Just as it was looking as if we might not have enough council candidates to even fill the chamber, a flurry of candidate nomination filings in the final days before the July 27 deadline has given Meaford voters much to choose from.
In the days and weeks to come we will learn more about all of the candidates. This week The Independent will be sending each candidate an information form for them to complete and return to us for a future publication of all of the candidates and their platforms, as we did in 2014.
In the interim, here's my initial take on the election campaign ahead.
If the race for the mayor's chair looks familiar, it is. In 2014, we had five mayoral candidates, and when the votes were counted, the top three finishers were Barb Clumpus, Jim McPherson, and Ray McHugh, and this year those three candidates will once again compete for the top position at council.
While Clumpus topped the vote count in 2014 with 1,885 votes to secure the mayor's seat, McPherson wasn't far behind with 1,529 votes, and finishing third was McHugh with 1,069 votes. These candidates battled hard the last time around, and I suspect this election will bring more of the same.
The deputy mayor's race will be interesting, with current councillor Shirley Keaveney taking on David Long, who ran for the same post in 2014, garnering 1,875 votes, but falling short of the 2,862 votes earned by then incumbent candidate Harley Greenfield. Long and Keaveney have butted heads on issues in the past, and this particular race should bring about some interesting debates as the campaign marches on.
Meaford voters will have eleven candidates to consider for the five council seats available. Some of them we already know fairly well, while others we will get to know better as the summer turns to autumn on the road to election day. Two incumbents, Steve Bartley and Tony Bell, are joined in the race by current Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield, who is seeking a regular council seat this time around. But those three aren't the only candidates with council experience running this year. Former mayor Francis Richardson, who opted not to run in 2014, is back in hopes of securing a council seat, as is former Meaford councillor (and former reeve of Sydenham Township) Deborah Young, who failed in her bid for the mayor's seat in 2014 but is hoping to return to council after the October 22 vote. Rounding out the list of council candidates are retired radio broadcaster Ross Kentner, along with mayoral candidate Jim McPherson's wife Karen Kay, Diane MacIntyre, Amie Foster, Robert Uhrig, and Paul Vickers.
So we have plenty of choice as we voters look toward municipal election day, and while the candidates are important, the issues are also important, but for every voter the issues can be quite different.
Based on what I've been hearing on the street and in my email in-box, policing is likely to be a hot button issue in this election, with many feeling that this municipality isn't being policed as it should be. Many blame the lack of a contract with the OPP as the reason, causing some to question what we are getting for the nearly $2 million per year this municipality pays to the OPP. Winter roads control is another topic likely to be put before the candidates. Current members of council know well the passion of residents who felt that the past winter was a disaster on the snow-plowing front, and some of those passionate residents have assurred me that they will be grilling council candidates on that issue. For others the new library is a bone of contention, while the state of our roads will be on the minds of many.
Myself, I am interested in what all of the candidates have to say about our enormous infrastructure funding deficit, and I will be looking to learn how they prioritize the infrastructure issues, among a host of other important issues.
No matter which issues concern you most, the next couple of months is your chance to put the candidates to the test by contacting and questioning them, and of course we will have full candidate profiles to publish as the election approaches.
To all of the candidates, you've got my respect even if we differ on the issues. Not everyone is cut out for the life of a councillor (see the 3Rs...Rants, Raves & Rumours in this week's print paper for a fun example of why), but for those that take on the challenge, it's not easy, and you'll need a thick skin, but without folks like you we wouldn't have much of a democracy, would we?
So let the games begin, Meaford voters, on October 22 we will be selecting a new council, and it will look very different from the council that occupies the chamber on the 7th Line today. But different doesn't always mean better, so do your homework, and choose wisely.