Candidates running in the Oct. 21 Whitehorse municipal election are reaching the end of the long and winding road that is the campaign trail.
This campaign has seen each of the three mayoral candidates — Patti Balsillie, Samson Hartland, and Laura Cabott — take a wide variety of approaches to getting their message out and speaking with voters. Among those approaches for the city’s top job have been making use of social media, advertising, neighbourhood visits, classic door-knocking, answering a slew of questions posed by local groups and taking part in five candidate forums.
With COVID-19 continuing to impact daily life, candidates all took measures to ensure they met with voters safely.
For Hartland, that meant opting out of door-knocking in favour of a neighbourhood-tour style campaign.
Hartland posted dates and times he would be on-hand — usually with coffee to share — at a variety of neighbourhood parks so that residents could meet him.
“It was actually incredible successful,” he said, pointing out that many braved the weather to attend and discuss the issues.
While the three-term councillor described the campaign as being “very different” from others, he noted much of that had more to do with the fact he’s running for mayor than was due to COVID-19.
Cabott opted for the more traditional door-knocking often done by candidates at election time, while respecting distance at the door. Even with the effort to respect COVID-19 protocols, Cabott said many voters were engaged and ready to discuss city issues, some inviting her into their homes.
Aside from the COVID-19 protocols, Cabott said the campaign has not been all that different from the 2018 election when she sought her current seat as a councillor.
While this marks Balsillie’s first time running for political office, she said campaigning during COVID-19 has meant ensuring she and volunteers have a mask when going door-to-door. It’s also meant that supporters of candidates cannot always be on-hand for events they typically would otherwise be, such as candidate forums.
Hearing from voters
Housing affordability and supply dominated the election as the major issue continuing to come up during forums, in individual discussions with voters and more.
Cabott was quick to highlight a number of possibilities she would work with council on to address the issue as mayor. Among them would be finishing the Official Community Plan, which acts as a planning guide for the city; hosting a housing summit within the first 100 days of office; looking at the purchase of land at Fifth Avenue and Rogers Street in the downtown for affordable units, redevelopment of the former municipal services building for housing and commercial development; working to improve development and permitting processes; pursuing redevelopment of some downtown lots; working with First Nations; as well as other potential measures like land trusts to deal with housing in the city.
Hartland, meanwhile, has cited working with other orders of government — specifically First Nations — to come up with solutions and the completion of the Official Community Plan, which will direct land use and could help in re-establishing lot supply in the city for the coming years.
Balsillie has said she would like to see a housing formula developed and underway with other governments.
In an Oct. 19 interview, Balsillie noted looking back on the 2018 election she had sent a congratulations to the new council when elected saying she was looking forward to seeing the city deal with housing, affordability and economy.
While housing sat at the top of the list of issues, many others came up throughout the campaign from specific neighbourhood concerns to climate change, traffic and more.
Balsillie also said mandatory vaccinations have come up during her campaign with voters asking for her position on a vaccine mandate for city workers.
For her, the answer is a no with a caveat: “No, not at this time.”
There would be a need, she said, to consult with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, employees and look at a number of factors such as the possibility of staff choosing to leave the organization over the issue.
“There’s too many variables to say yes,” she said. “There isn’t an easy answer.”
During a CBC forum, both Cabott and Hartland also spoke on a potential vaccine mandate for city workers, with each stating they would look to guidance from the CMOH on the matter.
As the campaign draws to a close
Each of the mayoral candidates say they are pleased with their campaign, noting the work of volunteers and others in helping to get their message out.
“I have no regrets. I’m excited and proud of the support I’ve earned,” Balsillie said, highlighting her efforts to offer something different and unique for voters.
Cabott said her platform was built from the conversations she’s had with local leaders, non-profits, First Nations and more.
“It’s a comprehensive platform,” she said.
Hartland emphasized his focus on consensus-building.
Throughout the campaign he has stressed that the mayor is one of seven votes on council, pointing to the importance of consensus-building and council working together.
Voters can cast their ballot at any polling station. They will be at the former fire hall next to city hall, the Canada Games Centre, Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, Vanier Catholic Secondary School, École Émilie-Tremblay, the Yukon Transportation Museum and Porter Creek Secondary School.
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Oct. 21.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org