Buckway batters Bourassa

It was inmates and the infirm that set the course for Bev Buckway’s election victory on Thursday night.

It was inmates and the infirm that set the course for Bev Buckway’s election victory on Thursday night.

That first mobile poll, which gathered votes from the jail, seniors homes and the hospital put mayor-elect Buckway in first place, incumbent Ernie Bourassa in second, Ray Kitz in third and Robert Barry in fourth.

And so, the night ended as it began.

Well before 10 p.m., a smiling Buckway flanked by a handful of supporters sporting her Jim Robb-styled Buckway-for-mayor pins, strolled into council chambers to field victory interviews.

“It’s very humbling,” she said of her win.

She took 1,874 votes, about 44 per cent of ballots cast for mayor.

“The voters have put their trust in me and I would like to live up to that, but I hope they’re not expecting miracles,” she said.

Then she turned to accept a victory hug from councillor Dave Stockdale, who won an unprecedented ninth term last night.

Buckway ran on her record, and that brought the votes in, she said.

“People have said to me oftentimes that ‘you’re the only one who’s gotten back to me,’ so I think it was my visibility in the community and the fact that I stay up until 11 p.m. answering peoples’ e-mails, or start at 6 a.m.”

Minutes later, a stern-faced Ernie Bourassa entered the room, acknowledging defeat to Buckway.

“The people have spoken,” said Bourassa, who spent the evening watching the numbers from his Hidden Valley home.

The low voter turnout may have contributed to the two-term incumbent’s downfall.

“You get higher voter turnouts when there are issues and there just weren’t that many issues,” said Bourassa.

“And you don’t get people voting for you, in most cases; you just get people voting against you.”

Just 40 per cent of eligible voters (4,280 of 10,717) cast ballots on Thursday, the fewest in a decade.

“That’s a really terrible turnout, but it’s not surprising,” said Buckway.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the territorial election. Not only did it take some of the potential candidates for the city, but on top of it people get so tired of elections they just tune out.”

Over the last three municipal elections voter turnout has remained at about 50 per cent, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

With council’s byelection 18 months ago, the greenspace referendum vote, the federal election in January and the recent territorial election, Whitehorse voters are worn out.

“Voter fatigue, perhaps, is finally setting in,” Shewfelt said.

“And there hasn’t been any issues that have captured the hearts and minds of the majority of people — there’s been some issues about greenbelts — an important issue, but it didn’t capture the minds of citizens the same way as some of the previous ones did.”

By 10 p.m., with all votes counted, Bourassa had 31.4 per cent with 1,344 votes, entrepreneur Kitz took 18.8 per cent with 805 votes and cabbie Barry trailed with 229 votes, about 5.4 per cent of those cast.

Barry, who hung around to congratulate Buckway and the winning councillors, was magnanimous in defeat.

“It was definitely a learning experience, I had fun doing it, I met a lot people while I was out campaigning and, maybe, I’ll be back in three years,” he said.

Meanwhile, incumbents Jan Stick, Doug Graham, Dave Austin and Dave Stockdale easily held four of the six council seats.

It was a “Janslide,” said Stick, jokingly, of her strong showing in the council pool.

Like Buckway, Stick, the most junior council member, took the lead early in the evening and didn’t let it go, finishing with a whopping 17.1 per cent of the vote and nearly 500 more votes more than the second-place Graham.

All evening, Stick held her hand close to her chest while watching the polls come in, careful not to jinx her lead until all the ballots were counted.

Two neophytes, 21-year-old Jeanine Myhre and 68-year-old Florence Roberts, edged out challengers Brian Eaton and Ron Swizdaryk to take the final two chairs.

“It’s really just sinking in. I mean I never expected to win, I just wanted to give people a choice,” said a shell-shocked Myhre, who arrived at council chambers at nearly 10:30 p.m. after spending the night watching the results come in at home with her parents.

“All I can do now is do the best I can and try to get the hang of this thing.”

By the final tally, Roberts won 2,197 votes and the sixth council seat, squeaking ahead of Brian Eaton by nearly 200.

When asked why she won, Roberts quipped, “It must be my longevity.

“I didn’t do any campaigning at all, it was my friends telling their friends and the organizations I’ve belong to — people know what they’re getting when they see me.”

Between the 63-year-old Roberts and the 21-year-old Myhre, this council will boast a 42-year spread of age and experience.

Plus with Stick’s re-election and Buckway’s victory, that means four of the seven positions will be filled by women.

“Isn’t that wonderful?” added Roberts with a devious smile.

Stripped of his day job, Bourassa plans to reflect and consider new opportunities over the weekend with his wife.

“Does The News need a new reporter?” he quipped, before leaving council chambers for the evening.

“Yeah, as a matter of fact…”

“Well, actually, I’m not really a writer,” said Bourassa, smiling.

The new council will start learning the ropes on Saturday morning with a legislative workshop.

And, Buckway’s first priority is figuring out how the newbies and the incumbents can work together.

“Since I ran on that and I got elected on that, I think it’s fair to say that we need to improve our communication,” said Buckway.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us. There’s challenges, it’s not easy street by any means but we’ll get in there and we’ll work it through.”

The new council will be sworn in at a public ceremony on October 30. Its first meeting is November 6.