Friday, August 04, 2006

What this blog is about

Local politics. Local government. Municipal politicians.

I’ll stretch out a bit to touch on federal and provincial governments as local government interfaces with these “senior” bodies. Local governments around the country do similar stuff. All worry about downtown parking; plow snow; keep the parks clean and green; oversee the City Manager/Town Clerk; hear delegations concerned about declining property values etc..……….If you agree with this premise my experiences as a local councillor in the City of Burlington and a Regional Councillor in southern Ontario’s Halton Region may be of interest.

What, me Blogging?

I’m what the Mayor calls a “retreaded” politician. Earlier this year I answered the call accepting a Council appointment to fill an eight month vacancy in Ward 5. I was deemed a better choice than nineteen other candidates because:

• I had served two three-year terms in the nineties and represented a significant portion of the ward and

• I indicated that I wouldn’t run in this November’s elections.

I’m doing the same work as my colleagues but unlike most of them I’m not chasing votes this fall.

Call it a unique perspective. Is it worth blogging about? We’ll see.

Tough Work if you can get it

Upon my appointment many insiders offered both congratulations and condolences. Appropriate given the tough job that municipal politicians have. Speaking of tough jobs it is Saturday and a first posting seems a good diversion from reading several staff reports on sign variances. Heh, starting isn’t as easy as Biz Stone’s WHO LET THE BLOGS OUT said it would be.But here we go with some reflections from those eight years (98- 05) when there were no evening meetings to attend and no agendas to read.

=======================================================================Last Last year a federal politician made some disparaging and stupid remarks about municipal councillors. It made me mad enough to put pen to paper. Here is a slightly updated version:

Judy Sgro, a former Liberal Cabinet Minister, has taken a cheap shot at local politicians. According to the Toronto Star, Ms. Sgro, in defending her shortcomings as a Cabinet Minister, said:“You can get away with poor judgement at the municipal level, but you can’t get away with poor judgement in Ottawa.”

As a retreaded municipal politician I must register my strong objections to these remarks which slight the many dedicated, hard-working individuals who have served and continue to toil in the council chambers of our great nation. Sgro, a former Councillor ought to know better. Let some of these leaders talk to us of the spirit of democracy that lives in these local halls. Do they exercise poor judgement? You decide.

Allan Lamport, Mayor of Toronto 1952- 1954 understood consensus building:“I deny the allegations, and I defy the allegators.”

But politics is a tough business, one that requires, as John A MacDonald noted, “great coolness.”

Municipal leaders know this only too well. Thomas J. Irwin, former Mayor of Sault St. Marie was noted for his coolness under fire:“Show me the verbal agreement. Show me the verbal agreement.”

His worship Mayor Lamport again:“When you’re talking about me, keep your mouth shut.”

And John Sewell, political guru and one term Toronto mayor, can attest to the talent at local councils:“I only ran for Mayor because the others were dodos.”

And how about a word or two from Mel Lastman who served for nearly thirty years as Mayor of North York and the City of Toronto. “I apologize. I apologize....” Well, perhaps another time, Mel.

But what do I know. Unlike former North York Councillor Sgro I never made it to the show.
Well, I took a shot at the Province - sort of the American Hockey League of politics - but just didn’t have what it takes.

Bill VanderZalm made it to that level and became premier of British Columbia, our third largest province, in fact. And it says here that the Zalm, a former Councillor, would have made to the big leagues until, in his words: “We kind of had the wool pulled out from under us.” But we must look to the senior level to find citizens whose destiny it was to lead. Pierre Elliott Trudeau for one: “I acted on information I have been accumulating since I was a three-year- old..”

In addition to humility Trudeau brought an understanding and affection for the entire nation:

“I just think you Westerners should take over this country if you are so smart.”

And in Trudeau’s tradition, in fact the Liberal tradition, the country always, always comes first.

“I’m not interested in patronage because I’m a Liberal, ” pronounced our 20th Prime Minister, Jean Chretien.Indeed.

But let us not just pay homage to the Liberals. Many Canadians didn’t like Conservative PM Brian Mulroney. We understand some found him devious, a back stabber. But Mulroney listened, changed his ways.

When told, for instance, to curb his name-dropping tendencies he had already given it some thought:
“I know. The Queen Mother was telling me that just the other day.”

My guru is Allan Lamport because “(i)f someone is going to stab me in the back, I wanna be there.”

We wish you well Ms Sgro. To paraphrase former Ontario Speaker Al McLean, your conduct had nothing to do with you.

And frankly we don’t see much difference between the politics practiced in Ottawa, the provincial capitals and city halls.
Quotes are taken from and other public sources.
12:41 PM