Winds of change sweep across municipalities with more women joining new faces

The year 2020 is going to be long remembered for many things, but perhaps one of the most positive local stories to come from this challenging time is what took place last weekend.

Once the dust settled Saturday night, there were 12 women elected or acclaimed and 15 new faces elected or acclaimed to take their positions at municipal council tables around the Strait area.

The Municipality of the County of Richmond provided the most dramatic example as voters tossed out warden Brian Marchand, former warden Jason MacLean and long-time incumbent councillors James Goyetche and Gilbert Boucher.

First time candidate Melanie Sampson defeated Marchand in district 3 and Boucher was bested by another first timer, Amanda Mombourquette, in district 4.

MacLean went down to defeat in district 5 at the hands of rookie candidate Brent Sampson.

In district 1, where voter turn-out was 77 per cent, Goyetche finished third behind political newcomer Shawn Samson, and in district 2, another political rookie, Michael Diggdon, won decisively.

In the Municipality of the County of Inverness, district 5, warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie lost to first time candidate Lynn Chisholm, while veteran councillor Jim Mustard finished third behind new councillor Bonny MacIsaac.

John Dowling in district 6 failed to win re-election as he lost to council newcomer Catherine L. Gillis.

While mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton and three incumbent town councillors were all re-elected in the Town of Port Hawkesbury, brand new town councillor Jason Aucoin will be making his debut.

Former town councillor Ron Chisholm will take over the mayor’s chair in the Town of Mulgrave for the first time and town council will have Tanya Snow returning alongside first time representatives Crystal Durling and Krista Luddington.

There wasn’t much change on the ballot in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough but in district 5, Janet Peitzsche, who was first elected to council in 1997, earned another term.

And district 2 will have a new representative after Mary Germaine Desmond unseated Sheila Pelly, who was first elected in 2004.

In district 1, political newcomer Paul Long was acclaimed in September.

There were acclamations in the Municipality of the County of Antigonish but there will be new some new blood in the mix, as challenger Shawn Brophy narrowly beat incumbent Vaughan Chisholm in district 4, and in district 9, Harris McNamara is the area’s new councillor after knocking off incumbent Neil Corbett.

Mary MacLellan, who is the only woman currently sitting at Antigonish County’s council table, was acclaimed in district 1.

Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher was also acclaimed after the deadline for candidates closed last month, and town council will look almost the same, with the exception of returning town councillor, and former mayoral candidate Sean Cameron.

Boucher will be joined on town council by returnees Mary Farrell and Diane Roberts.

In addition to the high voter engagement, great turn-out and healthy candidate participation in the 2020 incarnation – despite the global pandemic – campaigns around the region featured excellent discussions of important issues, whether in small public forums, on-line or at doorsteps.

And while there was a tangible preference for change by some voters, there were others who preferred to stay with the familiar, which should make for diverse councils, offering wide ranges of experiences, skills, and perspectives.

If the results from last Saturday night are saying anything, it’s that the next four years should be very interesting in municipalities across the region.