EDITOR – TODD LIHOU: Some names to watch as the campaign begins

Like my old high school history teacher, Bill Metcalfe, used to say: “You can’t tell the players without a program.”

The numbers alone suggest the 2014 municipal election here in Fun City could be a dog-eat-dog battle, with 29 councillor candidates vying for just 10 seats at the council table.

Reality, though, is likely to be much different.

There will be one new face because Denis Thibault won’t be returning to council, deciding to end a successful run at city hall.

The balance of the incumbents are running against 20 others who want to change the political landscape in Cornwall.

How successful they will be remains to be seen, but if I had to look into my crystal ball I can see at least two others being shown the door Oct. 27. Maybe three, depending on how angry voters are on election day.

At the risk of singling out specific individuals (anytime you do that it has the appearance of an attack as opposed to opinion) I see a steep challenge ahead for incumbents including long-time councillors like Syd Gardiner, Andre Rivette and perhaps even Denis Carr.

When you have been around for as long as those councillors there is often a challenge to remain relevant in the face of new people who bring fresh ideas.

On the flipside, have rookie councillors like Gerry Samson, David Murphy and Maurice Dupelle done enough to secure re-election?

Based on the track record of council, and some of the sentiment I am hearing from voters, I can see as many as three incumbents cast aside by voters, which begs the question: who will replace them?

Of the 20 other candidates I see six, maybe seven legitimate contenders amidst a field of others who haven’t paid their dues or lack the experience to be given such an influential job.

In no particular order candidates to watch in this election include Guy St-Jean, Justin Towndale, Todd Bennett, Alyssa Blais, Mark MacDonald and Claude McIntosh.

I’m not saying they’re all going to win, obviously, but this race looks be a case of half a dozen people with a shot at filling as many as three available spots at the table.

Towndale offers one of the younger perspectives of the councillors who have put their name forward. He’s also got some experience, after working as a staffer for political heavyweights at Queen’s Park. He has yet to make any public comments, outside of issuing some press material, so seeing him live will offer some insights.

Guy St-Jean is someone who appears to have a solid business head on his shoulders. He operates his own vintage furniture operation in Cornwall, and has made some cogent arguments already for change at city hall – including taking the city to task for its recent decision to shelve an east-end development.

MacDonald wants his old job back. The former city councillor has held more press engagements than any other candidate to date, and I think it was a mistake for him to run for mayor years ago. His job is that of councillor, and like him or not, MacDonald gives the appearance of someone who will fight for constituents while keeping his colleague son their toes.

If anyone deserves a seat at the table, by virtue of putting in the man hours, it’s Bennett. He’s chaired the city’s arts committee, and more often than not over the course of the last term of council can be found sitting in the gallery, listening to debates and studying issues. His challenge will be turning that limited experience into votes, but I think he deserves a look during the campaign.

Blais is viewed in many circles as an anomaly of sorts. Some of the labels she’s been plagued with, by virtue of some unfair online vitriol, hasn’t done her campaign any favours, and the fact that her job as executive director of the Agape Centre means her actions get scrutinized even more. But she is a champion for young female leaders thanks to her ‘Politigal’ conference and I’m eager to see how voters respond to that side of her campaign.

McIntosh might just win a spot thanks to name recognition alone. Very few, if any, of the candidates have his connections in the city, both personal and professional. I’m hearing friends, and even strangers, are offering support now that the campaign has begun in earnest. But what do rank and file voters think of his decision to run? It’s a question I can’t wait to see answered.

On the mayoral side it’s a two-horse race between incumbent Bob Kilger and former councillor Leslie O’Shaughnessy, the frontrunners. The early returns suggest Kilger is going to run on his record, while O’Shaughnessy promises a bombshell Friday night at his launch party.

Long shot Jamie Gilcig hasn’t got a prayer.

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