least one of them will often see things differently than the mayor but the other three are somewhat of an unknown quantity, though one of them expressed support for at least some of the policies that the city has developed over the past four years.
Many people and many candidates have expressed hope that the next council can get along better than the current one but the truth is there have been people on each of the last three councils, at least, who rarely saw eye-to-eye and frequently were on opposing sides when votes were counted. It isn’t pleasant to be a councillor who is consistently on the losing side of votes, for sure, but the reality of democracy is that you only need one more vote than your opponents to carry the day. Nevertheless, with Thompson facing many serious issues, as it always seems to be in recent years, there’s bound to be things that all or nearly all councillors can agree on.