Voter turnout up in some places

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Two municipalities surrounding Thunder Bay had better voter turnout numbers on Monday than they did in the 2018 election.

The provincial average for municipal election voter turnout was 34 per cent (down from 38 per cent in 2018) and only one municipality surrounding Thunder Bay — Oliver Paipoonge — came in above that with 45.5 per cent voter turnout.

Of the 5,212 eligible voters in Oliver Paipoonge, 2,376 residents cast ballots, voting in incumbent six-term mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis, incumbent councillors Bernie Kamphof and Allan Vis along with former Oliver Paipoonge administrator Donna Peacock and former councillor Dan Calvert.

“To everyone, I would like to say thank you to each and every person that voted no matter who they voted for,” Kloosterhuis said. “I believe we hit the 40 per cent-plus (voter turnout mark) of the residents that voted, which is the highest we’ve been in a very long time. It’s wonderful to know that the residents are interested in what’s going on in the municipality and took the time to vote.”

In the 2018 election, voter turnout in Oliver Paipoonge was 32.4 per cent and only 28.4 per cent in the 2014 election.

Although the Municipality of Neebing’s voter turnout came in below the provincial average at 26.2 per cent, new Neebing Mayor Mark Thibert said those who cast a ballot were almost twofold compared to past campaigns.

“It was a very good thing to see the community engagement that was received,” Thibert said. “The numbers which were approximately 700 people that came out to vote in total was probably almost double what we’ve had in prior elections.”

Neebing saw 702 residents cast ballots among the 2,683 eligible voters, according to the Association of Ontario Municipalities’ voter turnout website page. In the 2018 election, only 18.2 per cent of the eligible voters cast a ballot, but there was only a race for mayor as all six councillors were acclaimed.

One municipality and three townships surrounding Thunder Bay had lower voter turnouts compared to 2018.

The Municipality of Shuniah had the worst voter turnout percentage despite a third straight election featuring internet and telephone voting.

Voter turnout in Shuniah came in at 17 per cent as 672 cast ballots among 3,965 eligible residents.

Municipality of Shuniah clerk Kerry Bellamy indicated Friday that the lower voter turnout numbers could be attributed to the acclamation of Mayor Wendy Landry as well as MacGregor Ward councillors Donna Blunt, Ron Giardetti and Don Smith. The only race held in Shuniah was for the McTavish Ward councillor seat which saw incumbent Meghan Chomut defeat Dawn Powell by a 167-120 voter count.

Conmee Township was second in voter turnout percentage behind Oliver Paipoonge, coming in at 30 per cent when 224 residents voted out of 745 eligible voters. In the 2018 campaign, 42 per cent cast ballots in Conmee.

Both the Township of Gillies and O’Connor Township came in with 22.4 per cent as their voter turnout number.

Of the 491 eligible voters in Gillies, 110 residents voted on Monday, while O’Connor saw 141 votes cast among the 630 citizens that went to the polls.

In the 2018 election, their voter turnout numbers were 29.8 per cent for Gillies and 24.6 per cent for O’Connor.

Like Shuniah, Oliver Paipoonge also used a combined internet/telephone voting system on Monday, while Neebing, Conmee, Gillies and O’Connor used paper ballots.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal