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Jean Cloutier – the only choice for Alta Vista

What is important to look for in a City Council candidate?

Full disclosure – I am clearly on the record in my support for my friend and the incumbent in Alta Vista, Jean Cloutier. Time and time again, he has proven himself to being a community advocate, an enabler and an effective voice at the Council table. He should serve another term. Full stop. We need a leader with experience to look after the interests of the ward in the coming years. There are some big files on the horizon such as the Federal Study Centre development, Elmvale Acres and the development beside the Canada Post lands on Industrial. To manage these files effectively, we need a steady hand at the helm and someone who knows the issues all across the Ward – not just a specific neighbourhood.

But let’s put that aside for a moment. I want to address what factors come into play when making your ballot box choice. For me, it all comes down to the involvement and leadership that the candidate has shown before an election. Have they led the local hockey association, a community association? Have they coached soccer teams or sat on the Board of a local charity? How about their school involvement? The local food bank? Have they volunteered extensively for a local fundraiser?

In short, for me, you need to have established local street cred. And I mean local.

I recall hearing the former Mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion on the radio a few years back talking about the importance of local leadership and volunteerism. Someone running for the nomination to run for a federal seat in the 2015 election called her and asked for her endorsement. He explained that their political views aligned quite well and that he worked for such-and-such MPP at Queens Park, had a degree or two in something-or-other, etc.

Hazel interrupted him and asked “what did you say your name was again”?

He told her and she replied  something to the effect of: “Well, I`ve never heard of you. And if I haven’t heard of you then you haven’t done enough in your community to deserve the nomination. Now go out and volunteer. Get your name out there. Get active in your community! And come back and talk to me in 4 years.”

Brilliant.

There are 6 candidates running in Ward 18 on October 22, including the incumbent. Three, including the incumbent, have been Community Association Presidents (one still retains that position, even though he is a candidate), and one has been a vocal advocate for the mobility-challenged community. They have all inserted themselves into our community in one way or another (I really don’t know much about the sixth candidate).

All but one. All but one of the candidates have engaged their community on the hyper-local level. The neighbourhood level. The level that is the most important to understand if one is to be an effective City Councillor. It is at the Community Association Board table, the hockey association executive meetings, at the Parent Council meetings – it is here where our communities “happen” and where community leaders cut their teeth.

Admittedly, and to their credit, this candidate has been a leader of an important national advocacy organisation and involved in a very important City-wide group. And they should be credited for that.

But locally? I can`t find a thing. And like Mayor Hazel, until this candidate announced that they would be seeking the Council seat in Alta Vista, I had never heard of this person. Not saying that I know everyone or in any way equate myself with Mayor Hazel (LOL!), but as an ex-Prez of a Community Association myself, as well as having been involved with quite a few other community groups, Boards, etc. over the years, I do have a fairly extensive network.

This post is not meant to disparage this candidate nor anyone else. Like I stated straight off the top, my unqualified support is with Jean. But I will say that when you are making your choice at the ballot box, consider to what extent each of the candidates have committed themselves to the local community. To me, this is a clear sign of their commitment to the Ward.

It might make your ballot box choice clearer.

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