Monday October 20, 2014

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Voters elect Knibbs, reject casino

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New City councillor Trevor Knibbs

Trevor Knibbs is the newest member of Estevan City Council.

Knibbs was the victor in Wednesday night's civic by-election, as he received 686 of the 1,837 ballots that were cast, or 37.3 per cent of the popular vote.

He'll fill the councillor seat that was vacated by Chris Istace when Istace stepped down last year.

Marge Young finished second in the by-election with 390 votes, or 21.2 per cent support.

"I didn't think it would be quite that big of a margin, but I'm really excited to serve the City of Estevan," said Knibbs.

Rev. Stewart Miller was third at 345 votes (18.8 per cent). Former councillor Lynn Chipley was fourth (330 votes, 18 per cent), and Mohammad Waseem was fifth (81 votes, 4.3 per cent).

Knibbs cited his campaign efforts as a big reason that he was elected. He advertised extensively, and used other means to promote his campaign.

He said he looks forward to finding out the duties of a City councillor.

"It's easy to be the perfect critic from the outside, which I guess I have been for a lot of years, but now you find out what you can do and you can't do," said Knibbs.

He realizes there'll be a learning curve, but he expects to catch on quickly.

Knibbs will be sworn-in prior to Monday night's council meeting.

Voter turnout was excellent. In fact, it was just 18 votes shy of the total tally from the 2009 civic election, when voters were asked to elect six councillors instead of just one.

The councillor vacancy wasn't the only issue addressed at the by-election. Voters were asked to vote on a pair of non-binding questions. The first dealt with a proposed casino development from the Little Pine First Nation. The other was on the continued use of fluoride in Estevan's water.

The casino proposal was overwhelmingly defeated. Only 524 of the 1,821 people, or less than 29 per cent, who voted on the casino project, were supportive.

Mayor Roy Ludwig said he wasn't surprised with the results from the casino vote.

"Most of the people I talked to do not want a casino," said Ludwig.

People were concerned about the possible social ills and the associated problems with a casino, Ludwig said.

"I did hear a lot of people saying ... 'We don't want that in our city, we feel that crime will go up, we feel that we'll need more policing,'" said Ludwig. "Now whether or not that's reality, those were some of the comments I was hearing."

But that doesn't mean the project is dead. Little Pine still has the option of whether to push for the casino development in Estevan, and if Little Pine forges ahead, it will be the provincial government that will decide the project's fate.

Ludwig said the casino project is still in the preliminary stages, and council wasn't even certain whether this was an appropriate time to go forward. But they did, they put a question on the ballot, and the public left no doubt about their stance.

Residents were overwhelmingly in favour of continuing to use fluoride in drinking water. A total of 1,147 of the 1,802 ballots cast, or about 63.7 per cent, support using fluoride, so the chemical will likely continue to be added to the water.

Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay, but it is hazardous for City staff to handle.

"I thought it went exactly as I thought," said Knibbs. "I thought the casino would be a no, and the fluoride would be a yes. If it helps one person, why wouldn't you do it?"

It was also the first civic vote in Estevan to use the AccuVote automated system. The City borrowed Regina's machine, and it paid dividends.

Results were known a little more than 25 minutes after the polling stations closed, a welcome switch from previous civic elections, when results often weren't known for several hours.

Ludwig said council will consider purchasing AccuVote machines for the 2016 civic election.


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