- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

We are in a double election year, and while all the air has been sucked out of the room by the PC leadership upheaval and the creation of ever more insulting nicknames for the sitting Premier, locally we are preparing for a civilized municipal campaign.

In 2014, many candidates' campaigns were predicated on a perception that no progress could be made because the council was very divided, and new, untainted leadership was required. Twenty-four candidates ran in Owen Sound; two first-time councillors and a five-term councillor were ousted, and four rookie councillors elected. The Deputy Mayor's race, the first for this newly created position, saw Arlene Wright reverse her 2012 retirement announcement and force another experienced councillor, David Adair, out of the council chamber. Two experienced mayors were defeated by a one-term councillor.

In interviews with successful candidates following the election, and right up to the mid-term check-in, there were plenty of hockey analogies and a lot of talk about "the team". But by the middle of last year you could feel that there were more than just differences of opinion – everyone was not skating in the same direction.

The seeming unanimity of 2014 was around efficiencies, tax savings and growth but the council members, individually and collectively, have failed to create a unified vision of the City "where you want to live". Where are the ideas for the empty schools and the two long-term care facilities slated to close? What is the city's plan for connecting the college to the community? How will they provide transit to an expanding community? After the ribbon-cuttings, how will they support the young entrepreneurs they are courting?

The rhetoric at last night's council meeting, for the benefit of media and the television camera, definitely sounded like a re-election campaign in progress. "When was the last time we had such a small tax increase?" Why, you couldn't buy a cup of coffee at a multinational chain for that!

But they cannot run as a slate.

If even one councillor is intending to run for mayor or deputy mayor, that will create a vacancy. Since every elector can vote for up to eight councillors and the winners will be the eight with the most votes, each sitting councillor who chooses to run will be competing against every other. Running on their record as a team does not differentiate them one from the other, and certainly not from the newcomers.

And there will be newcomers. The two councillors with the highest number of votes in 2014 were new.
Incumbency guarantees nothing.

At yesterday's Owen Sound council meeting at which the 2018 budget was presented for public discussion, there was one Owen Sound resident in attendance. To paraphrase a local editor, "I guess it will all be discussed on Facebook tomorrow without those pesky facts and and burdensome accuracy to spoil the fun." It's time for those with ideas and dreams to step out from behind the keyboard, read up on the Municipal Act, gather their facts and and start getting out there. We want to hear your vision, not your complaints.

Although the details are not yet on the Owen Sound website, registration for municipal candidates for all three positions – councillor, deputy mayor and mayor – opens Tuesday, May 1 and closes on Friday, July 27, 2018. Guidelines for candidates are here.
Election day is Monday, October 22.




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