The Toronto dailies, the Star and the Globe have devoted column inches to the Toronto mayoralty race – why? The answer is obvious they wish to decry the sudden success of Rob Ford and wonder how "people" can be so stupid to support such a buffoon. As most of these journos and editorial writers sniff rarified air (ever figured out how much a major daily journo earns), they fail to appreciate the opinions of the rest of us. And we are angry. Angry about increased government costs, cutbacks, reduced services and feeling powerless to do anything about it.
Everybody only had one thing that is only theirs – a vote. You will never know what people do behind the ballot screen (oops we are now talking history as internet voting has destroyed the secret ballot – but that's another column). And if you feel put upon by the government of any stripe and someone comes along, however much of a buffoon that character may be, you will identify with him or her (howcum the latest Tea Party winners are telegenic women?). Rob Ford talks the walk of many angry white males. Fortunately in Toronto there are not as many of them as Ford would like so the room for growth is not there. Ford's campaign is helped by two lousy and offensive identifiably Liberal Centre-Right candidates, neither of whom can attract a mainstream vote and the left vote is carried by a career politician who is basically a no-name (Adam Gianbrone you should have stayed in the race).
So back to the angry voter syndrome, do we have that in Cobourg? A good question because the issue of taxes and spending at City Hall has always been up top. Ask any candidate who trolls for votes in the new subdivisions and the first thing they get hit with, if they ask the person at the door what's on their mind, is, "Taxes, I pay as much in taxes for this house as I did in Toronto where my older house was worth twice as much." No argument and the candidate is left to sputter, "Well I promise to look into it." and hustles off that step as fast as possible to the next one where hopefully nobody will be in and they don't have to listen to the same complaint. Do we have angry electorate? Not that I can see. The only source of financial anger is when one talks about the new Community Centre and the spectre of an overwhelming operating budget and the inability of any of the candidates to say that Town Services will be modified to stop any tax increase. A 2% increase may be 46% lower than previous years but it is still a tax increase. Has anybody ever figured out that the average fixed income in this Town is a third of the the average Director's salary in City Hall. Has anybody ever conducted a "value for money audit" at city hall, if they have where are the results. There is a potential for savings, if one wants to be realistic and not perpetuate empires, to save money. Is any candidate talking about the damage that can be done by losing just one of our large industries and if they are, have they a financial disaster plan to bring to voters. Do any of the voters inspire confidence in their ability to articulate and lead – we don't know and we only have five (four if you count the internet voting period) weeks to find out.
In an interview this morning the Manager of Legislative Services, Lorraine Brace – the honcho who does all the checking of candidates credentials told the BurdReport that candidate Deveau, when he filed his nomination papers completed all the necessary forms and one of them was a statement to the effect that he was not a disqualified candidate. As the Ms Brace was not in the position she now holds when the previous election in question (2006) took place no alarms rang in her head and obviously nobody else at City Hall heard bells ringing so the due diligence check did not get done until after the nomination date had passed. This check took time as the records were buried deep and after a check with Municipal Affairs she took the drastic step of disqualifying Candidate DeVeau. The system worked, I guess if you want to be a candidate you should check to see if you are disqualified first!
The number one issue for most folks is the cost of living here. Property taxes are acknowledged as being higher than other municipalities because our living style and the services that have been provided by the administration are greater and more comprehensive than others. But do we see that opinion reflected on any of the websites that the five candidates that have websites? NO! The best we have so far is to hold the annual tax increases to inflationary levels. Sad!
The plethora of programmes and the number of Town workers needed to deliver them has advanced in the last ten years. Have we seen any attempt to contain costs in those programmes or is any candidate proposing to review those programmes. For example has the Planning department become any more efficient and productive since it has expanded in size? Is it now easier for developers to get what they want and still protect the taxpayers interests?
Is any candidate talking about the services that have been cut at the Northumberland Hills Hospital considering the massive investment of Cobourg dollars into the facility?
Is any candidate talking seriously about how to manage the Parks system with the success of Cobourg's Tourism programmes bringing more visitors to Town. Is the Tourism Department talking about how make the visits more enjoyable for the visitors and more lucrative for the businesses downtown. Why are the candidates not talking about the old issue of uniform opening hours or Sunday shopping in the summer months?
And the list of issues can be made longer. But the big issue for me is:Why do we not have a candidate with an original idea that makes people stand up and say "Yes!" Lots of policy for the nuts and bolts but no imagination as of yet. Correct me if I am wrong
Speaking with a couple of candidates about the upcoming election and catching up with the past week's activity two points, both about the Elections Act:
- Oooops that was close! Gil Brocanier dodged a bullet today. In his literature and website he is using an email address, after all which candidate doesn't have email these days. The problem is that the one he used was his Town one paid for by the taxpayers. So if he continued to use it he would have been in breach of the EA because he would have been using a publicly funded asset to electioneer. That is against the Elections Act. When questioned by the BR, before writing the story ,he replied by email, "Hi Ben I did not intend for the use of my town email and am having my tech people correct it. I was surprised to see all the messages coming in. Gil"
- When it was questioned as to why Wayne DeVeau wasn't on the ballot the answer was an interesting one, "Oh you haven't heard that one, on Monday, the first business day after nomination day, he was informed that because he hadn't filed a financial report from the previous election he was barred from the next two elections." Now is that a dirty trick or what? Either he knew and chose to ignore the fact, or someone in City Hall sat on the ruling until after nominations closed. He filed a month ago don't you think that the fact that he was inelegible was known and should have been told at the time of filing or shortly after. Perhaps the nomination shouldn't have been accepted. Of course he may have been told at the time of filing or thereafter but the story as told to the BR said he was told on Monday when it was too late to defend oneself. Hmmm. I wonder what happened to the letter of notification that he should have received six months after the deadline?