Elect Lethbridge is going dark

We have received several inquiries about Elect Lethbridge’s role in the upcoming Federal election. For numerous reasons, EL is no longer active and will remain inactive for the foreseeable future. It was an incredible space for citizens to engage with politics in Lethbridge and the team of Elect Lethbridge editors hopes to see something similar rise up in the absence.

Thank you to each and every follower for the support and the patience! Many of us are confident there will be successor committed to upholding journalistic ethic, provide sound analysis and creating an open forum for discussion about politics in Lethbridge.


The Counting Game

Lethbridge City Council 2013

The Counting Game

Numbers One to Nine:

1 out of 9 members of Lethbridge City Council is a woman (Iwaskiw).

2 members are under 40 years of age (Galloway, Parker).

3 members have no answer or are unsure if they support a ward system (Spearman, Hyggen, Parker – Iwaskiw, Mauro do not support a ward system while Carlson, Coffman, Galloway, Miyashiro support wards).

4 members do not agree with supporting Buy-local or Made-in-Canada purchasing policies (Spearman, Coffman, Hyggen, Parker – all others somewhat or strongly agree even if these policies result in higher costs).

5 members would actively seek a full ban to enforce the resolution opposing the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in drilling for oil and gas within municipal limits (Spearman, Carlson, Iwaskiw, Miyashiro, Parker – others support the non-binding resolution).

6 members support an incentive program in Lethbridge to encourage residents, businesses, and the City itself to reduce their carbon footprint (Spearman, Coffman, Hyggen, Iwaskiw, Miyashiro, Parker).

7 members list affordable and plentiful family recreational and leisure opportunities in their top five priorities for Lethbridge (Coffman and Mauro did not).

8 members support expanding the City’s waste management plan to include curbside recycling (Miyashiro says it’s complicated).

9 members of council have had Twitter accounts (Ryan Parker recently deleted his reducing the number of active accounts to 8).

Top 8 candidates in each polling subdivision

The City of Lethbridge released yesterday the official election results, which include information by subdivision. Councillor-elect Wade Galloway compiled them in a spreadsheet, and I used the results to map voter turnout by subdivision.

I decided to take a look at the information Galloway had compiled to see how the top candidates did in each polling station, and this was the result.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 8.39.35 PM

There are a few interesting things.

The first thing is that four of the incumbents placed in the top 8 at all of the polling stations. In fact, all but Jeff Carlson and Jeff Coffman placed in the top 4 of each subdivision (those two placed in 5th place one time each).

Also interesting is that newcomers Galloway and Rob Miyashiro also placed in the top 8 in every subdivision. Now, not only do we know that they placed well overall in the election, but that they had strong placing in each subdivision, which shows good support throughout the city.

Blaine Hyggen had relatively strong support, missing out on only 4 of the subdivisions.

Interestingly, Peter Deys placed in the top 8 in more subdivisions than incumbent Liz Iwaskiw. It shows that despite missing out of the top 8 in 9 subdivisions, Iwaskiw still had enough runner-up support in them to sneak by Deys and Lea Switzer, who placed in the top 8 in 3 subdivisions.

Also interesting is that Jeff Wall, Martin Heavy Head, and Harold Pereverseff each managed to hit the top 8 in at least one subdivision. Wall and Pereverseff did well on the Westside, which isn’t surprising given that they both live in West Lethbridge. Heavy Head, on the other hand, did best in the area south of Highway 3 and west of 13 Street, despite living on the Westside. In fact, he placed 16th in the subdivision where he lived.

One final thing: James Suge was the only candidate to get only single digit votes, which occurred in the eastern part of Varsity Village.

Voter turnout by polling subdivision

The City of Lethbridge released the official election results today. This included a breakdown of votes by polling station.

Here is a map of the city showing the polling subdivisions and their turnout percentages. (Click on it to go to an interactive Google Maps version.)

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 7.39.03 PM


The lowest turnout was the eastern half of Varsity Village at 16.6%. This isn’t that surprising given that several hundred people living on the University of Lethbridge campus would be technically not be able to vote because they would have no proof of residence.

The highest turnout was south of South Parkside Drive and east of Mayor Magrath. This includes the Lakeview, Farimont, Coulee Creek, and Arbour Ridge communities. There is an assumption that seniors make up a disproportionate share of voters. The city has not released demographical information for voters, but if this assumption is true, it’s not surprising that these neighbourhoods, some of which have large concentrations of seniors, had a higher turnout than the average.

As far as the sectors go, the Southside seemed to have the best showing overall, with none of the subdivisions dropping below 20%. The lowest was 22.4%. South Lethbridge also had the subdivision with the best turnout. It had only one subdivision higher than the city average of 29.8%.

West Lethbridge may have done the next best, despite having the subdivision with the lowest turnout. Two of its subdivisions were over 25%. None of its subdivisions were above the city average, but one was on the city average (Riverstone, Sunridge, Canyon Crest, Paradise Canyon).

