By John Swartz
Election night is always a nail-biter for candidates and campaign workers. This time around however, everyone was working on the first knuckle, including the press who were anxious to get the results and then hunt down those elected for comments.
The reason is because it was about 9:45 p.m. before the votes from all polls were counted and displayed in council chambers. The City is still using the same electronic voting system as the past two elections, but this time they changed the routine to get the results in from the 4 polls which operated at different sites.
The City’s manager of communications, Melissa Gowanlock, said there were no malfunctions or breakdowns; it just took longer than in the past to get the poll results into City Hall and data input into the system.
The first time the system was used, the election was over by 8:30 p.m. Last year the results from advance polls were up pretty quickly and then everyone had to wait about half an hour for the remainder to be posted.
This year those in the chambers had from about 8:40 p.m. to 9:20 to memorize the 6 pages of results from two polls before the result from the next advance polls were displayed. The outcome was evident almost immediately, except for Ward 4 in which Janet-Lynne Durnford trailed Paula Hill–Coulson by 54 votes for the excruciating wait – but jumped ahead by 19 votes at the end.
At Don McIsaac’s campaign party at Couchiching Golf and Country Club, Durnford said she thought she lost until a friend who was in council chambers called her to relay the news. She is excited to have made the cut and is looking forward to getting to work on the housing crisis and making sure all the decisions council makes have the City’s climate action plan underpinning them.
Chambers on election night are usually packed, but at 7:50 p.m. the 4 reporters on hand were wondering if maybe we got the wrong place to be because no one else was there. Then people started arriving in dribbles. A few candidates who did not win seats were on hand, and only Ralph Cipolla and Jay Fallis from the current council showed up.
Fallis was asked about how he felt about the pending outcome back when it was 7:55 p.m. and through the wait. Was he nervous?
“Absolutely, you never know just how unpredictable the results can be and you never can read it, but I was certainly pleasantly surprised tonight,” Fallis said. What did he think was the deciding factor in his campaign.
“I always make a point of making myself as accessible as I can and if I hear something at the door I represent that. I really believe in listening to everyone and that showed tonight,”
“You go into with the sense you have a job to do,” Fallis said. “It doesn’t stop tonight, it keeps going.”
Ralph Cipolla lead the Ward from the beginning, though Gilles Depratto and Luke Leatherdale (who came in second and get the other council seat) were right on his heels, only trailing by 20 votes. He wasn’t too nervous until the only unknown was the result of the four Election Day polls to tally.
“Not until the end. I felt confident I did the right things over the last 4, or 5, 8 years that I’ve been on City council. I’ve helped a lot of people and I was hoping they would support me again this time and they did, which I really appreciate,” Cipolla said.
He thought the makeup of the new council is pretty good.
“I think Don did a great job on campaigning. He was pretty honest and up front. I think we need somebody like Don to control the finances of this community and make sure the taxpayers can afford to live here,” Cipolla said.
“The newcomers I think will add a different vision to what we can do and what we can’t do in Orillia and I look forward to working with them. They’ll bring some brand new ideas we need.”
Cipolla is anxious now to get moving on his platform of seeing a mayor’s task force created to deal with the opioid crisis, getting traffic calming measure in place on Nottawasaga, Mary and Colborne Streets and on Barrie Road and to make sure Terry Fox Circle isn’t closed.
At The Victory Party
The club house at Couchiching Golf was packed with happy supporters and Don McIsaac was posing with his family for a group photo, which conveniently was happening as this writer walked in. Unfortunately, the rush to catch newly elected councillors amid the chaos resulted in some mishandling of the voice recorder and only McIsaac’s comments made it to digits.
“At 7:55 I was feeling really good. We did everything we possibly could. My wife and I talked about it about a week ago, we wouldn’t change a thing. I am gratified by the support. I loved that we built an excellent team. We did all the things we were supposed to. We took the high ground in every spot and it paid off,” McIsaac said amid supporters gathered at Couchiching Golf and Country Club.
Next for McIsaac is meeting with the new council before they are inaugurated November 21.
“We set our four priorities. We’re serious about those. I will get together before the inauguration all the council and use that time wisely to meet. I want to understand what their priorities are as well as the ones I got from the people of Orillia. We’re going to establish a path forward and we’re going to nail it,” McIsaac said.
And of the makeup of the new council?
“I like it. I like Orillia has elected a strong council. I’m looking forward to making a great team and we’ve got some very talented people in the mix.”
‘We’ve got new people who have very little experience, other people have got business experience, so it’s great. They’ll bring different skills and we’ll use those to make Orillia a better place,”
McIsaac also commented on how the campaign unfolded for him and his team.
“For us this was not only a political victory, it was a moral victory. We took the high road, we showed up at debates, we answered questions, we knocked on doors, we did not criticize. We went forward and didn’t look backwards. The citizens of Orillia liked our priorities and they resonated with them.”
The old council has two scheduled meetings, committee on October 31 and the regular meeting November 7. However, it has been posted a special council meeting will take place on at 2 p.m. October 31 immediately followed by a regular meeting November 7. There is no agenda published yet, so this could mean something needs immediate attention, or there is so little to do the old council can wrap up their term in one day.
The turnout this time was statistically the same in terms of raw numbers 8,596 in 2018 to 8,570 in 2022, but with 3,000 more eligible voters the turnout percentage dropped from 36.17% to 32.39%.
The 2014 election advance vote went up dramatically by more than 10% over 2010 and has remained over 30% of total votes cast since. In 2018 it was just shy of 38%. When official results are issued and all the number crunching is done, we expect the advance voter turnout to be in the neighbourhood of 45% of total votes cast. So, because the pool of voters grew, fewer of us voted, but more of us voted early.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Election night attendance for results was significantly lower than past elections.
A full rundown of election results is here.