Now that the formalities are over with, and the new council has to start performing, is it possible, in this world, that they’ll all be able to get along?
The mayor has been alluding to a focus on “teamwork” in the coming term. The thing about getting along, in civic politics, is not that everyone must agree all the time. Nor does it mean council must do what everybody out there wants it to do, since that’s impossible.
No, it means conducting business in a respectful manner, agreeing when possible but disagreeing, when that is necessary, without rancor.
The mayor, of course, has the biggest responsibility in seeing that this happens as much as is possible. But there are others on the “team” whose roles will be almost as important, whose talents will be influential in certain situations. These include:
KEN CHRISTIAN: He who is said to covet the mayor’s chair three years hence, will be the dour voice of reason and calm, the fellow with practical solutions. He’s the logical one to fill the shoes of John O’Fee, who, besides knowing more obscure facts and quirks of history and science than most, had a keen knack for procedural tactics that were helpful whenever council got bogged down in unproductive debate.
PAT WALLACE: The veteran who has said, on occasion, that she’ll keep running as long as people keep electing her or until she’s carted out on a stretcher, will always be a force. Her experience is particularly effective in the hallways and private conversations in which she can lobby other members of council on various issues. Doesn’t always get her way, but her batting percentage is impressive.
ARJUN SINGH: Say what? The same person who admitted to lapsing into “Arjun moments,” who got booted off the social planning council after being accused of bullying the chairman, and who couldn’t express a coherent thought at the council table to save his soul? Yep, this is the revised, better Arjun. If he can re-channel his energies to promote favourite issues like social housing and youth (he was once publicly accused by then-mayor Terry Lake of “grandstanding” on such causes) in a co-operative manner, he can make a mark — in a good way.
DONOVAN CAVERS: Will he be a replacement for Denis Walsh? Yes and no. Walsh was the honest broker on council, and every political group needs one of those (looking back on it now, there’s little doubt he’d be the mayor today if he’d gone for it instead of bowing out altogether). His weakness was that he’s too polite. I sense in Cavers a latent aggressiveness that can be used, if he chooses, to push hard for green initiatives. Some of them won’t be practical, which should set the scene for some entertaining differences of opinion with the mayor and, perhaps, other councillors. Or, he can find ways to promote his causes without creating dissension.
Returning to the question, “Can they all just get along?” the answer is no, not all the time.
However, Christian, Wallace, Singh and Cavers, at their most effective, have the means to give their colleagues a sense of direction. At the least, they’ll have much to do with the overall tone of this council.