Are you ready?

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It didn’t take a prophet to predict that 2018 was going to be a really interesting year in politics. With both a provincial election and a municipal contest in Ontario, life was going to be full of politicking, campaigning, attacks, counter-attacks, and all sorts of fun things for the political junkie to enjoy. But I don’t think any prophet would have been willing to predict what we’ve already seen in just the first couple of months of 2018.

Without even waiting for election campaigns to kick off, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to India. Enough said? Between fancy costumes for all the family, which had to have been ordered, made and delivered well in advance of his trip, and an invitation to a man convicted of the attempted murder of an Indian cabinet minister to attend a formal dinner, Trudeau managed to dissipate a lot of the charisma and credibility he had worked so hard to build up. I suppose he should be glad there’s no federal election this year!

Provincially, we have already had the strangest start to the political year one could imagine. There was a general feeling that this year’s election was almost in the grasp of the Tories. After all, the Liberals have been in power for a long time, the Wynne Government has managed to alienate large swathes of the population, and, no matter what your political allegiance, there was a sense that enough was enough and a change was overdue.

Then the world got turned upside down. First of all, the Progressive Conservatives ditched their leader, Patrick Brown, in a move that many suspect was initiated within his own party. Poor Patrick quit, then decided to run for his old job again, then decided not to, and quit again. The way seemed clear for a new start, a positive message of renewal and energy on the part of the PC’s, and an opportunity to launch a campaign with all the media dazzle of a leadership celebration.

Unbelievably, they managed to make a complete mess of that too. Injunctions trying to delay the vote were rejected by the courts – a bad way to show party unity. Then the actual vote became a farce, with a seven-hour delay due, apparently, to technical problems, meant that they ran out of time in the hall they had rented and had to leave before the final results were known. They had to withdraw into a smaller room, with no opportunity for those gathered for the announcement to hang around. The party faithful were told they had to go home. Gone was the hope of a media event showing delirious Tories celebrating the election of a new and dynamic – Doug Ford? Well, maybe.

At the time of writing, Christine Elliott refuses to accept the victory of Doug Ford, claiming that she had won most of the ridings and the popular vote too. Refusing to take the oh-so-sophisticated route followed by Hillary Clinton in a somewhat similar situation, Ms. Elliott may end up in court trying to overturn the election results. If she succeeds, and even if she doesn’t, party unity and the anger of both groups of supporters will make it very difficult to present a happy and united face to the voters of Ontario in June.

Even Steve Clark, an otherwise strong candidate in this area, will have to overcome the bad public relations disaster this has proven to be. He will be facing, in all likelihood, a strong Liberal candidate in David Henderson, long-time mayor of Brockville, and it should make for an intriguing contest.

And then there’s North Grenville. I don’t want to bore people with the on-going saga of the misrepresentations of the Times by all but one Council member. That is an on-going saga. I would, however, like to apologise for what was language that went over the line in a recent editorial on the subject. I can only say that feelings of betrayal and accusations that I am a threat to the democratic rights of the people of North Grenville made me overreact and write a word or two that I would not ordinarily write. My apologies.

I find we are still faced with a very autocratic Council (aside from Jim Bertram), who clearly believe in the chain of command. Coming from police, military and bureaucratic backgrounds, they believe in protecting those under them, and expecting others to acknowledge their positions. This is a pity, as they have, in my experience of almost fifteen years covering municipal council, become so firmly locked in the “Bubble” that develops around small elites, that they simply don’t see what is happening outside the Bubble. Perhaps the many letters and posts will help them to get some perspective? Time will tell. They only have until October 22 to see the signs.

Yes, it has already been quite a political year, and we’re only in March! Imagine what could happen next.

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