October 22nd, 2021

Mayoral candidates enter home stretch

By COLLIN GALLANT on October 13, 2021.

Medicine Hat's five mayoral candidates have entered the final week of campaigning.--NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GALLANT

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Medicine Hat’s three main mayoral candidates are stressing what they see as their strengths heading into the final week of the civic election campaign, while another says he’s happy to have made his points about mental health and social services.

Tony Leahy told the News on Tuesday that he’s not conceding the race that concludes next week but is realistic about his chances of being elected to the top position.

“I have a good feeling that there will be change with the next council, which is why I got into the race,” said the 36-year-old realtor. “But I’m not sure if that will be with me as mayor.”

Leahy, a local realtor, had made an increased effort by the city to tackle mental health and addictions supports a main campaign plank.

This summer he talked openly about a family member who Leahy says is suffering from an opioid dependency, friends that committed suicide in the last two years and his own struggle with panic attacks.

He said this week he “absolutely” believes Hatters have responded to his message, and a number of strong council candidates align with his stance and the field is receptive.

Speaking earlier in the day with the News, incumbent candidate Ted Clugston said he is stressing his track record and experience to voters, while his main challengers, Alan Rose and Linnsie Clark, remain critical of how city hall has been run over the last term.

They promise better decision making, better community engagement and more transparency at city Hall.

“Experience does matter and people like my business approach,” said Clugston, citing power-plant expansion, berm completion and other council moves.

“I’ve focused on the high road. I haven’t gone after my opponents, but have focused on my platform … I have had some successes, believe it or not.”

He added that some of the more controversial issues – such as public ownership of utilities and new vs. old recreation facilities – haven’t yet been decided.

Rose, who has been a longstanding critic of city hall as head of the Medicine Hat Ratepayers Association, says change is needed after the collapse of the petroleum division, poor operating results at Co-op Place and issues with Invest Medicine Hat.

But, he says he doubts Clark’s ability to take on bureaucracy at city hall or enact the sort of transparency and collaborative platform she’s promised.

“All the big stuff has happened right out in the open, but city hall buffaloes you,” said Rose, arguing his background in substantial petrochemical project development makes him uniquely qualified in the mayoral field.

The city should have taken a stronger lead on COVID response, he said, and hasn’t been forthcoming about effects of the “Waterfront District.”

Clark, a 40-year-old lawyer, says she got into the race due to poor decision making at the city. She is on unpaid leave from the city solicitor’s office and argued she can bring in a collaborative process to prioritize projects and programs for the benefit of the community.

“Hatters have that desire for change and that aligns with my vision for the city: transparency, accountability and data-driven decision making,” she said.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support, and I feel very blessed.”

Michael Starner is also a candidate for Medicine Hat’s top elected office when the general voting takes place on Monday, October 18.

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