(Originally published Nov. 10, 2018) 

TODAY’S column was going to be about the U.S. mid-term elections. But while the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, Republicans still control the Senate and, of course, the White House. Remarkably, in an election seen largely as a referendum on President Donald Trump, enough Americans voted Republican to allow him to continue on pretty much as he has — a tyrant acting like a buffoon (or is it the other way around?).

Importantly, while the House can initiate impeachment proceedings, as has been widely suggested, the Senate decides them. Unless the Democrats can find ways to effect meaningful progress on a range of issues instead of further widening the bitter gulf in Congress and across the United States, nothing much is going to change — unless Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller. Then we’ll have something to talk about.

Then Jim Wilson and Andrew Kimber happened. And Tony Clement. And a new column idea took hold. Premier Doug Ford must have thought he was rolling along pretty nicely until his most-senior minister and his most-trusted aide had to be shown the door over allegations of sexual impropriety.

Ford tried to pass off Wilson’s departure as being related to “addiction issues.” When news outlets learned he had also been accused of sexual misconduct the premier disingenuously claimed it was to protect the complainant. Coming clean with the entire story would have identified no one and shows, early on, that Ford will reflexively massage the truth like so many politicians before him.

As for Clement, there is something sadly hilarious about the geeky Tory posting sexually explicit photos and a video of himself with a woman who turned out to be an extortionist. As the satirical Beaverton posted, “Health Canada announces it will cover treatment for Canadians forced to imagine Tony Clement sexting.” Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer wasted little time expelling Clement from his role as — wait for it — justice critic. How does Clement conjure up in his seedy mind the theory that he alone will be the one public figure that gets away with this?

There are those who will cheer the tawdry exit of the man who arranged for the then-Stephen Harper government to spend $50 million of public money on projects in his Muskoka riding ostensibly connected to the 2010 G8 summit. The government told Parliament it was for “investments in infrastructure to reduce border congestion” when Muskoka is nowhere near a border. The 32 projects included runways at airports where G8 ministerial planes didn’t land and, most famously, a bunch of nice gazebos where G8 delegates would never set foot.

That column was rolling off the keys when Thunder Bay mayor-elect and former MPP Bill Mauro appeared on TVO’s respected Agenda program to discuss his new role with host Steve Paikin. TVO’s Thunder Bay correspondent Jon Thompson posted a YouTube video of the exchange on Facebook beginning with his comment, “Meet the new boss . . .” For those unfamiliar with the Pete Townshend lyric, it continues, “Same as the old boss” from the Who’s classic Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Thompson appears to suggest that with Mauro as mayor (and five new councillors), nothing will change in a city that Paikin reminded viewers has been called Canada’s murder capital with issues around Indigenous people and racism.

“Mauro’s comments are consistent with those of the outgoing administration, which has framed these issues as branding concerns,” writes Thompson. Apparently, he bases this on Mauro’s contention that Thunder Bay’s reputation is both “unfair” and “unfortunate.”

The unfairness, Mauro said, concerns Toronto’s grim murder record and the fact the Black Lives Matter was hatched there due to racial issues.

The unfortunate part, he added, is all too real, and something we’re all aware of — Indigenous youth deaths prompting provincial investigation of police responses and questions around police oversight.

“So it’s very concerning to me that Thunder Bay has ended up with this reputation,” Mauro said. “We have issues, just like all communities have issues, and we’re going to work on those and see what we can do to rehabilitate our reputation. But it’s a great place, it has always been a great place, and that’s going to be one of the top three priorities for me, going forward.”

This doesn’t sound like a politician who is accepting of the status quo. Which is not to say the previous mayor and council didn’t try to make things better. A host of initiatives that were only partly successful in seeking to narrow Thunder Bay’s racial divide shone a brighter light on the scope of the problem.

Thunder Bay is a city with ingrained prejudices. The fastest-growing population comes from remote northern First Nations. Many of those people successfully integrate and, together with neighbouring Fort William First Nation, bring a growing awareness of the richness of First Nations culture. Others stand out because they are Indigenous and become involved in crime, stoking those old prejudices. It’s a vicious cycle that few leaders anywhere in Canada have been able to break. Trying to do so is tricky. You want to, but you don’t want to be seen as meddling or intruding, accused of being among the new “colonialists.”

The new mayor concedes “there is a lot of work to be done” even as a new police chief has begun changing how the force deals with Indigenous issues. Mauro deserve a chance to make headway or fail, as the case may be. But let’s give him some time before assuming he’s not willing to even try. 

Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.

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