An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
LETTERS OF RESIGNATION have been received and, tomorrow, Kamloops City council will set Sept. 30 as the date for a by-election to choose a new mayor and two councillors.
It will cost City taxpayers $120,000 and questions remain about whether the whole thing is necessary. However, Kamloops voters can take comfort in knowing their city is likely to get a mayor who at least won’t embarrass them with scandals.
That sounds like faint praise but when the experiences of some other Canadian cities are considered, it’s no small thing. Many Canadian cities have put up with bad mayors, Toronto’s Rob Ford being only the most notorious example.
In his book Mayors Gone Bad, author Philip Slayton examines a litany of failures in the top civic job, among them Peter Kelly of Halifax, Gerald Tremblay of Montreal, Gilles Vaillancourt of Laval, Joe Fontana of London and Susan Fennell of Brampton.
Even the revered and unscathed Hazel McCallion, who retired as mayor of Mississauga in 2014 after serving since 1978, comes under critical scrutiny from Slayton.
Various mayors have faced conflict of interest allegations, some have been charged with fraud, one was implicated in a sex scandal, another (Ford) had drug problems.
Slayton acknowledges the theory that Western Canada has been lucky with its mayors in comparison to Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Gregor Robertson of Vancouver, Don Iveson of Edmonton and Naheed Nenshi of Calgary are often cited as examples of “mayoral goodness.”
And, while Slayton isn’t totally impressed with their respective achievements, it’s certainly true that they’re popular, ethical mayors.
Kamloops has had 39 mayors since it was incorporated in 1893; whoever wins the by-election will be the 40th. There have been good ones and bad ones, progressive and status quo, one-term and multi-term mayors. Some have been involved in nasty internal fights, some have been leaders and others followers.
But they have one thing in common: they’ve taken the job to serve the people of the city, not themselves. They don’t show up in books about mayors gone bad.
Mel Rothenburger is a former Kamloops mayor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.