As of November 15, 2022, Windsorites have a new city council for a four year term. So what does this all mean for residents? For this edition, two panelists at Rose City Politics give their take on the final results of the 2022 municipal election.
Smell these roses . . . 23 years of status quo (until the 2026 election) and “holding the line”!
Eddie Francis was first elected Mayor in 2003 with 53.45% voter turnout, and was re-elected in 2006 (with 77.56% of the vote) and 2010 (56.17% of the vote).
Drew Dilkens won mayoralty in 2014 (55.36% of the vote), and again in 2018 (59.40% of the vote), before securing his 2022 bid (52.51% of the vote).
Chris Holt took 38.70% of the vote for his first run against an opponent seeking a second mayoral re-election in a city that almost never turfs out incumbents. He performed commendably, saying upon defeat he doesn’t regret any of his campaign and nor should he; his run changed the election’s tone, forcing necessary progressive debates.
“I have never been more optimistic,” stated Dilkens during his victory speech, but that same optimism wasn’t felt by Windsor’s voters.
This election saw Windsor’s second lowest historical turnout (31.57%), just higher than 1997 (30.96%) — but with no serious mayoral opposition — and lower than 2018 (35%) and 2014 (37%).
Across Ontario, Windsor’s low voter turnout was only eclipsed in Hamilton (35.4%) and Ottawa (44%), and even worse, only 36% of eligible voters cast ballots, compared to 2018 (38%) according to the Association of Municipalities (Elections2022.amo.on.ca).
The 2022 Ontario election also set a record low (43.53%), breaking 2011’s turnout (48.2%). That’s bleak.
Things look worse through a lens of diversity. With only one woman elected, much is left to be desired, especially considering that on council, there’s now a two-to-one ratio of men to women with the same surname (incumbent Kieran McKenzie and newcomer Mark McKenzie)!
After almost three years of COVID and three elections since its emergence, we’re all exhausted, but while we get the governments we elect, what does it say when barely a third vote?
On TVO Today’s website: TVO.org, regarding why some people don’t vote, Seher Shafiq, Active Citizenship Manager of North York Community House said there’s a “Strong correlation between people’s basic needs being met and their capacity and willingness to engage in civic and political things.”
Locally, according to the latest federal census data, more than one in five children and youth in Windsor (20%) are being raised in low-income households, and when faced with such situations, it’s not hard to imagine priorities and apathy taking hold of parents.
Our low voter turnout is a democratic deficit that cannot stand, but the question is — just how long will it take for a meaningful fix? “We can’t wait!” The status quo isn’t sustainable, and this is critical.
Jon Liedtke is a fill-in on-air host for AM800 CKLW, Co-host and Producer of Rose City Politics, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and SAG-AFTRA, and plays trumpet in Windsor’s The Nefidovs.
On Election Night (October 24, 2022), record-low voter turnout and widespread apathy enabled the remnants of a tired political movement to limp over the finish line to victory.
Mayor Dilkens — and many incumbents who most closely align with him — saw a decline in their share of the vote.
Ed Sleiman slipped below 50% of the vote. Incumbent Councillor Jeween Gill was shown the door by the electors of Ward 7. Jim Morrison managed to grow his share of the vote slightly, but a returning incumbent securing less than a third of the vote in his ward is a limited mandate indeed.
I expect the Mayor and Council will govern the city as though they’ve received a resounding mandate, but the election results can be better explained by inertia and a disengaged electorate.
The question that Mayor Dilkens and his allies on Council should consider — going into what seems likely to be the final term for many of them — is whether the policy and communication choices that contributed to this result are healthy for our community.
In the run-up to this election the expectation among many was that Mayor Dilkens would ride a wave of good economic news to a thumping victory. The reality is that his vote share significantly declined in the face of an energetic challenge from former City Councillor Chris Holt.
Certainly, declining turnout in municipal elections is a trend across the province, and in my view it is primarily driven by a precipitous decline in the size of newsrooms, leading to less in-depth coverage of candidates.
This may be true, but it does not mean that the municipality doesn’t have tools it can use to change the direction of this trend. Historically, low voter turnout seriously threatens the legitimacy of city government and should not be ignored.
In the wake of these results, Council should evaluate the ways the City of Windsor communicates with residents and consider what steps can be taken to reconnect residents with municipal government. In recent years, efforts at consultation have been half-hearted and driven by political considerations.
When you show people repeatedly that you don’t care to hear what they have to say, you should not be surprised if they disengage.
There is a moral imperative for democratically elected officials to secure a mandate from voters, and the new Council should take it seriously.
Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy firm in downtown Windsor.
This article first appeared on Biz X Magazine.