POLITICS

Voters opt for familiar faces in Regina and Saskatoon in civic elections

10/24/2012 11:20 EDT | Updated 12/24/2012 05:12 EST
REGINA - Voters opted for familiar faces in Saskatchewan's civic elections Wednesday night.

Long-time Regina city councillor Michael Fougere decisively beat out eight other candidates to replace outgoing mayor Pat Fiacco while incumbent Don Atchison held onto his job in a tight race in Saskatoon.

"It's very exciting," said Fougere. "It's very humbling experience to know the voters have confidence in you."

Fougere, president of the Saskatchewan Construction Association, has been on city council since 1997 and was a big supporter of a proposed new $278 million stadium for the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team.

The CFL team even weighed in on the election, with board chairman Roger Brandvold issuing a public letter Tuesday asking people to consider the stadium as they cast their ballots.

"The current proposal will deliver a world class facility that will serve Rider fans and over 20 amateur sport and recreation groups for decades to come," said Brandvold. "We are concerned that if we don't move forward with this project now, the future costs will be significantly more."

Nevertheless, Fougere said he has one issue that's even more pressing to deal with.

"The first thing I'll be talking about will be affordable housing," he said. "Housing is the No. 1 issue I've talked about and I intend to move forward on my promises."

In Saskatoon, with all the polls reporting, Atchison was declared the winner with 34,489 votes compared to runner-up Tom Wolf's 31,085.

Atchison has been mayor since 2003 but faced a serious challenger in agriculture researcher Wolf, who had promised to work on the city's infrastructure, improving bus and snow removal services and doing more to integrate newcomers into the city's growing population.

Atchison told supporters at his victory party that his focus is on improving the city's infrastructure, such as roads, in order to accommodate the city's expansion.

“People are now moving to Saskatoon, not the other way around,” he said to cheers. “My dedication (to) moving our community forward is still in place."

Earlier in the day, he spoke about continuing to move in "the right direction."

"It's really about jobs, it's having friends and families moving back to Saskatoon, working so well with the provincial and federal governments, and the city is just going to continue to grow and prosper."

He also promised $12 million to $15 million dollars of additional funding for roads over the next four to five years.

In Moose Jaw, former New Democrat cabinet minister Deb Higgins narrowly beat out city councillor Fraser Tolmie by 5,239 votes to 4,645.

"I knew it was going to be close," said Tolmie. "It's a battle, and you're fighting for the city's future. But I did it with a lot of love and support from my family, so I'm grateful for that."

Both were running to replace Glen Hagel, who announced in July that he would not run again because he wants to spend more time with his family.

That was the same reason given by Fiacco for why he was leaving the job after four terms and 12 years.

Meanwhile, voting was not without its challenges in Saskatoon in Wednesday.

A Ward 8 polling station was broken into about 3:30 a.m. after somebody rammed a vehicle into College Park School.

Police found a 23-year-old suspect inside and took him into custody without incident. A witness told police they saw the driver of the vehicle repeatedly ram it into the school in an effort to get in.

There was significant damage to the school but the polling station was open for voting.

And a downtown polling station was briefly evacuated when somebody noticed some smoke.

"All of a sudden the alarms started ringing and we had to .... as quickly as possible, evacuate," said Sasha Boyd, who works at the front desk of the Francis Morrison Library.

Voters and library employees had to stand outside in the cold for about 15 minutes before firefighters determined the library safe.

(The Canadian Press, CKOM, CHAB, CJME)