Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Montague Results: Some Thoughts

The dust has settled, I've had a few hours sleep and some time to think. Here's my take on the results:

Reeve: John MacTavish: I am surprised at this result. I really thought Gary Doyle would be re-elected. The conversations I'd had both online and offline led me to believe his support was still strong and that Mr. MacTavish's bankrupt business and MRA affiliation might still hurt him in the polls. Obviously I was wrong.

Mr. Doyle has been a competent and effective Reeve in many ways. He didn't lose this election on taxes, or basic services. He lost this election over the lawsuit and the fallout from it. Last night at the Council chambers, in conversation with a reporter from the Reckless News, Mr. Doyle remained adamant that he had done the right thing with the lawsuit - and if it cost him the election, "so be it." You have to have respect for such strength of conviction.

For myself, I think it's a pity in a way, because his undoubted talents will be missed. I think he could have won this election if he'd been able to say "I made a mistake," or even to be less forceful in his defence of the lawsuit - to have the nuance to recognise that he may have done the right thing in leaping to the defence of his employees, but that he used the wrong tool.

John MacTavish promised open government, more responsiveness, greater public involvement and so on. It's up to us, the public, to make sure that he delivers on these promises.

Deputy Reeve: Peter Kavanagh: Not a surprise, and the best result possible for the township. In my own opinion, David Schoular will not be missed. He's a political animal, polished and slick. I really do think he has the personality to pursue another level of elected office and he would be much better suited there. Mr. Kavanagh is a true leader and one of the very few figures in our township who is respected and listened to on all sides. He will be called upon to be peacemaker and a unifying force in the township and he deserves all our support.

Councillors: Bill Eckersley, Dianne Coates, Bonnie Burson: There weren't going to be surprises here, because these races really were too close to call. This council will be an interesting mix. As I commented last night, I'm surprised Bill did so well - topping the vote - but I suspect his 'middle of the road' approach is what won him support from all sides as well. Mr Eckersley did take some responsibility for his role in council's decisions of the last three years and I think that's worthy of respect. I don't see him as a leader, but I think he will be able to work well with everyone else.

Dianne is smart, articulate and has extensive government and bureaucratic experience. She will be an asset to the township's governance, but there are some personal wounds with some groups in the township that will need to heal.

Bonnie Burson obviously ran an effective campaign and again I think her 'non-aligned' status helped. She's got business skills, but she strikes me as a quite forceful personality. Last night I didn't see too much friendliness on display between her and the other candidates; it will be interesting to see how well she works in a team environment after being such a successful solo entrepreneur. Her financial skills will be appreciated.

Overall, then, Montague chose change, but change tempered with a little of the old, and two or three candidates from outside the divide in the township. I think this has the potential to be a good council. Change was absolutely necessary to get past the division of the lawsuit. Radical change would have simply swapped 'government' and 'opposition' parties in the township. This considered, balanced change in council might well be the best outcome we could have hoped for in what was a sometimes brutal election campaign.

There were several people who commented before the vote that the MRA should disband if they 'lost' - that they should forget the past. Now that the people have given a verdict on Mr. Doyle and Mr. Schoular's actions in the lawsuit, I hope that people on the other side of that matter will consider their position in that same light. Time to let it go, people. Let's all remember one thing: Don Page was not elected last night.

As for the MRA, there are some now calling for it to disband because it 'won'. We can't have it both ways. I suggest that with such a changed council, a watchdog may be entirely appropriate. What the MRA must not become is a lap dog to the new council; if the MRA is to continue its role in the community I would like to see it get some new blood involved and hold Mr. MacTavish accountable just as they did with Mr. Doyle. It must not simply be a group of friends of the new council, and nor must it benefit from the election of ex-members of its ranks to council.

I've had lots of requests to keep the Montague content going here; so have a discussion folks.