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O-NET, COVID restrictions big factors in Olds election

Spurring economic growth, cutting crime, improving traffic flow, and access to doctors were other issues that came up

OLDS — Most of the six newly-elected councillors say COVID-19 restrictions and future of O-NET, the community owned internet, TV and phone service were two big factors in their successful bid for office.

Other issues did come up, including spurring growth and jobs, improving traffic flow, cutting crime and questions as whether Olds needs more doctors and ensuring that all doctors here have hospital privileges.

Darren Wilson, a newcomer to council, topped the polls in the unofficial count on Oct. 18 with 1,384 votes. 

He was surprised and quite flattered to do so.

“That was the farthest thing from what I was expecting, to be able to finish on top amongst the councillors,” Wilson said during an interview.

“It came as a total surprise. It was a pleasant surprise, a great surprise, but certainly not something that I had seen coming down.”

Wilson believes the fact he ran (but lost to Mitch Thomson) during the 2020 byelection helped him because that run made voters somewhat familiar with him.

He’s also done some volunteer work.

In addition, Wilson believes the fact he has a background in business impressed voters. 

Wilson said the imposition of COVID restrictions is complicated because it involves personal choice as well as health and safety issues. 

In the end, he said, the public health system has to be protected and he would have liked to have seen the provincial government provide stronger, more proactive leadership in that area.

Wilson said while he thinks O-NET is a “great asset” he doesn’t want to see any more taxpayer dollars put into it. 

Daniel Daley finished second with 1,354 votes according to unofficial results. 

“I was a little overwhelmed there. It was quite an accomplishment. That wasn’t expected, let’s put it that way,” Daley said. 

He believes the two issues that propelled him onto council are his desire to find a solution to the future of O-NET and a desire to keep a close watch on Town spending. 

Daley said extensive door-knocking and “forthright” email and phone conversations with voters also helped. 

James Cummings finished third in the unofficial results with 1,302 votes.

"Obviously I’m happy. Yay,” he said. “It was actually quite surprising, the election results. I was happy to see so many people came out and voted.”

He believes the O-NET issue was the main driver behind strong voter turnout.

“I’m the only one who has not sat on the board of directors for O-NET or Olds Fibre Ltd. or Olds Institute, nor was I part of council when council took possession of O-NET,” he said.

“And I hope that resonated with the voters. They said ‘OK, here’s someone who’s looking straight ahead with O-NET and isn’t going to bring an over-abundance of emotion on the issue into council, but to try to drive it in the right direction.”

He said COVID restrictions were an issue that came up, but it wasn’t as dominant as the O-NET matter.

Cummings said another issue was lack of access into some neighbourhoods and confusing traffic intersections. He explained to voters that they can find out more by contacting town hall officials.

According to unofficial results, Wanda Blatz has been elected for a second term on council with 1,289 votes.

“I want to start by thanking my family and fellow council members for their support and guidance for the past four years,” Blatz wrote in an email.

“To all candidates that stepped up to let their names stand, I respect people who show passion to commit time to represent our great community.  

 “To you residents of Olds, it has been an honour and privilege represent Olds and will continue to be to serve as councillor for the Town of Olds. I appreciate all the support from the community to re-elect me for a second term. 

“I'm looking forward to getting back to work. The past term council had to make some very tough decisions and I stand by those decisions.”

Heather Ryan, another incumbent councillor, was also returned for a second term, garnering 1,287 votes.

“I’m thrilled obviously, and honoured to be (re)elected,” Ryan said. “I think it shows confidence from the community in what I’ve been doing over the past four years. 

“And I think that that's the reason why I was re-elected, because I certainly spent time listening to people and listening to their concerns and really, being a true voice on council, I believe. That helped, I guess.”

Ryan believes lots of advertising was also a significant factor in her successful campaign.

Harvey Walsh was the sixth councillor to be elected, having received 1,280 votes, according to the unofficial count.

He had served five terms as a town councillor before being defeated in the 2017 election.

In an email, Walsh said he had “no intention of running for council again until O-NET was forced to become a municipally controlled corporation and OI (was) forced into receivership.”


Doug Collie

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