The Northside was only marginally worse than the Westside, with only one subdivision squeaking past 25%. It had no subdivisions above the city average turnout rate.

Analysis: voter turnout

By now, most everyone knows that we had fairly low voter turnout this week. A 29.8% turnout is low by virtually any measurement. In fact, when compared to 2010 (which is what most reports have done), it is lower.

But does that give us an accurate picture of voter habits? After all, it isn’t the lowest turnouts we’ve seen, which was in 2007, when Bob Tarleck was acclaimed as mayor.

Here’re are the voter turnout results since 1989, when David Carpenter was elected mayor.

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 9.04.52 PM

As I said, while this year’s election was lower than last year’s, it’s still higher than what we saw in 1995, the year Jeff Coffman and Barbara Lacey were elected, and 2007. Even so, it is clear that there’s a trend of decreasing voter turnout.

Something else that’s interesting is that not only is this year’s percentage lower (29.8% compared to 35.1% in 2010), the actual number of voters who came out to vote was lower (21,726 compared to 24,522), which is disappointing given that the number of eligible voters had gone up by over 3,000.

Why is voter turnout on the decline?

I don’t know. It wasn’t surprising that the year Tarleck had no one contesting his position that the fewest voters ever came out to vote. People don’t see the point when they don’t perceive a choice.

That being said, the trend was already on it’s downward slope, so while Tarleck’s acclamation may have bottomed out the stats, they were already on the way down.

I’ve heard everything from low engagement with voters from city council to every city council ending up being the same as reasons for people not getting out to vote. If those are true, then something has happened over the last 25 years or so to create that feeling among the electorate.

So what do we do now?

Tina Giesbrecht, CJOC’s associate news director, tweeted yesterday asking for ideas on how to improve voter engagement.

The responses were many and varied, including online voting, on-campus voting, fewer choices, and so on.

It will be up to this new city council to follow through on their promises to me more open and engaging with and accessible to the voters. If they can pull it off, maybe we can start a new trend: getting people excited about city politics.

Analysis: councillor results

Our last post took a look at the 2013 mayoral race. Now, I’d like to take a look at the councillor race and discuss a few things that stuck out to me.

Candidate Votes  %
Joe Mauro 11121 51.23
Ryan Parker 9946 45.81
Jeff Coffman 9785 45.07
Jeff Carlson 9253 42.62
Rob Miyashiro 7265 33.46
Wade Galloway 6922 31.88
Blaine Hyggen 6229 28.69
Liz Iwaskiw 5942 27.37

The most obvious thing is that all 5 incumbents were elected. There are some interesting items regarding that however.

It wasn’t that surprising they were all elected given that there was no polarizing issue this time around. In 2010, the ABCP fiasco upset much of the electorate and three incumbents lost their seat, something that hadn’t happened since Jeff Coffman lost his in 1998.

4 of the 5 incumbents took the top 4 spots, but the 5th took the last spot. Joe Mauro is back in top spot, where he consistently placed each time he ran as an incumbent.  Ryan Parker was up from 4th place and back in 2nd place, right alongside Mauro as in the 2001 election. Coffman jumped from 9th place in 2010 to 3rd place this year. Jeff Carlson jumped only one spot from 4th place.

Liz Iwaskiw, on the other hand, dropped from 7th place to 8th place, just barely squeaking by former school board trustee Lea Switzer. Iwaskiw started off in 6th place as the polls started coming in, but quickly dropped to 7th place after Wade Galloway overtook her. It didn’t long for her to drop again when Blaine Hyggen climbed into 7th place. Despite Switzer nipping at her heels all night, Iwaskiw managed to stay in with only 131 votes.

Also noteworthy of Iwaskiw’s win is that, as others have reported, she is the only woman on council now. This is the first time since newcomer Barbara Lacey topped the polls in 1995 that only one seat on council has been held by a woman. It will be an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on.

It was no surprise that Rob Miyashiro won. He beat out Carlson in the Liberal nomination in the Lethbridge East riding for last year’s provincial election and came in third place in the actual election. He has worked for over 5 years managing the Lethbridge Senior Citizen Organization. Miyashiro hit 5th place early in the polls and stayed there all night long.

Galloway was a bit of a surprise. He has lived in Lethbridge for only about 7 years. He placed 7th place (out of 10) in the 2011 byelection, and his network seems smaller than some of the others who won. He has displaced Ryan Parker (finally) as the youngest person on council, and it will be interesting to watch how his past experience as a political watchdog and analyst will affect his contributions to city council.

This was Hyggen’s 4th election (if you count the byelection), and you have to admire his never-give-up attitude.  He wasn’t in the top 8 early in the polls, but about a third of the way, he displaced Switzer and then Iwaskiw. He placed 10th and 11th in the 2007 and 2010 elections, respectively, so it wasn’t going to take much to give him that bit of a push to make it into the top 8. His wasn’t a remarkable campaign, and his forum performance was lackluster showing a lack of understanding of several key issues. He had a big campaign team working behind him, but now we’ll see how well he can work on his own. Hopefully, it won’t take long for him to get his feet wet.

