Latest NewsLocalPolitics

Opinion | Term limits part of more responsive Hamilton government – Hamilton Spectator

Yellow vest protesters in front of city hall in June of 2019: One of the traumas Hamilton has endured during the past term of city council, argues Margaret Shkimba.

Yellow vest protesters in front of city hall in June of 2019: One of the traumas Hamilton has endured during the past term of city council, argues Margaret Shkimba.

We’re not looking for another “Old Guard,” are we, Margaret Shkimba asks.

By Margaret ShkimbaContributing Columnist

Mon., Aug. 15, 20223 min. read

This election, I’m looking at the platforms and promises of all the candidates for councillor and mayor. Part of it is to be able to speak somewhat intelligently about what’s going on, but also it’s the result of a heightened awareness of local politics and the importance it plays in our immediate lives.

I want to give a shout-out to ielectHamilton for its ward profiles, a gathering of various statistics from income to health behaviour which are fascinating for what they say about each ward. Do you know where you, or your councillor, fit in the demographics of your ward?

This past term has been traumatic for our community. It gets tiring to repeat the disappointments over and over again, but the voter has a short memory, a coping mechanism we employ in the face of constant abuse, so the list does bear repeating: Red Hill Valley Parkway, Pride 2019, Yellow Vester protests at city hall, Sewergate, the Chedoke leak, affordable-housing crises, encampment clearances and disruptive behaviour on council. I know I’m forgetting something; a response to trauma is to repress. And that doesn’t begin to address the issues most of the “Old Guard” have let drift for decades: infrastructure repair, city housing deficits and decline, poor planning decisions and roadway design, and, of course, area rating.

I’m impressed with so many of the candidates who have come forward. Some wards will have a very difficult choice. Even those candidates I am less impressed with I believe can bring more awareness and openness to change than the “Old Guard” as they seem to be now known. There is no shortage of qualified people to take on the challenge, however at the time of this writing there are still a couple of wards where only an “Old Guard” incumbent is running. If there were ever a time to mount a challenge, it would be this election. Friday is the deadline for nominations. No one deserves an acclamation this election.

One issue I’m not seeing much of is a commitment to term limits. Not just term limits, but any suggestion of electoral reform. Advocating for reform could be a hopeless cause without the support of the provincial government, see London for an example of Progressive Conservative heavy handedness in civic politics. Or Toronto. But a personal commitment to two terms if elected to one or elected again, would be a promise that could tip a decision. We’re not looking for another “Old Guard.” Are we?

That won’t happen if people are cycling through two terms and out. It’s not a question of wanting “good people” to stay longer, as is often the counter response to term limits. There are lots of “good people.” But good leaders know that change is necessary, that succession is important, that their time has limits, and, importantly, what power does to good sense and due process. Incumbency is tough to counter especially in an apathetic public. Only 38 per cent of eligible voters voted in the last municipal election. We get what we vote for. How’s that been working out?

A benefit of term limits is focused action on doable outcomes. A major complaint about city hall is the time it takes to process anything. When did we start talking LRT? Have we learned yet that we’re trapped in an inefficient system that serves to perpetuate itself rather than progress through change and evolution? A clear example is Lloyd Ferguson’s stance against establishing a climate change office and the opposition to seeing what everyone else is seeing: change is coming. In fact, it’s here. Rivers are drying up in Europe in an unprecedented drought. The municipal response to crisis is the immediate response. How is our municipality preparing itself to help us when we need it the most?

This election is being billed as the “change election.” Let’s make it so.