By Stephen Vance, Editor
June is nearly gone, which means that the municipal election is a mere 120 days away. You would think that by now we would at least have some Mayoral candidates to consider.
Prime campaign season is upon us. With the Canada Day weekend fast approaching, what better time for Mayoral hopefuls to be out on the campaign beat at all of the various local events kissing posteriors… err babies, shaking hands, and passing out literature that could be reused to line bird cages. Does anyone have birds for pets anymore?
What are these potential candidates waiting for? Is there really any strategic benefit to holding out before filing their nomination papers? A candidate can’t raise or spend money, can’t put up a sign, and can’t do any campaigning until they have filed their paperwork with the clerk.
Why are so many other municipalities able to enjoy the fun of a Mayor’s race already but not Meaford? It just isn’t fair.
Perhaps it is a mind-set that I just don’t understand. While journalists jostle to be the first with the story, to “get the scoop”, apparently Mayoral candidates want to be the last ones to arrive at the dance. To be fashionably late I suppose.
My desire for wanting to have some declared candidates for the mayor’s seat is of course purely selfish. Without declared candidates, there is nothing to write about with regard to the upcoming election, or perhaps there is.
We do have three folks that have expressed a desire to run for mayor.
First we have Mayor Francis Richardson who has not yet said if he will seek election to the mayor’s chair. Richardson is our current appointed mayor who was elected as Deputy Mayor in the last municipal election and was later appointed after the elected Mayor resigned.
Richardson has had a tough run in his half term as Mayor given the various lawsuits, plenty of issues that have gotten the collective residents knickers in a twist such as Bognor Bridge, and he has been at the helm of a council that has more often than not refused to work together and has instead been happy to plod along as a dysfunctional non-cohesive unit.
Since January Richardson has maintained that he would announce his intentions before the end of June, so we should hear from him this week.
If Richardson does run, and there has been no indication that he won’t, he will be seeking election to the post of Mayor, not re-election, and will likely run his campaign with a strong emphasis on his ability to get this current council through some very troubled times.
Richardson will tout the fact that during his reign the municipality finally hired a CAO, conducted an Economic Development Strategy task force, replaced a bridge, and finally had a deficit-free year in 2009.
How much Richardson’s leadership had to do with the fact that this current council has made it to the tenth round still standing – albeit a little wobbly and with badly blackened eyes – will certainly be a subject of great debate.
Councillor Gerald Shortt said publicly back in the winter that if he does seek election in 2010 he would do so in hopes of being elected as Mayor. Shortt who has had a very lengthy career in municipal politics- first in St. Vincent, and then in Meaford was Meaford’s first post amalgamation Mayor.
Like Richardson, Shortt was not elected to the position in which he currently serves, he was appointed to council after a slew of resignations a few years back. Shortt prides himself on being a representative of the people and of being a fiscally responsible alternative to what he perceives as a spend-happy council.
It is common for Shortt to bring with him to the council chamber a long list of “questions” about a variety of issues that he seeks answers to on behalf of residents of this municipality. At times, the Shortt question period has caused friction between himself and Mayor Richardson, however Shortt remains steadfast in his desire to bring those questions and concerns to the public forum that is the council meeting.
Shortt has been beating the drums of discontent quite loudly in recent months requesting recorded vote after recorded vote to ensure that everyone is clear that he is the anti-Richardson – voting against many of the most contentious (and costly) issues that have cropped up in the municipality while Richardson and the rest of council – save at times Councillor McPherson – seem to vote the other way.
If Shortt does run he will no doubt run a campaign that will highlight the excessive spending of the current council, and will promise to run a council that will be much more careful with the taxpaying public’s hard earned money.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of Shortt’s desire for the municipality to be more responsible with the taxpayer’s money, however Shortt often seems to not understand some of the realities of conducting municipal business in 2010. Shortt has little time for or interest in things like consultant fees, or branding exercises, and he has made no secret of the fact that he feels that the municipal staff roster should be drastically cut.
Shortt would be an interesting Mayoral candidate indeed.
The only other potential candidate for the posting of Mayor that we know of at this time is the ever entertaining Councillor Jim McPherson.
McPherson – who incidentally was elected to his council seat and not appointed – is a politician that people either love, or strongly dislike – well actually some hate him.
He is a muckraker to be sure, he is at times bold and in your face, he is sometimes right, and other times not so right, but he has definitely provided that element of suspense and expectation to this council as one can never be sure what McPherson will do next.
After a council term that has seen McPherson censured by council, banned from entering the municipal offices, ensconced in heated debates with municipal staff and fellow councillors alike, McPherson may be the most unlikely of Mayoral candidates.
Some find him to be rude and abrasive while others feel that he does what every councillor should do- dig for answers and bring issues out into the public for debate.
McPherson has a strong base of support, many of whom see him as a white knight who will ride in on his stallion and save the day, but then there is an equally strong base who view McPherson as a side-show act riding a jack-ass.
Either way, a McPherson campaign is sure to raise some eyebrows, entertain, and will most definitely stimulate debate along the way.
So now come on everyone, July is almost here, time to make it official and declare your candidacy so that we can start talking about real issues and positions.
Throw us all a bone here, file your papers and issue your platforms so that we can begin debating what is destined to be a very, very important election.
Some of us want to start having some summer fun!