by Suzanne Gammon
West Nipissing voters will have plenty of choice when they cast their ballot in the October 22, 2018 municipal election. With nominations closed this past Friday, July 27, the race has never been hotter with a contest in every single ward.
While WN Mayor Joanne Savage sailed into her seat uncontested both in 2010 and 2014, she will have to battle to keep her position this time around. The incumbent faces three other candidates: former school board trustee Ron Demers, local retiree Russ Dunne and local butcher and restaurateur Don Leblanc. Savage’s tenure has been marked by several controversies and much in-fighting among council members over the last few years, with many residents calling for change.
Ward 1 sees a familiar face returning to the fray, as former councillor Lise Sénécal tries to regain her old position from incumbent Denise Brisson. Brisson was first elected in 2010, then defended her seat in 2014 against former Ward 5 councillor Guy Ethier. She is seeking a third term. However the two seasoned politicians will have a newcomer to contend with, local businessman Serge Bourgouin, making it a heated three-way race.
The contest is even hotter in ward 2, where incumbent Leo Malette has three challengers. Malette was acclaimed in 2010 and had an easy win in 2014 after many years in politics, including a 6-year stint as mayor of Cache Bay. This year may prove more difficult. Early out the gate was Christine Riberdy, a Sturgeon Falls resident employed at the Caisse populaire, who submitted her nomination back in May. Local taxi business owner Pierre Deforge also stepped forward, as did local contractor Steve Morrison. Morrison’s legal battle with the town has made his bid somewhat controversial, with many voicing surprise at his decision to run, however Morrison insists he is not out for revenge but genuinely interested in moving the municipality forward.
The most contested ward in 2014 was ward 3, where councillor Yvon Duhaime had to battle three opponents including incumbent Don Fortin. Until the very last day of nominations, it looked as though Duhaime might be acclaimed for 2018, but a surprise challenge came from two last minute filers July 27. Duhaime has no shortage of political experience, having also served many years as a councillor for Sturgeon Falls before amalgamation. He will face former WN Chamber of Commerce president and retired Canadian Armed Forces soldier Patrick Keough, as well as Franco-Nord school board computer technician Daniel Gagné.
A two-way race promises to be hard fought in ward 4, where incumbent Jamie Restoule is being challenged by retired public servant Dan Roveda. Restoule was first elected in 2006 and was acclaimed in 2010, then won against challenger Barbara Colombe in 2014. Roveda is best known as a founder of the former WN Public Services Association, a volunteer with the beautification committee and Community Health Centre board and founder of the WN Cycle for Charity event.
Another battle brews in Field, where two newcomers, Denis Boisvenue and Chris Fisher, have thrown their hat in the ring for the first time. Boisvenue is a long-time WN Public Works employee while Fisher owns Fisher’s Paradise in Field, where events such as the River & Sky Music Festival are hosted. Current Ward 5 councillor Guilles Tessier announced that he would not seek re-election due to health problems.
Ward 6 will see a rematch between former foes Roland Larabie and Paul Finley, after Larabie took Finley’s seat on council in a tight race in 2014. Finley had been representing Ward 6 since amalgamation in 1999, and has since retired from his position as an Economic Development officer for Sudbury. Larabie is also retired and a lifelong resident of River Valley. However, the two won’t be alone this time, as newcomer Christopher Anderson has joined the race. The young family man and entrepreneur registered on the last day of nominations.
After being acclaimed in both 2010 and 2014, Ward 7 incumbent Normand Roberge will finally face a challenge in newcomer Jeremy Seguin. Roberge, who is a retired municipal treasurer, has been involved in municipal affairs for decades and has sat on numerous council committees. He also runs a small farm in Verner. Seguin is a school teacher and is raising his young family in Verner, where he is very involved in minor hockey among other community endeavours.
Ward 8 incumbent Guy Fortier had announced months ago that he would not seek re-election, but says he changed his mind at the urging of many constituents. He is used to a challenge, having battled two opponents in 2010 and one in 2014, and this time will be no different as he faces two newcomers: Denis Sénécal and Paulette Courchesne. Sénécal is a retired public servant who now resides full time in Lavigne, while Courchesne is a clerk at the Verner Co-Op and longtime resident of the area. Fortier owns the Lavigne Tavern since 2007.
With every council seat at stake, the 2018 election campaign promises to be exciting and the battle lines are already drawn with many signs cropping up all over the area. The Tribune will showcase every candidate in a special election publication on August 15, and the WN Chamber of Commerce will be holding a debate in mid-September, with the exact date and format soon to be announced.
The 2014 election only saw 44% voter turnout, likely because there was no mayoralty race, and it is anticipated there will be more voter engagement this year. Like last time, a mail-in voting system will be used and ballots will be opened and counted on October 22. Municipal clerk Melanie Ducharme says voters can expect to receive their mail-in ballot by the end of September. Votes must be mailed back by October 11 for guaranteed delivery, but can be dropped off at town hall until 8 pm October 22. There will also be a ballot booth on site for those who prefer voting the old-fashioned way.
The newly elected council will begin its term on December 1, 2018.
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