In 2017, Cochrane had 15 candidates for town council, and three for mayor.

Despite that, there was a dismal 33 per cent turnout at the polls.

Whether we'll see a similar scenario is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain; things are already heating up for the Oct. 18 municipal election.

We now have four candidates who have filed nomination papers in the early going, and there's a growing amount of re-election banter creeping into the town council chambers. It may be fuelled by having so many candidates step forward early, but it might also be spurred on by incumbents having a new campaigning tool in their kit with the taxpayer-funded broadcast of all public council meetings.

At the Apr. 26 council meeting, it went over the top with Mayor Jeff Genung practically endorsing the re-election of the entire body.

A discussion on the town's audited financial statement saw both the issues of growth and fiscal management, always touchy issues, brought forward by Councillor Marni Fedeyko that provoked a reaction from Councillor Morgan Nagel.

Innocent or not, it lead to Mayor Jeff Genung referencing the upcoming election. 

"We all have an approach to provide, and I think that's the strength of this group, if I can do campaigning here on behalf of this entire group, is that we are a diverse group, and we bring a diverse viewpoint on not just budgeting but everything. I've appreciated that about everyone on council for this term."

A comment like this raises the question of whether councillors are abusing their public meetings to give themselves a free broadcasted plug.

Dan Cunin has been the first to hit the campaign trail in the last three elections and came just nine votes short of securing a seat in 2017.

He says he has definitely noticed an increase in electioneering by councillors but isn't particularly surprised.

"Incumbents have always enjoyed an advantage over a candidate like me/others in a lot of ways, and that's without the fairly transparent use of publicly-funded avenues to broadcast the unofficial start to their re-election race," says Cunin.

He also points to comments in a recent column by Councillor Patrick Wilson in a local newspaper.

"It is very clear that he is trying to capitalize on the growing frustration with the overall political posturing that is overwhelming current discussions around COVID/restrictions/paths forward for the business community. The fact is that he is a business owner, and I believe his involvement in determining the business tax rate is a clear conflict of interest as he will directly benefit from any deferment/rebate/decrease in business taxes."

He doesn't believe Wilson is alone.

"I know that there is a lot that can be done to make council more transparent/accountable, and this is something I plan to address if I'm voted to council. A clear policy and guidelines need to be put in place. I'm optimistic that all of council/Cochrane will benefit when clear rules and guidelines are in place."

Cunin has been joined by Brandon Cruze, Bruce Townley, and most recently Todd Muir as early candidates.

Candidate Brandon Cruze has no problem when terms like "when the new council comes in" are used, but believes there is a line that shouldn't be crossed.

"They should have to do what the rest of us do, and that's campaign on their own time, with their own money."

Todd Muir filed nomination papers last week and will be unfolding his ideas in the coming weeks.