It’s been a City Scope tradition to greet the incoming year by surveying the past 365 days to savor the wit and wisdom of our elected representatives.
As a collector of quotes from a variety of sources, it lends credence to the words of wisdom from British author Dorothy L. Sayers: “I always have a quotation for everything – it saves original thinking.”
Of course, when media scribes document a response or comment to the pages for posterity, we must be prepared for the inevitable charge of being taken out of context.
Or, as one anonymous wag noted, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.”
With the preamble out of the way, let’s glean through a year’s worth of columns to fully appreciate what transpired in 2012.
Less than two weeks into January and Ald. Gord Campbell set the tone with this blistering synopsis of what lay ahead at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital.
“There are two issues. There is the greedy double-dipping by the hospital board and then, the need for the hospital foundation to raise the money the hospital will need.”
In his colourful career, Ald. Campbell has never been noted as one who treads gingerly around an issue.
At the end of the month, Ald. Sam Yusuf displayed shocking insensitivity to his peers on council, city staff, the consultant and city police with his response to Ald. Dave Warden during a presentation on the proposed new police headquarters.
“I’m enjoying the show. No, I’m just taking it all in. I have toured the police station and met with the officers. Thanks, I’m enjoying it.”
This is the same elected official who was AWOL for most hospital board meetings in 2012.
In February, Mayor Heather Jackson chose not to sit on the fence during contract talks involving the city and the police and fire departments.
“My least favourite word at the moment, dealing with these, is arbitration.”
In actual fact, raises for both services were kept in check through the arbitration process. The shape of things to come?
The STEGH redevelopment project dominated debate throughout the year, however this plateful of bafflegab from health minister Deb Matthews is a head-scratcher.
“We’re going to make sure the projects are aligned with the components of our action plan that talk about delivering procedures outside of hospitals if they don’t need to be performed inside the hospital.”
No competition in the flip-flop of the year award, bestowed upon Ald. Mark Cosens who, in May, left no doubt about his feelings on the need for a new police headquarters.
“But regardless of what this (an environmental assessment of the existing site) comes up with, unless there’s volcanoes going up in the middle of the ground, it wouldn’t alter my decision on what we’re doing here.”
A complete about-face from this quote taken from his 2010 campaign video.
“No question they are starved for space, cramped quarters and dealing with an outdated building. The building is of such construction, to try to renovate the current building would be nearly impossible without tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch.”
The memorable words of wisdom weren’t limited to municipal politicians, as witness this not-so-subtle putdown from Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, in a personal letter to Elgin-Middlesex-London PC MPP Jeff Yurek. She was obviously miffed at his on-going efforts – via the media – to rectify the dangerous situation at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.
“I am always willing to meet with members of other parties, and I have had many such meetings in the past. Meeting in person, I find, is always preferable to communicating through the media.”
Still with the detention centre, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, was not about to be out-done.
“Old Daddy Dalton, he ought to come look at stuff. He should grow a spine and come down here and meet the people his policies are affecting the most. They have a multitude of issues in all the jails but this one here has reached the boiling point. I marvel at how a politician can just ignore such obvious problems.”
One of the masters at laying down a dandy quote is former mayor Cliff Barwick and he showed he hasn’t lost his touch when asked to comment on Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands’ motion to drop the use of the term alderman and opt for councillor.
“It’s a project you discuss as to what lenses you’re going to use on the street bulbs and what shape lanterns we need downtown. That’s the kind of things you discuss along with this.”
Finally, to illustrate T-J readers can get in on the act, in a letter to the editor, Bill Sandison chided Mayor Jackson for the lack of direction shown by council on remuneration received by Ald. Tom Johnston as board chairman of St. Thomas Energy/Ascent, in spite of a city bylaw forbidding such compensation.
“It would be nice to have a mayor in St. Thomas who acted decisively and led, rather than one who relies on the “‘4 D’s” of failed leadership: denial (I don’t know), deflection (it’s someone at Ascent), delay (we’ll have a meeting) and defeat (nothing can be done).”
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Question and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.