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The 1969 Ponoka Town Council election was a no go

This week’s Ponoka News Reflections highlights a past election where everyone was acclaimed
The Ponoka Herald put out this extra edition on Sept. 17, 1969 declaring that all municipal offices had been filled by acclamation for the next term and there would be no election. Photo from Ponoka Herald files

By Mike Rainone for the News

Since Ponoka became a town in 1904 there has always been a great deal of interest and very spirited conversation and keen competition on the political scene in both our town and county, especially during the exciting elections every three years (now four) at both the local council and provincial fronts.

The actual words that were written in the Ponoka 50th Anniversary (1904-1954) history book stated that ‘Politics reared its ugly head in Ponoka for the second time during the autumn when the federal elections were scheduled all across Canada.’

The first official election here was held in 1896, with the Liberals getting the edge over the Conservatives in a 13 to 11 vote victory. In the 1900 provincial election the two main candidates were Frank Oliver, the colourful and controversial Editor of the Edmonton Bulletin and Liberal Member Of Parliament, and R.B. Bennett, a rising and feisty young Calgary Lawyer who was proudly carrying the Conservative banner.

The politicians flocked to Ponoka on Oct. 22 for a large and boisterous rally at the school house where C.D. Algar, the President of the Liberal party for the local settlement introduced the Honourable Mr. Oliver to the large crowd of townspeople and new homesteaders. Most of what Oliver proceeded to profess and promise meant very little to the predominantly American-born group, who weren’t even too sure of the political parties and their candidates, but they did give him a hardy cheer when he described Ponoka as being the most rapidly growing community along the C and E line. Mr. P.J. Nolan spoke on behalf of the Conservative representative Bennett, and then proceeded to severely attack the policies of the Government in power (Hasn’t really changed much over the years has it?).

In November when the elections were held very little enthusiasm was shown in the Ponoka area with only 69 persons voting, who showed a slight trend towards Conservatism, casting 36 votes for Bennett compared to 33 for Oliver, who still managed to maintain his Provincial seat by a healthy majority. Over the decades many ‘heated’ election campaigns were waged amongst the growing list of political parties to choose the MPs for the various constituencies, and Ponoka and districts have placed their share of candidates in the ‘plush chairs’ up at the Alberta Legislature, including Don McCrimmon, Halvar Jonson, Glen Johnston, Dale Johnston, Willie Littlechild, and others.

Ponoka election history

For over 112 exciting and colorful years there have been countless very interesting elections for the early two, then three, and now four year terms of Mayor and Councillors for the Town of Ponoka and later for Reeve and Councillors for the five Divisions in the County of Ponoka. Also chosen by the citizens on those hectic October election days in both the Town and County are the representatives in the Wolf Creek School Division and the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School system.

If one browses through the photo gallery at the Ponoka Town Office you will see most of the past and present Town Councils who have been elected by their citizens during over twelve decades of 36 usually very close, exciting, and all very active and unique election campaigns. In the earlier days the position of The Hospital Board member and the occasional Plebiscite vote on a special issue also appeared on the ballot, but that hasn’t happened for a long time. The dedicated men and women who were elected to those Councils over the years have come from all nationalities, all walks of life, and all occupations, and have proudly served their growing community and districts for many years while facing countless tough challenges and constant public scrutiny, but achieving great successes and steady growth along the way.

There have been a few very rare Ponoka Town Council elections where most of the community must have been very pleased with their present leaders or the candidates’ list was small, as all the positions were filled by acclamation and NO ELECTION was required. On Sept. 17, 1969 the Ponoka Herald had to put out a quick EXTRA EDITION in which Returning Officer Hugh H. Roberts declared that all of the Municipal Offices has been filled by acclamation.

Mayor George Loucks was returned for a two year term, the incumbent councillors included George James, Dr. Des Chesney, Mrs. Jean Elliot, and Herb Johnston, while Ernie H. Hickmore and Emile Comeau were the nominees to fill the two vacancies left by the expiration of terms of office for former Councillors Bob Spence and Albert Stickel. Also appointed were County School Committee Representative William B. Jones, Hospital Board Representative Percy Wilkins, and Separate School Board members Mary Akins and Ernest Parker.

So here we go again to the polls

As the Ponoka News hits the streets this week it will likely contain an extremely looked forward and hopefully long list of all of the candidates who are willing and ready to run for the opportunity of serving their constituents as a member of the Ponoka Town Council, Ponoka County Council, or on the Board of the Wolf Creek School Division or St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Division for the next four years. It won’t be long before the campaign signs will be up all around the communities and the candidate profiles and promises will appear in the paper, the pre-election coffee chatter and hand shaking will be hot and heavy, and hopefully our citizens will come out in full force to attend the always lively election forums and ask lots of questions. To show our appreciation for the efforts of all of our candidates who have made the commitment to serve in these vital positions is it the free right and responsibility of each and every taxpayer to GET OUT AND VOTE ON ELECTION DAY ON MONDAY, OCT. 16, 2017.