Three ward races to watch in Peterborough’s municipal election
Hall facing strong challenge from Zippel in bid to return to council in Otonabee Ward
The Oct. 22 municipal election is seven weeks away. As is the custom in Ontario, election activity will begin to gather both steam and public attention following next week’s Labour Day – the symbolic marker of the end of summer and the return to work and school. In the City of Peterborough, ten of the eleven current city councillors – including the mayor – are seeking re-election. While that high rate of incumbency reduces the prospects for the election of new faces, there are nonetheless three ward races involving new candidates that hold some intrigue and are worth watching.
In Otonabee ward in the south end, Councillor Lesley Parnell is a two-term incumbent who is considered a safe bet to return to council for a third term. The resignation of Councillor Dan McWilliams has created a vacancy that is being contested by five candidates, including former 17-year Northcrest ward councillor and Police Services Board Chair Bob Hall. Hall’s primary competition is likely to be Kim Zippel, a second time Otonabee ward candidate who finished third in the 2014 election and who is highly admired for her tireless focus on environmental stewardship. Hall has the benefit of substantial experience in campaigning and government; as a supporter of the mayor, his fortunes will be somewhat tied to those of Daryl Bennett. Zippel represents those seeking change and has the advantage of a solid record of recent community involvement. At the same time, she may be victimized by a collective ward reluctance to elect two women councillors.
The race in the downtown Town ward is definitely one to watch. Incumbent councillor Dean Pappas is seeking his fourth term on city council. While he has both loyal supporters and impassioned detractors, he is favoured to win his seat. The vacancy created by former Town ward councillor and current mayoralty candidate Diane Therrien has attracted four contenders, three of whom are women. Among those, Kemi Akapo of the New Canadians Centre has emerged as a favourite of the progressive and union-backed activists in the ward who are anxious to advance minority representation on council. There is also substantial support for candidate Jim Russell, the CEO of the United Way, who not only occupies the same progressive territory, but is highly accomplished as an experienced manager, community advocate, thinker and speaker. The ward has had Conservative representation in the recent past, driven largely by business interests; Conservatives are unlikely to find favour this time .
Ashburnham Ward in East City also offers an interesting race. The two ward councillor seats are held by two-term Councillor Keith Riel and first-term Councillor Gary Baldwin. Both enjoy good community support and have benefitted from a highly cooperative approach to their work with each other. In 2014, a large share of the vote – 44 per cent – went to candidates other than these two incumbents. This time out, there will be competition for those votes from three new candidates, two of whom have the potential for a significant amount of vote splitting. Sheila Wood, a former mayoral and provincial NDP candidate, is an experienced campaigner who will likely draw votes from both incumbents, and may tap into Keith Riel’s vote in particular. The extent of her success, as well as that of Keith Riel, will be influenced by the performance of mayoral candidate Diane Therrien. Paul Rellinger, a first time candidate with substantial media and community experience, brings a very high level of popularity to the race that could easily eat into Gary Baldwin’s vote. If there is an upset in the making this election, it may well be in Ashburnham ward.