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Incumbents dominate Catholic school board trustee race

Results were delayed from Oct. 24 election after ballot error in Shuniah
Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board Logo 2

THUNDER BAY — The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board will welcome back a nearly identical slate of trustees for their next term.

The board's election results were publicly released on Tuesday, nearly a month after municipal elections were conducted across the province.

The results were delayed as a result of a ballot error in Shuniah, which resulted in the declaration of an election emergency due to one candidate's name being omitted.

Voting in Shuniah was redone over the last few weeks and closed at 8 p.m. Monday, with counting of all ballots paused until that process was completed.

Francis Veneruz, who served as board chair for the past three years and was handily re-elected, said that had delayed some key transition work, if only by a few weeks.

“We’ve had to push back all our meetings and had to get extra things in order to make sure we can get it all done" before the board begins meeting again in the coming weeks, he said.

All five incumbents seeking re-election were among the six highest vote-getters to earn a seat on the board. Previous vice chair Dina McFarlane topped the field, followed by Veneruz with just two fewer votes.

Leanne Fonso, the only non-incumbent to win a spot on the board, had the third-highest tally. Returning trustees Lawrence Badanai, Tony Romeo, and Eleanor Ashe rounded out the top-six. Ashe had a 106-vote margin over Tony Pucci, who was the first candidate on the outside looking in.

Kathy O'Brien was the lone sitting trustee to not seek re-election.

The return of so many incumbents means the board will be able to hit the ground running, Veneruz said, while expressing excitement over the contributions Fonso will bring.

“It’s nice to see everybody back," he said. "We know we have a plan ahead. We want to try to get everything back to normal, considering the last couple of years have been quite difficult.”

Top priorities for the coming term will include developing a strategy to address falling enrolment and maintenance work on schools, Veneruz said.

The need for an expansion at Holy Family School, which is running short on classroom space due to growing enrolment, will likely be one of the first major issues the board addresses over the coming months, Veneruz added.

A total of 38,274 votes were cast in the TBCDSB election, with each voter allowed to cast votes for up to six candidates. Of those, 36,416 were cast in the city of Thunder Bay, while 23,247 - just over 60 per cent - were cast online.

A total of 328 votes were cast in the municipality of Shuniah.

Krista Power, Thunder Bay's city clerk and the returning officer for the board election, said while the election misfire had been "very unfortunate," the City of Thunder Bay's own processes had worked well.

“In this case, the way that we managed it, there’s nothing I would change," she said. "We certify the results, we have significant checks and balances in place to look at not only the online ballot but the ballot that goes out to the polling location. All of those are secured and double - and triple-checked.”

“I think it’s unfortunate as to what happened in Shuniah – it was a simple human error, as the clerk indicated in Shuniah. But we don’t control that election… our responsibility is to tabulate the results.”


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