One of Collingwood’s current mayoral candidates is doing meet-n-greet events and openly endorsing a fixed slate of the seven council candidates she wants to be elected with her (but not, curiously, a deputy-mayor; see below). Is this appropriate for a would-be mayor?
I don’t believe so.
First, in the last two terms, we’ve seen how a slate of candidates can negatively affect governance by voting en masse for whatever their leader wants regardless of its impact on Collingwood. This term, we saw how a block of councillors collectively bullied a female councillor (Tina Comi) out of office so they could replace her with a close friend and major campaign donor. We’ve seen how important issues like infrastructure or the hospital’s redevelopment get sidelined when a block caters to their leader’s personal agenda instead of attending to municipal issues.*
Second, how will voters feel towards that mayoral candidate if they have other choices in mind for council? Isn’t the whole point of democracy to be able to choose your own candidates rather than being told who to choose? How will voters feel about a candidate who expresses personal bias instead of taking the high road towards all candidates?
Third, how will those other candidates feel about their new mayor’s leadership if they get elected instead of those on the endorsed slate? How will that new mayor be able to develop teamwork and collaboration with those councillors they did not endorse? It strikes me that making such an endorsement sets up an adversarial relationship with those not endorsed. A mayor should be prepared to work with ALL council members regardless of who gets elected, not just those who have been hand-picked.
Fourth, is a slate of candidates chosen primarily for their willingness to do and vote as they are told, or for being the most malleable so they toe the mayor’s ideological line the best choice for a democratic government? Democracy is measured not by how it manages consensus, but how it manages dissent. A block of like-minded candidates doesn’t form a council: it forms a politburo. Surely that’s not the best for Collingwood.
Fifth, while it might be argued that supporting one or two council candidates is appropriate because a mayor wants some supporters at the table, endorsing a slate of all seven strikes me as unethical and undemocratic. It suggests an unwillingness to deal with opposition and dissent.
Sixth, the lack of an endorsement for a deputy mayor is glaring evidence who that mayoral candidate supports, but is afraid of public backlash to say so, given that one of those candidates was recently arrested and charged with assaulting a woman. Pretending not to support anyone to avoid public disapproval is disingenuous when you endorse seven others. Failing to openly endorse a preferred deputy mayor when it’s clear who that candidate is and why you’re being silent shows both lack of courage and a devious political streak, both unbecoming of a mayor.
If a candidate is afraid to make tough decisions on the campaign trail, will they be equally ambivalent and reluctant if they are elected? Will they refuse to deal with difficult issues at the table lest they reflect poorly on themselves?
No, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for any mayoral candidate to openly and vocally endorsing a slate of candidates at these events or on the campaign trail. We need leadership that can accommodate and work with a wide range of views and opinions, we need leadership that doesn’t show overt favouritism, we need leadership unafraid of having dissent at the table, and we need leadership that understands the ethical role a mayor must play.
Collingwood deserves better.
* Three of the endorsed candidates signed the complaint produced by Councillor McLeod that led to Councillor Comi’s resignation. One of the deputy mayor candidates did, too. Is this the sort of behaviour a mayoral candidate should endorse as proper for a new council?