Mayor David Gordon met with the NG Times recently to discuss his two-year term as Warden of the United Counties, and to look at the challenges and opportunities facing North Grenville in the coming year. This is part one of that conversation.
Times: How was being Warden different from your role as Mayor?
Mayor Gordon: The amount of knowledge you acquire and the people that you meet is unbelievable. As you know I was Warden for two years, and, as Warden, the amount of time you get to meet with ministers, one on one, when they get to see you face-to-face, is important. They get to know who you are and a lot of time you get their private telephone numbers, whereas as mayor you maybe get 10 or 12 minutes with them, and the last four minutes are a photo op. But, as a Warden, you get to be there for an hour, or an hour and a half, and you get to thrash out things. And the advantage of that is huge. It’s something that I’ll always remember and I appreciate the mayors for allowing me to be Warden. It was such a major experience. At the election of the new Warden, I said that it is a job they have to take seriously and that it’s a lot of work. I know where Coburg is, where Kingston is, and definitely where Toronto is. A lot of times you go where the ministers are. I would definitely do it again: it keeps you out of trouble, because you’re always busy.
Times: How much of that is county and how much of it is benefiting the municipality?
Mayor Gordon: You have to look at it this way: what’s good for the county is good for the municipality. Because county and municipal government dovetails, with social services, EMS, paramedics, even the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus. There’s a trickle-down effect for your municipality. You have to look at the overall picture, you can’t be small and think only North Grenville. And what’s good for North Grenville is good for the county, because the more we grow, the larger the tax levy for the county. We are one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Ontario; every time we grow the county gets part of that action, which is great. They supply paramedics, they supply ambulance dispatch, which is very costly. With the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus you get broadband and fibre-optics. Most people don’t realize that if it wasn’t for the Caucus we would not have Internet in Eastern Ontario. The Warden’s Caucus created the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, which brought Internet to Eastern Ontario, and now we’re 75% to 80% completely fibre-optic, and soon, possibly by 2022, Eastern Ontario will be 95% fibre-optic or high-speed Internet. The remaining 5% are areas where that service is just not possible.
I think everybody should know what’s going on. But sometimes it’s difficult to answer people who ask what County is doing. I tell them: if you’re sick, and you need an ambulance, where does it come from? And most people don’t realise that it’s Social Services at County, until you can explain that. Maybe part of the problem is that County don’t get out there and tell people what they do, they just get on with the job. As with the EOWC, it’s not that anyone is hiding anything, it’s just that they do a job that’s not local and doesn’t get the press that a municipality gets. People thinks it’s some kind of nebulous group, but it’s not. It is there to promote Eastern Ontario and these counties. That’s the premise I always worked on. For example, when Edwardsburgh-Cardinal got the Giant Tiger facility, that was also great for North Grenville, because people don’t realise they’ll be hiring in here also. There are people here who drive down to Brockville for jobs.
Times: How do you think your experience on County and as Warden will help you as mayor over the next two years?
Mayor Gordon: As an experience and a learning period, it’s been amazing. At one point in time I was thinking that, as a mayor, you run out of gas in two terms. But the amount of information about government grants, for example, and how governments work, is unbelievable. For a new mayor to go to Toronto, they wouldn’t know where to go. But I’ve learned where to go and who to reach, and that’s the important thing. People may say that’s not it, but I say that if you want to get some funding now, you’d better know the Minister. You’d better have your $2 in your pocket to buy him a coffee. That’s the important thing.
It is a personal thing. I was down in Windsor and I had lunch with the Minister. There was a file that was stalled. We were away by ourselves, and now that file is up and running again. Because the Minister didn’t know what was going on, and I had to tell him. They deal with the whole Province and we’re just a little piece. If you don’t tell them what’s going on, they don’t know. And if they don’t know who you are, they won’t talk to you. Plain and simple. At this point in time, I could talk to 50% of the ministers because they know who I am. And that is what you’re elected for: to get things done. Sometimes, you’re not popular, but if you go into the business to be popular, you’ll get nothing done.