Looking back on the election that was

    Looking back Election Night_B1J9011

    People were lined up out the door as they waited to cast their vote the 2017 municipal election. Photo by Jeremy Broadfield

    The polls are closed, the votes are counted and Chestermerians have elected their new city council and school board trustee.
    Marshall Chalmers, Laurie Bold, Cathy Burness, Mel Foat, Ritesh Narayan, Yvette Wagner and Michelle Young will be leading the city forwards for the next four years.
    The results came in after nearly 5000 votes were cast, almost doubling the turnout from last election. The spike in voters led to long lines stretching out the doors of the rec centre as people waited to cast their vote Oct. 16.
    The new council was selected after a campaign season that focused on earning residents trust to make changes to how business is done at city hall.
    With no incumbents running for a council seat or the mayors chair, the municipal election quickly took on the feel that anyone could win it.
    In the race for Mayor, Marshall Chalmers announced his candidacy early. That combined with his previous experience as Mayor of Camrose, quickly gave his campaign the feel of an incumbent seeking re-election.
    “I made up my mind early that I wanted to be the Mayor of Chestermere,” said Chalmers who credited his victory to his door-knocking campaign.
    All of the candidates campaigned for varying degrees of change with a universal acknowledgment that Chestermerians want to see lower taxes, changes to CUI and lower utility bills, and support for seniors in the community.
    Throughout the campaign the candidates participated in a variety of events including a meet and greet at the library and two all candidates forums.
    The different campaigns also undertook a significant amount of door-knocking, open houses, Facebook Q and A’s and meetings with community leaders, all in the attempt to earn the support of residents.
    For the most part, the election in Chestermere saw mostly positive campaigning with little of the fear tactics and negative campaigning common to provincial and federal elections.
    The strongest example of this came near election day when council candidate Laurianne Schell broke her ankle door knocking.
    “I was door-knocking and rolled my ankle as I stepped off a curb,” she said, “I found out the next day that I broke it.”
    With her mobility restricted, Schell said she was touched by the support and help from the other candidates.
    Mel Foat and Yvette Wagner helped Schell, delivering her pamphlets alongside their own as they door knocked.
    “She asked if I could take her brochure door to door,” said Wagner, “I wrote back saying…of course I would.”
    Foat hopes that after the election the community will follow their example and start to come together to heal.
    “I believe its showing our Community that we need to come together and unify, there has been enough hurt to our City and it is time to move forward,” he said.
    Schell said that the help and support she received has been her experience of the tone of the whole campaign.
    “The candidates are all friendly to each other and any mean-spiritedness I experienced or witnessed seems to come from the general public,” said Schell.
    With that in mind, Schell hopes that residents will give the new council and mayor time to settle into their roles before commenting on their performance.
    “It will take time to learn and to make any changes,” she said.
    There were challenges to the election campaigns as well.
    Candidate Laurie Bold suffered from a technical issue with her e-mail on the city’s website.
    Her e-mail address was incorrectly loaded on the city’s candidates page preventing her from receiving e-mails sent through that link.
    “Sure makes sense now why I haven’t received any emails,” said Bold.
    Mayoral candidate Khaleel Bhatti has also struggled in his campaign.
    Bhatti said he has been on the receiving end of a lot of public criticism on social media during his campaign.
    Bhatti also alleges that several of his campaign signs were deliberately damaged in the lead up to election day.
    “On a daily basis I have been disparaged, disrespect and defamed,” he said.
    Despite the challenges, Bhatti said he stayed positive throughout the election campaign.