THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Reading the civic political winds in Thunder Bay can be difficult. There isn’t any continual scientific polling that lets you gauge what people are thining. You also have to be careful that you are not letting your own thoughts, or the opinions of a small group dominate your perspective. That means the civic political scene has to be dealt with in a hit and miss basis. It means often that letters to the editor, comments over coffee, and general perceptions are how one can gauge how people in our city are feeling. However, on Opening Day for the Thunder Bay Bordercats, Mayor Keith Hobbs received a standing ovation from the fans assembled at Port Arthur Stadium. It is a sign, perhaps, that the support the Mayor received on election day remains strong.
When you consider that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was booed at a hockey game during the election campaign, and usually politicians are not all that well received at sports events, the applause is a political polling message as strong as any in our city.
What has been interesting, over the eight months since the civic election are the comments from growing numbers of people that Thunder Bay needs more change.
The next civic election is three and a half years away. One might think after the federal election people might be looking forward at this October’s provincial election. In many cases they are not. That may bode well for both incumbent Liberal MPPs in our city. Either that or people are already confident with a decision on what they will do this fall.
See how trying to read the political tea leaves is like a hit-or-miss proposition? However at the civic level, one might surmise that there are growing numbers of people in our community who look at the last election, and suspect that the message sent wasn’t received fully by the Council. My view is people wanted to send a message of change to Council, but not a complete stall-sweeping message. The message was new leadership is needed to take Thunder Bay in new directions. That is why voters selected Hobbs as the new Mayor, but left much of the Council intact.
Hobbs appears to be maintaining support, standing ovation support, across the city despite not having been able to fully achieve many of the goals he sought to achieve, at least thus far. That support is continuing, perhaps that is because Hobbs has spend significant time outside of his office, and is reaching out to engage people in the community on a level far greater than most Councillors. Hobbs appears to have also done well reaching out to a broader segment of Thunder Bay than many Councillors. After a while on Council, it seems sometimes that the internal workings of the job overtake the need to get out to the people, and to listen.
Hobbs is still listening, and for that it appears that for now, his support is still there.
What messages does that send?
First that voters are willing to be patient it appears.
Second, it sends a message to other Councillors that while the Mayor may only have one vote, as long as he has wide-spread public support, there is political risk in opposing a popular Mayor.
What is interesting is that three years out from the next civic election there are already people taking a serious look at the future of our community, and starting to talk seriously about what Thunder Bay needs in the future.
Our city is changing. Our country is changing too. Thunder Bay seems at times to be attempting to straddle that change with one side of the city demanding that we remain in the past, and a growing number of people working and demanding that we embrace the future.
Fighting the future is a fight that no one ever wins. The one constant in our world is change.
I might be reading too much into what is happening, but as always, that is my opinion, and your mileage may differ.