By Kirk Starratt
There’s a whole different set of challenges involved with a cold-weather political campaign, say candidates gearing up for the March 16 special elections in District 8 and 11.
Jim Winsor, District 11 candidate, says he was “re-energized” by the recent Supreme Court decision that he and District 8 candidate Rick Ackland were inappropriately disqualified from running in the Oct. 20 municipal election. The decision nullified the results of the election, necessitating the winter campaign.
“I’m ready to move ahead and brave the elements of this winter election to win the right to represent the people of New Minas,” he said.
Winsor lived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, for 30 years, so he’s used to the cold. However, the challenge will be engaging voters at the door for a few minutes if it’s a bitterly cold day. He’s hoping people will recognize the circumstances, both in terms of why the election is being held and the cold weather. Winsor says he has no doubts it will work out and he hopes there will be a few days while he’s on the campaign trail with warmer conditions.
Perhaps of more serious concern is the possibility of a storm day on one of the advance polling days or the regular polling day, March 16. Seniors and people with accessibility issues could be deterred from getting out to vote and there could be a general reluctance for people to turn out to the polls in adverse winter conditions, he said.
District 11 candidate Gary Connolly questioned the wisdom of necessitating a winter election campaign. It could serve as a disincentive to people becoming engaged, he suggested.
District 8 candidate Dale Lloyd said another consideration in his jurisdiction is the geography involved.
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“You spend a ton of money on gas alone,” he said.
Potential District 8 candidate Ted Palmer pointed out that advance polls take on increased importance in this scenario, considering there could be a storm on election day.
“People don’t forget in three months, but you still have to re-enforce the importance in people’s minds,” Palmer said.
District 8 candidate Rick Ackland said early last week he already had 150 lawn signs up, but the ground is frozen and finding placements isn’t easy.
“It gets the fat off you,” Ackland said of cold weather campaigning. He purposefully chose a snowy Saturday, Jan. 19, to visit East Dalhousie. He wanted to do so to demonstrate his level of commitment to representing those in the furthest reaches of the district.
County of Kings Chief Administrative Officer Bob Ashley said in his experience as a municipal administrator, special election turnout is typically lower. He believes this is partially because the results don’t translate in sweeping or substantive changes in the overall makeup of council.
“That said, the piqued interest of the successful court challenge of the two disqualified candidates might actually create more interest,” Ashley said. “This case is not typical, but rather extraordinary.”