Ecclestone’s New Endeavour

Ecclestone at CouncilI see from emails he has been sending out that former councillor Cam “Sleepy” Ecclestone has decided to run in the upcoming provincial election as a member of the Consensus Party — an unknown, fringe party that hasn’t got the proverbial snowball’s hope in hell of getting a seat, especially not in this riding. That takes guts. Or maybe utter stu… but you have to admire him for putting himself on the firing line like this. The same way you admire drunken people running with the bulls in Pamplona. The results, I suspect, will be similar, albeit less gory.

The idea behind the Consensus Party is actually quite good, if naive. Like most new or fringe political parties, I suspect the electorate will see it on the ballot and likely mutter “Huh?” This party is so new it isn’t even listed (as of Jan. 24) on Wikipedia’s page of Ontario’s political parties (which even lists the Communist Party, Go Vegan party, the Pauper Party, and the Stop the New Sex-Ed Agenda Party). As the Consensus Party’s website notes:

Under a Consensus Government, elections become a matter of voters answering a single question: Which candidate in my riding will be our best representative? No more the worry for voters as to which party they have traditionally voted for or against, and no more will the personality of the party leaders factor in to the voters’ decision. The simple question is who will faithfully represent the majority view in our riding, issue by issue?

As political theories go, that’s right up there with wishing on a star or Repugnicans uttering “thoughts and prayers” in reaction to gun violence. It ignores both the collective power of the party and the vested self-interest of candidates who, as a majority government, can vote themselves all sorts of pay hikes and perks without the need to resort to what remains of their conscience.

The NWT is held up as the model for consensus politics, and while I admit it works there, they have a mere 19 MLAs to contend with — about half as many members who sit on Simcoe County Council — compared with 124 MPPs at Queen’s Park. If all were independent, it could be chaos.

In theory, Ontario’s municipal politics are non-partisan, but that’s really just a nudge-nudge-wink-wink pretense. I mean, does anyone in Collingwood NOT know that our mayor and his cabal are utterly and ideologically linked to the provincial Conservatives? After all, our own, much-disliked mayor openly promotes himself as the candidate ready to abandon his mayoral duties and responsibilities for that cash-cow job in Queen’s Park under the equally inept Doug Ford.

After covering local municipal politics for the media for more than a decade, serving on three councils, and writing about local politics for three decades, I am well disabused of the farcical notion that one can have non-partisan politics, even at the local level.

But let’s get back to Sleepy Ecclestone. Aside from the somewhat bemusingly inflated political career (not to mention the wacky, random capital letters tossed throughout his tale onto inappropriate words like cranberries sprinkled on a salad), the most amusing line on his website is:

At 82 I am enjoying excellent health and above average energy level. I feel certain at this point that if elected I can serve my full term.

Only four years older than Joe Biden. Not exactly confidence-building to suggest he “feels” he might be able to serve his full term but only “at this point.” What about tomorrow? And having an “above average energy level” suggests he might be able to stay awake until 8 p.m. He wasn’t nicknamed Sleepy for his alertness at the council table, after all.

In a previous piece on Ecclestone’s inflated claims, I quoted this:

Blowhards have no standing,
The self-promoting are not distinguished,
Show-offs do not shine,
Braggarts have nothing to show,
The self-important are here and gone.
(The Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation, trans. Roger Ames & David Hall, Ballantine Books, Jan. 2003)

That still rings true. And in his self-aggrandizing description of what many of us saw as a lacklustre political career, Ecclestone notes this:

During my term we were fiscally responsible and dealt effectively with the sale of our 50% stake in Collus The effective sale of our Airport and the Judicial Inquiry into past inappropriate financial irregularities.

Ecclestone at councilI wonder what he thinks are appropriate financial irregularities, but that line is just twaddle and ignores some inconvenient facts.

My recollection of Ecclestone’s storied political life is him muttering at the council table, sometimes incoherently, a lack of initiative and vision, and him always voting with The Block of Saunderson Sycophants.

In his term, Ecclestone voted in lockstep with the rest of The Block to spend millions of tax dollars on sole-sourced consultants and lawyers (including Deputy-Mayor Saunderson’s former employers) to prepare council for the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (the SVJI). That vendetta would cost taxpayers more than $10 million to date and our money is STILL being wasted on the SVJI when it should have been used for the community; to fix roads and sidewalks and help local businesses and workers get through the pandemic lockdowns. Egregiously wasting taxpayers’ money is not what I would think is something to brag about.

Nor is privatizing public assets like the electricity utility and airport so the community loses public control over rates and service levels boast-worthy. It’s an embarrassment that has permanently affected the community. It was done behind closed doors, with sole-sourced lawyers and NO public consultation or input. The entire process was secretive and deceptive. Ecclestone should be ashamed of his admittedly minor role in allowing that. Instead, he’s bragging.

Nor does Ecclestone include in his CV his participation in helping Saunderson and the rest of his cabal set up roadblocks to our hospital’s much-needed redevelopment. That was an utterly disgraceful part of that council’s history, so it’s little wonder he doesn’t want to recall it for voters. Although his role was merely to vote with the other sycophants, Ecclestone must share the blame along with Saunderson for this shameful chapter in our town’s political history. We will not let voters forget it.

Nor should we forget his role in dissolving the public utilities board back in 2015. That removed the arm’s-length oversight by professionals and put management into the political sphere. It was done in preparation to secretly giving (yes: GIVING) our public water utility to a private corporation, a plan that was derailed when it became widely known and the unions challenged it. The sole-sourced consultant hired to advise council promised it would save the town at least $700,000 a year, but it ended up instead COSTING taxpayers millions. And how was that “fiscally responsible,” Cam? You neglected to mention that part of your political career.

I’d wish you the best of luck, Cam, but I wouldn’t mean it. I’m sure you wouldn’t be any less inept in the role than Brian Saunderson, but Collingwood and Simcoe-Grey don’t need politicians like either of you.

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