Here are a few thoughts on the people who didn’t make it.

Lea Switzer came in 9th place, only (as we mentioned above) 121 votes behind Iwaskiw. She started strong in the polls at 6th place, but couldn’t maintain it. Once she hit 9th place, she just couldn’t break that 100+ lead that Iwaskiw had on her. She placed 10th when she ran in 2010, and got second place in the byelection. That being said, she had been elected as a public school board trustee and her husband Mark Switzer was a 2001 mayoral candidate, as well as a nomination candidate to replace Rick Casson as MP. Lethbridge knows the Switzer name. She has a good chance of getting on council if she runs in 2017.

Martin Heavy Head placed 13th out 29, which was impressive for a newcomer and someone still in his 20s. The last time Lethbridge voted in someone in their 20s was in 1998, when Parker ran. His age was a barrier from the start, but he was charismatic in the forums and had a good understanding of the issues. He was intelligent and eloquent. It would be interesting to see how he’d place if he ran in 2017.

Michelle Madge took a run at a council seat for the second time. She had confidence she’d place well since she came in 9th place in 2007. For some reason, that same public confidence in here never materialized this time around, and she placed 15th place. She, too, had a poor performance in the forums, showing a lack of understanding of the issues.

All the other candidates placed pretty predictably, with one more exception: Kevin Layton. While he did place pretty low, 6 other candidates placed below him, his best showing yet. This was his 3rd election, having run in 2007 and 2010 (and the 2011 by-election). He placed dead last in 2007, and 3rd last in 2010. With a 7th-to-last showing this time around, it will be interesting to watch if Layton can slowly crawl his way up the polls.

As far as numbers go, while it seems impressive that Mauro received more votes than any single candidate (including Chris Spearman), it was actually his lowest showing ever as a councillor candidate. He received 11,143 in 1998, 15,330 in 2001, and 12,962 in 2010. It was also his lowest showing as far as share of the popular vote.

Parker had a pretty good showing, outdoing his 2007 and 2010 numbers, but falling short of his 1998, 2001, and 2004 numbers.

Carlson, on the other hand, had his best showing yet, beating out his 2007 and 2010 numbers.

Iwaskiw performed the worst of the incumbents. She not only placed below her 2004 and 2010 numbers, she was 1000 votes lower than the last election, which itself was already 2000 votes lower than her 2004 placement.

Overall, on the surface, this council seems to be a good one. It has a mix of new and veteran names, as well as young and old. It also has an injection of people known for questioning, which has the potential for some good debate.

Will we see a cage match in council chambers any time soon? Only time will tell, but it might be one solution to improve voter turnout. Speaking of which, tune in later when we look at voter turnout.

Analysis: Mayoral results

The results are in, and Chris Spearman was elected mayor.

In fact he was elected by a long shot. He took home nearly half of all mayoral votes cast, distancing himself from Bridget Mearns, his nearest competitor, by nearly 3500 votes.

Candidate Votes %
Chris Spearman 9855 46.12
Bridget Mearns 6410 30.00
Faron Ellis 4101 19.19
Curtis Simpson 1000 4.68

Even though Mearns missed her spot by a significant margin, she still garnered an impressive portion of the popular votes, nearly a third. Ellis and Simpson together came in at under a quarter of the votes. She ate at Spearman’s lead all night long, but it was never quite enough.

Ellis had a poor showing by any measurement. Despite the vote being split 6 different ways in 2010, the top 4 candidates all managed to come in above 20%. Given the apparent support Ellis had in the community (including the rumours that he had the backing of the CHBA and that he may have spent up to $100,000 on his campaign), his poor showing was a surprise.

Simpson was a newcomer, and compared to the other three, was relatively unknown, so it wasn’t surprising that he came in last. Reportedly, he had a goal of hitting 1000 votes, and he managed to get exactly that number.

It was no surprise that Spearman got in; after all, he lost to Rajko Dodic in 2010 by only 212 votes. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that he did as well as he did. In the last four elections when new mayors were sworn in, the number of candidates affected the amount of the popular vote each winner attained.

In 1986, David Carpenter won in a 3-way race with 57% of the popular vote. Spearman won out of 4 and garnered 46%. When Bob Tarleck won the 2001 election, 5 people were running, and he captured 40% of the vote. Rajko Dodic won the smallest percentage of the popular vote (only 25%) in 2010, but he had the largest number of competitors.

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 8.18.25 AM

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 8.18.59 AM

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 8.18.38 AM

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 8.18.48 AM

Worries of inexperience plagued Spearman throughout the campaign, prompting him to preemptively address the concern in debates and on social media by claiming his time on the Catholic school board was significant enough experience to prepare him for the mayor’s chair. Regardless, this shows pundits that the electorate doesn’t consider direct city council experience a prerequisite for voting in a mayor.

Spearman ran on a platform of change, and it will be interesting to see how much change he can effect over the next 4 years.

Stay tuned for an analysis on the councillor race.