One of the frustrating things about politics is that you can never know for sure whether your elected officials are doing a good job.
With a hockey coach you can pretty well tell whether he knows what he’s doing. The results are there for all to see at the end of the season. Either his team won the majority of its games or it lost most of them. It’s all very cut and dried. For the coach, there’s no place to hide.
But not so in politics. A mayor, an MPP or an MP can be doing a terrible job but still get re-elected because something good happened on his or her watch that he or she had nothing whatever to do with.
Which brings me to the topic of the announcement that NOVA plans to go ahead with a $2 billion polyethylene plant in St. Clair Township. This is fantastic news for the region. It will mean 800 to 1,400 construction workers will be employed for up to four years. When they’re done, in late 2021, there will be 150 permanent jobs.
And the above figures do not count the spinoff jobs that will come as a result of such a massive project. You can be sure there will be many hundreds of them.
The value of homes across the urban Sarnia area will go up as well.
That’s all good news. The bad news is that when it comes to our local politicians, they’ll likely all benefit, even though many of them did diddly-squat to make the project happen.
Certainly MPP Bob Bailey will be helped out politically. NOVA officials drew attention to a $100 million contribution from Queen’s Park that helped make the new plant possible. And Bailey, a Conservative, was gracious enough to thank the Liberal government for stepping up to the plate.
Perhaps Bailey deserves some credit. However, I suspect a lot of municipal politicians have been all but guaranteed re-election next year because of this project, including some who should be kicked to the curb.
St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold and all of his councillors will likely be returned without any trouble. The plant, after all, is going up in their municipality.
In Sarnia, I suspect Mayor Mike Bradley and his eight councillors will receive major boosts too.
But did any city leaders have anything to do with the plant coming here? It’s difficult to know. All that we know for certain is that it happened when they were in office.
The fact that we have a highly skilled workforce, a good highway system and a favourable geographic location probably had a lot more to do with securing the project than anything done by anyone at city hall.
Still, all the chaos that’s been going on at city hall over the past several years could become little more than background noise if the region is booming economically come election day.
When times are good few people want to rock the boat. They won’t know for sure whether their elected representatives made it happen but they won’t care either, just so long as the plant goes ahead.