We plan to open up space in this corner on occasion to allow a guest columnist to present their point of view on issues impacting St. Thomas and Elgin. Are you so passionate about some element of community life that you are compelled to organize your thoughts to share with others? It could be the upcoming municipal election, the proposed development on the Alma College site, the city’s infrastructure, the provision of municipal services . . . well, you get the idea. Submit your editorial to us for consideration and, who knows, we just may give you the podium. Our contact info is on this page.
Kicking off this feature is an individual who is no stranger to politics at any level. Bob McCaig is not shy on opinion and the city developer was riled up enough during the municipal vote four years ago he commissioned Oraclepoll Research to produce a St. Thomas Municipal Election Report, based on the responses of 400 individuals. You can read that report here. The following is McCaig’s take on this month’s mayoral race.
Let’s start with the mayor’s office. Heather Jackson has held the job for the past two terms.
Current councillor Steve Wookey, a popular secondary school teacher, wants to be mayor. He has a pile of signs on lawns, an obvious sign of considerable support.
Joe Preston, who served two terms as Member of Parliament for Elgin-Middlesex-London, enjoys public service and can’t wait to get back on the job. He figures sitting as mayor of St. Thomas, he will be the right individual to serve constituents while getting home for supper each night. That’s a task truly difficult for MP’s and MPP’s alike.
The fourth candidate is a newcomer to the city – an entertaining rapper/entrepreneur named Malichi Male – who makes friends easily but, being so new to the city, he is likely to garner but a few votes this time out.
At the opening of the campaign, Heather and Joe were about even, according to a small sampling obtained in an online poll conducted by young & free press, with Steve running behind. But, within two weeks, it appeared Joe had moved out in front of Steve and Heather. However, don’t be surprised if Steve is about to start snapping at his heels.
What’s a thinking voter to do?
Let’s take a closer look at the candidates.
Joe Preston is a qualified national politician, so sufficiently adept that soon after he announced his resignation, the then prime minister’s Challenger jet slipped into St. Thomas Municipal Airport, after which a long chat with Joe ensued with a view to ensuring the riding remained Conservative.
Joe groomed his competent riding executive assistant Karen Vecchio so that she could easily assume the riding mantle. After all, between Joe and Karen, they know almost everybody in the city by name.
Joe is an astute business professional, having owned and operated several successful city fast food emporiums before and since his time in the House of Commons.
He knows the back rooms of power and will be as handy as a pocket in a shirt at springing municipal support funding from the federal government.
His only downfall, if you can call it that, is the fact Joe has no elected experience at the municipal level. However, given his past, does he really need it?
Steve Wookey is a local boy, having grown up and attended school here and is now teaching history in St. Thomas for the Thames Valley District School Board at Central Elgin Collegiate Institute. Having served a term as councillor he feels he is ready for the mayor’s chair. He speaks well and presents himself with the authority of an accomplished politico.
Wookey reminds me of another history major who made the leap from A & P bag boy to alderman and then mayor to MPP in four consecutive jumps. When he and disgraced Premier Dalton McGuinty didn’t see eye to eye, McGuinty removed him from cabinet.
Steve Peters went over his head and campaigned within his own party and across the aisle, gaining support from the Progressive Conservatives to assume the role of Speaker at Queen’s Park, something for which he was tailor made.
Never has there been a more competent Speaker of the Ontario legislature than Steve Peters. Now that’s a compliment and I’m not even a Liberal.
By the way, Peters is seeking a seat as councillor. With two former parliamentarians in municipal roles working with their well-known provincial cabinet minister Jeff Yurek and MP Karen Vecchio, there is seemingly no limit to what St. Thomas, with whomever is mayor and eight co-operative councillors, should aspire to.
Ms. Jackson has served two term as mayor and her record speaks for itself. The fact she appears to be running third in the race, and will likely finish there, is a testimony to the acumen of ratepayers.
The fourth candidate Malichi Male, on name recognition alone, will gain support from a growing number of disenchanted youth. His platform includes better transit and job opportunities for young people. He is worth listening to and take the time to discover more about him.
And then you be the judge on who should occupy the mayor’s office.