Guest column: Winds of change in Essex County municipal politics – Windsor Star

Signs invite Ward 4 voters to a polling station at the Willistead Manor in Windsor's Walkerville area on municipal Election Day, Oct. 24, 2022.
Signs invite Ward 4 voters to a polling station at the Willistead Manor in Windsor’s Walkerville area on municipal Election Day, Oct. 24, 2022. Photo by Dalson Chen /Windsor Star

While I was able to vote in advance, I was not physically in Essex County on municipal election day, Oct. 24th.

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I note this because upon our return home our loquacious taxi driver was able to update us on almost all that was politically important in Windsor and Essex County.

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And as Gomer Pyle would have said, we echoed: “Surprise!, Surprise!”

Of nine municipal governments across Essex County, five are now headed by females. And of the remaining four, two have brand new mayors (and in the case of Kingsville, without prior political experience).

Two municipalities have returned veteran mayors in Windsor’s re-elected Drew Dilkens and Tecumseh’s acclaimed Gary McNamara. Both in my view deserved their re-elections.

Perhaps the major upset was in Lakeshore where long-time mayor Tom Bain was defeated by former deputy mayor Tracey Bailey. Tom Bain is a great fellow and he is also a horseman and thus may understand that perhaps his term in office “was beginning to look a bit long in the tooth.”

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It was no surprise to me that Dilkens earned a third term in the mayor’s chair. His 53 per cent of the vote in contrast to a strong candidate Chris Holt’s 39 per cent was probably assisted by the low voter turnout (31.57 per cent).

Across the entire province of Ontario, voter turnout at 33 per cent was well below the 2018 municipal election at 38 per cent.

Windsor’s voters did somewhat better than Toronto’s where only 29.17 per cent turned out to give incumbent John Tory his third term as head of council. Tory took 342,158 votes or 62 per cent compared to his nearest rival at 18 per cent.

In Windsor, Dilkens had only to face five other contestants whereas Toronto’s John Tory was in a race of 24 contenders. By the way, former provincial Liberal leader Steven Del Duca is the new mayor of Vaughan and in a close race former NDP leader Andrea Horwath is now mayor of Hamilton. And, to the surprise of some, former provincial Conservative leader Patrick Brown retained his job as mayor of Brampton.

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For the record regionally, Darrin Canniff was re-elected mayor of Chatham-Kent with 75 per cent of the vote. However, from my perspective the election of Alysson Storey in Chatham’s Ward 6 is great news. Ms. Storey has been fighting for solid cement dividers on Highway 401 since a friend died in a cross-median accident.

Incidently, Storey is granddaughter of renowned architect Joseph Storey — designer of the University of Windsor’s Energy Conversion plant and the spectacular Ursuline College Chapel in Chatham.

Meanwhile, back in Essex County another fighter Sherry Bondy was successful in her close contest for mayor of Essex with Richard Meloche. As I have suggested on several occasions, council in Essex needed a revamp and that appears to have occurred as two incumbent council members were defeated.

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Hilda MacDonald has returned as mayor of Leamington. She too is both a fighter and a person with a very wide swathe of compassion in her character. Leamington needs a tough mayor.

Cathy Miller is the new mayor of Pelee Island. And LaSalle’s acclaimed mayor Crystal Meloche will certainly compel respect on Essex County council.

Personally, I’m delighted to see the majority of Essex County’s communities being led by competent females. Kingsville had a chance to add to the female total, but instead turned to a political novice Dennis Rogers who earned 38 per cent of the vote.

Our taxi driver suggested the surprise mayoralty outcome was in some manner related to rumours of malfeasance circulating in urban Kingsville. Those who in dwell in more suburban and rural Kingsville are rarely privy to such rumours.

Kingsville also has a new female deputy mayor as long-serving Gord Queen was ousted by councillor Kimberly DeYong. She has served prominently at the only community centre in town.

Michael Prue was far and away the best choice for mayor in Amherstburg where he received 49 per cent of the vote — well ahead of other contenders.

I sense a breath of fresh air wafting across Windsor and Essex County.

Lloyd Brown-John is a University of Windsor professor emeritus of political science. He can be reached at lbj@uwindsor.ca.