The year is 2022. The next municipal election in Windsor is scheduled for October 24. Do you know what your elected representatives’ grades are?
In this piece the Rose City Politics panel grades our elected representatives on their performance over the past year leading into the next Windsor election.
Ward 1: Fred Francis
Don Merrifield Jr.: Uses “looking out for taxpayers” when convenient, unless it’s a capital project in his Ward or promoted by the Mayor. Claims Roseland is profitable. Fun fact, it isn’t. Grade: C-
Doug Sartori: Councillor Francis has improved in his second term, particularly his public communication, but he still does not show the vision, work ethic or breadth of interest that I expect from a Councillor.
Jon Liedtke: Councillor Francis is a faux fiscal conservative who deploys the same rhetoric annually at budget deliberations to “hold the line” on taxes, but is willing to support expensive capital projects benefiting his constituents. A true politician.
Pat Papadeas: Councillor Francis has one reply to every issue. He provides no value added and if he wasn’t the former Mayor’s brother, no one would bother to pretend.
Ward 2: Fabio Costante
Don: Great promoter for his ward. Getting investments in a Ward that has been severely ignored for decades.
Doug: Councillor Costante has a lot of tools at his disposal. He is articulate, educated and clearly very intelligent. He cares deeply about his Ward and works hard to navigate the sky-high expectations his residents have. He’s done well in his rookie term.
Jon: Councillor Costante lives and breathes Ward Two, and is an effective advocate, champion, and Councillor for both his constituents and their issues. Ward Two has seen meaningful investments during his first term and I expect he’ll remain in politics for quite some time.
Pat: When he is motivated, Councillor Costante uses his questioning skills effectively and has a good presence at Council. He needs to get over the angst of making and owning a decision.
Ward 3: Rino Bortolin
Don: My Councillor in Ward 3 really cares about the state of downtown and responds to citizens concerns (even my constant complaining) quite well. Get some alley lighting!
Doug: I know Councillor Bortolin well, but you don’t need to be close to him to see the passion, commitment and capacity for work he brings to the job. We need more people like Councillor Bortolin on City Council.
Jon: Councillor Bortolin is a ‘calls it as he sees it’ Councillor, which is refreshing, although it can be dangerous. He’s an effective Councillor who has demonstrated an ability to push for a different vision of both Windsor and politics.
Pat: Councillor Bortolin is peerless in his on-the-ground engagement and knowledge of issues but, more impressively, is outstanding in aligning decisions with vision. Criticisms of him, in totality, are quibbles.
Ward 4: Chris Holt
Don: Does a good job for his Ward. Cares about the serious issues in the city. Big promoter of transit and urban intensification. Bit of a narrow focus.
Doug: Councillor Holt works hard on big-picture issues and is willing to take a lot of heat for the causes he believes in. He’s as visible as he needs to be, but some of his public engagement has fallen off in recent years.
Jon: Councillor Holt represents his Ward effectively and cares about fixing long-term problems the city has faced, namely surrounding transportation and densification. He’s a champion of urbanism and proper planning practices which comes across through in his words and actions.
Pat: Councillor Holt is authentic and nothing but consistent in what he stands for. Good things have happened because of his presence on council.
Ward 5: Ed Sleiman
Don: Hard worker for his constituents. I feel on bigger citywide issues he just votes the way the Mayor wants.
Doug: Councillor Sleiman is a kind man who wants to do well. Residents know his commitment to constituency work and there is no doubt about his work ethic, but his judgment and independence are lacking.
Jon: There’s no doubt Councillor Sleiman cares about his Ward and constituents, however his performance at council and committee meetings is subpar. He is very visible in his community and his constituents support him. He has a troubling pattern however of a lack of independence.
Pat: Councillor Sleiman has served many years, faithfully, so it’s not easy to have to say that he should have moved on in 2018 and made space for someone new.
Ward 6: Jo-Anne Gignac
Don: Long term Councillor well liked in her ward. Recently pushing back on big ticket projects the Mayor promotes.
Doug: Councillor Gignac is one of the smartest and most experienced people around the council table, but she has taken a bit of an easy path in this term chasing low-effort issues.
Jon: Councillor Gignac knows how to play the game and does it well. Even when pearl-clutching about cannabis, she knows what her constituents want, willing to be mocked by others. It’s been interesting seeing her break from her traditional block with the Mayor and friendly Councillors at times this term.
