Curious change

It was a curious thing this past Friday. County council reverted to its old ways of doing business by electing the warden and committee chairs by nomination after holding an informal election hours earlier in the day.

As is tradition, the failed candidate in the backroom was to rise and proudly nominate the successful candidate, knowing that down the road a similar honour would be bestowed upon him or her for being a good sport and handling a loss with grace.

This seemed difficult for councillor Gord Tosh, according to our report, probably because the reality hit home that this position might well elude him in his political career.

Having two wardens per term, rather than the traditional warden each year is one thing. The prospect of wardens coming from the same township, two times in a row in a given term, is very remote. Tosh has been a vocal booster of Mayor White locally, so we are quite sure any misgivings will be short-lived. It’s just politics after all.

Chairmanships were also handled with aplomb, having also been decided earlier in the day before the public arrived. In recent elections, forced by a petition from a series of new councillors a couple of terms ago, nominations were awkwardly presented and councillors were forced to stand in support of who they favoured.

It always struck us as a peculiar way to promote teamwork and collegiality by forcing councillors to make their choice in such a public way that only ever showcased division and arguably led to less competition for spots out of fear of being humiliated. Politics is challen ging enough without turning it into blood-sport. People sometimes forget politicians have feelings too.

The striking committee, composed of the warden and newly elected chairmen of each committee, completed member selection in record time. It seemed to happen so quickly, it gave one participant cause to wonder aloud afterwards, if the work was managed well ahead of time and a sign of things to come. There would have been resumes to review for public appointments, making it seem, well, curious that it all went so quickly.

The return to a traditional vote will surely draw some criticism. In some circles it already has, with one publication urging the meeting investigator to review the event.

But it seems to us urging is merely window dressing for effect. If the party involved were really concerned and looking for a definitive answer, a meeting investigator should be formally requested to look into the meeting – as other reporters elsewhere have successfully done.

But, as happens with politics, inside and outside the political arena, much is made of the process and the image, rather than the work undertaken.

And perhaps that is why our curiosity remains unsatisfied, looking for answers as to how an alleged illegal meeting format can once again be legal – or was it never illegal in the first place? It’s a bit like the “who’s on first” routine that made Abbott and Costello famous. If it was legal, then illegal but now not really illegal, since it was subject to a “gentleman’s agreement”, what is it?  It’s just curious that in previous times politicians felt compelled to alter a system that had worked well as a form of appeasement, only to see a return to old ways in fairly short order.

 Council’s decision to conduct their election as they did was theirs to make. If anything, it shows a streak of independence with some promise, but one we cannot endorse blindly without one big caveat.

As the committees begin their real work, handling the incredible challenges ahead, they must be transparent and be seen to be transparent.

Part of that involves communicating with the public and apprising them of shifts in policy, statutory matters that need timely input and keeping citizens engaged, regularly, by informing and seeking comment.

It also involves open meetings where the business of the day is open for scrutiny, free of backroom politics.