Politics: You scratch my back…

Mayor Siebring, retiring soon to Alberta, is hoping to extend his reach across the provincial boundary and help install Rosalie Sawrie as the next Mayor. While he cannot directly appoint her to the post, he has come out in full throated support for her candidacy.

On his blog, here, with just a touch of parochial self-regard and moral posturing, Siebring says that he has a “clear and unequivocal favourite” and that his “unreserved and enthusiastic support will go to Councillor Sawrie”.

To be clear, and Siebring acknowledges this, he and Sawrie come from opposite sides of the aisle, politically speaking. He says that when first elected, he “lumped her in with the rest of the candidates who had the tacit endorsement of the “One Cowichan” organization…. driven by ideology and an agenda focused almost exclusively on “green” and “social” priorities”. Siebring has since changed his tune, claiming that in the past year or so he has seen her “growth…in her governance skills”.

What Siebring also saw, and what we all saw, was her support for his action against Councillor Marsh. Sawrie, he writes, “oversaw the process around my Code of Conduct complaint against Councillor Marsh… and showed an amazing commitment to sticking to the process in the face of a potential political backlash from the narrow base that elected her.”

It’s hard to know for certain why people, or even politicians, do things all of the time. It is a truism that cliches become worn because we overuse them and we overuse them because they are, in essence, truisms. You know, things such as: carry another’s bathwater, reciprocal back-scratching, quid pro quo, one good turn deserves another, etc.

And it’s not that unusual for politicians to endorse potential successors, really. After all, hubris runs deep in most of the political class. Usually though, politicians are normally careful to refrain from using their still public perch to electioneer for their designate such as, for example, using regular governance communication to pump up a political successor.

In the September Council report, written by Siebring, he unusually devotes an entire brazen paragraph promoting Sawrie, saying;

Councillor Sawrie shared her experiences and thoughts on the conference and expressed how great it was to have the conference in-person again, with the opportunity to share experiences with other elected officials about the many challenges faced across the province. Some municipalities have been able to reduce building permit wait times which she was interested in learning more about. A presentation by Mayor Staples (Duncan), Mayor Helps (Victoria), and Mayor Minions (Port Alberni) on their successes in setting up transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness was a highlight for her. These projects – including The Village in Duncan – include wraparound services, peer programs, and art installations, and all three mayors shared stories and statistics that back up the success of these projects.

Council Matters for September 21, 2022

The attempt to elevate Sawrie to statesman-like levels by associating her name with other Mayors, and with broad policy-level issues, falls a bit flat, coming across more as word-salad than real information. One rightfully wonders why we are not made privy to what other Councillors said about the topic at the Council meeting. And so, it seems to be playing at politics, not at reporting on governance.

The broad point is when someone does you a solid, you tend to be inclined to do them one in return, and moreso when you are shielded from the effects of returning the favour. Siebring is moving to Alberta and will feel zero impact from whatever Sawrie might do as a Mayor. Given the choice of supporting his longtime ideological ally and fellow councillor John Koury, or supporting his ideological opposition, Siebring has chosen the latter.

Given the events that have transpired, what really changed his mind and heart?

So, here we now have Mayor Solomon Siebring, after long and careful deliberation, who would like to decree that, in his solemn judicial wisdom, and in grave concern over what is best for our community, would like us to honour his wisdom by electing Sawrie as his duly appointed successor.

Democracies don’t work that way. Retiring mayors do not get to pick their successor. The voters get to choose.