Politics is a tough game, in Windsor and everywhere. I used to be involved deeply in it when I was younger... I stuffed envelopes, pounded in lawn signs and knocked on doors. I was a canvasser, scrutineer and poli-marketer. I became President of this group, executive member of that one, helped get Presidents of national and local associations elected. Over the years, I was an aide to an MPP, rubbed shoulders with the Premier, and premiers and PMs to be, cabinet ministers, back-room boys, bag men, strategists, ad men and party apparatchik. I attended sessions with some of Canada's most powerful bureaucrats in Ottawa and was awed by the power and scope of their thinking. I "lobbied" across Canada. I even helped set up and was one of the initial shareholders of one of Canada's largest political polling companies. I saw it all, played it all and then left it all. Until STOPDRTP brought me back into it.
Windsor is no different than any other place, big or small. Politics brings out a certain kind of person as does any profession. You get good ones, bad ones but most are in between. Politicians work hard, have some fame and must stay up some nights wondering why they wanted to do the job in the first place when they are forced to listen to abuse or take the criticism that people like I give them! And then every few years they have to humble themselves to keep on with their job, knowing they could lose to some flash-in-the-pan.
I am not going to make this a political science dissertation about politics. I just wanted to give you some background so you'll understand why I take the views I do.
So let's use the arena as our case study to demonstrate how our Mayor operates politically. My guess is that Eddie may have a strategist that he talks to about local politics. "May" is the key word since he may not either given his nature. If he does, there would be three people that I can think of, all very experienced, all Liberals whom he could use. Of course, being so "experienced," they are all predictable. One of the joys of STOPDRTP is that we were successful because we were totally unpredictable. We were steps ahead of everyone all the time.
Eddie has figured out that the arena is fundamental to his re-election. It's not that he really wants one but he said that he could get us one in order to be elected in the first place. It's an easy issue for a voter to decide upon unlike the border which is so complicated. Either the arena is built or it is not. He chased Beztak out of town, used the Raceway and Jebb groups to buy time and now has to do something or at least appear to do so.
So what does he do? He and his strategist must have a roadmap for the last year of his term. Like all good politicians, the goodies come out before the election. How is the key to success. Clearly, the expected success of the Super Bowl was the beginning of the Eddie push. The Star, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is the greatest source of information in the city, is vital and is to play an important part.
Eddie grants his first re-election interview with Gord Henderson before the budget meeting. Gord can give out the good word on the Saturday before Monday's session about money, money that can be found to build an arena.
Frankly, if this were Queen's Park or Ottawa, Eddie would have to resign for giving out budget information in advance! I would be mad if I were a Councillor since the Mayor has effectively said what we must do with this "found" money without my permission! (Halberstadt should be furious since his buddy Gord flipflopped on refurbishing the Barn within 2 weeks after he first approved it in print) But who on Council dares challenge Eddie on that? Instead, a Councillor calls up colleagues and berates them for supposedly giving the Blogmeister information! Quite a double standard. I guess the other media-types in town know their role is to sit on the side-lines and merely accept crumbs.
On the same Saturday, there is a "fear-mongering" border session to get hundreds of people out so that the Mayor and Councillors are seen as their champions rather than as a group that has failed to get the long-term solution they promised us.
Monday was the charade love-in after the huge budget success (except Councillor Lewenza forgot and told us previously that we would pay big time NEXT year after the election). It was the intense budget deliberations that caused the temporary insanity, all is good now. They are thinking straight and are not certifiable or dysfunctional any more after the Governor's hubby was paid $3,000 to help them out
Now that we have all of this money, Gord can do another column on Tuesday setting out all of the wonderful dreams that will come true (Just like what Schwartz was supposed to do for us when we "Think Big" or what the arena was to be at the Raceway too if you remember). Eddie goes on the radio for his Tuesday "lobs" session so he can tell us of all of the plans "in motion."
Who knows what else will happen in Henderson's column before the culmination of all of this effort: Next Saturday's strategic session where Eddie makes the Councillors do what he wants, or else!
On Saturday, there will be discussion on each of the 5 points that Henderson discussed on Tuesday because most are done deals already. That means no surprises:
-Downtown Campus: the College will probably take over the Cleary but wants another building (I bet it is the armouries after the remark that Eddie made after the top secret NFL Canada party)
-Urban village: it will be "in motion" so Marra cannot take credit for HIS idea
-Bus terminal: if it is the deal I heard about, the deal was rejected by Transit Windsor until Eddie threatened to kill the bus terminal on a 5-5 Council vote (it is a "steal" for Greyhound so we will never see the contract!)
-Dieppe Eyesore: almost as important as the Keg I guess (yawn)
-Ouellette Streetscaping: just like the "first phase" of trees on Dougall and our new South Windsor art gallery.
With all of that momentum building how can a Councillor resist on the arena? And if they try, there is arm-twisting. I was going to tell you how each one would be pressured but in the end, I have chosen not to do a "tell all." It is too personal and would not be right. But there are buttons to be pushed and the Mayor and his friends who support him know how to do so and what they are . It's no differnt though in other part so life either so let's not be too holier than thou either. It's what you do to win isn't it? And Eddie is desperate to win.
One need not be completely brutal as a mayor unless one has to be. The game is a more subtle one too. Councillors are generally reliant on the mayor for re-election. If he does well so do they. He is full-time; they are part-time. They need him more than he needs them. And how would you feel today with a do-nothing mayor if you were a Councillor. You need Eddie and his Plans to succeed.
So that is politics Windsor side. Eddie can play this game as long as there is no obvious challenger on Council and as long as the E-machine chases potential opponents away.
It's fun to watch as an observer and as a former player. Who knows, perhaps I just might take out the old skates and pads one day soon and see what it feels like again. Perhaps an old Pro can show the amateurs how to play the game too.