10:51:38 pm on
Sunday 14 Jul 2024

The Right Candidate
David Simmonds

The week before the last election, in 2018, articles appeared on each of the three candidates running for Ward 3 councillor, in Wellington, Ontario. Reporters asked each candidate the same questions regarding their “priorities, aspirations and reasons for running.” Reading and re-reading the articles left me with the impression all three candidates are gripping similar parts of the same elephant.

Water is the big issue in 2018.

Jim Dunlop, the incumbent councillor, says the main problem facing Wellington is water pressure or the lack thereof, as now experienced by residents of the town living near Lake Ontario. Candidate Mike Harper also says the main issue is water: water rates, water pressure and the inability to develop infrastructure without improvements in water delivery. Brent Kleinsteuber, the third candidate questioned by reporters, agrees that without more housing and long-term residents added to the tax base, water rates couldn’t begin to decline.

It’s all connected. Unless the water pressure problem resolves, there can be no major development in Wellington. Without new development, there is no solution to the housing shortage facing the County. Without an addition to the residential base, of the Country, there can be no relief from high water rates and high taxes.

How am I supposed to decide form whom to vote? It would do the candidates a disservice for me to decide based upon their crude profiles: the experienced low-key conciliator, the fresh legs with many ideas or the young pup who represents the future. All are thoughtful candidates; each would make an excellent councillor.

Some further differentiation among the candidates will derive from a survey, prepared with the assistance of the indefatigable Gary Mooney, that will run in the Times beginning shortly. The survey will not likely contain a number of questions that may truly separate the candidates. Questions such as who is your favourite Beatle, Andrews sister or rap star that died a violent death when she or he was young. The choices reflect the age of candidate and musical era of closest association.

The survey will probably not ask him of his favourite book or meal or which public figure, past or present, he admires most. It will not pin him down on what he likes to do for a good time and what he considers his weakest character trait. Nor, to the regret of many, will it ask him what astrological sign he was born under.

How best to learn of political candidates.

We could try to learn about the candidates by putting them through a series of tests. For instance, we could ask each of them to take a drive from Wellington Town Hall to Glenora to catch the 11:30 am ferry. If one of them leaves at eleven o’clock and still makes it in time, he is an impatient sort that tends to cut corners and do things at the last minute. If one of them leaves an hour beforehand and takes a scenic overland route, but misses the ferry, he is probably interested in exploring new possibilities and creative solutions; he is less concerned about their timely delivery. If one of them gets into a road rage incident at Tim Hortons corners in Picton, we know he is a regular Joe like the rest of us.

Alternatively, we could give them each a thousand dollars and ask them to spend it as they wish. If one of them uses his money to commission a study to see how he should spend his gift, we’ll know he is a cautious type that doesn’t like making tough decisions. If one of them uses the money to start a fund at the County Community Foundation in order to bring about world peace, we will know he is an idealistic straight arrow. If one of them spends the whole bundle on a craft brewery tour with his fifteen best friends, we will consider running for council next time ourselves, although for now, we might be concerned about his readiness to part with taxpayer money.

You can take another step, apart from relying on a survey. You can take the direct measure of the men at an all candidates meeting. You’ll soon find out whether they listen to questions and answer directly. You’ll soon find out if they interrupt and give pat answers. You’ll find out if they have a solution for every problem. You’ll find out if they have the confidence to say they haven’t yet learned enough about the issue to take a stand. You’ll find out if they slip below a threshold level of general familiarity with county issues and would be on too steep a learning curve to be effective contributors. You’ll find out if they are courteous to their opponents in debate. You’ll find if they can martial their thoughts rationally and present them assertively. You’ll find out if they know what they want to accomplish or are simply offering themselves to be of service. You’ll find out a great deal at an all candidates meeting.

An all candidates meeting is the answer.

I’m going to attend an all candidates meeting, for sure. To make an informed decision is our part of the candidate and elector bargain: they offer themselves up for public acceptance or rejection on the understanding that we take our choice seriously. Besides, I would hate to have to choose my candidate on the basis that his preference in pizza toppings was most similar to mine, unless of course he was also an Aquarius.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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