Why Alberta Voters Rejected Negativity
Newly elected Okotoks Mayor Tanya Thorn: 'This is the first time I can remember when municipalities have stood up and pushed back against the provincial government in force'
It wasn’t just Calgary and Edmonton where the municipal vote on October 18 shook aging ideas about the status quo in Alberta.
The shaking was felt in numerous other places across the province, too. There was Medicine Hat, where the city elected its first-ever woman mayor, Linnsie Clark, instead of incumbent Ted Clugston. The shaking hit Calmar, a town described as a “bellwether” for the provincial mood by one caller on an episode of CBC Alberta At Noon that I was a guest on. There, incumbent Mayor Wally Yachimetz fell to challenger Sean Carnahan, and another incumbent councillor failed in their bid for re-election. The shake hit Okotoks, too, where voters elected Tanya Thorn as mayor. Thorn has long worked deep within the municipal machine in Alberta and is currently vice-president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.
Rage reached out to multiple newly-elected mayors. Thorn got back to us in an almost instant. We chatted about the election. Below is a condensed and edited version of our chat.
Tim Querengesser: What happened in this election, in your view?
Tanya Thorn: I think there’s been a lot of really negative rhetoric over the last 20 months with the pandemic, but even before that, the last two years, really. I think what happened in this municipal election is that the Alberta voters said we’re done with that — we don’t want to move backwards or have divisiveness; we want more forward, progressive thinking.
Querengesser: The word ‘progressive’ has been used a lot in this election. What does that mean to you?
Thorn: It means solutions focussed and looking out for all people — that we’re all one group and we need to look out for all of us and help all of us. It’s not hands out but hands up. For me ‘progressive’ is trying to find solutions to very complex problems, and being willing to collaborate to create the solution.
Querengesser: You mentioned divisiveness. Why was it there in this election campaign or before? What’s driving it?
Thorn: I don’t know if I know the why. The pandemic has not helped; there’s a lot of rhetoric. Social media doesn’t help. Nobody has to look at people in the eye. The provincial government hasn’t been very collaborative. We hear of things after they’re done. There’s been a huge downloading onto municipalities. There’s been a lot of finger pointing that municipalities are not doing a good job. I disagree with that. We’re doing the best job.
That’s one of the shifts this municipal election showed — that our voters believe in good government. I think that happens in a lot of ways across the government — people voting for leaders willing to challenge and stand up and be a voice. This is the first time I can remember when municipalities have stood up and pushed back against the provincial government in force.
Municipalities are in this great positon to be more transparent and talking about the bigger picture. It’s easy to say ‘We’re cutting red tape’ at the provincial level, but they’re really not, they’re just transferring it on municipalities. That’s what I kind of saw in the nuance of it. People are waking up that municipalities are the most impactful and the most transparent when it comes to what it is that’s going on.
NOTE: This is the last post from Rage for a while. We’re taking a break. We’re turning off all the settings so don’t worry — you won’t be charged while we’re not offering you stories to read. What’s next for Rage? Don't worry about this, either — we’re not going anywhere but instead thinking of how to keep this little newsletter that correctly saw this municipal election as a provincial story rolling. Expect many new things. But please, stay tuned.