Busy ward five race sees five candidates race for the finish line
With voting beginning October 14 in the Kawartha Lakes municipal elections, many believe the race in Ward Five will shape up to be as close as it was in 2018. With no incumbent and five candidates vying for the seat in 2022, it is anyone’s guess who might come out on top October 24.
Ward Five was the fiefdom for almost two decades of Pat Dunn, who has decided to challenge for the mayoral chair this time around. Dunn won the ward in 2018 with 34 percent of the popular vote in a tough four-way race, with 2022 candidate Duncan Gallacher finishing a respectable second to Dunn with 26 percent of the popular vote.
In 2022, Gallacher is joined by Eric Smeaton, Gloria Graham-Weir, Janet Di Bello and Wesley Letsholo, who have papered the ward with election signs as far as the eye can see. Unlike some other wards The Advocate has toured, these signs are not sitting on public property, but rather sit on private property giving some indication of the candidate preference of at least one voter at that location.
As we did in the very busy Ward Four, The Advocate contacted all Ward Five candidates asking for information about what their experiences have been as voting day approaches.
All candidates responded except for Duncan Gallacher.
Letsholo noted that after a recent provincial and federal election there is “election fatigue” in Ward Five. Letsholo figures he has visited close to 500 homes in the ward and while some voters are willing to engage in conversation many take his pamphlet and politely close the door.
“There seem to be two camps,” Letsholo said, “the apathetic majority and an acutely engaged minority. I am encouraging our community to get out and vote.”
The engaged minority share a number of pressing election concerns with Letsholo including “the unbearable cost of living, inefficiencies in the building permit application process, lack of support for small business, especially those providing meaningful employment for members of our community, seniors are feeling less safe navigating our downtown due to the fear of being accosted and an unsettled feeling of the rapid growth of our city at the cost of the environment in some cases.”
Letsholo said, “It is not always clear for some voters what falls under municipal, provincial or municipal jurisdiction.”
When asked if he thinks this is a high-interest election Letsholo said, “The interest to vote is profoundly diluted. Online voting is generating substantial trepidation especially among tactile voters. There is still a strong attachment to paper ballots.”
Weir reported that she has received “very positive responses from constituents” she has met during her public interactions.
Weir said that she has a different strategy to connect with constituents in Ward 5.
“I am using social media as a much more effective tactic than the traditional door to door,” Weir said. “When someone contacts me, I take the time and go visit them which gathers a neighbourhood’s support.”
Weir is very impressed how “smart and well-informed” her constituents are regarding what level of government is responsible for what issue.
When asked if there is wide spread concern with the new online voting methods Weir said the following.
“When explained, constituents seem to be at ease in knowing how to vote. No complaints.”
Janet Di Bello
Di Bello has been very excited by her interactions with voters as she has visited close to 1400 homes in Ward Five. She said she couldn’t imagine campaigning in this election “without the face-to-face interaction.”
“It has been incredible,” Di Bello said. “Most constituents are willing to have conversations, provide insights, and provide valuable feedback. I have learned so much and have created some great relationships. I feel Ward Five is excited to see relevant, professional female representation.”
Voters have told Di Bello that “attainable housing, ATV pilot project feedback, rising utility costs, developments of all sizes, planning constraints, inclusivity and safety concerns” are top of mind with Ward Five residents.
Di Bello has found discussing the issues with voters to have been “so valuable.”
The candidate said “that there is a lot of interest in this election and having the 10-day voting period could certainly help” with a higher turnout. Di Bello has heard a number of complaints about the online/telephone voting vs paper ballots.
“Many are not even aware of the new voting process,” Di Bello said.
Smeaton, too, has been gratified by the response he has received at the 3,000 plus homes and apartments he has visited.
“It has been really great,” Smeaton said. “I admit from the beginning I was pleasantly surprised just how willing people are to share concerns and information. It has been enlightening and (offered) really interesting perspectives.”
Smeaton said that there are a number of core issues and concerns that he hears each and every day he campaigns and they include extremely high water bills, mental health, affordable housing, vision for future infrastructure including traffic flow, creative planning, and active transportation and doctor shortages.
When asked if he thinks this is a high interest election, Smeaton suggested the following.
“It appears many people are engaged,” Smeaton said. “The field of candidates are dedicated, hard-working and extremely passionate and I feel the voters are catching a wave of excitement too. But will everyone vote? That is tough to tell, so please do everyone, no matter who! This is a special time to have so many people applying for this job.”
Smeaton has heard from a number of voters who are both pleased or angered about the online/telephone voting options for 2022.
“Yes, (upset) many,” Smeaton said. “I have heard many people very happy as well – specifically regarding the ten-day period of voting. But, I find many seniors for example really nervous. Most people I speak to wish there was a third option of voters polls still – at least as an option for certain reasons. Having said this, families have been reassured to find that there still are stations to help with the online and the voting process.”