Saskatoon·SASKATOON VOTES

Here's how your Saskatoon ward councillor is pitching themselves in the 2020 election

"No one is advocating radical changes,' though 'each of them has sort of their own pet issues or agendas,' political studies professor Joe Garcea says.

'No one is advocating radical changes,' political studies professor Joe Garcea says

Several Saskatoon city councillors seeking another term have been out door-knocking in their respective wards. (Twitter)

With one month to go until the final slate of candidates in the 2020 Saskatoon municipal election is known, nearly all incumbent councillors seeking another term have formally launched their re-election campaigns.

Ward 6 Coun. Cynthia Block is the latest to do so. She launched her campaign website on Tuesday. 

Councillors have issued press releases, kickstarted standalone campaign websites and updated their current websites and social media feeds with campaign material, including videos. 

All but four incumbents face challengers as of Tuesday. Ward 9 Coun. Bev Dubois had her first opponent, Carla Shabaga, as of Sunday.

Joe Garcea, a political studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan, and David Williams, an associate professor specializing in marketing at the Edwards School of Business, have looked over the campaign literature released so far by incumbents. 

They both agree.

"No one is advocating radical changes," Garcea said.

"It's all very safe. Nothing too risky," echoed Williams. 

'No major divisive issue' 

COVID-19 and the economic uncertainty is a recurrent theme, "but they don't specify exactly what they're going to do about it," Garcea said of candidates, noting that no councillor has proposed, for example, cutting down on public service jobs.

"This speaks to a broader issue," Garcea said. "There's no major divisive issue in here," though "each of them has sort of their own pet issues or agendas."

Many mention roads or road maintenance in their platforms.

"We have some people who are very much focused on fiscal management and particularly on keeping your taxes low and getting bang for the buck," Garcea said. 

Here's a brief look at how each ward councillor is framing themselves out of the gate, based on their early campaign materials.

Ward 1 - Darren Hill

Ward 1 councillor Darren Hill said his website would be updated in the next week. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

While Hill has previously confirmed he would seek an additional term, he has not yet formally launched his reelection campaign.

Hill said Monday his website would be revamped with 2020 material within the next week. 

No challenger against Hill has emerged as of Sept. 8. 

Ward 2 - Hilary Gough

Hilary Gough says her role as Ward 2 councillor has been 'both challenging and motivating.' (Hilary Gough)

As with other incumbent candidates, Gough's material stresses the need for consistency as the city grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Collaboration, creativity and stability will be key...." she said in her press release. "It's time to keep our focus clear, and set our community up for a successful recovery." 

Gough, who lives in Caswell Hill, joined the Interagency Response to COVID-19, which aimed to ensure "food and housing organizations could keep serving those who need it most."

She held a come-and-go campaign launch event in Victoria Park last month.  

Gough said her team will observe all public health recommendations "while creating as many opportunities as possible to hear from and speak with Ward 2 residents, including door-to-door visits."

Affordability, access to civic services and collaborating on community-based investments in safety and wellbeing are cited on her website as priorities. Gough said she's already tackled "nasty" problems like frozen water lines and draining issues and helped begin "prioritizing boarded up buildings, and the crystal meth crisis, along with forgotten sidewalks so that no matter where you step out of your door, it feels safe."

Ward 3

Ann Iwanchuk is not seeking reelection — the only sitting councillor to step out of the 2020 race — so this ward is up for grabs by a newbie. Four candidates remain in the race, after Devyn Gregoire dropped out.   

Ward 4 - Troy Davies

Ward 4 councillor Troy Davies says he's been happy to work hand-in-hand on capital projects like the newly renovated Shakespeare on Saskatchewan festival site. (Troy Davies)
  • Seeking: Third term
  • Website: www.troydavies.ca
  • Slogan: "Proud to be the voice at City Council for the Community that I grew up in."  

Davies formally launched his reelection bid last week with a press release. His website has yet to be updated with 2020 material.

In his press release, Davies said his top priority was giving a voice to Ward 4 residents.

"Sticking to the basics (safety, roads, sidewalks and recreational amenities, to name a few) has been my vision for the past eight years and my voting history at city council reflects that," Davies said. 

Davies said he was happy to work on some capital project campaigns, such as Optimist Hill Snow Park. During Budget 2020 talks last November, he sought emergency funding for the club that runs the snow park.

Davies remains unchallenged. 

Ward 5 - Randy Donauer

'We need to make our downtown safe again,' Ward 5 councillor Randy Donauer says. (Randy Donauer)
  • Seeking: Fourth term
  • Campaign website: www.donauer.ca
  • Slogan: "Working For You"

Donauer's campaign literature emphasizes controlling spending at city hall and his accessibility to residents. 

"He has voted against tax increases over 40 times," according to his website.   

"In addition to responding to thousands of phone calls and emails, I have visited many of your homes, or met with you in the community," states the community engagement section of his site.

Donauer, who lives in the Silverwood Heights area of the ward, tweeted a photo of himself door-knocking in the Silverspring neighbourhood on Aug. 22.

Safety and economic growth are the first two priorities listed on his platform page.

"We need to make our downtown safe again and get our economy growing after this shutdown," according to the page.

Among his accomplishments on council, Donauer touts "increased road maintenance from $4 million to $60 million."

Donauer remains unchallenged. 

Ward 6 - Cynthia Block

Ward 6 councillor Cynthia Block counts 'ensuring that our historical neighbourhoods are not left out' as a motivator. (Cynthia Block)

Block, who has lived in the ward for 25 years, launched her reelection campaign and website on Tuesday. 

