The municipal vote — destined to be a political throw down?


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We’ve had some explosive election campaigns in the last 20 years or so — witness the Cliff Barwick versus Janet Golding battle that launched the political career of a young Steve Peters.

However, the prevailing atmosphere entering the final countdown to this month’s municipal vote is nothing short of distressing.

Does every lobby group, neighbourhood association and loose-knit organization have to put forth a slate of candidates which, if the rest of the voters don’t support, St. Thomas will go to hell in a hand-cart?

We have a city developer with his list of magnificent seven who must comprise the majority of the new council or we will languish in the quagmire, while the rest of the country passes us by.

My, what a responsibility we voters face if we fail to follow suit.

One of these anointed candidates proudly announces on his campaign literature he is supported by said developer.

If elected, are these individuals obliged to support this developer if he brings forth a proposed condo development at the entrance to Pinafore Park?

A group of neighbours, whose properties overlook the city’s Great Lake, boast their enclave can perhaps heavily influence the final outcome on Oct. 25.

Are these people more important than the residents of, say, Opechee Street or Hughes Street? Do their votes carry more weight than the votes of the good folks on Scott Street and Carrie Crescent?

The early warning signs of impending conflict appeared this spring, when the emergence of the community garden on Isabel Street initially pit neighbour against neighbour and then the bitter backlash rippled across the city.

Let’s put the machine on pause for a moment and ponder this.

Why don’t we all take the time to compile our personal slate of candidates — those individuals who can deliver the unique vision each one of us has for the future of this wonderful city. Elected representatives who will best strive to attend to our needs and quality of life.

Now, my slate no doubt will differ from yours, and that of the neighbourhood association and our developer friend.

But, isn’t that the beauty of a free and democratic election — your vote carries the same weight as every other ratepayer in St. Thomas. Your input is just as valuable as that of your neighbour.

However, all of this will go for naught if you don’t declare your slate at the ballot box in two week’s time.

BY WAY OF EXPLANATION

Several weeks ago I was invited by St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Bob Hammersley to participate in their all-candidates meeting this coming Wednesday (Oct. 13) at St. Anne’s Centre.

He took the time to patiently explain the concept and rationale behind the event, which would feature three media representatives alloted 15 minutes each to question aldermanic and mayoral candidates for the Oct. 25 vote in St. Thomas.

I enthusiastically endorsed the undertaking and subsequently was interviewed to provide comments for the chamber’s monthly publication.

Earlier this week, to my dismay, I saw a proof of advertising to appear on the front page of the Times-Journal for a period of several days. The advertising now referred to the event as a Politcial Throw Down!

The ad clearlly noted the evening was sponsored by developer Bob McCaig.

I have two concerns.

McCaig is actively promoting his slate of preferred candidates that includes Al Riddell for mayor and Jeff Kohler, Mark Cosens and Bill Sandison among others for alderman. For him to bankroll the meeting at St. Anne’s Centre to the tune of $4,000 sends a very mixed message in my opinion.

Secondly, promoting the all-candidates meeting as a Political Throw Down is extremely inflammatory and increases tension in what has already become a very volatile municipal campaign.

That same day, I discovered that at least one of the media panelists had been made aware from the onset of McCaig’s participation.

In a phone call with Hammersley on Wednesday, I aired my concerns. Most specifically McCaig’s organized promotion of a slate of candidates. I also expressed disappointment that I was not made aware of his involvement when my participation was first discussed.

Hammersley assured me the chamber would have 100% control of the event at St. Anne’s, however Hammersley was completely in the dark about McCaig’s Political Throw Down advertsing, which had not been endorsed by his organization.

So, in essence, the Chamber has far from 100% control of the evening.

It is with this knowledge I informed Hammersley I could not, in good conscience, participate in the event under the sponsorship arrangement and new Political Throw Down banner.

I am in no way opposed to sponsorship, it is necessary to allow the chamber to hold such worthwhile activities. However, when the sole sponsor is also vigorously endorsing his personal slate of mayoral and aldermanic candidates, I cannot be party to the evening’s event in any capacity.

I apologize to the chamber for the inconvenience this has caused, and I wish the organization and all the candidates participating the best of luck that evening and in the Oct. 25 municipal vote.

MEET AREA MAYORAL CANDIDATES
This corner will, however, be in attendance at Thursday’s televised mayoral candidates meeting, 7 p.m. at the Talbot Teen Centre.

The event is hosted by the St. Thomas & District Labour Council, which is seeking to promote a greater spirit of cooperation between St. Thomas and it’s neighbours, Central Elgin and Southwold.

However, with the mail-in ballot set-up in the latter, the evening will now be limited to the St. Thomas trio of incumbent Cliff Barwick, Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman and hopeful Albert Riddell.

From Central Elgin the candidates are incumbent Tom Marks, John Robinson, Gordon Smith and Bill Walters, seeking a return to office.

The labour council is targetting these communities because of the obvious links, such at the soon-to-be-closed Ford Canada St. Thomas Assembly Plant and the water/sewage infrastructure.

What caught our attention is one critical element of the debate format. Candidates must answer questions in a concise and direct fashion and not drift off topic into safer harbours elsewhere in their campaign platforms.

EXPENSE ACCOUNTABILITY  
A member of the city’s business community notes many, if not all of the municipal candidates, have talked about bringing new businesses to St. Thomas and utilizing existing outlets.

As an independent business proprietor, this reader wonders when candidates design their campaign with flyers, signage, professional portraits, graphic design, business cards and many incidentals, what percentage of that work has been undertaken in St. Thomas?

Understanding all candidates must file a breakdown of their campaign expenses after the vote, how many would be willing to share the receipts prior to the municipal vote? Then, we can determine who is putting their money where their mouth is and sourcing the work locally, and which candidates sent their business elsewhere.

After all, as this concerned owner correctly points out, “why would we support a candidate that hasn’t supported one of it’s own voters?”

Now, there’s a very shrewd owner and this corner would be pleased to gather those receipts and pass them along for analysis.

NEIGHBOURLY RESPECT

Attended a Downtown Development Board meeting this week and chairman Cosens offered his personal take on dealing with feral cats roaming the back alleys off Talbot Street.

If you catch one, drive it out into the country and then it’s the problem of some other municipality, the chairman suggested.

Fascinating to observe practicality in action.

At that same meeting, a committee chairman noted printing Merry Christmas on a downtown banner would just be politically incorrect.

Ah yes, Happy Holiday has a much more festive ring to it.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We are all aware of worthwhile organizations looking for grants . . . It’s not that I don’t support the agencies and organizations, but at the end of the day, we have these facilities and these facilities are to rent out, not to give away as grants.”

Ald. Tom Johnston gives a heads up to council the city will be inundated with requests, after members agreed to provide a grant of $556 to cover the cost of renting the auditorium at Memorial arena so city employees could hold a United Way fundraiser.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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