Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is shown during a Windsor Police Services Board meeting on Thursday, March 21, 2019.
Dan Janisse / Windsor Star
Another significant city council vote. Another decisive loss for Mayor Drew Dilkens.Dilkens opposed spending $537,000 from a reserve fund to house homeless people after the Ontario government defaulted on the money. Council supported it 7-4.Dilkens opposed allowing cannabis stores. Council supported that 8-3.Dilkens opposed adding fluoride to city drinking water. Council supported it 8-3.He opposes an auditor-general, and council voted unanimously to request a report on a possible auditor-general.His vice-chairman on the Windsor Police Services Board, veteran supporter Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac, ran for re-appointment and lost in a coup. Council appointed a disruptor, Coun. Rino Bortolin, instead.During his first term, Dilkens could count on winning council votes. It’s about the numbers, and he controlled the majority. Now he doesn’t.For the first time in a long time, power has shifted out of the mayor’s office, over to the council table.
Mayor Drew Dilkens and Ward 4 councillor, Chris Holt, congratulate each other at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts on Oct. 22, 2018.
Dax Melmer /
But reports of Dilkens’ demotion to ribbon cutter are exaggerated. He wanted the tax increase in the 2019 budget held below inflation. It was. He wanted more police to deal with rising crime, especially downtown. He got them. He is leading the unprecedented drive to fix sewers to stop flooding.His passion for Windsor is being seen across the city, from the planned Distillery District (let’s just call it by its name, Walkerville) to the purchase of the historic Paul Martin Building and conversion of the 98-year-old Sandwich fire station to a library, the planned statue of Hiram Walker and broader public access to Peche Island.Still, things have changed.With four new councillors, the 7-4 votes Dilkens used to win have flipped.What should he do?Don’t “go to war,” as my colleague Gord Henderson urged.What would that accomplish, other than disfunction? That’s hardly what Windsor needs.And why would he, since he doesn’t control the majority?
Coun. Rino Bortolin speaks during a police board meeting at Windsor Police headquarters, Thursday, April 25, 2019.
Dax Melmer /
But the real point is that while the mayor may be the only position on council with a city-wide mandate, the five candidates who won the most votes in their wards, including three who won at least 70 per cent of the vote, are frequently part of the new majority.That majority represents seven of the 10 wards, 153,000 people or 65 per cent of the population. The mayor represents every one of them, too.And who are the “special interests” these councillors allegedly represent? The homeless? That would be news to them.Not all of these votes are the same, either. Gignac voted for fluoride. She and Coun. Fred Francis, who largely votes with the mayor, voted for cannabis stores. Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk, who frequently votes with the new majority, voted against cannabis stores.Should mayors have more legislated power, the power to veto council decisions, as Premier Doug Ford wrote after his term on Toronto city council and as Henderson urged? Why not just get rid of the decision-making body entirely? Some governments do that. It’s unfortunate to view council and democracy as a complication, an obstacle. Dilkens already has the advantage. He’s the only full-time position on council. He has an office with a staff and a budget.He doesn’t need war. He needs to roll out the diplomacy.“My Windsor will include you,” he said to his opponents after he won the last election. He promised to “build consensus.”Related
But he can’t seem to stop himself from attacking his own colleagues when they disagree. He publicly accused councillors Rino Bortolin and Chris Holt, who voted against the rezoning for the planned new hospital, of prompting the BIAs to donate money to the appeal of the decision and suggested they had violated council’s Code of Conduct.Dilkens could achieve more — including more decorum — if he could stickhandle dissent and email@example.com