"I've been committed to getting back to basics in historic Ward 6 neighbourhoods, with a focus on essential infrastructure including roads, sidewalks, water mains and flood control," she states near the top of her press release.

"I have addressed parking and traffic concerns, with many new safety improvements through the Neighbourhood Traffic Review. I believe these are the basic building blocks of safe, sustainable and vibrant neighbourhoods."

Block currently has one challenger, veterinarian Jonathan Naylor. 

Ward 7 - Mairin Loewen

Ward 7 councillor Mairin Loewen is the only ward incumbent currently facing more than one opponent. (Mairin Loewen)
  • Seeking: Third full term
  • Campaign website: www.wardseven.ca
  • On roads: "In my time on council, investments have increased in roads, sidewalks, back lanes, water mains, parks and traffic safety."

Loewen, who grew up in the ward, is, like Gough, also emphasizing the need for stability at this time.

"Based on what I'm hearing from residents and the reality in our community, I think one of the biggest priorities for me in thinking about the next four years is helping to guide the city through recovery from the effects of a pandemic," she said in an interview last month. 

"It's going to be a time when affordability is going to be top of mind for residents. It's going to be a matter of balancing our needs as a city in terms of programs, services and infrastructure with the evolving needs of residents as we respond to a period of tremendous economic uncertainty."

One of Loewen's opponents, Carol Reynolds, has said projects like the bus rapid transit service should be put on the back burner.

Loewen disagrees.

"It's not logical to me that we would turn down the offer of an investment in our transit future," Loewen said, referring to federal funding that has been touted as a major source of money for the project.

Darcy Warrington, a public school teacher, is also running against Loewen, who had the highest margin of victory of any candidate in the 2016 election.

Ward 8 - Sarina Gersher

Ward 8 councillor Sarina Gersher says she was raised by immigrant parents and grandparents in the ward's Greystone Heights area. (Sarina Gersher)
  • Seeking: Second term
  • Campaign website: www.sarinagersher.ca
  • On roads: "Notable Ward 8 achievements [include] extensive road repairs throughout the ward."

Gersher launched her campaign on August 25 and said she would not host a public launch event. Her first campaign-themed blog post underscored the reality of door-knocking during a pandemic, including mention of standing "far back from the doorway (much greater than two metres)."

"Masks will be on hand and worn by our team if preferred by the home owner or tenant," she wrote, adding that people can arrange phone calls if they'd prefer that.

"The unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic reinforce the need to build strong communities for all generations," according to Gersher's campaign launch press release. "In Ward 8, this means ensuring that local businesses have the tools they need to succeed, families feel safe traveling close to home, and we have shared green spaces for gathering when indoor options are limited."

Gersher, who has lived in the ward for three decades, cited improving safety and strengthening the economy as priorities.

She said opening the channels of communication between residents and the city, and "sustainable progression on climate action plans," are among her achievements on council so far. She also credited her contributions towards bringing transit service to the new Brighton neighbourhood and "extensive road repairs throughout the ward."

Her lone challenger so far is retiring Saskatoon police member Brian Shalovelo.

Ward 9 - Bev Dubois

A news release about Ward 9 councillor Bev Dubois' reelection bid says 'her experience and proven reliability will keep Ward 9 prosperous.' (Bev Dubois)
  • Seeking: Fifth term
  • Campaign website: www.bevdubois.com
  • Slogan: "In your area listening to you."

Dubois was the first incumbent councillor aside from Mayor Charlie Clark to formally launch her re-election bid, on Aug. 5.

"We have all been through trying times recently, and upon reflection, it has made me more determined than ever to do whatever I can to help Saskatoon rebound, recover and thrive," she said in her press release.

Like Donauer, Dubois said lower taxes are a priority, as well as "improving basic services such as roads and sidewalks, and [ensuring] that residents in Ward 9 feel safe and live well."

Dubois has posted some campaign videos on her Twitter and Facebook accounts, including an appreciation of her ward's Market Mall, where has she hosted twice-a-month "Coffee with your councillor" sit-downs with seniors — until COVID-19, that is.

"I so look forward to when I can do those again after this pandemic has straightened out and we know what we're doing," she said in the video.

Another video post highlighted improvements, including a new playground, at Crocus Park.

"This is what makes my job as a city councillor so exciting," she said. 

Ward 10 - Zach Jeffries

Ward 10 councillor Zach Jeffries says he's voted in favour of 'common sense speed limits across our city.' (Zach Jeffries)
  • Seeking: Third term
  • Campaign website: www.votezach.ca
  • On roads: "A 500% increase in road maintenance funding during my time on council."

Among incumbent candidates, Jeffries is the most specific about some of his goals for a future term.

"If re-elected, Zach will ... ensure that we do not raise taxes to fix the deficit caused by the pandemic. Cutting discretionary spending and a new hiring freeze make more sense than tax increases," according to the "Saving money at city hall" section of his platform. 

Jeffries also promises to "work towards programs to avoid spending tens of millions of dollars on a new landfill."

Jeffries also lists particular initiatives he has voted for or against, including consistent speed limits on or near the North Commuter Parkway (for) and the $87.5 million in borrowing initially sought for the new downtown library project (against). Jeffries and other councillors succeeded in having that borrowing cap reduced to $67.5 million, which effectively shaved off $20 million from the budget. It's now a $134-million project, though some 2020 challengers are still concerned. 

The owner of a communications company, Jeffries launched his campaign on Aug. 25 with a minute-long video that shows him door-knocking from a safe distance and also serves as a loving tribute to the shoes he wore out while canvassing neighbours during his 2016 election campaign.

"This time I even have comfortable shoes to run in," he says in voiceover over footage of him donning new, bright green running shoes.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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