Ward 4 a competitive race
What do you get when seven enthusiastic candidates run in the same ward after the long-time incumbent has announced his retirement from politics? Based on what voters in Ward Four are currently witnessing, you get a competitive and contested race that history tells us could be decided by a handful of votes.
Dan Joyce, Jamie Campbell, David Skrabek, Ian Nicolson, Tyler Richards, Angel Godsoe and Trevor Johnston are all vying for the seat vacated by former councillor Andrew Veale.
A drive around Ward 4 last Monday by The Advocate saw few street corners or public spaces not festooned with the signs of all of the candidates. Numerous private homes had a sign sitting on their lawn declaring an allegiance to one candidate or the other.
The Advocate contacted the candidates in Ward 4 and Ward 5, both of which have a minimum of five candidates declared in each race, for a mid-campaign check-up to see what was happening on the ground in these two closely watched races.
This first report will detail what we learned about the contest for Ward 4. Coverage of the Ward Five race will be forthcoming soon.
Five of seven registered Ward Four candidates shared their insights, with Jamie Campbell and Tyler Johnston not responding to an Advocate request for information.
Nicolson, who ran a respectable second behind Veale in 2018, has been pleased by the reception he has gotten while campaigning.
“Generally, most people are pleased to see me,” Nicolson said. “(They want to talk about) roads, communication towers, water rates, short-term rentals and speed limits.”
Nicolson is finding that there is a 50/50 split with voters regarding recognizing what level of government is responsible for what issue.
“I can explain (the differences) to them and it puts them at ease,” Nicolson said.
Nicolson said he had visited approximately 400 homes by September 25 and was finding that there was a real split between those interested or those apathetic about the upcoming vote.
“Once again it is that 50/50 split,” Nicolson said. “(With a move away from paper ballots) we seemed to have forgotten about the less technical community which includes some seniors as well. There should have been an overlap transition that took place before a complete change (to online or phone) giving people time to adjust.”
Joyce, as of September 25, had had the opportunity to visit between 800 and 1000 local homes.
“At 50 percent of the homes no one was home, at 30 percent you get a thank you for the information but no discussion and at 20 percent you get keen interest and discussion about how the municipality works,” Joyce said.
Joyce told The Advocate that he is hearing loudly and clearly that the race in Ward Four is going to be about “roads, roads, and roads.”
Many who engaged Joyce are very concerned about the maintenance of roads in Ward Four.
Joyce said that the city, press outlets and candidates need to “collectively reinforce the ease of voting by phone or on-line over the 10-day period October 14-24. I believe with more educating of the public about how easy it is to vote the percentage of voters will increase.”
Richards has been very pleased with his door-to-door response at the 200 plus homes he had visited by September 21.
“I have had a great response from people all over the ward, from Little Britain to Cresswell to Woodville,” Richards said.
“People feel neglected by the city,” Richards said. “All their tax dollars go to Lindsay, Bobcaygeon or Fenelon. We are left with a pittance to improve our much-needed infrastructure out this way. Our ward is the gateway into our city from Toronto. The amount of traffic on all our paved roads causes significant wear on them, and some have not been resurfaced in 20 years.”
Tyler told The Advocate that the enforcement of speed limits, pedestrian safety and responsible thoughtful development in places like Seagrave are also issues he is hearing as he goes door-to-door.
When asked if this election appeared to be energizing voters Richards said, “Everyone I have talked to has said they intend to vote in the election. Ward Four statistically has some of the lowest voter turnout in (past) elections I am trying to change that by knocking on as many doors as possible from now until the end of the election.”
Richards is concerned that people do not get a chance to vote in-person.
“Online and telephone voting without the option of an in-person paper option disenfranchises groups of people from voting,” Richards said.
Angel Godsoe, former federal Green Party candidate in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock is giving politics a try again, this time at the municipal level.
“I have not been going door-to-door…as I am focusing on (my) business,” Godsoe told The Advocate. Godsoe is a local farmer and horse riding trainer.
Godsoe has found that most people she has spoken with understand municipal issues, versus ones that fall in the provincial or federal purview.
“In regards to the voting format, almost everyone I have spoken with are disappointed with it,” Godsoe said. “People want in-person voting and accountability with scrutineers present.”
Skrabek has enjoyed his interactions at the 300-400 homes he had visited as of September 25.
“Voters are happy to see a candidate putting forth an effort,” Skrabek said.
Voters are interested in talking about roads, short-term rentals and problems with planning and development.
“There is a big concern (with planning and development) whether it is for building, severance or a potential subdivision with concerns about proper infrastructure to develop it,” Skrabek said.
When asked if voters knew which issues were municipal responsibilities Skrabek said the following.
“(I am) concerned how little voters follow municipal politics when it dictates the services you receive on a daily basis including the road you travel from your house to work or the buildings your children play sports in.”
Skrabek believes that approximately 50 percent of the people he has met will likely vote.
“The older demographic has expressed some concerns when it comes to online (voting) but reassurance of the telephone option sets some minds at ease. Others still prefer to head out to the local hall or church to put an X on a piece of paper but there is an understanding of why this makes sense. The only other concern is when they will see their voter cards in the mail as we near the election.”
The last time Kawartha Lakes had a ward race with this number of candidates was in 2018 when Ron Ashmore won a seven-way contest in Ward Six with only 20.2 percent of the popular vote.
Ashmore received 666 votes, besting second-place finisher Pat Warren by only 95 ballots. No candidate on the ballot in Ward Six in 2018 received less than 9 percent of the vote cast
It is certainly possible that a replay of this ultra-competitive 2018 race could happen again when the voters of Ward Four pick their favourite on or before October 24, 2022.