He represented the ward in the 1990s and will do so again after victory in Tuesday's byelection
No, it’s not a case of déjà vu, or time travel — Shawn Skinner, the former Ward 2 councillor from 1993-97, will once again represent residents from Quidi Vidi, to downtown, to Cashin Avenue as the newest St. John’s city councillor.
“It’s 27 years waiting to hear that again, but it’s nice to hear,” he said with a laugh about being called Councillor Skinner.
Unofficial byelection results posted to the city’s website Tuesday night showed Skinner won with 1,242 votes. Trailing close behind were academic and activist Ophelia Ravencroft with 936 votes, and downtown restaurateur Lorne Loder with 923 votes.
“It was a tight race,” said Skinner.
“I suspected it would be tight, and I really enjoyed the campaign. All the candidates were very respectful of each other, very focused on the issues, and had some great and different ideas.
“I want to thank the residents of Ward 2 for showing their confidence in me again 27 or so years later.”
Unofficial results of the Oct. 20 byelection for Ward 2 councillor for St. John’s city council
Shawn Skinner 1,242
Ophelia Ravencroft 936
Lorne Loder 923
Greg Smith 586
Carol Furlong 570
Matt Howse 480
Greg Noseworthy 470
Wallace Ryan 222
Skinner will be sworn in on Monday, Oct. 26, but he says it feels like he never left city council, in some ways.
"In my mind, I never really left. Everything I do, volunteer-wise, and family-wise, and so on, is all in Ward 2. So, I never really felt like I left Ward 2. I wasn’t a councillor, but I certainly put a lot of my volunteer time into Ward 2. So, this is just more of an official status, I guess, because I’m an elected official now and it feels very good. It feels comforting to me — I’m going back to a place that I know and love, and I’m looking forward to working on behalf of the residents.”
As per the Municipal Elections Act, he will hold office for the unexpired term of council — in this case, until the municipal election next year.
He said he's interested in running again in next year's general election.
Against raising taxes
Skinner said his main focus now will be on the upcoming municipal budget.
"I’ve said publicly I don’t think the city should look to increase the taxes on the residents. We’ve gone through some tough times with Snowmageddon, with the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of businesses are struggling, a lot of businesses have closed. I know people myself who’ve lost their jobs, or who have lost hours of work each week and they’re struggling.
"And so, this is not a time for the city to be looking to take more out of people’s pockets. So, we’re going to have to find a way to make it work with the revenues that we have.”
He said his next priority will be making the city more accessible for all residents via improvements to things such as public transit and snowclearing.
Skinner’s political experience is not limited to city council. He’s also a former provincial cabinet minister, elected twice as a Progressive Conservative MHA for St. John’s Centre, serving from 2003-11.
During his time in office, he held cabinet posts of Natural Resources; Innovation Trade and Rural Development; and Human Resources, Labour and Employment. He was also parliamentary secretary to the premier.
Skinner is currently the training director for the Carpenter Millwright College.
Ravencroft was emotional when speaking with The Telegram Tuesday night after coming second to Skinner, but she said she’s interested in running for city council again next year.
“I’m still committed to this ward, and to the communities that I intended to serve and represent. And I’m still committed to the people that I spoke with who felt that the vision that I had for the city was a good one. I appreciate everyone who was able to come out this time, and obviously I hope for a different result next time.”
The other five candidates in the byelection were Carol Furlong, former NAPE president; Matt Howse, residential youth care worker and former owner of Broken Books; Greg Noseworthy, lawyer; Wallace Ryan, cartoonist; and Greg Smith, one of the province’s top curlers.
Byelection results will be officiated Wednesday by the office of the city clerk.
The byelection was triggered by the resignation of former Ward 2 councillor Hope Jamieson, who left the role to work as a program manager with the Community Housing Transformation Centre.