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Only five council candidates declared for fall election

Change in nomination rules, dissatisfaction with the last council in 2017, and COVID-19 were identified as possible reasons for the low turnout so far this summer.
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Election signs from 2017, when 25 candidates ran for St. Albert city council. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

So far only five St. Albert council candidates have declared they are running for the upcoming election Oct. 18. 

Though that number suggests fewer candidates might be running for council than the 25 who ran in the previous 2017 election, the ultimate number is still uncertain.

Candidates have trickled in over the summer because this election year has different nomination rules than those that came before it. In previous years, candidates had to declare their campaign the Monday falling 28 days before the election (referred to as nomination day) between the required window of 8 a.m. and noon.

This year, candidates don’t have to wait to file their nomination papers and can instead file any time in an election year up to the nomination day deadline.

Coun. Natalie Joly — who has declared she is running for re-election — said she would not “read too much” into the low number who have declared so far. 

“There are advantages and disadvantages to declaring early or not,” Joly said. “Certainly, this new process does feel more awkward than the last two elections I participated in … but this new system is workable."

In 2013, two candidates ran for mayor and 16 candidates ran for city council. For the election that preceded it in 2010, there were two mayoral candidates, and 13 candidates running for council. In addition to 25 council candidates, there were three mayoral candidates in 2017.

Coun. Ken MacKay, who is also running again, said the increased number of candidates in 2017 “created its own challenges.”

“It just makes it hard to get your positions across,” MacKay said.

As for why there might have been an escalation of those running for council in 2017, Coun. Ray Watkins — who has said he is not running for re-election — argued there were potentially more people dissatisfied with the last council in 2017.

“There was a lot of infighting … so that maybe spurred more people to run last time, but that’s just my own speculation,” Watkins said. 

Similarly, Coun. Wes Brodhead — who has not yet declared whether he is running for re-election — said the 2017 election was a more “controversial” time for St. Albert’s council. 

“There was a sense of discord on council, and there was a sort of philosophical divide within the community about how council should be run,” Brodhead said. 

He added if less candidates ultimately do run for council this year, COVID-19 could also be a factor. 

“For some people, there’s still a reluctance to shake hands and to go door-knocking,” Brodhead said. “What is the campaign of 2021 actually going to look like, and how might a person who isn’t well known get out to see the public?"

Coun. Sheena Hughes and Coun. Jacquie Hansen did not respond to The Gazette's request for an interview.

Mayor Cathy Heron — who has not yet declared if she is running for re-election — said one reason fewer candidates might be running could be due to hardships faced during the pandemic.

"It's been a very difficult year," Heron said.

Rachel Narvey

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