Election campaigns have consequences

(Tom Blanchard, left, was unmoved by Phil Deery on Tuesday.)

Provincial elections have consequences.

This is true not only of the outcome of those elections, but also of the so-far-unremarkable battle for the local seat at Queen’s Park.

One consequence unfolded before our eyes at city council’s finance, administration and operations committee meeting on Tuesday, namely, the two-two split caused by Mayor David Henderson’s leave of absence to run for the Liberals.

Henderson’s month-long hiatus (it’ll be permanent if he wins, but provincewide polling does not give him great odds) created a perfect storm for supporters of an active transportation plan that came up for discussion.

It’s a reasonable bet that a majority on city council would favour the motion to spend nearly $60,000, only 20 per cent of which will come from city coffers, on the healthy transportation plan, thereby unlocking the entirety of a $183,000 grant from the province.

Most of the time, it would have been a slam-dunk at committee as well.

But the particular makeup of this finance committee meant the two councillors most likely to take a vocal stand against the idea, Jeff Earle and Tom Blanchard, got a chance to make their views known in the form of a vote.

Usually, Blanchard lamented, he and his fellow fiscal hawk are in the minority on the committee, overruled in 3-2 votes by the more centrist bloc of chairwoman Jane Fullarton, Phil Deery and the mayor.

(Anyone who doubts my characterization of Henderson as a centrist, remember this: In 2010 he ran for the Progressive Conservative nomination; now he’s running as a Grit.)

This time, with Henderson away for at least a month, Blanchard and Earle got to stop a spending motion – at least temporarily – and thereby make their separate points about spending on consultants and the tunnel deficit.

In the latter case, Blanchard made it no secret that, while he likes the work of the Brock Trail Committee, he was voting to derail this motion because of the tunnel.

Since he first issued his scathing rebuke to Coun. David LeSueur over the tunnel shortfall nearly two months ago, Blanchard has remained as steamed as an old-fashioned locomotive about that $2.1-million deficit and how it came about.

What I’m trying to say is that we have a problem that’s created by this tunnel fiasco,” he said Tuesday.

As a result, added Blanchard, he does not want to fund anything else until that deficit is addressed.

That statement was a bit, well rich, since at the same finance meeting, Blanchard was OK with funding other items that proved far more expensive in their totality, including a replacement of the water treatment plant’s automated system ($99,000), a pickup truck and plow ($55,000), a floor slab for the fire department’s training tower ($97,500), rail safety improvements ($23,500) and comm gear ($77,000).

Blanchard did, however, join Earle in voting down a $5,000 item to produce a visitor guide to the railway tunnel...

...which just might be evidence of a one-track mind.

Of course, since Deery plans to bring the matter of the transportation plan back to council next week with a “minority report,” Earle and Blanchard may yet prove unsuccessful.

Still, with the mayor away, they got in their shot, which was, one suspects, their intent all along.