Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 22, 2022
Change will be key in this fall’s municipal election
Hamilton’s municipal election this fall will now include a race for an open seat in the mayor’s office. On Monday, three-term mayor Fred Eisenberger announced he will not be seeking a fourth term.
This is not intended to be report card on Eisenberger’s time in the city’s top political job. But some things need to be said. Serving Hamilton citizens for 12 years, and more if you count Eisenberger’s time as a city councillor, is no mean accomplishment. He deserves credit and accolades for that public service, and is receiving them, at least from many people.
Yes, he has his share of detractors. Much, but not all, of the criticism directed at him has merit, and we have authored some of it ourselves. But there is a time for everything, and this, we would argue, would be a good time to say thanks, and offer best wishes in whatever comes next for Eisenberger.
Those 12 years add up to three terms. While Eisenberger hasn’t said so himself, it is fair to argue three terms is enough. In this election, on this city council, change should be a key part of the campaign.
We have already heard from some incumbents — Sam Merulla, Brenda Johnson and Judi Partridge come to mind — who are enacting their own self-imposed term limits. Other long-sitting councillors should be having similar reflections. It’s not about failure, it’s about new ideas, new faces, new personalities and new energy. Hamilton’s government needs that.
But back to the mayor’s race. Right now there are just three candidates — former chamber of commerce chief Keanin Loomis, former Liberal MP Bob Bratina, who broke with his party because he disapproves of LRT, and former taxi union official Ejaz Butt. But there is a shoe that has not dropped yet.
Speculation is growing that outgoing Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, herself a former Hamilton councillor, might be considering entering the race. Queen’s Park insiders say comments she made this week suggest she is leaning toward running. After Eisenberger made positive comments about her potential candidacy, Horwath said: “I’m humbled that Fred considers me a strong candidate for mayor of our great city … I’m not ready today to make any announcements about Hamilton’s municipal election. But I can tell you that my heart is always in Hamilton.” Whether the speculation is right is anyone’s guess, but those comments don’t sound like someone who has decided not to run.
What would Horwath’s candidacy mean? Might she split the so-called progressive vote with Loomis, allowing ex-mayor Bratina to come up the middle? You would think her NDP affiliation would help her in Hamilton, but she sustained damage from some local labour advocates after she turfed Paul Miller from the Hamilton East—Stoney Creek provincial race. Might that factor in? And while she would almost certainly win many progressive votes, how would an NDP-leaning mayoral candidate go over with liberal and conservative voters (note the small l and small c) who make up a large chunk of Hamilton’s citizenry?
Still, bearing in mind that name recognition plays an outsized role in municipal politics, Horwath holds better cards than Bratina, and certainly than Loomis.
But then there is the timing. Horwath is due this week to be sworn in for another term as MPP for Hamilton Centre, which she won handily in the provincial election. How will it look if she quickly leaps to the mayor’s race in time to meet the Aug. 19 nomination filing deadline for the municipal election? The optics leave something to be desired.
The upcoming election will be a change election, even if public discontent with many sitting councillors doesn’t translate into wholesale change. We’ll have a new person in the mayor’s chair, and new faces in Ward 15 (replacing Partridge), Ward 4 (replacing Merulla), Ward 5 (Russ Powers temporarily replaced Chad Collins who won federally) and Ward 11 (replacing Brenda Johnson). Our bet is that we may see more change by nomination deadline day. Stay tuned. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)