Stockwell is yesterday’s man. Replace Holyday with someone else
City council will vote this week on a replacement for Doug Holyday, with a scary ghost from the past – Chris Stockwell – favoured to get the job.
But Holyday has it right in breaking ranks with the Ford Bros. and suggesting retired salesman Peter Leon, a former chair of Etobicoke Hydro, as a fill-in councillor for the Ward 3 seat vacated when Holyday won a provincial by-election.
Etobicoke York community council voted to recommend Stockwell, a former Metro councillor, MPP and minister in the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves cabinets, to replace Holyday until the start of the new council term in January, 2014.
Council will make the final call on a replacement and is not obliged to rubber-stamp Stockwell, but with his political pedigree, experience and the blessing of the Etobicoke York rump, he is holding pretty good cards.
Elected to the old Etobicoke council as a fresh-faced lad in 1982, he went on to Metro council and then to Queen’s Park as a Progressive Conservative in 1990, where he hung in until 2003, when he resigned from cabinet over an expenses scandal.
Stockwell was a scrapper and quite likely the glibbest member of the Tories’ front bench. He can open his eyes so widely that the whites show all around the pupils, making him look somewhat unhinged and scary.
When the province was downloading costs for services on a newly amalgamated Toronto in 1998, Stockwell became involved in talks between the city and Queen’s Park, which were strained, to say the least.
At one point, someone suggested a meeting between him and then-mayor Mel Lastman, who preferred to meet with Harris. “I want to talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey,” said Lastman.
He was a career politician but the scandal finished him. Like many career politicians suddenly out of
work, he went into the crowded field of political consulting, where making a buck is not as easy as it looks.
Maybe that’s why he has re-surfaced. Or it could be a more noble motivation; he wants only to return to his first love, dutiful public service.
The Ford Bros. are backing Stockwell. But Holyday, who was RoFo’s deputy mayor, sent a letter to community council proposing Leon, even though he has no say in the matter or influence, since he created the vacancy by fleeing for the legislature.
I don’t know anything about Leon and don’t care if he gets the job. But I’m suspicious that Stockwell will use a temporary appointment as a springboard to run for the seat in the election next year, a huge and unfair advantage.
If he was making out as a consultant, or in another worthy endeavour, he’d be too busy and well-fed to bother with a one-year appointment to council.
Even if he promises not to run, there’s nothing to stop him from changing his mind. It’s happened before.
Once he gets another taste of public life, it’ll be hard to keep him out of the trough.
That’s why Holyday is right to suggest someone else. And if Stockwell wants to make a comeback, he can run in the election next fall, without a head start.