The current municipal council is in the third year of its term, and may be beginning to think about the election coming up at the end of 2018. Will they run again? Should they go for the same job, or perhaps think about being Mayor next time? There have been some fairly clear hints here and there from a few of the current crop, but, of course, no-one knows who might throw their hat in the ring and surprise everyone. But, looking at the council as it is today, what can we say?
As you will see in Deron Johnston’s article in this issue, there is a clear difference between the older member and the more recently elected ones. Councillors Bertram and Arnaud have been active in their roles, discovering something that had been lost in previous years: that Councillors can achieve things. It is really astonishing that Jim Bertram was the first Councillor in the history of North Grenville to actually introduce a Resolution to Council. He has since been followed by the even more recently arrived Donovan Arnaud, who not only initiated the renaming of the old Armoury building to commemorate Blake Williamson, he has been working at reinvigorating the Economic Development Committee, which had become something of a damp squib under Tim Sutton.
Jim Bertram and Donovan Arnaud have worked well with Mayor David Gordon to bring a sense of purpose and energy to our municipal council, whatever you think of the individual results. Councillor Bertram’s move to call a Rural Summit last year was fundamentally undermined by changes made to his idea, but the precedent has been set, and agricultural issues will not be so easily ignored in future. Last week’s moves to pass resolutions of support where requested by other municipalities, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, show that the three men are working in a broader context than simply our local government, and that is good for the kind of networking and mutual support that is becoming more and more important as municipalities face cutbacks in funding by the province.
Councillor Tobin gets some severe criticism from Deron Johnston this week, but she does represent an older approach to governance that she learned from a previous mayor of North Grenville, where juniors should know their place, the public should mind their own business, and running the municipality should be left to our betters. It seems the only initiative Councillor Tobin has ever taken has been to install an automatic reply feature to her e-mail account, to make people think she is actually interested in peoples’ concerns. She is, and always has been, a negative force on council. Fortunately, she is increasingly isolated in that position.
For this is a period of transition in municipal politics in North Grenville. We are moving away from the condescension and arrogance of previous councils, and finding our representatives interested in hearing our concerns, our ideas and, yes, even our criticisms. The right of taxpayers to be upset with what is happening in our community is finally being recognised by the majority on council. Criticism does not have to be taken so personally, it is, in fact, part of the job they’ve taken on. It has been hard, up until recently, to convince members of council that the people of North Grenville have a role to play in running their own affairs. Given our increasing population, and ever more complex issues facing council and staff, it is unreasonable to assume that they could not benefit from some input from the public.
I have sometimes been accused of being negative about things: I disagree. I have enormous faith in the people of North Grenville, and great pride in what we have achieved together. I also believe that this period of transition, if allowed to continue through the next election, will be the most positive development since amalgamation. We have an excellent CAO in Brian Carré and the leadership he has shown, in conjunction with David Gordon, has been of real value to the community. Now we find two of our Councillors are active and open, using their position as Councillors as designed to be used, and not content simply to occupy a seat for a decade without actually achieving anything.
The fourth member has yet to exhibit any of the same kind of initiative and energy, and that is both disappointing and sad. Much more was expected. But more than half way to the next election, we can start to see the choice we have in the future between the old and the new way of serving North Grenville. This “report card” can alternately read: “shows great promise”, and “needs to work better with others”. Apply as appropriate.