Don't discount the issue of leadership style


(Louise Severson was articulate on the matter of leadership style.)

It's admittedly a little early to unpack this election.

Like all elections, it carries many messages.

So I will begin, for now, with the mixed message: a deeply conservative result that saw every single incumbent on the ballot handily returned, coupled with the less conservative tally that saw the two candidates calling for change net 1.6 times the votes handed to Mayor David Henderson.

Challenger Cec Drake was quick to suggest former councillor Louise Severson split the anti-Henderson vote, allowing Henderson to prevail.

But then, the Drake narrative cast Henderson and Severson as two sides of the establishment coin.

If one follows that logic, the establishment vote more than doubled the change vote.

Let me suggest a different scenario: the two candidates who were calling for a change in the leadership style at city hall, away from Henderson's centralization and closer to something resembling consensus and consultation, garnered more votes, combined, than the incumbent.

Of course, these kinds of calculations are strictly academic. Henderson is the winner, fair and square, and he is free to keep governing city hall as he sees fit.

However, I would suggest that, when the obvious dominant issue of the Ontario Provincial Police is taken out of the equation, the matter of leadership style emerges as another focus of the campaign just ended.

I would argue Severson placed a greater emphasis on leadership style in her campaign than did Drake. She might have been maligned for what some saw as an inconsistent message on the OPP, but on the matter of wanting to bring a listening ear to the mayor's office, she was clear and articulate.

The OPP issue does not explain Severson's relatively strong showing against Henderson, since the candidate who clearly called for scrapping the whole costing did far worse in the end.

Leadership style, then, could account for those solid numbers, and might serve as a warning to the folks coming back for four years the the public really does want more of a listening ear.

It's easy to understand Severson's insistence she is leaving politics after two unsuccessful tries for the mayor's seat.

But her message of a more consultative leadership style might still have resonance four years from now, if her compass points her in the direction of a run for a council seat.