(Originally published Oct. 27, 2018)
POLITICS is cruel. For every accomplishment there is criticism, often undue, and ultimately there is defeat. For every person who is thankful for the service of a politician there seem to be five more who have nothing but trash to talk.
Not that politicians should expect a free ride. They offer themselves up at election time knowing that they will be watched and judged on their actions.
They can never please all of the people all of the time so there will always be someone to complain about decisions.
But political leadership is about balancing the pros and cons of the wants and needs of taxpayers, who are voters every few years. Most people have good memories.
When bad things happen, whiners line up to take shots, often unfairly. When good things happen, most supporters don’t bother to make mention of them.
A “change election” like the one that just occurred in Thunder Bay gives reason to consider the records of defeated incumbents every bit as much as to anticipate what the newcomers will be up to. But considering the totality of a long political career is not in the cards held by those whose sole purpose in life seems to be to find fault and say so, loudly.
“Glad to see (Iain) Angus finally gone,” wrote someone on Facebook, after the longtime councillor failed in his bid to be mayor. Really? That’s your contribution to post-election analysis?
This is a guy who worked his tail off at all three levels of government for more than four decades. To put it in perspective, he was preceded at Queen’s Park by Jim Jessiman and succeeded by Mickey Hennessy.
As a member of council — where he was traditionally among the top vote-getters — he found one of several niches in the energy sector campaigning for better electricity service for the whole region.
He’s forged a good relationship with Indigenous people. He builds consensus. And he’s a nice guy. He deserves better than a flippant remark online for a career that ends in defeat and, from what I can tell, surprise.
Another longtime, popular councillor, Larry Hebert, also lost his seat on Monday after four terms there. He too has been active on the energy file among many others.
After briefly considering a run for mayor, he opted to stay in the at-large field that simply had too many names to choose from. Some at the top had to lose ground and Hebert was nudged out of the fifth and final spot.
At least he has escaped notice by the online mob this week. If that’s because he never took unpopular stands — or more likely because people forget that he did — so be it.
Now he’ll be able to offer his boundless volunteer energy full-time to his beloved sports.
This might finally have been Frank Pullia’s shot at the mayor’s office.
A dedicated councillor with the best financial mind at the table, Pullia’s campaign this time was smart. His online presence was ubiquitous, his signs were numerous and well-placed, and this time he campaigned beyond the numbers.
He too has escaped online dissing as far as I know. Which is odd since, as budget chair, he’s responsible for property taxes that many people consider to be outrageous.
The arrival of Bill Mauro to the race meant that a fight to the finish between Pullia and Angus was diluted.
Both men, and Hebert, should hear from people they’ve long served that their efforts are appreciated and won’t be forgotten. They’ll get that from friends and families, but coming from utter strangers will mean a great deal as they reflect on winning and ultimately losing the race they all wanted to keep running.
Perhaps no one has endured worse recrimination than outgoing Mayor Keith Hobbs.
For starters, he has apologized for failing to keep his first election promise to get city crime under control.
One man simply cannot counter the level of street crime that has developed in this city during his time in office. But his detractors will never let up in their assessment that he failed them.
Hobbs has made some odd personal choices, and now he’s facing charges in relation to one of them. But in this country, a man is innocent until proven guilty. Yet online Hobbs is routinely referred to as a criminal.
The fact that another charge was withdrawn is met with silence online, as is the fact he has consistently maintained his innocence and argued that his actions and those of his co-accused wife were in the service of a person who needed help.
If he’s acquitted, will the trolls let up? No, they’ll blame the courts.
Mauro and Hobbs are far more adversarial than Pullia and Hebert with Angus somewhere in the middle. Perhaps the differing levels of criticism — particularly on social media — is a simple case of live by the sword, die by the sword. But let’s be fair about it.
Because Mauro was a member of the former provincial Liberal government that went down to ignominious defeat, he’s been the subject of online hate mail as someone who doesn’t deserve the city’s top post.
Except that he campaigned for it and won the support of more than 13,000 voters.
He used to be a councillor and he has lots of important connections at Queen’s Park that will serve the city well.
As municipal affairs minister he had a front-of-the-class seat to take notes on lessons offered by mayors from across the province — those that do it right, and those that do it wrong.
As this newspaper suggested editorially after the election, Mauro could cheer up some and make more friends than enemies in the process. But he, like his current and former colleagues in office, should be judged on their performance — all of it — before conclusions are reached, not jumped to.
Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.