Hopefully all of our readers had a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend filled with turkey, laughter, and some pumpkin pie. For me, the Thanksgiving weekend was a good time to take my newspaper hat off, and review our slate of council candidates from a personal perspective.
After reviewing the candidate profiles from our municipal election guide issue, and going over my notes and audio from the candidate meetings that I have been able to attend, I think I've got a fairly good grasp of which candidates would get my vote on October 22.
In spite of having 11 candidates for regular council seats, I was able to whittle that list down to the five I would vote for with relative ease. I also was able to determine my choice for the Deputy Mayor's post fairly quickly, but I confess, I struggled a bit while weighing the merits of the three candidates for mayor.
My problem is that each of the mayoral candidates have attributes and positions that I like (along with several I like not so much), but none of them constitute the full package that I am looking for in a mayor for this municipality.
I fully agree with mayoral candidate Ray McHugh that the most pressing issue in this and most other municipalities is the daunting infrastructure funding deficit; where we differ is on how to get there. McHugh prefers somewhat of a slash and burn approach that would cut services, staff, and costs in order to find the funds required, while I, as much as I have been beating the drums about infrastructure being our most pressing issue, prefer a more holistic approach that maintains most municipal services, not to mention a sense of community.
Mayor Barb Clumpus has been reminding voters that Meaford's financial position has never been better, and in the 13 years that I have lived in this community, that is certainly true. It is also true that under her leadership, the current council has been civil and drama-free. Clumpus has also had success in going to bat for this municipality whether it be with the NEC or the DFO, so I think she has represented this municipality fairly well as mayor, though I was less than impressed with her handling of and positions on some recent issues including the 'boutique hotel' proposal and the parks use bylaw, so while Clumpus has done many things right as mayor, there are areas which cause me concern.
Having previously served on council, mayoral candidate Jim McPherson has experience, and he understands the job. Over the years, when it comes to issues, I have often found McPherson to be on the right side of them from my perspective, but I am not always clear on how he plans to achieve his goals. McPherson says that roads and bridges are a major concern, and indeed they are. He has also suggested that this municipality needs to improve its winter roads control policies and procedures, and I don't disagree. However McPherson also says that Meaford's taxes are too high, and while that is subjective to a certain degree, I am not clear about how taxes can be lowered while at the same time this municipality attempts to tackle a massive infrastructure funding deficit. The two simply don't go hand in hand unless the plan is for massive service and staff cuts, which hasn't been suggested by McPherson.
Voters and candidates need to remember that while there is often an emphasis placed on the mayor's position at election time, the mayor is just one of seven votes on council. Mayors don't have any special powers, though they do have some additional responsibilities that regular councillors don't have, and they are tasked with representing our municipality in a wide range of settings, so part of the consideration when looking at mayoral candidates should be who would best represent us outside of our community as well as within.
The three mayoral candidates each have qualities, positions, and attributes that I am looking for, but each also holds positions that are troubling for me personally, and since we can't mash the best attributes of the three candidates into one super-candidate, the best plan is to go with the candidate that checks off the most boxes in my mayoral wish list.
Hopefully our readers have also been spending some time trying to create a final list of candidates to vote for on October 22. It isn't an easy task, and while I have had several people ask me in recent days who they should vote for, my best advice is to spend some time reviewing the candidate profiles, reflecting on any candidate meetings you were able to attend, and then see who checks the most boxes on your own preference list.