Friday, 12 September 2014

Last-minute Candidates Thicken the Plot

Yesterday’s nomination deadline brought forth a host of last-minute entrants into municipal elections. The biggest surprise was Rob Ford, diagnosed only days before with an abdominal tumour, handing off his family’s hopeless bid to retain the mayor’s office in Toronto to his brother Doug and instead taking up the race for his old familiar spot representing north Etobicoke on council, which he’ll run from his hospital bed. Rob will likely get re-elected on his home turf, while Doug’s mayoral support will be a fraction of his brother would have had.

Back at home, Alan Wilson finally made good on rumours he would contest for the mayor’s office in Peterborough. Wilson, who first moved from Ireland to Peterborough more than thirty years ago, was an engineer at Quaker before getting active in local Conservative Party circles. He was the Progressive Conservative candidate in the provincial election of 2011, finishing with just over 15,000 votes. Jeff Leal was re-elected with more than 19,000 votes that year, while NDP candidate Dave Nickle picked up about 12,500.

A quick scan of the poll-by-poll results, however, show that much of Wilson’s support came from the county, as is usual for Conservative candidates. Leal finished far ahead of Wilson in almost every polling station in the city, and Nickle got more votes than Wilson in many of them. Then again, Wilson did have to carry the questionable Tim Hudak on his back through that campaign.

For comparison’s sake, Daryl Bennett was elected mayor in 2010 with 14,000 votes to Paul Ayotte’s 10,000. How many votes will it take to to get elected mayor this time, with more candidates and a potentially higher turnout?

Before and after his run for Queen's Park, Wilson acted as an adviser to MP Dean Del Mastro. Wilson told the Examiner that he’d been waiting for Del Mastro’s trial to be done before committing to the mayoral race. But with the verdict delayed until after election day, Wilson jumps into the campaign with the issue unresolved.

Would you run for public office while your ally and boss was on trial for fraud?

Stranger things have happened in Peterborough politics. Remember when Len Vass ran for mayor while he was engaged in legal action against the city? And Wilson isn't the only Del Mastro associate to brazenly seek election this year. Dean's former campaign manager Jeff Westlake is running for council in Monaghan Ward.

Camille Parent, the former Catholic school board trustee whose complaint about Bennett reportedly led to the mayor’s own legal issues with the police services board, registered this week as a candidate for city council for Otonabee Ward. Although he lives in Kawartha Lakes, Parent owns a business on Lansdowne, and so qualifies as a candidate. He joins Kim Zippel and Stephen Morgan in challenging incumbents Dan McWilliams and Lesley Parnell in Otonabee.

On the school board front, Kawartha Pine Ridge chair Diane Lloyd, who ran uncontested in Selwyn in 2010, looked to be on her way to a second straight acclamation until Bridgenorth resident Barry Mortin stepped up this week to run against her. Mortin was active in the Save PCVS lobby effort two years ago  during which tone-deaf KPR trustees with Lloyd at the helm managed to rub almost everyone who had to deal with them the wrong way.

In the city, last-minute candidate David Kittner joins Wayne Bonner in vying for the two KPR seats representing Peterborough. Long-standing trustee Roy Wilfong finally vacated his, while incumbent Rose Kitney seeks re-election.

The PCVS debacle and the looming Jackson Park bridge atrocity, both of which threaten the health of our city core, have at least had the effect of stimulating citizen interest in municipal affairs. We’ve got six candidates for mayor now – that's three times as many as 2010. Every ward has five or six candidates for council, most of them serious contenders.

But choice between candidates doesn’t mean much without intelligent debate. The Realtors and Homebuilders host their mayoral debate on Wednesday, September 24th. Development interests will be prominent, so bring your tough questions about sustainability to challenge the status quo. 

Is anyone going to step up and organize local ward debates for our city councillors this time?

Meanwhile, our outgoing council finally takes a look at the Northcrest Arena replacement study next Monday. Whether we invest in a full-service recreational center for Northcrest or settle for the bare minimum because we've maxed out our credit to pave over our existing outdoor recreational space with the Parkway will be for our next council to decide -- after we decide on the next council. 

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