A New Mayor, and (Hopefully) a New Direction for City Hall

Newly elected mayor Diane Therrien has promised a new era of public engagement in city decision making

Therrien
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The votes have been counted and the results are in: Peterborough has a new mayor. Town Ward Councillor Diane Therrien won in a landslide victory over incumbent Mayor Daryl Bennett, more than doubling his total, with 68.98% of the vote compared to his 31.02%.

Peterborough also has three new City Councillors. In Otonabee Ward, Kim Zippel took the seat vacated by Councillor Dan McWilliams, who decided to not run for a third term. In Town Ward, Kemi Akapo took over the new mayor’s old seat. And in Northcrest, Stephen Wright unseated Councillor Dave Haacke.

But the story of the night was undoubtedly Diane Therrien’s dramatic victory.

It’s the result of an election that largely became a referendum on the Daryl Bennett years. Bennett made “momentum” the watchword of his campaign, saying he would build on the accomplishments of his past two terms and continue moving Peterborough in much the same direction. Therrien, meanwhile, spoke frequently of “change” and a “new direction” for City Hall, releasing a platform with a number of new ideas for the city, including introducing a rideshare program and green waste collection.

But the contrast wasn’t just in message or policy, but in engagement. Therrien, who announced her candidacy in June, has spent the past five months campaigning and meeting with the citizens of Peterborough. She orchestrated an aggressive door-knocking campaign and held many events in the community. Bennett, meanwhile, waited until nearly the last possible minute to announce, and campaigned for only two months.

In public conversations and at debates, citizens again and again brought up not just a dissatisfaction with the decisions made over the last eight years, but also with the way those decisions were made. They expressed a frustrated feeling that their voices weren’t being heard in City decision-making, and that opportunities for community engagement were lacking.

Therrien’s campaign spoke to this frustration directly. She made transparency and public engagement a central part of her platform, promising regular neighbourhood drop-ins and social media forums, and the creation of a Community Engagement Charter “to better involve residents in the decisions that affect them.” And her campaign itself was exercise in active public engagement.

But of course, engaging the public during an election cycle is easy, for both the candidate and the public. Interest in municipal politics is at an all-time high during this time. Debates and campaign events were well attended, discussion in public forums was active and spirited, and, on election day, voter turnout hit 48.31%, a two-percent increase over the 2014 election.

Going forward, it will be Therrien’s responsibility to keep her promises to better engage the public, but it will also be the public’s responsibility to continue to push for that engagement, and to participate when opportunities arise. An election is not the end of the conversation between City Hall and the citizenry, but rather the first step. It will be up to the city—politicians and citizens alike—to keep stepping forward.



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Complete Results (unofficial)

Mayor

Therrien, Diane: 19,254
Bennett, Daryl: 8,659

Councillor

Ward 1: Otonabee

Zippel, Kim: 2,709
Parnell, Lesley: 2,405
Hall, Bob: 2,045
Grills, Brock: 1,427
Waudby, Ryan: 895
Wallwork, Jason Andrew: 189

Ward 2: Monaghan

Vassiliadis, Don: 3,066
Clarke, Henry: 2,655
Westlake, Jeff: 2,439
Magumbe, Charmaine: 1,813
McGowan, Dave: 1,219

Ward 3: Town

Pappas, Dean: 3,404
Akapo, Kemi: 2,718
Russell, Jim: 1,354
Davidson, Jane: 1,089
Lanciault, Jenny 721

Ward 4: Ashburnham

Baldwin, Gary: 3,095
Riel, Keith: 2,833
Rellinger, Paul: 1,653
Wood, Sheila: 1,501
Peddle, Ian Russell: 959

Ward 5: Northcrest

Beamer, Andrew: 3,742
Wright, Stephen: 3,399
Haacke, Dave: 2,548
Hatton, Zach: 1,492

School Board

Trustee, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board

Kitney, Rose: 12,094
Russell, Steve: 9,107
Bonner, Wayne: 7,785
Hildebrand, Dennis: 4,884

Trustee, Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board

Leal, Braden: acclaimed
McCarthy, Helen: acclaimed

Conseiller(ère), Conseil Scolaire Viamonde

Landry, Sylvie A.: 27
Ruszkowski, Anna-Karyna: 26

Conseiller(ère), Conseil Scolaire Catholique MonAvenir Num

Brideau, Roger: 53
Nkongolo, Balonda: 23
Linsky, Andre: 22
Kwilu Mondo, Marcellin: 13

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Gabe Pollock

Gabe Pollock

Gabe Pollock is Editor-in-Chief of Electric City Magazine. He is a Peterborough-born freelance writer and editor who has covered Peterborough music and culture since 2012, first on Electric City Live and now in its magaziney successor.