Most of Newmarket council will be made up of acclaimed incumbents if more candidates do not join the race in the next week.
With eight days until the end of the nomination period Aug. 19, five of Newmarket’s nine council seats do not have a challenger to the incumbent. Prospective candidates have until 2 p.m. that day to file for the October municipal election.
Former Newmarket council candidate Bill Kukulewich said it is disappointing and indicates apathy toward municipal politics.
“It’s healthy when people stand up and voice their views and their concerns. I would love to see every ward challenged,” he said. “I’m disappointed that these people are just going to walk into office … They’re either really exceptional or people just don’t care.”
Every incumbent in Newmarket is running for re-election. Challengers are currently in place for deputy mayor, Ward 2, Ward 4 and Ward 7, with other council wards uncontested.
The mayor’s race also lacks a challenger, with incumbent Mayor John Taylor the only registered candidate.
He said there are more uncontested seats than usual at this point in the nomination period. He added there are likely several reasons for it, noting the voter fatigue and historically low turnout in the provincial election could be continuing.
“I do believe Newmarket has had an exceptionally good term of council,” Taylor said. “People are really pleased with the direction the town is going.”
The town had only two acclamations in wards 6 and 7 in the 2018 election.
When asked about the possibility of getting acclaimed after his first term, Taylor said he has mixed thoughts on the idea.
“Having worked very, very hard through COVID and as a first time as mayor, and the idea of not having to engage in a very demanding and rigorous process of an election, there’s a certain relief in your mind,” he said. “But deep down, I’m also a massive believer in the importance of democracy and elections.”
Running for council has challenges, Kukulewich said, requiring supporters and financial resources. He said he opted not to run in his Ward 2 as he is close to retirement.
“You got to be motivated, and you’ve got to be a people person. You have to have the means,” he said, adding there are limits to donations. “It’s a difficult task if you’re not up on things.”
Newmarket is not the only place experiencing few challengers. Stouffville has only two of seven council seats currently contested, while Aurora has four of seven in its first year using a ward system. However, East Gwillimbury has three wards that elect two councillors each, and has challengers in two of those wards, as well as for the mayor's seat.
Newmarket’s school trustee positions are also going mostly uncontested, with only one candidate for the York Catholic District School Board trustee, one for the French Catholic school board trustee and none for the public French school trustee. Two candidates are now running for York Region District School Board trustee.
Nominations opened in May, but the last week could stand to bring some more challengers into the race, Taylor said.
“I fully expect that somebody (else) will run for the office of mayor, and probably some of the other seats."
Apathy toward municipal politics is a problem, Kukulewich said. Newmarket had a 34.68 per cent voter turnout in 2018, which he expects to be even lower this year.
“These are the people that decide how and where development goes,” he said. “It’s beyond me why people don’t take more of an interest in this level of government.”
You can find more information on running and a list of candidates at newmarketvotes.ca.