For an event not taking place for another nine months, there's a lot of action going already ahead of the Oct. 27 municipal election.
On Jan. 21, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce is hosting an open forum on the structure of city council. Among the panelists is Jim Gordon, longtime mayor of the former City of Sudbury, former MPP for Sudbury and the first mayor of Greater Sudbury.
The original structure when Gordon was elected mayor of the amalgamated city in 2000 had two part-time councillors serving six wards. In an attempt to address alienation in some of the former municipalities, a 12-ward system was adopted in the 2006 election. But some critics have said the result has been a council too focused on ward issues, or that the city would be better served by fewer, full-time councillors.
Another panellist, Laurentian University Prof. Bob Segsworth, worked on the reforms that led to the new ward structure in 2006. In a September 2013 interview, he said anyone pushing for change will likely have a hard time.
“If people are elected under one system, why would they want to change it?” Segsworth said.
Between the small number of votes required to win a ward -- 2,000-3,000 -- and councillors' access to $50,000 in HCI ward funds each year, it “puts the incumbents at one hell of an advantage,” he said.
But name recognition is the biggest single factor in municipal elections, he said. For example, in three open races in 2010, two were won by former mayors -- Dave Kilgour in Ward 7 and Terry Kett in Ward 11. And the lone new councillor, Fabio Belli in Ward 8, ran against opponents who had never sat on city council.
“It's the No. 1 factor in terms of predicting who's going to win and who's going to lose, in municipal politics in particular.”
The remaining two panelists are Rebecca Johnson, a councillor at large from Thunder Bay, and Mac Bain, a councillor from North Bay. Thunder Bay elects five councillors at large and seven from city wards, while all 10 councillors in North Bay are elected at large. The event goes from 7-9 p.m. at the Steelworkers Hall on Brady Street.
Locally, 21 people have already signed up to run for mayor or city council, with only Ward 2 and Ward 12 devoid of candidates.
Despite his health challenges, on Monday, Belli became the first incumbent to sign up to run again. Belli, who suffered a stroke in November, said at one point, his doctor told him he may have to give up his seat on council.
“The doctor said to me, 'Mr. Belli, maybe you should think about quitting council.' And I said to the doctor, 'I think I'm going to have a heart attack if you tell me that.' ”
And Thursday, Kilgour filed papers to run for re-election in Ward7. No other incumbents have filed, and none would say when asked – formally and informally – whether they had decided to run again. But even without incumbents, there are plenty of familiar faces who have entered the race, along with several newcomers.
The first person to officially run for mayor is Ed Pokonzie, a perennial candidate who has run unsuccessfully for mayor, MPP and MP numerous times since the 1990s.
In Ward 1, incumbent Joe Cimino in the difficult position of being the NDP's candidate in Sudbury for a provincial election that hasn't been called. Cimino hasn't declared yet, but newcomer Ian Heft filed papers Wednesday.
No one has yet signed up to take on Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau, or Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, but the remaining wards each have at least one candidate, with still almost eight months to go before the Sept. 12 deadline to file nomination papers.
In Ward 3, currently held by Claude Berthiaume, Matt Belanger of Chelmsford is the only candidate to enter the race thus far. In Ward 4 Richard L. Paquette, who manages Wenrick Kennels in Azilda, has signed up in the ward currently held by Evelyn Dutrisac.
Three people have filed papers in Ward 5 – Joseph Berthelot, Robert Kirwan and John Lundrigan – a seat currently filled by Ron Dupuis. Should he run again in Ward 6, incumbent Andre Rivest will face Fernand Bidal and Kevin Brault.
Belli is the lone candidate so far in Ward 8, while Ward 9 is shaping up to be a crowded race. The ward, which has been held by Doug Craig for decades, already has five candidates: Aaron Beaudry, Les Lisk, Deb McIntosh, Paul Stopciati and Adam Toews.
Ward 10, currently held by Frances Caldarelli, has two people who have declared so far: Hannu Pirronen and Steve Ripley. Ward 11, held by Kett, has two candidates so far: Mike Bleskie and Loretta Maillet.
The deadline to register to run is Sept. 12.