Thunder Bay·In Depth

Familiar faces return to Thunder Bay city council, but voters also show desire for change

Voters in Thunder Bay have shown their desire for familiar faces around the city council table for the next four years, re-electing Ken Boshcoff and seven incumbent candidates. But the municipal election results also reflect an appetite for change.

Experienced politicians all won seats, but candidates urging change earned thousands of votes

Shelby Ch'ng reacts to the voting results at an election night party at the Red Lion pub late Monday night. She's one of seven councillors who've earned a return trip to Thunder Bay, Ont., council. (Marc Doucette/CBC)

Voters in Thunder Bay, Ont., have shown they want familiar faces around the city council table for the next four years.

Mayor-elect Ken Boshcoff is among the well-known politicians at City Hall, having served seven terms as a councillor and sitting in the mayor's seat from 1997 to 2003.

All seven incumbents who ran for their second, third — or even fifth — terms as municipal politicians will fill the majority of the 13 council seats following Monday's election. Five new representatives will join them.

While voter turnout dropped to a level not seen in the northwestern Ontario city since 2006, and the vast majority of councillors are returning, the resuls indicate a strong desire for change — especially when it comes to the mayor's job.

Gary Mack, who ran as a change candidate, earned 12,145 votes and lost the mayor's seat by fewer than 1,400. That's equivalent to less than three per cent of the popular vote.

"I heard at the doors over and over that people want change at city council, that we wanted crime, homelessness and our roads addressed in a big way," Mack said after the results were finalized.

"Half the people said they want something different. Half the people said they want the same old," he said. "Thunder Bay's in trouble. I think we're in a crisis."

The new council will certainly feel the pressure from the public to take urgent action on major files, from addictions and homelessness to policing

"I am sick of watching friends die [from overdoses], and it needs to change," said Noah Siren, a Lakehead University student in his fourth year studying political science.

"My message [to the newly elected council members] would be to hit the ground running — be that contagious attitude for change that everybody wants."

Simran Talpade and Noah Siren, left to right, are political science students at Thunder Bay's Lakehead University. Both hope to see change during the upcoming city council term. (Logan Turner/CBC)

Simran Talpade, a second-year political science student, agreed with Siren.

"Change is what we're really looking for here. There's a lot of momentum gained with the campaigns, and it would be wonderful to see some new changes," she told CBC's Superior Morning on Tuesday.

Shelby Ch'ng, who was elected as an at-large councillor Monday night after two previous terms as the representative for the Northwood ward, seemed to capture that energy.

"I'm ready to hit the ground running … we've got some really heavy rocks to lift," she said after locking in her spot on council. She added there is a lot of work to do on the city's police board, and she hopes to keep her seat on it.

Andrew Foulds, re-elected for a fifth term in the Current River ward, expressed a similar sentiment.

"The climate crisis, poverty, homelessness, addictions, mental health, infrastructure gap — these are very serious issues and we need to meet those head on, and I think we need to be bold in the next four years."

By several measures, challenges in the city have worsened the past few years.

Thunder Bay has a drug overdose crisis that is among the worst in Canada, a policing service facing crises from all directions, gun and gang activity that officials say is on the rise, and 12 homicides in 2022 — more than any other year in recent memory.

The last city council did make some headway on the addictions and homelessness challenges, approving a $1-million reserve fund that can be used for capital projects or other community initiatives to tackle homelessness and poverty.

"We've got to try something different. We've got to bring the [federal government] and the province together in a greater way and show a bit of leadership here," Mark Bentz, who was re-elected as an at-large councillor Monday, told CBC News when the motion was passed in May of this year. 

He said he hoped some of the money could go toward building transitional housing for people experiencing homelessness.

WATCH | Ken Boshcoff reacts to Monday night's win

'An interesting finish, right to the wire': Ken Boshcoff holds on in tight Thunder Bay mayoral race

5 months ago
Duration 4:52
Ken Boschoff reacts to his election night victory over challenger Gary Mack. It'll be the third time he's held office, though he was last mayor of the northwestern Ontario city nearly 20 years ago.

There is also serious concern for this winter, with a number of encampments in the city and at least three street outreach services closing down due to a lack of staff and funding.

Boshcoff has said he expects city councillors to start work right away on the new budget, but whether and how they choose to use that fund remains to be seen.

While many of the councillors have worked together previously, it remains to be seen whether they will be able to unite to advance critical projects and initiatives.

Previous iterations of city council indicated an indoor turf facility would be a priority as far back as January 2018, but the project didn't advance — in part due to the pandemic — to the construction phase.

The previous city council had also been divided on a decision to build a new, centralized police headquarters — which at last estimate could cost up to $56 million.

After his mayoral win Monday, Boshcoff addressed some of the divisions and delays during the last council's term.

"We're going to take all those reports that have been piling up over the past number of years. We're going to see what's working and what hasn't, and try to get some results," said Boshcoff.

"I think a really fresh approach with some experienced eyes is going to say, 'Are we just to have a meeting once a month, or are we actually going to make some yards on this stuff?'" 

That may have been a rhetorical question, but it's likely voters will be looking for an answer.


Logan Turner


Logan Turner has been working as a journalist for CBC News, based in Thunder Bay, since graduating from journalism school at UBC in 2020. Born and raised along the north shore of Lake Superior in Robinson-Superior Treaty Territory, Logan covers a range of stories focused on health, justice, Indigenous communities, racism and the environment. You can reach him at

With files from Sara Kae