Laura Cabott (second from left) celebrates with supporters as election results come in on Oct. 21. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Laura Cabott wins mayoral race in Whitehorse

Stephanie Waddell, Haley Ritchie & John Tonin

News Reporters

Laura Cabott has won the mayoral race in Whitehorse.

Cabott finished with 43 per cent, or 2,897 votes, with all polls reporting just after 9 p.m. on Oct. 21.

She beat out competitors Samson Hartland and Patti Balsillie for the city’s top council position. The results are still unofficial until they are validated.

Balsillie finished the night with 1,942 votes, or 28.8 per cent, in her favour while Hartland finished with 1,898 votes, or 28.2 per cent.

“I’m ready,” Cabott said as polls closed.

At a small gathering in Copper Ridge, surrounded by supporters who repeatedly referred to her as Mayor Cabott with the results clear in her victory, Cabott was quick to thank her supporters in a brief speech before heading down to Whitehorse City Hall.

“I had the best team,” she said. “We have some seasoned people on this team that have never been involved in the campaign … and that really, really, was very heartening for me.”

As the first polls showed a strong lead, Cabott said she was “cautiously optimistic.” As the night continued, she maintained her lead until the final poll came in from Whitehorse City Hall, cementing her title as mayor-elect.

Cabott launched her campaign for mayor in May, emphasizing her role as a city councillor since 2018 along with other leadership roles she’s had over the years.

She was the final mayoral candidate to announce her campaign. Hartland, a fellow councillor in his third term of office, announced his plans to seek the mayoralty in March with Balsillie launching her campaign in late January.

It was in the previous election in 2018 that Cabott and Hartland took the third and fourth seats on council, with just a little more than 200 votes between them. Cabott finished that election with 2,752 votes and Hartland at 2,548.

The mayor-elect said she is ready to get to work and already knows her first order of business.

On Oct. 22, she said she will be reaching out to the six councillors elected to the term — Mellisa Murray, Michelle Friesen, incumbents Dan Boyd and Jocelyn Curteanu, Ted Laking and Kirk Cameron.

She described the council as a “fantastic group of people.”

“I honestly love the fact that it is a broad, across-the-political-spectrum group of people,” she said.

With all but Boyd and Curteanu being new to council, Cabott told reporters she wants to make sure council has the tools and support they need as they transition to their new roles.

“It’s a steep learning curve,” she said, noting the weekend will be a busy one for the new council with orientation beginning Saturday.

She noted there are some issues that need attention and work to address those will also get underway. Among those issues are housing, reconciliation and climate change.

As Cabott noted with a term of three years “starting that dialogue early on is important.”

As council moves forward, strategic planning will also get underway which will help determine the direction city council goes over the next three years.

The new council will be sworn in on Nov. 1.

Cabott is a lawyer with the firm Cabott & Cabott, and is also chair of the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Mayoral candidate Patti Balsillie braces herself beside her daughter as the room waits for the results to come in. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Patti Balsillie “will be back”

After hearing the final results standing beside her daughter, Balsillie addressed a crowd of friends and family at Joe’s Wood Fired Pizza. Amid applause and hugs, she congratulated her opponents but also warned that she will be back in three years for a rematch.

“No regrets,” she told the small crowd inside the restaurant who gave her a standing ovation. “I congratulate the new leaders for mayor and council. They have a lot of work ahead of them. I never want to stop being involved and caring deeply about building our community. Stand by mayor and council, because we will be deeply engaged.”

Balsillie said told the News she felt the experience of the campaign was “beautiful.”

“The feedback that I received and the idea that I wanted to set a bar — that we need change and we can refresh and innovate and do something really leader-like — resonated. People wanted that and they believed in my candidacy, and I think they still want that.”

“[Cabott] needs to make sure she steps up because I will be back,” she said.

Hartland comes third in mayor race

Three-time councillor Samson Hartland received 28.2 per cent of the vote in Whitehorse’s mayoral race — putting him in third place behind Patti Balsillie and mayor-elect Laura Cabott.

Hartland spent the evening watching the results roll in with his family. Although it wasn’t the result he was hoping for, Hartland said he felt he ran a “spectacular campaign.”

“To be honest, the other two, we knew that they were formidable candidates,” said Hartland. “So win, lose or draw, I had already arrived at the fact that the city was going to be in good hands one way or the other.”

It was an honour, he said, to run against Cabott and Balsillie.

“It was a privilege to run alongside a couple of very capable, intelligent, professional people,” said Hartland. “Laura definitely possesses strong leadership qualities that will benefit the city.”

Hartland first became a city councillor in the early 2000s before taking a 12-year break.

“I’ll miss the colleagues and the folks that work for the city,” said Hartland. “There are some great people there. We will definitely be making a visit tomorrow to say goodbye to everybody.”

In defeat, Hartland said this will allow him the opportunity to spend more time with the family but he hasn’t shut the door on a return to municipal politics.

“It’s time for me to focus on things that are a little more closer to home and one step at a time,” said Hartland. “But, I never want to close any doors.”

The only disappointment Hartland said he was feeling was that he let his supporters down.

“That’s the only part I have to work myself through,” said Hartland. “But, it’s always been service above self and I’m proud of my track record.”

Contact the newsroom at editor@yukon-news.com

Municipal election