A homebuilder is now Morinville’s mayor-elect after swamping Barry Turner beneath a tidal wave of votes.
Unofficial election results released late Oct. 18 showed Pleasant Homes owner Simon Boersma as the winner of the 2021 Morinville mayoral race with 1,681 votes — more than twice the 733 received by incumbent Turner.
Incumbents Nicole Boutestein and Sarah Hall were also swept from office, ousted by newcomers Jenn Anheliger, Maurice St. Denis, and Ray White. Incumbents Rebecca Balanko, Stephen Dafoe, and Scott Richardson held onto their seats.
Economics of victory
Boersma was one of the first people to learn the results of the election, being one of the few candidates stationed at the Community Cultural Centre where returning officer Melodie Steele was counting the ballots.
“I was trying not to make any faces,” he said, as at first he wasn’t sure if he had won based on the initial results.
Once the final numbers came in, Boersma said he called his son to give him the news, then joined his campaign team at the Pleasant Homes office, the members of which could be heard laughing and congratulating him in the background when The Gazette called him.
“I was so overwhelmed and thankful and appreciative of the community that basically put their names behind me,” Boersma said.
Boersma said this vote shows Morinville residents want change and support his plans for a graduated tax for new businesses and an end to frivolous spending. It also shows a strong rejection of the fiscal strategy implemented by Turner and others on the last council.
“That three-per-cent-[tax-hike]-for-25-years program can’t happen,” he said, describing in broad terms the last council’s plans to address the town’s deficit, “and that’s what the community told me. We need to make sure we have budgets that line up with the taxes.”
Boersma said he plans to talk with the rest of council to hear what they heard from residents over the next few days, and thanked everyone for coming out to vote.
Reached at home by phone, a subdued Turner said he was surprised by his loss, as he thought his chances were good based on what he had heard door-knocking.
“I don’t have any regrets about my time spent in service to Morinville, and I wish the successful council well,” he said.
Turner acknowledged that the election results seemed to be a repudiation of his economic policy. To him, the campaign had given residents a choice between cutbacks and maintaining the town’s quality of life.
“There’s going to be some very hard choices for the new council,” he said.
“I’m certainly concerned what that means for programs and services in the community.”
Turner said he had no regrets over his time in office, but was not yet sure if he would run again. He thanked everyone who had supported him during his 20 years in office.
Shane Ladouceur came last in the mayoral race with about eight per cent of the popular vote (206 votes).
Ladouceur, who had not heard the election results when reached by The Gazette, said he was just glad to be part of the race, and hopes the new council will take up some of his ideas. He plans to spend his immediate future recovering from back surgery and to stay active in municipal and provincial politics in the years ahead.
New and old faces
St. Denis was the top vote-getter in the council race, earning 1,568 votes. He credited this result to his enthusiastic campaign team, which helped him visit almost every home in town.
“I think we were probably about 100 short in the end,” he said.
“I’m humbled and honoured to have this opportunity to serve my community for the next four years.”
Once the new council comes together as a team, St. Denis said his top priority will be to address traffic safety concerns at the Highway 642/Grandin Drive intersection.
Dafoe won the most votes among the incumbents, with 1,491, and placed third overall, coming in behind Ray White with 1,512.
Dafoe said may people told him they were surprised he didn’t come in first.
“I thought I was going to come in seventh!” he said, laughing.
Dafoe said he is excited to see a solid mix of old veterans and new blood on the new council.
“I’m happy I still have the confidence of the people here,” he said, adding that the best way to campaign is to do the work for four years, not just four weeks.
Dafoe said the election results may have been a backlash to council’s decision to raise taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic. A zero-per-cent hike would have added to the deficit, but it would also have shown symbolic support for the community.
Town officials pegged voter turnout for this election at 34.65 per cent — considerably more than the 23 per cent of voters who came out in 2017.
Dafoe said town chief administrative officer Stephane Labonne handed the new council their orientation papers Monday night and asked them to report to town hall Oct. 21 for orientation.
Morinville town council next meets Oct. 26.