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FOULDS: Kamloops election campaign temperature is rising

We should remind voters at this point that a mayor wields no more significant power than does a councillor when it comes to passing local bylaws and pushing Kamloops in a particular direction
Foulds column head

We are 17 days from the civic election and the city hall campaign has heated up — online and on the phone, the campaign is getting more intense as voting day nears.

Perhaps it is indicative of a general belief that the election among mayoral and councillor candidates is too close to call. Maybe it is a sign that some candidates view others as greater threats.

Last week, I wrote a story about BC NDP leadership candidate David Eby’s visit to Kamloops. At the end of that article, I noted civic election candidates who were there to hear Eby speak, including Kamloops Coun. and mayoral candidate Sadie Hunter.

Not long after, former mayor and former BC Liberal MLA Terry Lake responded on Twitter: “Umm, the same city councillor that missed the council meeting due to illness?”

Lake, of course, is part of a group backing mayoral candidate Dieter Dudy, a councillor colleague of Hunter’s. Another Dudy supporter sent me a message: “So, Sadie couldn’t attend council yesterday, citing strep throat, but managed to get to this event.”

The implication being, of course, that Hunter is more interested in the BC NDP world than that of city council, since she took leave from her first term in council to run (and come within a whisker of winning) as the NDP candidate in Kamloops-North Thompson in the 2020 provincial election.

Even Dudy himself referenced Hunter’s political past and putative political progress in a Facebook message to the masses:

“I have been asked on numerous occasions what my aspirations are beyond the Mayor’s office. I will state unequivocally that there are none. Unlike some, my goal is to be Mayor, pure and simple. I have no interest in running provincially or federally … I have no party affiliations and as such am not beholden to any political bent. … My promise? Once elected my role will be for the full term.”

Hunter was quick to reply to Lake on Twitter: “I did not miss the meeting but opted to attend the afternoon meeting virtually and the public hearing in person.”

Coun. Dale Bass, who is seeking re-election, also came to Hunter’s defence online, inviting any doubters to watch video of that day’s council meeting, Bass, of course, is in Hunter’s corner, having stood with her during Hunter’s mayoral announcement.

At the councillor level, I had one candidate tell me another candidate called to inform him his signs in a specific part of town were illegally placed. The candidate told me he thanked his rival, then moved the signs.

What did he make of the call? He thinks his rival is rattled.

And there have been some lesser intrigue that has come my way, which is encouraging in that there is a bit of an edge to the proceedings.

This campaign is rare in that a new mayor will be crowned, while council will have at least five new councillors and, possibly, an entire room full of new faces. That could make for the widest-open race this century as not one mayoral candidate nor any singular councillor aspirant has been tabbed as sure bets.

My view of the mayoral battle has candidates Ray Dahliwal and Reid Hamer-Jackson chasing similar voters, with Hunter and Arjun Singh — and, to a lesser extent, Dieter Dudy — likely to appeal to another pool of voters.

As of today, I wouldn’t wager on this race as it appears to me to be anyone’s to win. Then again, myself and many others felt likewise in the run-up to the 2005 mayoral election, which saw Lake win by an unexpected landslide.

I have spoken to a few small business owners who have pledged their votes to Hamer-Jackson, citing his desire to focus on street-related issues with his push for the city to explore recovery centre options.

I have had managers of buildings and employees of downtown businesses tell me they back Dhaliwal because they have had enough of the status quo, desire a crackdown on crime and want victims to get as much attention as perpetrators with addiction and mental-health problems.

I ran into a politically plugged-in Kamloopsian at last weekend’s Tapestry Festival in McDonald Park who mused about the eclectic councillor field and suggested Singh’s experience as a facilitator may be just what is needed if the eight elected councillors are as diverse in beliefs as he suspects they will be.

A few other acquaintances said they are leaning toward Hunter or Dudy because they like the council experience and believe those two would have the steadiest hand, be decisive enough and be less inclined to sit on the fence as they work to get things done.

We should remind voters at this point that a mayor wields no more significant power than does a councillor when it comes to passing local bylaws and pushing Kamloops in a particular direction.

A mayor has one of nine votes, with no one vote more powerful than another (though it helps to have like-minded councillors).

A mayoral candidate can make all sorts of promises, but the reality is a mayor is the CEO, or the ambassador, of the city, the person who represents Kamloops when speaking with other mayors and provincial and federal politicians.

Aside from being one of nine votes on council, a mayor has a few individual powers: a mayor can create committees and appoint councillors to those committees. A mayor can also order that a matter be brought back to council for consideration, but that matter would still be subject to the vote of all council. A mayor also has the power to declare a state of local emergency, declare a riot and temporarily suspend city employees, but the fate of those employees still rests with a council decision as a whole.

So, while having an effective mayor to steer the Good Ship Kamloops is important, voters need to realize that if their mayoral candidate of choice wins on Oct. 15, there isn’t that much they can do to significantly change the landscape of the city.

Perhaps those running for office also need this reality reminder as they continue campaigning on the hustings.

Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds