ANALYSIS: What Might Council Look Like After Election Day?

On Monday, this whole Municipal Election thing will be over for another four years. So what might we expect when the polls close Monday night? What might the political landscape at city council look like for the next 48 months? Let’s look at some numbers.

ADVANCED POLLS: Slightly more than six per cent of eligible voters showed up to vote last weekend, which is about is about 2,500 people more than the 2014 election. The ‘X’ factor though is online voting.

In 2014, there were 17 days of voting online in advance of Election Day, and a total of 12,767 votes were cast via the internet. Consider that 432 voters in Ward 1 cast their ballot in person at one of the three physical advanced polls while 2,452 poll cast their ballot online. That’s almost five times as many people casting internet ballots versus physical ones.

Last weekend, according to the Clerk’s office, 5.34 per cent of Ward  1 residents voted in advanced polls. Using the 2014 numbers, there are at least 16,595 eligible voters in Ward 1. (There are more now because it’s four years later, but the City collects voter registrations through Election Day, so the exact 2018 number isn’t known yet.) So, 5.34 per cent of 16,595 is 888, which is more than twice as many that showed up at physical polls in 2014, but about one-third of the number of people that voted online.

Again, those aren’t hard numbers since we don’t know how many eligible voters are presently in Ward 1, but it paints a picture about potential turnout. It seems likely that turnout this election may be on the low side versus the relatively higher numbers in 2014.

Now, let’s look at the individual races.

MAYOR: In 2014, Cam Guthrie beat six other people, including the incumbent candidate, to become the Mayor of Guelph.

Of course, the 2018 race is between just two candidates, Guthrie and Aggie Mlynarz, but using the 2014 vote, if everyone that voted for a non-Guthrie candidate voted for Mlynarz in this election, she would still come up about 600 votes short. In 2014, Guthrie won 50.75 per cent of the vote, with 19,672 votes cast; the rest add up to 19,088.

That’s close, but is it close enough to unseat a popular mayor after four years with no real scandals?

WARD 1: The residents of Ward 1 had the second-lowest turnout at advanced polls this year with 5.34 per cent, but what does that mean? Is Ward 1 perhaps not energized enough to replace their current representatives?

Let’s look at 2014 where Dan Gibson won his first election handily with 27.5 per cent of the vote; incumbent Bob Bell was a close second with 24.46 per cent. Bell saw his share of the vote increase by 4.4 per cent, but Karolyne Pickett saw he share of the vote increase too. Pickett received 22.17 per cent of the vote, which was nearly 10 per cent more than her first election run, and 285 votes away from taking the second Ward 1 seat on council.

The difference this time is that there are eight people running in Ward 1 in 2018 versus five in 2014, so if there’s an appetite for change, it could be defused between six different people. Do one or two of them have enough momentum to unseat the incumbents?

WARD 2: In turns out that Ward 2 is number one! The residents of Ward 2 were the most energized in the advanced polls with 7.6 per cent casting ballots. This should probably be unsurprising given that Ward 2 has one of the two open seats in this year’s election.

Andy Van Hellemond, who secured 27.5 percent of the vote and first place in the 2014 election, is not running this year, which leaves a sizeable number of votes up for grabs. His wardmate James Gordon was a close second getting 25.17 per cent of the vote, and Ray Ferraro was close behind him with 22.02 per cent.

So there’s obviously a lot of wiggle room for a challenger to come out ahead. In fact, there may even be room enough for Gordon to be outflanked by two challengers if he can’t build on his base. That second scenario is, admittedly, unlikely, but if Gordon’s lost support, it might be possible for two new councillors to take Ward 2’s seats in December.

WARD 3: Interestingly, it was Ward 3 that had the second highest turnout in advanced polls at 6.78 per cent. Should the incumbent councillors be concerned? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Remember that it was Ward 3 that had the very close five vote difference between June Hofland and Craig Chamberlain in 2014. Phil Allt finished first with 22.4 per cent, Hofland and Chamberlain were nearly tied with 19.95 per cent each, while incumbent Maggie Laidlaw secured fourth place with 18.13 per cent. All-in-all, a very close race among the four leading competitors.

It’s interesting because six votes more, and Ward 3 would have had one councillor that was more to the right than Hofland, which could, theoretically open up a path to victory for a candidate like Patrick Sheridan or Jason Dodge in 2018. At the same time, Allt, Hofland and Laidlaw all have a similar political alignment, so it could be argued that with Laidlaw out of the race this year, she won’t split the vote for incumbents Allt and Hofland.

WARD 4: Even though Ward 4 has just as many candidates running as Ward 1, it still came in dead last in terms of voter turnout with just 4.12 per cent coming to advanced polls.

Of course, it probably didn’t help the situation that there were no advanced poll locations in Ward 4, but it’s worth noting that even with two open seats in 2014, Ward 4 still had the worse voter turnout in the city overall with just 39 per cent of eligible voters casing ballots advanced, in-person, and online.

So can Christine Billings and Mike Salisbury consider themselves rather safe? In 2014, Billings finished with 24.68 per cent of the vote, while Salisbury came in second with 23.57. The nearest competition was Laurie Garbutt, who finished in third place with 11.38 per cent of the vote, followed by Scott Tracey with 10.64. In other words, there would have be a pretty big shift in the thinking of Ward 4 voters if they’re going to overturn one of the two incumbents.

WARD 5: Even in a tight three-person race, 5.79 per cent of Ward 5 voters came out during the advanced polls, likely, this was driven by civic responsibility as opposed to disappointment in one of the two incumbents. Leanne Piper and Cathy Downer took 28.44 per cent and 23.48 per cent respectively in 2014.

Now in 2014, there was some stiffer competition. Scott Butler took 19.46 per cent followed by Bob Senechal with 13.43 per cent, and Jim Galatianos with 8.81 per cent. In last place was current 2018 challenger Alex Green with 6.38 per cent. While it’s true that all those non-incumbent votes might now go to Green, he’s not that politically far off from either Piper or Downer, and why go with the near Piper or Downer when you can vote for the genuine article.

This is probably the closest you’ll get to a slam dunk in this year’s council vote. Piper and Down will hold on to their seats for the next four years.

WARD 6: The only other open seat in this election is here in Ward 6, and 6.53 per cent of residents came out in advanced polls to help decide who will fill it.

Mark MacKinnon, the incumbent for this seat, got just over one-third of the votes in 2014, and secured the second largest mandate in that election after Guthrie. In other words, there will have had to be a pretty serious change of heart for Ward 6 residents to reject MacKinnon now.

That means the four ladies running in Ward 6 will have to duke it out for the second seat. In 2014, Karl Wettstein got just over one-quarter of the vote, while then-incumbent Todd Dennis and challenger Glen Tolhurst seemingly cancelled each other other with 17.97 and 17.3 per cent of the vote respectively.

If Ward 6 voters are feeling like a swing to the left following in Wettstein’s example, they might go for a community-minded candidate like Dominique O’Rourke or Anshu Khurana, but the more centrist among Ward 6 might consider Stacy Cooper or Usha Arora. In any event, it will come down to which of the candidates had the better ground game, and who could raise the most awareness about themselves.

Polls are open from 10 am to 8 pm on Monday October 22. You can find the full list of polling places here.

Also, Open Sources Guelph will be doing a live election night special! Tune in to hear the results from Guelph, and other races around Ontario from 8 to 10 pm on 93.3 fm or cfru.ca!!

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