Since Mayor Marianne Matichuk was elected in 2010, it has been an education for both the public who voted for her, and for the mayor, a first-time politician who clearly had no idea how to make good on her campaign agenda.
Beyond freezing her own salary, it’s hard to find examples of Matichuk delivering what she campaigned on. Store hours are still regulated; the ombudsman was fired; the ‘line-by-line’ budget review hasn’t yielded a trove of savings; we have no integrity commissioner; we haven’t privatized or sold any city services; and, councillors still control their $50,000 ward funds.
The mayor has managed to maintain popularity by placing blame on city council for not supporting reform, but that’s increasingly weak tea. The last time I checked, the most important part of being mayor is fulfilling your promises. And getting councillors to support your agenda is the only way to do that.
So at the beginning of every term, a savvy mayor identifies councillors who could work with them, who’s on the fence, and who hates them and will never offer support. From there, you cultivate relationships, using the mayor’s office to support your city council when you can.
It’s tedious, time-consuming stuff. Good mayors work long hours, seven days a week, to reach out and boost the profile of council so the administration is one councillors want to be part of.
As one councillor said this term, it means a lot to have the mayor at small ward events – it creates goodwill. But, according to some councillors, the mayor was usually not there.
So what to make of Dan Melanson’s bid for the mayoralty? The former local government critic – who played such a large role in Matichuk’s victory — now says he can win support from a council he has spent years bashing. He’s a team player, he told reporters this week, and a team-builder.
In his favour, Melanson isn’t announcing at the last minute, as the mayor did in 2010. She spent barely a month campaigning, just long enough to convince voters she was the better choice.
Melanson is announcing early, like Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis, the only other mayoral candidate with a public profile. So Sudburians will have lots of time to evaluate both of them.
What we have yet to hear from either is their vision for the city, and a convincing argument about how they will get us there. But it’s still early, and both have promised to unveil their platforms in due time.
At his news conference this week, Melanson admitted he had no idea how municipal politics worked in 2010, or how little executive power the mayor has to impose their agenda. That he used words like “team-building” and talked about the need to work with, rather than in opposition to, city council, is encouraging.
At such an important moment in our city’s history, the last thing we need is another mayor who makes big promises, but routinely loses votes 12-1 at council.
Melanson and Dupuis — and anyone else who wants to be mayor — should not only articulate a vision for the city, but a plan to get us there. Melanson’s challenge would be garnering support from a council he spent the last four years calling to the carpet.
Because the city won’t benefit from a third mayor who sells the message well, but can’t deliver.