Mayoral candidates trade zingers
PORT DOVER — Taking an opponent’s words and using them against them is the jujitsu of campaign politics.
Voters watch for it at public forums because it is evidence of a nimble mind and a player who is formidable in debate.
The more than 600 people who crowded into the Lions Community Centre in Port Dover tlast week for the Ward 6 all-candidates debate were treated to examples of this on the mayoral panel.
Incumbent Charlie Luke told the crowd the mayor’s job is challenging and complicated but that he enjoys it. If there is a downside, Luke said it was too much time away from family.
Challenger Kristal Chopp, of Port Dover, took note of this and threw it back at Luke later in the evening.
Chopp, 37, is a pilot who flies wide-body jets around the world for Air Canada. She’s on duty nine days a month. As a result, Chopp said she could continue to be a pilot and have ample time left over to be a fulltime mayor.
“Do I believe I can do both jobs?” she said. “Absolutely. I don’t believe this should just be a job for retired teachers. If Charlie wants to spend more time with his family, he just might get his wish.”
There was a double sting to that comment because Luke retired from his career as an educator to run for mayor in 2014.
But Luke has moves of his own.
He liked what Chopp had to say recently about a mayor being similar to a senior corporate executive. Luke believes his 38 years in municipal politics compares well with the fact that Chopp is a newcomer who wants to start at the top.
“This is not an entry-level job,” Luke said. “I’ve heard Kristal say that being mayor is like being the CEO of a corporation. And that is true.
“But what corporation would hire a CEO with a great education but no work experience? This is not a part-time job. You cannot do this job if you are full-time teacher or if you are a full-time airline pilot, believe me.”
Some in the crowd thought Luke’s last remark was a little pointed and let out an audible groan when he dropped it.
For his part, Russell Colebrook. of Simcoe, is earning a reputation for verbal dexterity through the medium of comedy.
He slipped a sly re-working of the classic rock tune Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel into his opening remarks. Colebrook wrapped it up by saying “Charlie to the left of me, Kristal to my right – here I am stuck in the middle with you.”
“It could’ve been worse,” Colebrook said after the laughter died down. “I could’ve sung it to you but I’m not here to torture you.”
Colebrook’s wit was on display again as the mayoral candidates and six of the councillor candidates discussed a question related to appointing a second councillor to Ward 6. This would put Port Dover and area on an equal footing with Simcoe-area Ward 5.
Simcoe has two councillors because it has twice the population of any other ward. However, Port Dover for years has been the fastest- growing community in Norfolk and is adding new residents and assessment at a rapid clip.
For his part, Colebrook advised caution on a second councillor in Port Dover.
“I don’t think we need more councillors,” Colebrook said. “Look what just happened to Toronto. We have eight councillors. Maybe we should reduce that to four so they have to work their asses off.”
Luke feels this suggestion has merit.
Luke said there is an east-west disconnect in Norfolk based on the fact that 60 percent of the county’s population resides east of Pinegrove south of Delhi.
The east, Luke said, has bigticket projects in mind but councillors from the rural west don’t see any benefit for themselves so they stand in the way.
If re-elected, Luke would hold a series of meetings across the county on the respective priorities of each ward. Out of this, Luke would forge a game plan that everyone can get behind.
For her part, Chopp said a unified approach is desirable but – as mayor – she would also insist that Norfolk staff respect the unique, individual characteristics of local communities that engenders such a loyal attachment to them.