The critical question that must be considered by residents of the City of Greater Sudbury during the 2022 municipal election campaign is quite simple: “Is there any compelling, objective reason for changing your current councillor at this time?”
Clearly, Municipal Election 2022 is not going to be a “change election” for the City of Greater Sudbury. With a total of 12 of the current 13 members of city council running for re-election, we are most certainly heading towards an outcome that is best described as a “continuation election”.
The incumbent city council members have made a strong collective commitment to move forward confidently with the work that they have been undertaking for the past eight years. They are seeking a mandate to continue what they started and most, if not all, of them should be re-elected. There will be at least one new councillor filling the vacancy left by Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo. That is all we know for sure at this time.
The last “change election” we had was in 2014 when there were at least five or six vacancies at the time of the election. It was obvious that the outcome was going to result in major changes in direction for the city. Everyone knew that there were going to be a lot of new faces on council and so it made more sense for constituents in all wards to consider changing their own incumbent representative.
In fact, in 2014, there were 11 out of 13 members of council elected, including the mayor, who were new. That was a true “change election”. It made sense at that time to vote for change in your own ward so that your councillor would be able to work from the beginning with a new cohort. It was an exciting time to be a new councillor. That was when I was first elected as councillor of Ward 5.
As it turns out, 10 of the 12 incumbent councillors running for re-election this year will have eight or more years of experience after being part of the 2014 group of newcomers. The other two will have four years of experience since they were the only two new councillors elected in 2018, a year in which all 11 incumbents were re-elected in what was another “continuation election”.
This year is very similar to 2018 when 12 incumbents want to continue to finish what they started during the past two terms.
In my opinion, as a property owner myself, it is impossible to seriously justify even thinking of replacing the level of experience and knowledge of your own ward councilor just for the sake of making a change at this time. You may disagree with a few decisions made by council, but that doesn’t warrant changing your own ward councillor when you know a new councillor would be one of the few newcomers on council for the next four years.
You may vote in a new councillor because you want change, but it will be very difficult to implement changes when the majority of council includes members who want to finish off what they started during the past eight years.
Therefore, this is the year for constituents to vote for their current member of council to give him/her an opportunity to continue to work with the team that has been in place for the better part of the last eight years. We know that the groundwork has been established for so many wonderful initiatives in the City of Greater Sudbury.
We just need to give our city council another four years to move forward to solidify the direction we have been following.
So, this year, when you are choosing your preferred candidate for mayor or for your ward, I would suggest that you consider the following: Are you better off with a new, totally inexperienced representative who will have to spend the next four years learning how to be an effective councillor? Or, are you better off putting your personal feelings and biases aside and choosing the candidate who has the most experience, knowledge and qualifications to represent you and your ward?
After all, you don't need a councillor who you like or even one who is your friend. You need someone who has demonstrated an ability to get the job done. When it comes to your ward councillor, experience means everything. The more experience your councillor has, the more effective they will be when you call for assistance with constituency issues. The more experience they have the more insight they will have when dealing with major decisions at city council.
Consider that during the past eight years the current city council collectively has made arguably more major decisions and established or revised more master plans, policies and initiatives than any other council since amalgamation. The “new” councillors from 2014 have spent the past eight years getting to know the "ins and outs" of all 58 different business lines that are provided under the umbrella of the Corporation of the City of Greater Sudbury.
Therefore, after this eight-year training program where all members of council have been able to learn together and gain valuable knowledge and experience governing the city, it would be impossible to find any compelling, objective reason to change your representative now and select someone else who will be forced to start all over again with the learning curve.
In conclusion, don't be too quick to accept the call for "change".
Change is good if it is needed. But change just for the sake of change won’t work out well for anyone when it comes to municipal government. It is not the time for change in 2022.
It is time to choose experience, knowledge and qualifications by giving your incumbents a mandate for four more years to finish the job they started eight years ago.
Robert Kirwan is seeking re-election to the city council seat in Ward 5.