By COLLIN GALLANT on October 16, 2021.
The finish line is in sight for mayoral candidates sprinting toward Monday’s municipal election.
The campaign that officially began on the day of the federal election, will wrap up for almost five dozen mayoral, council and school board candidates when polls close at 8 p.m. on Oct. 18.
Incumbent candidate Ted Clugston has argued a vote for him is a vote for stability and a new push to bolster Medicine Hat, but main rivals Linnsie Clark and Alan Rose say business as its been done at the city needs to change.
But the election that featured no head-to-head debate due to the pandemic has had candidates reaching out to voters in other ways, and left voters to consider a nexus of issues from budget pressure, economic development, planning philosophy and public involvement.
Clugston told the News he’s confident his campaign has resonated with voters toward winning a third term.
“People want to hear where you’ll take the city not where it’s been,” he said on Friday afternoon. “I’m focused on my campaign vision for the future.”
Clark, 40, says she’s feeling “tremendous” support in her first political campaign that stresses accountability and wider consultation in decision making.
“My team is very excited,” said Clark, who plans to continue door-knocking through the weekend and will hold a ‘road-side rally’ on Saturday.
“We’re seeing some really good signs of support and we’re hoping for the best.”
Rose, who has called for smarter spending at the city, plans to host a meet-and-greet Saturday at his campaign office at the corner of Kingsway Avenue and Seventh Street, and will continue campaigning through Monday.
“Most people have made up their minds, but there are a lot of people who are still looking for information before making up their minds,” said Rose on Friday.
Clugston announced he was seek re-election at the January State of the City luncheon, but didn’t start campaigning until early September.
At that point he began outlining business activity in the city over the past term, and published a campaign with two major planks.
A continued push for budget cuts to end reserve spending in the city budget, and a recreation focus that aligns with initial portions of a new master plan currently being developed by city staff.
Clugston supports major upgrades at Echo Dale Regional Park, an outdoor pool in South Ridge and “ice in the North” that suggest multiple developments while closing older facilities.
Clark and Rose say that’s a blow to established communities and major new spending isn’t responsible.
Both have also criticized the city’s handling of the Invest Medicine Hat contract process, which Clugston defends with a recent report stating the city did no wrong.
That controversy saw Clark, 40, launch her campaign, issuing an open letter calling the process was flawed and saying it should be suspended.
She’s since renewed her critique that the issue is a symptom of poor planning and action on behalf of senior staff at the city.
The lawyer, who is on a leave from the city solicitor’s office, has argued that recreation facilities should be maintained and expanded to new communities as part of planning practice. In general, more consultation, prioritized spending and improving how council acts is needed and will lead to improved service delivery and citizen engagement.
Rose was the first candidate to register a mayoral bid last winter following several years of scrutinizing council and city programs as head of the Medicine Hat Ratepayers Association, a group related to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. He says a major revamp of Invest Medicine Hat development programs and a new focus on quality of life issues are required.
Candidate Tony Leahy, a 36-year-old real estate agent, told the News this week he feels his main message that City Hall should dedicate resources to mental health and addictions support has been heard. He hopes that affects decision making by the new council group, whether he is successful at the polls or not.
Michael Starner is also running on a platform of making the city more attractive to young people.