Pat: A good member of the old boys’ club, Gignac brings institutional memory to the table, but the predictable “I remember when” refrain has impeded progress. Her choice on whether to run again will determine her legacy. Time for someone forward thinking for that Ward.
Ward 7: Jeewen Gill
Don: New Councillor getting up to speed and so far not doing anything to make me look at him sideways. Think he will be good for the ward.
Doug: Councillor Gill has yet to make an issue his own or articulate a citywide vision. This isn’t unusual for a rookie councillor in his first year. Has put significant effort into issues in his ward, which is rational considering the short runway he has to his first re-election bid.
Jon: As a new Councillor he has yet to truly make a name for himself or set out his own priorities. He has been invited to numerous public events with the mayor, surely helping boost his profile. He doesn’t need his own agenda if he’s willing to keep his head down and go with the flow.
Pat: Still a little too early to tell and nothing to move beyond average one way or another, but indications are that he is a little too reliable a vote for whatever Mayor wants.
Ward 8: Gary Kashak
Don: I like Councillor Kashak. He has an independent voting record. Seems to look at each issue as an individual as opposed to some of the regular voting blocks on Council.
Doug: Councillor Kashak is independent-minded, and thoughtful. I don’t always agree with his position, but I always feel he has gotten there after careful consideration. Needs to work on his public engagement and profile.
Jon: Councillor Kashak is refreshingly independent and is not afraid to clearly articulate his position and decision making process. His vote is often hard to predict but comes from a place of reason. I can’t remember any specific moments of him outside of council chambers, which is neither good nor bad.
Pat: Councillor Kaschak is independent-minded, thoughtful and he is a solid addition to this council. Although he may on occasion veer into the weeds, he is willing to explore creative solutions.
Ward 9: Kieran McKenzie
Don: *My conflict, he is a friend and real estate client. He cares passionately about the community and his Ward. We are 180 degrees opposite on politics.
Grade: Conflicted B*
Doug: Councillor McKenzie’s experience has served him well in his first term. He’s on top of consituency issues, takes committee work seriously, and is a formidable presence in debate. Sometimes plays it a bit safe, which is perhaps not surprising as he’s not a natural fit for the demography of his ward.
Jon: Councillor McKenzie’s constituents are well served by a representative who understands the issues, has immense political experience, and is willing to articulately advocate for what he believes best. He cares about his Ward and constituents.
Pat: Councillor McKenzie is effective, insightful and cares about the community. Aside from some grandstanding early on, his voice has been a great addition to council.
Ward 10: Jim Morrison
Don: Doesn’t play politics, just does what he thinks is the right thing to do for the city and his Ward. Flies a bit under the radar. Not a bad thing.
Doug: Councillor Morrison is smart and well-advised, and spends a lot of effort engaging people in his Ward. Doesn’t run and hide when a debate gets tough. He doesn’t have a vision for the city I can discern and he hasn’t distinguished himself as I hoped he would.
Jon: Councillor Morrison is a tactful politician who analyzes issues very meticulously; not surprising considering his past as a bank manager of 30 years. He is willing to engage at Council meaningfully to defend his position. Kind of an unassuming character which is not a bad thing at all.
Pat: Councillor Morrison is at his best when he cares enough to give his good attention to an issue. He would be more effective if he did that more often.
Mayor: Drew Dilkens
Don: Some city issues he fights hard for, but with the ongoing pandemic and tax revenue issues, he never saw a bright shiny expensive capital project he didn’t like.
Doug: Mayor Dilkens has massively improved his communications. Adroit media management has put him in a strong position. He lacks a strong vision for the city, and he is disinterested in finding common ground with all of the council.
Jon: Mayor Dilkens has changed his public-facing politics, especially with a revamped Mayor’s Office with a heavy focus on both digital communication and earned media. The Windsor Works Report has caused him to walk a fine line between his brand of ‘holding the line’ on taxes and making meaningful investments to enhance our community; a strategy which will eventually collapse as it’s unsustainable.
Pat: Mayor Dilkens enjoys the podium and is good at it with a talented Chief of Staff setting him up to play to his strengths. His hubris is never far from the surface and the city could do with fewer of his ‘big ideas’. The cross-border-vaccine-in-the-tunnel ploy was embarrassing to watch.