With August now upon us, it is fair to ask, in regards to municipal politics, if this is the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end run? Are all of the candidates declared?
If so, when will we see a heating up of the mayoral race pitting incumbent Shari Decter Hirst versus challenger Rick Chrest?
Both candidates took a brief hiatus from campaigning during the worst days of the July flood, quite wisely so. To be seen campaigning while the city was once again flooded would be, in my opinion, unseemly at best. There are times when a community must pull together and Brandonites once again showed up to support each other during this mini-crisis.
The crisis is seemingly over, and my sources tell me both Shari and Rick have hit the hustings, looking for votes and soliciting support. In many respects, this all feels a little like a quiet war. There have been no policy announcements to speak of, nor any significant advertising or sign campaigns. One might rightfully ask if an election is actually less than 90 days away.
Will we see another entrant? My suspicion is that a fringe candidate may arise, but I personally cannot see another serious person enter the race. The reasons are obvious — where would they hope to gain votes? What would be their base of support? Where would their financial support come from? Most realistically, who wants to lose?
In other words, while it’s not inconceivable another person would enter the race, it is highly unlikely.
Given all of this pretext, my view of the campaign is that we have a left-leaning incumbent facing a middle-of-the-road challenger who also possesses a dozen years of city council experience. (In the 2010 election, Decter Hirst quite proudly proclaimed her NDP leanings, so calling her left-leaning seems appropriate).
Since both entrants are familiar with the workings of city hall, I don’t think council experience is a major deciding factor for either. Shari has negotiated contracts with a number of the city hall unions in her last four years, and Rick had years of doing the same while serving on council and as deputy mayor.
I view Chrest as being more of a prudent fiscal manager than Decter Hirst, based on years of successfully running his own business. Meeting payrolls and running a business are tough jobs. To have successfully done this for many years is an asset in my opinion.
The city, under the mayor’s leadership, has seen a massive expansion of payrolls and taxes. Decter Hirst should, and I suspect will, be arguing that she has built additional human infrastructure to serve our growing community.
Both candidates are highly energetic folks with strong followings and engaging personal styles. They both hail from Westman and enjoy decades of community involvement. I consider them to be equals in the “community service” department.
That being said, having spent several years working with Rick’s wife, Karen Chrest, at the Brandon Regional Health Centre Foundation and on the highly successful Murray House campaign, no one should underestimate her personal popularity and the appeal she would contribute as Brandon’s first lady.
For me, ultimately the approach to fiscal matters is the central cornerstone issue of the municipal election.
I want to hear substantive policies pertaining to the growth of our city, and we all need to gain a better sense of each candidate’s vision of our community. I don’t want the “view from 30,000 feet” or other nonsensical jargon. I want to hear about taxes, growth, jobs and value.
Homeowners in Brandon pay very high taxes and are certainly entitled to a meaningful debate about our city’s present and future and I look forward to when this discussion finally starts. The clock is ticking.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 2, 2014