Brandon city council will have six of 10 councillors acclaimed in this fall’s election, unless more candidates put their name forward within the next 12 days.
Assiniboine, Victoria, University, Meadows-Waverly, Linden Lanes and Green Acres wards all have just one candidate so far.
Full list of council candidatesWard 1: Assiniboine• Coun. Jeff FawcettWard 2: Rosser• Coun. Corey Roberts• Miles Crossman• James O'Connor• Kris DesjarlaisWard 3: Victoria• Barry CullenWard 4: University• Coun. Jeff HarwoodWard 5:Meadows-Waverly• Coun. John LoRegioWard 6: South Centre• Kim Longstreet• Lonnie PattersonWard 7: Linden Lanes• Coun. Shawn BerryWard 8: Richmond• Ray Berthelette• Ron BrownWard 9: Riverview• Vanessa Hamilton• Tyson TameWard 10: Green Acres• Coun. Jan Chaboyer
"What does that tell you? Is it apathy? Are some intimidated? Some say it’s a thankless job, personally I didn’t find that," said Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria).
Blight, who is retiring from council after serving three terms, said he was hoping to see more of an interest in municipal politics.
"Maybe … people are making good wages, good income and … don’t need the additional workload," Blight said.
City council is a part-time job, that requires a lot of commitment and pays roughly $18,000.
"I would spend probably at least 20 hours a week, whether it was city hall meetings, to committee meetings, to meet and greets … texts, emails," Blight said. "What you put in is what you get out of it."
Kelly Saunders, political science associate professor at Brandon University, said while it’s too bad there aren’t more candidates in the running, it’s understandable.
"It takes a lot of time and a lot of commitment," she said. "People are really busy between jobs and careers and family obligations."
The fact that it is a part-time job brings its own set of challenges, Saunders added.
"Who is actually able to financially and time commitment-wise take on these kinds of positions?" she said. "It’s someone that’s financially established, perhaps later in their career or even retired, someone that doesn’t have immediate family obligations."
Other residents in different groups and socioeconomic backgrounds may not be able to put their name forward due to their particular circumstances.
Having a choice in candidates is important, as different people have different visions. But when there is only one candidate at the table, it pre-empts the ability to have a "good, healthy debate," Saunders added.
"It limits debate, it limits engagement … amongst the candidates as they vie for office, but also with the larger community and the media, because if there’s only one candidate, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about for anybody."
Senior elections official, Karrie Smyth, said people are still picking up candidate packages, so there might be some new faces in the running by the Sept. 16 deadline.
"Obviously we’d like to see a race in every ward," Smyth said. "If the past is any indication, there’s generally some more in the last 10 days so I won’t be surprised if there are more."
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said there has been a "perception that there may be a groundswell of discontent" around the performance of the current council.
"With ... half the councillors being acclaimed, I think that puts that perception to rest," she said. "Obviously the residents in those wards are very happy with the performance and the accomplishment of their councillors."
Decter Hirst hopes to see the candidate field fill out a bit over the next few weeks.
"Elections are always about choice and I’m surprised to think that there’s not someone out there in Brandon that has an idea that they want to share with the rest of the community, as part of the election debate."
Mayoral candidate Rick Chrest said the lack of candidates is a concern.
"I really think that residents of every ward should be entitled to a choice so I’m hopeful … we’re going to get that all filled out," he said.
Mayoral candidate Mark Kovatch says the lack of candidates shows the amount of discouragement there is with the political system at the moment.
Kovatch pointed to the overall voter turnout in 2010, which was a "dismal" 46 per cent.
"The problem is, people don’t feel that they can make a difference," he said. "They see folks get elected and specific interests of groups get taken care of but not everyone in general. It’s hard for someone to have faith in a system and participate in it when they don’t feel like they’re getting any results."
Rosser Ward currently has four candidates, while South Centre, Richmond and Riverview wards all have two.
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Full list of council candidates
Ward 1: Assiniboine
• Coun. Jeff Fawcett
Ward 2: Rosser
• Coun. Corey Roberts
• Miles Crossman
• James O’Connor
• Kris Desjarlais
Ward 3: Victoria
• Barry Cullen
Ward 4: University
• Coun. Jeff Harwood
• Coun. John LoRegio
Ward 6: South Centre
• Kim Longstreet
• Lonnie Patterson
Ward 7: Linden Lanes
• Coun. Shawn Berry
Ward 8: Richmond
• Ray Berthelette
• Ron Brown
Ward 9: Riverview
• Vanessa Hamilton
• Tyson Tame
Ward 10: Green Acres
• Coun. Jan Chaboyer
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 5, 2014