With politicians from all three levels of government backing the labour-endorsed Dee Beattie, the Record turned to Mayor Jonathan Cote to get his feelings on the issue:
I’m definitely happy to support Dee Beattie in this election. I think she brings a really interesting perspective that I think would really help our school board. She’s dedicated her life to the education system, working in special education, and I think that’s a segment of the education system that I think she’d able to bring a very valuable contribution. She’s also a foster parent in the community and has had children go through the school system, so also has that parent perspective as well, too, and I think overall just she’ll bring a new dynamic and a new important voice on our school board.
So when she was asking for support, you volunteered?
Well she had gone through the process to be labour-endorsed, and they had an interview process with that. I had an opportunity to meet with her after to kind of get to know her and learn about her background, and after getting to meet, I was certainly very happy to throw my support behind her and help her out in her campaign.
I knew a little bit about her, but we had a really good chance to talk about her vision and how she felt she could contribute to our school board and after that meeting I was certainly very happy to throw my support behind her.
Are you concerned that as mayor, you’re supporting a candidate in a byelection when there’s only two people running?
In all local elections, I’m a strong advocate for people to, No. 1, get out and vote. Having said that, like in past elections, certainly I’ve been happy to let people know who I am supporting in campaigns, but ultimately, it’s up to the community to decide who they feel is best to represent them.
You don’t think it looks bad?
No. I think, certainly I’m happy to. Endorsements are pretty common in politics, and I think if that helps people get a sense of a candidate, that’s great, but ultimately it’s up to individual voters and the community to make that choice. I’m very happy to be supporting Dee and certainly very happy to be doing that publically.
Are you going out door knocking?
I have spent an afternoon, actually last Sunday, going door knocking with her. It’s been a while since I had an opportunity to get on the doors, so it was actually a beautiful and sunny afternoon and it was nice to get on the doorstep and talk to people face-to-face. I think Dee really connected with people. I think when she started talking about her background in the education system and, in particular, being a foster parent, I think a lot of people were really resonating with that.
What do you think of the criticism of “the labour machine” during this byelection?
I think the reality is, in political campaigns, is people do organize their campaigns. This is a byelection, so this is a much smaller campaign, so even though I’d love to see voter numbers come out in high numbers, the expectation with a byelection is usually quite low, but as part of any campaign, people do work together and do their best to try and get their message out there, and I think that’s what Dee Beattie is trying to with her campaign.
So the labour endorsement is beneficial to her campaign?
I think the labour endorsement, in every local election, they have a process where people can apply and they’ve done their endorsement and certainly, obviously that’s one element that people look at when they look at the local elections.
If Beattie wins, the majority of councillors and trustees politicians would be labour-endorsed, do you think democracy would suffer because of that?
Right now, there already is a majority on school board and council, but if you look at all the individuals on school board and city council and even if you were to add Dee Beattie, we’ve got a group of people from such diverse backgrounds and different points of view, I think that they really do represent different aspects of the community that I think the community is still very well-represented. Ultimately, there’s still lots of debate. A lot of people, after the last municipal election, with myself and obviously the success of our team, thought that that would potentially be an issue with city council, but I think we’ve had actually more interesting debates and more split votes in the last year-and-a-half than we probably did in the previous four years, and I think that just speaks to the fact that the candidates that have run together, even though they run together, really do come from diverse backgrounds and do have different points of view.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My big message to the community on this byelection is definitely get out and vote. Our education is so important, definitely for young families, but really for everyone in the community. So do look up the candidates and make sure you do get out and vote.