Grant Bachand | Team Member
It has been an intense couple of months. The city of Prince George has some new and old faces coming back to city council. Lyn Hall is now Prince George’s new mayor, taking 53.08% of the vote (10,463 votes cast his way). He beats out Don Zurowski who got 44.9% and 8,850 votes. Both candidates came out with strong platforms, and had good visions for the future of Prince George.
During his campaign, Hall spoke of forming student committees to work with city hall to help give a voice to students; he also spoke of being in favor of a student residence downtown, possibly in the new Wood Innovation building. Hall also spoke of working to help revitalize the downtown core and bring civic pride to the area. Instituting downtown foot patrols from the RCMP and creating an entertainment zone were among a few of his priorities he stated during the election. Time will tell if Hall follows through with his campaign ideas, but it is clear that he holds a positive agenda for students.
Zurowski seems to holds no ill will towards the mayor elect; Zurowski was seen shaking hands with Hall and congratulating him on his win. In an interview with CKPG at the campaign headquarters, Zurowski attributed Hall’s win to the endorsement he had received from the labor council, “I think it got tough when there was the major endorsement out by the labor council. That was a critical point. There are a lot of union members in the City of Prince George.” Hall wasn’t the only candidate to receive an endorsed by the unions; in fact, all of the candidates endorsed by unions won. According to CKPG these include Frank Everitt, Garth Frizzell, Murry Krause, Jillian Merrick, Terri McConnachie and Brian Skakun.
Union funding was not the only type of money to come into play in this election. Though it is unclear how much came from the private business sector, historically it has housed huge contributors to campaign funding. It is clear that after tensions between the former mayor and the CUPE union in previous labour negotiations unions will be getting more involved in civic politics for the coming future.
City council also got a bit of a shuffle with Cameron Stolz and Dave Wilbur losing their seats on council. Terri McConnachie (6,580 votes), Susan Scott (6,218 votes) and Jillian Merrick (6,829) received new seats on council. Returning members of council are Brian Skakun (12,674 votes), Murry Krause (10,304 votes), Garth Frizzell (8,773 votes), Albert Koehler (8,022) and Frank Everitt (6,788 votes). Jillian Merrick campaigned with a small budget of only $5,000; she has been an advocate of many issues which are important to students, such as public transit and student housing. After her win, she said to CKPG that it is great that all three newcomers to council are women. Two of the main issues, which are in the immediate future, include approving the budget and handling the results of the fluoride referendum, which the city voted against. The new mayor and city council will be sworn in on December 1.
There have been some shifts in the school board as well. The trustees are: Trisha Bella (7,338 votes), Tim Bennett (5,852 votes), Tony Cable (5,843 votes), Bob Harris (5,492 votes), Brenda Hooker (6,658 votes), Sharel Warrington (6,350 votes) and Bruce Wiebe (5,685 votes). Although the BCTF strike is over, trust needs to be rebuilt between the new school board and the teachers. Both Tony Cable and Bob Harris, two of the new faces at the board table, agree and want to work on that. The new school board will be sworn in on December 9.
One of the biggest victories was that of voter attendance. In 2011, 15,027 votes were cast for the Mayor of Prince George. This time around 19,313 votes were cast. That is a 4,286 voter increase from last election. Advanced voting and social media are some of the factors that contributed to the increase. There was a big push by many different groups around PG to see a larger voter turnout go up this election. Frustration on the side of the voter towards the former mayor could also be a factor; many believe Prince George residents were looking for a major change.
It will be four years until the next election in October 2018. That allows us plenty of time to see what these new and returning faces can do. Students issues are predicted to be more important to this council, as there was a lot of talk during the election about ways to help students.