THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Calls for Hazel McCallion
Now from prominent politicians such as John Snobelen add their voice. John Snobelen, a former Mississauga-area MPP is right to say it
Still more on this from the Toronto Star
One. Two. Three. Thanks, you're out !
Toronto Star - May 20, 2006 - By Mike Funston, Richard Brennan & Gail Swainson - Staff Reporters.
Singing the same old song
Forget PlayStation. In 1978, video games were all about Atari and Pong, toga parties were way cool and gas cost 20 cents a litre.
And Hazel McCallion was first elected mayor of Mississauga.
She's not alone. Across the Greater Toronto Area, there are mayors and councillors who have served for years, if not decades.
Now with six months to the next municipal election, some people are starting to wonder: Should they stay or should they go?
"The question is, how far does the existing council actually reflect the wishes and the needs of the people," says Paul Nesbitt-Larking, an associate political science professor at Huron University College, which is affiliated with the University of Western Ontario in London.
"If you have a municipality (with a council) that is made up of quite comfortable middle-aged people who have been there for some time ... that does exclude new voices. It excludes perhaps new Canadian voices."
In many ways, it's a balancing act. With new blood comes new ideas and the energy to see them through, but long-serving politicians are usually in a better position to carry out the long-range needs of their constituents.
However, for one former politician, electing a fresh face outweighs the benefits of permanence.
"I think anybody in office beyond a couple or three terms, you have to start questioning whether they are giving the best effort or not," says John Snobelen, a former Mississauga-area MPP and Progressive Conservative cabinet minister.
In fact, he says, it is an affront to democracy and a disservice to communities when municipal politicians insist on staying around for decades.
Snobelen says long-time mayors, such as McCallion and Milton Mayor Gordon Krantz, who have served 28 and 25 years, respectively, owe it to themselves and their communities to call it a day.
"Sticking around forever -- very often unopposed -- is not good for democracy," he says.
Across the GTA, dozens of mayors and councillors are well on their way to having served for multiple terms. Sixteen of 24 current mayors were incumbents in the last municipal election in 2003, as were 31 of 44 Toronto councillors. In all, nearly 60 per cent of serving GTA politicians are incumbents.
And with recent changes to provincial law, it is easier to hang on to a municipal seat. Terms have been lengthened to four years from three. Someone who had served for 24 years under the old system would have been elected eight times. Now that number falls to six. That means voters are left with fewer chances to oust politicians.
At least one expert argues that eliminating term limits is the way to empower voters.
"The problem with term limits is that you are basically saying that voters don't understand what's in their best interest," says Andrew Sancton, chair of the University of Western Ontario's political science department who specializes in municipal politics. In the end, it's the electorate who should rightly decide when they want to change horses, he says.
Yet long-serving politicians do bring benefits, Sancton says. For example, McCallion has been instrumental in putting Mississauga on the map.
McCallion, 85, has been in power the longest among GTA mayors, having first been elected to that office in 1978. But she also served as a Mississauga councillor and as Streetsville's mayor before amalgamation with the city in 1974.
In an interview, McCallion said the length of service should be based strictly on performance, just as it is in the private sector, with the voters being the board of directors.
`I'm for shorter terms, so if somebody is a disaster you can get rid of them quickly'
Community activist Tony Jones
Being in office for so long, she counters, has allowed her to implement a vision that can't be achieved in one or two terms.
Still a goal is her vision to achieve independence from Peel Region for her city of 700,000, the sixth largest and best managed in Canada with a triple-A credit rating, she says.
McCallion says her political longevity has helped her achieve a national profile, which she says has benefited her city and given her access to federal and provincial power-brokers. [ 1 ]
"Hazel has been an extremely effective and popular mayor, and there's a reason for that. She runs the city on a financial surplus and is relentless in pursuit of value for money. S he's quite determined and an effective listener," says Tony Jones, the spokesman for a coalition of groups representing about 10,000 people in the battle against a gas-fired power plant proposed near Queensway and the Etobicoke Creek.
However, Jones disagrees with new legislation extending the terms of municipal politicians. "I'm for shorter terms, so if somebody is a disaster you can get rid of them quickly."
Oakville Mayor Ann Mulvale, 56, is seeking her seventh term in office next November. She was elected mayor in 1988 after serving as a councillor.
Mulvale came within 30 votes of being upset by Rob Burton in 2003. He has registered for a rematch in November.
"Mulvale's pretty good, but then you don't know until somebody new comes in what positive changes could be made" says Michelle Sloane of the Clearview Oakville Community Alliance.
Asked about the pros and cons of having long-term incumbents in office, Karen Roe of the Kerr St. Neighbourhood Residents' Association says: "Funny you should ask. That subject came up twice today in my conversations with people."
The consensus? "Give them (Mulvale and long-term councillors) a little shakeup. Move some of them out," Roe says.
Kevin Brackley says he decided to run in Milton's Ward 1 because of the lock on council by the "old boys' network."
"I'm throwing my name in because the incumbents have been in there for 25 years," Brackley, president of the Milton Ratepayers Association, says, promising that if elected, he would only run for two terms.
At least two of York Region's long-time mayors are stepping down this year: Newmarket's Tom Taylor and Bill Bell from Richmond Hill.
Vaughan Mayor Michael Di Biase is seeking his second full term in November. Appointed mayor in 2002 after the death of Lorna Jackson, Di Biase won the 2003 election. He has been on Vaughan council since 1986.
Nick Pinto, president of the West Woodbridge Homeowners' Association, says he thinks politicians -- like fresh bread -- should have a short shelf life. "It seems to me the longer they sit there, the more they seem to think they can do what they wish."
Markham's Don Cousens, who has been mayor since 1997 but hasn't decided if he'll run again because he's awaiting his second kidney transplant, says all good politicians know when it's time to leave, "and if you don't know when to go, the voters will tell you."
That's what happened in Durham Region in 2003, when long-time Oshawa mayor Nancy Diamond was defeated by regional councillor John Gray.
"I felt that the city was being held back and I wanted to see some significant changes," Gray says. "I was fortunate that the populace agreed."
With files from Stan Josey
I agree it is time to put term and age limits on politicians and John Snobelen, a former Mississauga-area MPP is right to say it "is not good for democracy". The Toronto Star is correct to use Hazel McCallion as the best example. She is 85 now and with the length of term being extended to 4 years from 3, there are serious questions as to if she can even live that long and/or able to perform the duties that the Mayor of Mississauga must. Just as there are questions as to her ability to even drive her car. If Hazel can't serve the 4 years, then the City of Mississauga would have to spend around a haft million dollars to hold a by-election just for the Mayor's office - how is that fair for the tax-payers? The Mayor is always so keen to state she is wise in money management, is it a safe bet that Hazel McCallion can not only go another 4 years but there will be no loss in her mental faculties? If Mrs. McCallion will not see the wisdom of removing her name from the Mayor's race, she should provide the results of a full medical (physically & mental), exam to show just how fit she is to run for and hold the office of Mayor of Mississauga. Taxpayers can ill afford to foot the bill for a politician's ego trip.
[COMMENTS BY DON B. -
1 - There are many reasons why Hazel should go, interesting they do not mention them or her many short comings. Why do they not talk to others who are not looking from the Mayor by of City support? Would people not with their hand out have a different opinion of Hazel McCallion?
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