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Opinion: Watt shares wisdom after a week of lobbying and playing politics

A week really is an eternity in politics – and I write this as a tip sheet for those others who are looking at running for council in 2018.
Laurie Watt addresses city council during last week's meeting. Shawn Gibson for BarrieToday

A week really is an eternity in politics – and I write this as a tip sheet for those others who are looking at running for council in 2018.

There are some realities I was reminded of and perhaps some wisdom I have to share.

It was an incredible experience, as it prompted me to think of what I could offer and how best to pitch it. That alone made it worthwhile. I learned about some great community builders too.

But ever loyal to my readers, I offer some history and some insight, because that’s what I’m called to do.

A week ago, I was making calls lobbying councillors to vote for me, out of 30 other applicants for Barrie council vacancy in Ward 6.

Wow, did I learn a lot, or at least reminded of the week being an eternity.

I was also reminded about how decisions are often made: the phone lines burn up. I know, because  I got busy signals. I made the calls and at some points, councillors had to cut my call short to take other calls.

I knew on Monday morning – the day the meeting took place at 6 p.m. – that the favourite was former councillor Steve Trotter.

Trotter had served on council for years and he left about a decade ago. He lives in Ward 6 and on his time on council, he had to support projects that were good for the city but not quite so popular with voters: the Ferndale Drive connection through the wetland and the widening of Ardagh Road from a two-lane cow path to the wider road that could accommodate four lanes.

Back when the Ardagh Road decision was being made, Trotter agreed to the wider pavement width – after all, there were a series of subdivisions being planned and only a few of them under construction at the time.

Today, we are seeing plans come forward for the last few green spaces along Ardagh Road.

Trotter made tough choices before and I’m sure he will look at what’s good for the city as a whole, as well as the environmental and social impacts of the proposals that will up for decision this fall and beyond.

But what I was also reminded of is the effect of a speech.

Learning I was an audience favourite, my speech didn’t convince councillors to choose me.

That’s ok.

But it reminds us that sometimes council has it made its mind up – and a passionate, well-written speech isn’t going to change their minds.

And lobbyists’ calls to councillors might cause some to pause to think, but ultimately council will decide for reasons it alone knows, although sometimes may divulge.

The experience also reminded me that knowledge of the issues isn’t the deciding factor; a councillor who’s been off duty for a decade likely doesn’t know the current policies, regulations and proposals as well as a journalist who covers City Hall.

But a key advantage he has is he’s a known team player.

So for you council hopefuls, remember these essential ingredients:

  • knowledge of the issues matters, but it isn’t everything
  • being a team player, and a known one, matters
  • councillors support different people and their projects for different reasons
  • a killer speech isn’t necessarily what will win the day

And a week in politics is an eternity.