Like most, Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison isn’t surprised with the outcome of the October 19, 2015 federal election. What did surprise him is the Liberal majority.
“I thought all along it would either be a slim Conservative or a slim Liberal minority, so I was surprised to see it was a majority.”
He said the Conservative Party managed to hang on to its core but, unlike the Liberals, it was not able to grow its support. Aitchison attributes that outcome to the Liberals working hard to increase voter turnout by getting people to vote who normally wouldn’t, especially younger voters.
“ I think the voter turnout was up quite a bit in this election and what’s happened of course is the Liberal Party did a really good job of getting people out to vote that hadn’t voted for a long time, and they were able to get that support.” Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison
He drew a parallel between the federal election and Huntsville’s own municipal election results last year.
“I would suggest that (in) the municipal election this past year in Huntsville, something very similar happened. There was a higher voter turnout and I think a lot more younger people got out to vote. I’m quite certain that that’s the reason I won the election, as opposed to the other two candidates,” he noted.
On polling methods
He said certainly the polls are not always reflective of the outcome, that’s because in his opinion much of the methodology used is outdated.
“This business of calling people on landlines – you are only capturing a certain segment of the population and most people don’t have landlines anymore, especially young people. I certainly don’t. I was never polled because I just have a cell phone. So I think it’s telling that our polling system is becoming antiquated.”
On electoral reform
In terms of the current first-past-the-post electoral system, Aitchison sees merit in making changes to it in order to make it more reflective of the way Canadians vote.
“I know there’s talk about coming up with a proportional representation system and I think that there’s merit in that. I know the Province is looking at allowing municipalities to opt to do that if they’d like,” he said. “If you look at the vote percentages it’s a shame that the Green Party, as an example, only has one seat and yet they captured five or six per cent of the popular vote.”
Aitchison thinks that if proportional representation had been in place during this past federal election, the Liberals would have garnered slightly less of a majority but parties like the Greens would have acquired a few more seats.
“Proportional representation would more accurately represent how Canadians feel about things and I think that would be a good thing. I think the more voices the better in our democratic discussions and right now it’s difficult for the Green Party to have that voice.” Aitchison
Critics of proportional representation say there would be more coalition governments, but Aitchison questioned whether that would really be such a bad thing. He said, in his opinion, governance by consensus can never be viewed as a negative.
“We’ve got a lot of history of great governments at the provincial and federal levels that have moved Canada forward in dramatic ways by consensus. I think Bill Davies might have been one of the greatest consensus builders of all times. He did great things with minority governments. If you look at some of the great things that Lester B. Pearson accomplished with minority governments – building our future by consensus can’t ever be seen as a bad thing, I don’t think,” he said.
Is it a detriment to have a representative who sits in the Opposition?
In terms of how the new Liberal government might impact Huntsville and area, this is what the mayor had to say: “I think that the days of, you know if you don’t have a Liberal member and it’s a Liberal government you get screwed, I think those days are long gone.”
Aitchison said he’s not overly concerned with having both Member of Provincial Parliament Norm Miller and Member of Parliament Tony Clement representing the area as members of the opposition.
“It was kind of nice when Tony was responsible for FedNor, but even that has changed. I think that we are well served by both Tony and Norm. I think they are both well respected across the aisle. I think Norm is certainly well respected by the Liberals at Queen’s Park and able to help us with various things and I think Tony is one of those guys as well who didn’t create too many enemies when he was in government and it should be okay while he’s out of government.” – Aitchison
Aitchison has been raising alarm bells about the type of spending that will be required in order to address road infrastructure needs in the community and said the Liberal platform of spending on infrastructure is exactly what Huntsville is in need of.
“From my perspective as the Mayor of Huntsville, I think that probably one of the really good things about Justin Trudeau being prime minister now is that he was talking a lot about helping municipalities invest in infrastructure, which is a key focus of this administration here at the Town of Huntsville. I hear more complaints about roads than anything else and the Town’s neglected them for decades,” said Aitchison. He is hoping to form partnerships with the various levels of government in order pump more money into Huntsville’s roads and bridges.