Langley Township election confirms the appetite for change

No election since 1999 has seen three incumbent council members defeated

There was an appetite for change on Langley Township council. Voting results make that obvious.

Voters had no desire to change the mayor, and replace Jack Froese with his predecessor, Rick Green. However, there was plenty of appetite for changing the makeup of council, and three incumbents lost — the most since the watershed election of 1999.

The number of voters increased by just under 2,500, to just over 21,000. That’s less that one-third of those eligible, so most Township residents continue the long tradition of being disinterested in the makeup of council.

There were five fewer candidates for the eight Township council seats than in 2011, but 22 is still a very large number, and that makes it difficult for newcomers to break in. Of the three who were elected, Petrina Arnason has run before, is the daughter of longtime councillor Muriel Arnason and has been active in seniors and environmental issues. Endorsement by the Unelection Campaign and other citizens’ groups propelled her to a fourth-place finish, behind incumbents David Davis and Kim Richter, who were also favoured by Unelection, and Charlie Fox.

Poll-topper Davis was only received about 600 votes fewer that Froese did, after coming eighth in 2011.

Of the five incumbents targeted by the Unelection Campaign, Fox (who finished third) was the only councillor able to withstand the entreaty to vote them out. Froese was also targeted, but his high vote total shows the campaign didn’t touch him.

The Unelection Campaign, by posting on its website incumbents’ voting records and donations they received in the 2011 campaign, clearly played a major role in getting incumbents Steve Ferguson, Grant Ward and Bev Dornan off council. So did the firefighters’ union, which did not endorse Ward and Dornan in its high-priced campaign efforts. The dumping of Ward mystifies me — he was the strongest supporter the firefighters have ever had on Township council.

Newcomers Blair Whitmarsh and Angie Quaale spent significant sums of money and declared their candidacies  very early — in  the spring. The head start and focused campaigning clearly paid off, as did endorsements from the firefighters and other endorsements from pro-development individuals and groups.

Will there be much in the way of change in council’s actions over the next four years? I will be surprised if there isn’t a greater emphasis on engaging the community earlier on controversial plans, such as the Brookswood-Fernridge OCP, which must be addressed. An effort similar to what transpired earlier this year is quite unlikely.

It is unlikely that any more development on Agricultural Land Reserve lands will be approved. With the addition of Arnason to council, and likely support from Davis, Richter, Michelle Sparrow and Bob Long,  projects like the controversial Wall farm proposal to build 65 units in the midst of very productive farmland are doomed. If the Wall project ever has to come back to council, it likely will be defeated.

It will be interesting to see what change in tone there is at council meetings over the next four years.