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Column: When the watchdog becomes the candidate

Well, summer has passed its zenith, fall is approaching and the mayoral race in Greater Sudbury is slowly picking up pace.
Editorial: Election's over — time to pay the piper

Well, summer has passed its zenith, fall is approaching and the mayoral race in Greater Sudbury is slowly picking up pace.

There’s still a few weeks before things really start heating up, but the race warmed up in recent weeks when Brian Bigger, the city’s popular auditor general, threw his hat into the ring. I must admit, his announcement took me by surprise. 

Nothing can be said about what Bigger wants to do, since he hasn’t said, but he’s gambling that his popularity with residents can propel him into the mayor’s office.

In the mayoral race, only John Rodriguez, Dan Melanson, Ron Dupuis, Richard Majkot and Jeff Huska have held public events to unveil portions of their platforms.

Neither Bigger, Ed Pokonzie nor Jean Raymond Audet have held media conferences yet.

At the moment, Melanson and Rodriguez seem to see the other as his biggest competition, and their platforms appear to reflect that. Where Rodriguez wants to spend, Melanson wants to save. Where Melanson wants to evaluate — and potentially sell off — what are considered core city services, Rodriguez wants to expand; namely by having Greater Sudbury Utilities buy out Hydro One’s assets in Sudbury.

With Bigger having filed his nomination papers Monday, J-Rod must be smiling. Unless one of the eight becomes a dark horse, this is a fight between him, Melanson, Dupuis and Bigger, the candidates with the most name recognition across the entire city.

As the municipal watchdog, Bigger stands to steal some support away from Melanson, who as head of the Greater Sudbury Taxpayers Association, has support from conservatives and those dissatisfied with municipal operations, and Dupuis, a member of a city council a good portion of the public blamed for hamstringing Mayor Marianne Matichuk, whose popularity has remained high despite her inability to make her election agenda a reality.

By taking support from those camps, Bigger divides conservative voters and voters dissatisfied with council. A single candidate might have consolidated that support, but three simply water it down.

And while Rodriguez isn’t without his critics either, Oraclepoll numbers from June show he still has a solid base of support. That base is only bolstered if support for his main rivals is spread across three candidates.

Leaving the frontrunners, Jeff Huska, while not polling high in June, polled the highest among the candidates without much name recognition. With the health of Ramsey Lake much in the news lately, holding a presser on the shore to pound the podium as a protector of our main drinking water source was a good move for Huska.

However, in calling for a portion of coucillors’ Healthy Community Initiative funds to be spent on a watershed study, Huska seems unaware that the city is spending some $900,000 over the next two years to do just that. It seems like the candidate may have overlooked something before calling the presser.

Richard Majkot let us in on his intentions at the end of July. Majkot had a very public dispute with the city last year over the placement of a road on part of his property. That dispute seems to be the focus of his candidacy, with Majkot calling for better customer service from the city — vowing to fire workers who don’t provide it. He also wants to review staffing levels and salaries, and find additional savings in the city’s $500-million budget, familiar fare from mayoral candidates.

Drilling down still farther, Jean Raymond Audet hasn’t made any public announcements yet, though he was scheduled to do an interview on Ward 5 candidate Robert Kirwan’s The Learning Clinic radio show on CKLU on Aug. 11.

And then there’s Ed Pokonzie. Again, Pokonzie hasn’t put down any platform planks, but the man has been quietly climbing into the election ring for more than a decade.

What he lacks in political success, he certainly makes up for in dogged determination.

Frankly, his silence on issues aside, it almost would’t feel like an election without Pokonzie’s name on the ballot.

Mark Gentili is the managing editor of Northern Life and