Elections are not just about which candidates received the most votes, not just about personalities or issues. Elections are more about the people who voted, and the people who live within the wards and boundaries. The results of the election tell us more about the voters than the candidates.
It has been said that light rail transit (LRT) was the main issue of this election. Mayoral challenger Vito Sgro was able to push LRT as a wedge issue and move his popularity from single digits a few months ago to 38 percent of the vote.
Fred Eisenberger, on the other hand, focused on a full campaign which, though pro-LRT had a broad platform based on infrastructure investment, affordable housing and growing our tax base. The challenge will be to see how he builds consensus from a Council that is divided on a number of issues.
To me, Eisenberger’s victory signals that, while Hamilton still needs to be better informed on LRT and perhaps made a larger part of the process, LRT is ultimately what Hamilton wants.
Women played crucial and upfront roles in this election. Hamilton is ready for female leadership. It is unfortunate that in this day and age, we still need to discuss the representation of women.
While only 25 percent of federal politicians are woman, Hamilton is showing progress with 44 percent women around the Council table. I believe this election shows that Hamilton wants solid leadership, regardless of gender.
Hamilton now has more women on council than ever before, growing from four to seven women with the addition of Maureen Wilson in Ward 1, Nrinder Nann in Ward 3 and Esther Pauls in Ward 7.
These new councilors-elect will join the incumbent councilors Maria Pearson in Ward 10, Arlene VanderBeek in Ward 13 and Judi Partridge in Ward 15. Moreover, in Wards 3, 7, 8, 12 and 15, the runners-up were also women.
Hamilton has chosen in many areas to keep their incumbents – a sign that each ward is by and large happy with the job their representative is doing. This makes the lone upset, Doug Conley in Ward 9, even more apparent.
Brad Clark was welcomed with a strong mandate and well received platform created by the experiences he had with his own constituents. This tells us that Hamiltonians want to be heard and want to be consulted.
Maureen Wilson taking Aidan Johnson’s seat after he decided not to seek re-election tells us a lot about Ward one. Maureen ran on issues such as complete streets, the LRT and the desire to grow the tax base. This tells us Hamiltonians are wanting to develop our city for the future, and are dedicated to politicians who they see are able to make this happen.
Similarly, in Ward 7 those constituents voted for a leader with a proven business and leadership background. More importantly, Esther Pauls’ mandate speaks about how Ward 7 is looking for our leaders to do more improve community safety and accountability at City Hall.
In the newly-created Ward 8, engineer John-Paul Danko bested a tough field as the most vocal LRT supporter of all the candidates. Ward 8 decided to put its trust in a representative who prioritizes community safety, improving City Hall’s customer service and wanting to make smart infrastructure investments.
Ward 3 electing Nrinder Nann, Matthew Green’s former campaign manager, tells us that a Ward that is impacted by the effects of poverty is dedicated to making the commitments necessary to build a healthy community. It is also a reminder that affordable housing is important to Hamiltonians and I am hopeful that this issue, which is so important to me personally, is heard loud and clear through the city. I believe Nann can champion this issue with the mandate she received from her Ward.
The challenge for this crop of councilors is to examine how they can balance their personal platforms with the potentially competing platforms of their colleagues. Will we see individual ideology prevent real change from happening in each and every ward?
Will leaders emerge who will put partisanship and party-affiliation aside to build a bigger, better and burgeoning Hamilton? Will we finally see a Hamilton that lifts our best and brightest up instead of cutting each other down?
I am hopeful that we will see leaders emerge in this team of elected officials, who will work together to create a city that is better because of decisions those at City Hall make – not in spite of them.