Popular NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis is now running to become Mayor of Winnipeg
What do current and former MPs Maurizio Bevilacqua, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Denis Coderre, Rick Limoges, Joe Fontana have in common with current and former MLAs George Smitherman and Kent Hehr? They are all contemplating or running to become mayor of their city. So what's up? Is it really in vogue for senior politicians to throw in the towel and suddenly want to enter the civic arena and become the mayor of their city? They've obviously not talked to former NDP MLA, now Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson about what life is like in the hot seat.
Although it may not be a major trend, I think the fact that Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Winnipeg have all attracted candidates from senior levels of government is rather intriguing. It raises the question, is life as your city's top politico that much easier than life in Ottawa or your provincial capital? Should we all be concerned that having parliamentarians run for city election could translate into our city hall chambers becoming another partisan palace for prolific pontificators? With the notable exception of Vancouver and Montreal, party politics are rare in Canadian cities.
In Winnipeg, former NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis is one of the most high profile federal politicians to jump into the civic arena. She's joined by Bevilaqua who recently announced he is trying to get elected as the mayor of Vaughan, Ontario. Meanwhile, former provincial Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman it going head-to-head with Rob Ford to become the mayor of Canada's largest city. In Calgary, former Liberal MLA Rick Limoges is hoping he'll take over from retiring Mayor Dave Bronconnier.
In days gone by, becoming a city councillor or mayor was seen as a training ground for politicians who may eventually want to become the local MLA or MP. With all these MLAs and MPs now taking a run at the mayor's chair, perhaps that notion needs to be revised somewhat. Could it be that running for federal office has now become a training ground for the ultimate prize - becoming mayor?
After years of being treated like the poor cousin, I kind of like the fact so many senior politicians are taking an interest in urban politics and the civic scene. Their interest likely relates to the fact that over the last several decades, big cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have become bigger operations that some of our smallest provinces.
For example, the City of Toronto is a multi-billion dollar operation that rivals many mid and large-sized federal government departments. The post also affords Hogtown's mayor with a Canada-wide profile and stature befitting that of a senior federal cabinet member. In other words, for a back bench MP, becoming the Mayor of Toronto or Montreal is a prize big enough to end your federal or provincial political career.
With several provinces holding civic elections this fall, we'll be watching the races closely to see if any of these senior politicians become top dog. What do you think? Is the trend toward more senior politicos running for mayor good or bad for local government? We'd love to hear what you think. Let us know by providing your comments below.
- Post by Daniel