A Comment on the Thunder Bay Mayoral Race
The following comments were submitted to Thunder Bay-area media on September 19, 2022.
With a little more than a month to go before election day in Ontario municipalities, I want to provide some insights into the City of Thunder Bay mayoral race.
My first professional opportunity was in the Parliamentary office of Ken Boshcoff, when he served as the MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River from 2004 to 2008. It was an experience that has shaped some of my own views of public life and for which I remain grateful.
Setting aside sloganeering and partisanship from all other considerations, what ought to distinguish Ken from all other candidates in the field is simple: his commitment to community and constituent service.
I emphasize the last part – constituent service. The golden rule in Ken’s office was that every piece of correspondence received from a postal code in the riding deserved attention and got a response. Sometimes the response was to provide information, sometimes it was to share thoughts on an emerging political or legislative issue, and sometimes it was simply to forward the inquiry to appropriate official and monitor the reply.
Likewise, when Ken took action on a political issue, updates were sent to lists of service providers, industry participants, or community leaders in the riding to keep them informed and to continue a two-way dialogue between the riding and Ottawa.
This may all seem par for the course, and perhaps it was at one time. But many of today’s politicians don’t see it that way. Politics has become a one-way street, where information from party bosses and bureaucrats is shovelled to the electorate, and not the other way around.
Too many of today’s politicians are incentivized not by the rewards of individual service, but by social media impressions and their fluency selling talking points that keep them in good favour with the centre. Their tightrope is not one of constituent satisfaction and service, but the whims of party leaders, institutions, and industry that might serve to their own advantage in future. Sure, there’s always been a whiff of that, but today it is far more pronounced.
More and more often I hear from citizens across the region that their MPs, MPPs, and even municipal representatives don’t even bother to acknowledge their concerns or champion local issues. We need more politicians willing to get into the weeds and do the heavy lifting fixing programs and policies impacting people in their communities.
All this to say that Ken’s political brand was forged in a time when that kind of service mattered. While I do not wish to cast aspersions on any other candidate, it is clear that this type of hard work is what most voters expect.
At a time when confidence in local governments and institutions across the region has been shaken, perhaps some renaissance for service in elected office can move all of our communities forward. To get there, voters need to cut through the noise and look for those who are doing that hard work already.
Douglas W. Judson (he/him/his)
Fort Frances, ON