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Shuniah, Ont. — As far as the municipal election was concerned, it was status quo for the Municipality of Shuniah in 2022.

The second most populated municipality surrounding Thunder Bay saw no changes in council as mayor Wendy Landry along with longtime MacGregor ward councillors Donna Blunt, Ron Giardetti and Don Smith were all acclaimed.

Incumbent McTavish ward councillor Meghan Chomut easily won her seat again with a convincing victory over Dawn Powell.

Landry, who is in her third term as Shuniah mayor, said having the political band back together makes for a smooth transition across the next four years.

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“I think the huge advantage right off the top is that you’re not starting from ground zero for bringing someone up to speed,” Landry said. “Everyone’s been in the conversations, they’ve been at the table for all the discussions — the good, the bad and the ugly — we’ve had. They’ve got some experience and knowledge.

“We have people at the table who have been going at this for a very long time, especially on our council. . . . All the complexities and the knowledge, not just from a municipal perspective, but a regional perspective of what we’ve been working on and being in the know.”

Despite the ushering in of familiar faces on council, the Shuniah election itself wasn’t all smooth sailing.

The name of Matt Pearson, English Language Separate School trustee candidate for the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, was left off the Shuniah ballot for the Oct. 24 municipal election, leading to a re-vote on Nov. 21.

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Although the re-vote made little difference to the final vote count with Pearson finishing 10th out of 11 candidates for the six-member board, it led to Shuniah changing their checks and balances process for future elections.

The election wasn’t all that went on in the area this year.

The municipality was busy in the recreational department putting up a new playground this past summer, seeing an increase in attendance for their programs at the MacGregor Recreation Centre and running a successful community garden program known as the Shuniah Soilmates.

An influx of new residents has also taken hold in Shuniah with southern Ontario residents buying property in the bedroom community.

“We’ve had a lot of growth in the municipality and have had a lot of new people come to the municipality with (the COVID-19 pandemic) being the driver,” Landry said. “A lot of the people from the (Greater Toronto Area) have moved to the Northwest now that they could work remotely. They’ve been moving into Shuniah. The costs of housing in this area compared to the GTA is attracting a lot of families coming to this area.”

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Currently, Shuniah council is picking away at the annual budget, but Landry warns this is going to be a more difficult task than in years past.

“Budgets are not going to be easy even for the most seasoned municipal leaders in our municipalities in the Northwest,” Landry said. “I would assume that people coming new to councils in the Northwest, this will be an added challenge to understand the entire picture and costs of getting your bills paid, paying for services here and our levies are going up. They are going to be very, very challenging for everybody this year.”

In the upcoming term, the municipality is looking at putting a roof over their outdoor hockey rink at the MacGregor Recreation Centre, maintaining infrastructure such as roads, making some inroads to developing the community’s industrial park as well as moving along the negotiations to purchase the CN Kinghorn rail line to augment the Trans Canada Trail hiking system.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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