WELL THE RACE IS ON for the Oct. 20 civic elections across B.C. Tuesday was the first day those wanting to run could file their papers. Locally, from Sept. 4 until Sept. 14, candidates can file their papers at Kamloops City Hall.
While papers haven’t all been filed yet, incumbent Mayor Ken Christian and two others, Bill Turnbull and Stuart Holland, have indicated they will run for the mayor’s job. There are currently six incumbent councillors, as well as 13 newcomers vying for the job of the eight councillor jobs. Five of the newcomers are women and eight are men.
Before Sept. 14, the deck chairs will likely shuffle some more. There will be some late comers to the campaign, and it’s just as likely one or more of those who have declared decides to back out. It has already happened with one would be candidate, Leslie Lax, who dropped out for health reasons.
The slate hasn’t yet been finalized, but I can say with some certainty how I think the outcome of the election will be.
First, without a prominent community member coming forward to contest the mayoral race, it’s likely that Mayor Christian will return to his role. The role of incumbent is difficult to unseat. While many would have a difficult time to list Christian’s accomplishments in his brief one-year stint in the mayor’s chair, people would be equally hard pressed to name any large controversies. In general, Kamloops politics sails on smooth seas, compared to many cities.
The two challengers Turnbull and Holland have an uphill battle to overcome. Christian has always kept his powder dry, and he will likely want to say as little as possible in this campaign as well.
Too bad, since there are many issues he could come out for, either for or against. There’s the performing arts centre, which is long overdue and looking for a champion. There is the drastic need for more industrial land within city limits, which needs funding from all levels of government to offset the infrastructure. There is the reality that no matter how much Kamloops does for low-income housing, as the towns around us shrink drawing in both rich and poor, and the university grows, there will be a mounting demand for housing at the low end of the price scale.
Christian could use this campaign to move things forward, but with little opposition, my guess he’ll play it safe and keep his mouth shut.
In terms of the council, there is more change to come. Of course, with two councillors, Pat Wallace and Tina Lange stepping down, it’s a given that two new people will join the council. But looking at past elections, regardless of how many incumbents run, one or two of the incumbents get voted off the council.
Kamloops voters don’t have the habit of completely tossing a council, but at the same time, there is a history of wanting some turnover of councils.
In terms of this election, it seems likely that will be the case again. That means, of the six incumbents, four or five will be re-elected, while one or two of the incumbents will lose their seats. That leaves either three or four seats available for candidates running for the first time.
Of the incumbents, only one, Kathy Sinclair, is a woman. In past elections, Kamloops has wanted a balance on council. This bodes well for five new candidates who are women. There’s a good chance two or even more will be elected to join Sinclair.
Kamloops doesn’t just want gender balance. Kamloops voters like a balance in age, in profession and in politics. Councillor Cavers, at 33, is still the youngest councillor, but it may be time to elect someone even younger. The other end of the age line is fairly well covered, but having more people in their forties and fifties on council would strengthen the viewpoints of younger families.
People like a range of professions on council too. There is nothing to be gained voting on everyone who is a small business person, or only people who work in one industry. The issues faced by council go beyond Main Street. People with experiences dealing with the struggles of life bring valuable insights. People vote for candidates of all types of political leanings, if they think they will work together. Those who watched Nanaimo’s council implode over the last four years will appreciate that constant contention is counter-productive.
One thing is certain. After being on the ballot since 2005, I’m going to enjoy being a spectator this time around. There are some great candidates who have come forward, and there is a chance for a strong council. My call is four incumbents, and four new councillors. Without another contender with widespread visibility, I also expect the mayor to retain his seat. We’ll have to wait until Oct 20 to see if I’m correct.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.