There are demigods at our doorstep and fake news at every turn. It seems there is no haven from the slow creep of instability wrought by nativist, xenophobic bigots using fear and discord to sway the sleeping masses to lemming like devotion. They are wrecking havoc on institutions and traditions, that have served us well in our inevitable evolutionary march toward a more liberal and progressive civilization.
Regardless of which side of the right/left spectrum you find yourself on, this is the exact moment where the citizenry rises (off the couch), on mass, and pays a visit to their local polling station on Monday, October 22 to make a statement and a difference. That day, if you are not aware, Municipal elections will be held throughout Ontario. There is more urgency than usual to get out and vote.
Consider the following: In the last municipal election in 2014 a measly 37.1% of eligible voters bothered to vote, which was still an increase from the dismal 32% who voted four years earlier. Surely there are more than that percentage of people that have opinions about the way the city is being run. As the adage goes, “if you don’t vote you have no right to complain.” It is a good rule to goad people to get out and vote. Considering the vast disfunction at city hall these days, Sarnia may soon take its place in rivaling the histrionics of Toronto city council when Rob Ford was Mayor.
When you consider that our own Mayor, with 33 years at the job and one of Ontario’s longest serving Mayors, had his pay suspended and access to city hall limited due to workplace harassment and code of conduct violations, Sarnia’s image has been tarnished. Whichever side of the divide you stand on as to the Mayor’s treatment, opinions are nonetheless polarized and vitriolic.
Another interesting twist to the story is that long time councillor Anne Marie Gillis, who challenged Bradley for the mayor’s seat in 2000, is currently serving as interim mayor and acts as liaison between Bradley and City staff. She has again thrown her hat in the ring hoping to unseat Bradley and what she terms as his “toxic leadership.” If ever there was a race worth getting excited about this has to be the one. It has all the elements of the best HBO drama.
Whether or not the mayor needs to be replaced should be foremost on people minds but there are plenty of other gripes going around about our city council: the excessive cost of repairing Centennial Park; the conditions of roads and infrastructure; lack of money for maintaining city assets such as pools and parks, are just a drop in the bucket of things people complain about.
In the long-term, city council needs to address our stagnant population growth. Since 1990 our population has consistently hovered in the low 70,000s and the forecast for the next twenty years is that it will continue to decline. The city’s tax base needs to be broadened and that should be a legacy issue for the incoming council to grapple with.
This election should be all about selecting a council that will bring stability and co-operation in the near term so that we can start wrestling with the issues that will make our city great again.
There is a lot at stake in this election. It behooves the citizenry to get out and vote, which will give you the right to complain all you want till you are asked to do it again in another four years.