The question of when Thompson would finally find out who will serve the city as the eighth member of city council – barring another tie vote – was finally official answered Jan. 18, when the city announced that a byelection would be held March 11.
It took a little over 12 weeks since the general election last Oct. 24 for the date of the upcoming byelection to be officially established and, by the time that voters make their choice – again, barring another tie vote – it will have been more than 19 weeks since they last cast a ballot. Or, to put it in other terms, daylight savings time will have ended and started up again while the last spot on council was vacant.
What can we expect to happen?
The last time Thompson had a council byelection was almost 10 years ago, when Erin Stewart beat out Luke Robinson, Margaret Allan, Khaled Hassanien and Peter Fancy with a grand total of 218 votes. No, there isn’t a one missing from that number. Stewart, who was re-elected to a four-year term in the October 2010 general election (which also saw Luke Robinson elected), was the only candidate to receive more than 200 votes in the five-way race, with two of the candidates polling less than 100 votes. Overall, 673 Thompson residents voted in the byelection, a voter turnout of 7.5 per cent, lower than the 8.1 per cent who voted in a 1978 byelection, or the 15.8 and 13.6 per cent who voted in a pair of 1976 byelections. Prior to the 2009 vote, the last byelection was in 1991, when about 20 per cent of Thompson voters cast ballots. In other words, it probably won’t take 1,010 votes to win this time around, like it would have in October.
It will be interesting to see how many of the 13 unsuccessful council candidates in the general election, a number that includes Chiew Chong and Andre Proulx, whose tie vote – 1,008 votes on election night, 1,009 votes in the judicial recount – decide to throw their hats into the ring again. Based on the results of the Oct. 24 election, less than half of them – incumbent Blake Ellis and newcomers Adey Adeyemi, Bryan Young, Serena Puranen and Malanie Cutler – were within reasonable striking distance of Chong and Proulx, between 124 and 272 votes behind. Presumably, the two candidates who tied will be likely to seek the seat again but might there also be some candidates who were not on the ballot last time around? Might former councillors Ron Matechuk and Penny Byer, both of whom lost out to fellow former councillor Colleen Smook in the mayoral race, seek to regain their old positions? Are there people who didn’t run in the last election who might suddenly feel like they might like to take a stab at politics?
It’s pretty much impossible to predict what sort of issues might be debated in the upcoming campaign, if there are any at all. Generally speaking, there wasn’t one dominant issue in the Oct. 24 election. It will be up to whoever decides that they want to run again to frame the debate, and whoever can garner the most attention, or perhaps whoever has the most relatives, friends, supporters and sympathizers, might find themselves in a position of relative power come mid-March.