Money talks—that’s how Dennis Nowoselsky characterized Prince Albert’s 2020 municipal election campaign.
Nowoselsky, the former councillor for Ward 7, finished third out of four candidates in the city’s mayoral race, well behind runner-up Darryl Hickie. On Thursday, Nowoselsky said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to connect with voters through traditional methods like door-knocking, forcing candidates to rely on things like billboards and lawn signs.
“I’m disappointed that it became, I think, a two-person race and money talks,” he said during an interview on Thursday. “I ran on a $5,000 to $6,000 budget, and when I saw all the big signs come out, I knew I was finished. I knew three weeks or four weeks before that without the coverage, I was not going to compete. That was probably the biggest disappointment. Money talks.”
“You wish you could have more interaction with the people, and because of COVID that was limited,” he added. “That was, I guess, the nature of the times. It handicapped anybody who’s not in the driver’s seat. The mayor had that advantage. He’s always in a high profile position.”
As a city councillor, Nowoselsky brought forward unsuccessful motions to bring Prince Albert’s campaign finance laws in line with those of other Saskatchewan cities. Regina, for example, requires mayoral candidates to disclose the name of any donor who gives $500 or more. Nowoselsky’s motion would have required disclosures for any donation of $100 or more.
On Thursday, Nowoselsky renewed calls for more accountability, saying it would help smaller candidates who did not have strong financial backers.
“If you have someone contributing big dollars to a campaign, you don’t know if there’s a conflict of interest if it involves the City,” he said. “It’s definitely harder for the little person with limited funds to compete. I spent about $5,000 and I had $1,000 in donations, so the total campaign for the (election) was six (thousand). Some people spend that to win a ward.”
Nowoselksy said poor weather was also a factor in the election, a concern echoed by Mayor Greg Dionne on Election night. Nowoselsky said he’s disappointed the City had an election so late in the year, and added he wasn’t surprised cold weather drove down turnout.
“I’m just grateful for the citizens who did get out and vote and keep the democratic process alive,” he said.
After spending the last four years as a city councillor, Nowoselsky said he’s going to rest and relax until after Christmas. Once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, he plans to start teaching seminars on motivational speaking.
“I’m going to enjoy the winter, relaxing, (and) doing some sports,” he said. “I’m going to be moving into just enjoying life.”
Nowoselsky finished third in the 2020 mayoral election with 439 votes. Incumbent Mayor Greg Dionne finished first with 3,322, while former MLA Darryl Hickie finished second with 3,077. Project manager Josh Morrow was in fourth with 398.