Nova Scotia

Measuring the impact of narrow mayoral wins

When someone just squeaks out a win in a race to become mayor, how much consideration should they give to the platform of their opponent?

For some a win is a win, while others heed the support their challengers received

Cecil Clarke was re-elected mayor of CBRM on Saturday. Despite a close vote that gave him 52 per cent support, Clarke says he won't change his approach. (CBC)

No one is more aware Nancy Dicks did not win by a landslide than Nancy Dicks.

The former town councillor was elected mayor of New Glasgow in Saturday's municipal election by a slim margin. And while Dicks is excited about the win, she's also knows it almost didn't happen. That's because her 45 per cent of the vote just bested veteran councillor Henderson Paris's 43 per cent.

Dicks said the close result will factor into how she approaches the next four years as mayor.

Lots of people wanted something different

"When you realize close to half of the people that voted, voted for the other person, I think that you have to be respectful — what was it in their platform that resonated with people? What was it about Henderson that people voted for him?"

It's a sentiment others involved in close campaigns also share.

In Truro, challenger Keltie Jones once again just missed out on defeating incumbent Bill Mills. Jones pulled in 42 per cent of the vote; Mills took 43 per cent.

For Jones, close races like hers are a message to the winners that a significant portion of the community was looking for something different, which merits the winner looking at how things might be done differently.

The loser can have an impact

She said she saw evidence of that happening in 2012 after her narrow defeat.

"I think that the mayor was a little bit more engaged with things, was perhaps a little bit more collaborative on things and tried to engage on different issues. I think the town was more willing to say yes to some things that were being brought forward."

The veteran Mills said he's well aware he represents a lot of people who voted for other options.

"I will serve them just as much as I will serve somebody who voted for me."

For some, a win is a win

Others, however, see it differently.

Cecil Clarke, who defeated Rankin MacSween in Cape Breton Regional Municipality for the second election in a row, pulled 52 per cent of the vote to McSween's 48 per cent. Despite the closeness, Clarke said he wouldn't change the way he operates.

"I never offered false hope. I offered reality, and people chose at the end of the day — by a majority vote — the reality. And that's what I will be bringing forward to council."

He said he would not re-offer in four years, which gives him licence to stay the course.

"Quite frankly, I'm a liberated person tonight," he told CBC News on Saturday. "I can say whatever is needed to be said on behalf of the citizens of this community because there is no political obligation."

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

With files from Norma Jean MacPhee