I worked in federal and provincial politics for almost a decade. While I had many good experiences in those arenas, and was truly honoured to give back to our community in that way, they were intense environments. Sometimes things were nasty. In fact, it seems that the very nature of most modern politics is trying to one-up your opponents, making everything, even decisions that are supposed to be for the public, hyper-partisan. (Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way, and I tried to do politics differently, but that’s another story for another time.) So, my tenure as a city councillor, short as that still is, has been a breath of fresh air. Sigh!
While councillors may disagree from time to time, around the horseshoe, we’re all on the same team: #teamygk. Our vested interest is the betterment of our city with our constituents in mind. Okay, okay, that sounds a bit corny, I know. But it’s true! The structure of municipal governance reinforces this. There are no party platforms, whips, or leaders. There are no talking points. No opposition, no institutional power hierarchies. Instead, at City Hall you sit down in the round with your colleagues and discuss how to move Kingston forward, together, socially, economically, environmentally, and democratically (on that note, ICYMI: we just became one of the first jurisdictions in the history of our country to advance electoral reform via ranked ballots! Wow, it felt good to vote for that!).
Take away the one-upmanship, the mudslinging, and the endless parroting of much of today’s discourse in capital cities worldwide, and the humanity of politics becomes more clear. There are people behind the policies voted on, just as there are people impacted by those policies.
In this spirit, and the spirit of the holiday season, I offer a small glimpse into the people who serve you on council and the composition of this council. I call it, *clears throat*, ‘The 6 Days of Council.’ (Did you know, the Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on December 25? They do!)
On the first day of council, the people gave to we, a mayor with a plurality.
(Bryan Paterson is back as the head of council, winning with a crushing 70% at the ballot box this fall. He served his first term as mayor in 2014-2018, and a term before that as councillor of Trillium District – #represent – from 2010-2014. He’s an econ prof at RMC and a very fair meeting facilitator. He leads by example.)
On the second day of council, the people gave to we, two Robs on Council, and a mayor with a plurality…
(Rob Hutchison represents King’s Town District and has since 2006. As one of the veteran councillors, he is known for his passion for people and wealth of knowledge on housing. I’m the other Rob, though I spell my abbreviated name with two Bs. I am honoured to represent Trillium District, where I grew up and lived as a young teacher when I came back to Kingston.)
On the third day of council, the people gave to we, three female representatives, two Robs on Council, and a mayor with a plurality…
(Mary Rita Holland from Kingscourt, Bridget Doherty from Portsmouth, and Lisa Osanic from Bayridge Collins Bay makeup only 25% in numbers – come on Kingston, we can and should elect more women – but punch above that for sure! A perfect mix of care for the most vulnerable and the planet, these councillors are individually and now collectively known for their thoughtful, evidence-based approach to their politics. Lisa a long time champion for other species has been in office since 2006. Mary Rita fights for students and others in need has been in office since 2014. And Bridget who pushed for all forms of justice was elected in 2018.)
On the fourth day of Council, the people gave to we, four new Councillors…
(Myself, Councillor Doherty, Simon Chapelle from Loyalist-Cataraqui, and Wayne Hill from Lakeside are fresh faces at City Hall, but we bring a wealth of professional experience. Simon, with a background in policy, has served in many volunteer capacities, including as a former director for Kingston Hydro. Wayne was a long time and highly regarded principal for the Catholic Board; he has lived in his district for more than thirty years.)
On the fifth day of council, the people gave to we, five former township-ers…
(The boundaries of Trillium District, Bayridge Collins Bay, and Loyalist-Cataraqui would have been Kingston Township prior to amalgamation in 1998. Pittsburgh District, represented by Ryan Boehme, was part of, you guessed it, Pittsburgh Township. Gary Oosterhof’s district Countryside has parts from both the the previous municipalities. Gary, well known for his local business, is back for a full term after serving only two years last round, the then-winner of a by-election. Ryan, who works for the local utility, and is a volunteer firefighter, first won his seat in 2014. He ran unopposed in 2018.)
On the sixth day of council, the people gave to we, six central districts…
(Our community elects people by ward or district. This allows for local representation and encourages more people to run, hopefully also keeping big money out of local elections. There are twelve seats plus mayor. Six of them are in the middle of the city, including Councillor Holland, Councillor Hutchison, Councillor Doherty, and Councillors McLaren, Stroud and Neill. The three latter are no strangers to government. Councillor Jim Neill, Williamsville, is the longest serving councillor at five terms – though not consecutively – who has made his mark on environmental and social issues. Councillor Peter Stroud has represented Sydenham Ward, home of Queen’s University, since 2014. Last council he was chair of the Heritage Committee. Councillor McLaren was elected again in Meadowbrook Strathcona and was recently appointed to the Police Services Board.)
Of course a two sentence description does not do justice to these capable and complex people. Each one of us has family, friends. We come different walks of life, education, and more.
Yet, as we celebrate this time of year, despite our differences, togetherness is important. And it’s a principle I hope we will all keep in mind as we govern and as you hold us to account. Because when that happens, #teamygk can thrive.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Councillor Robert Kiley tweets at @robert_kiley.