Jackson’s move political genius
By Rick Vanderlinde Simcoe.com Sep 17, 2010
INNISIFL/BARRIE — Mayor Brian Jackson dropped a few jaws Friday – yes, even some of us media types were caught off guard — when he decided to run for election in Barrie’s Ward 9.
When the city gobbled up Jackson’s St. Paul’s house in last January’s annexation, I joked that he might run for mayor there. That didn’t happen, but running for council is close enough.
Jackson tells me the decision was tough because he has lived in Innisfil all his life and has always been connected to the community through volunteer work and politics.
With 19 years on Innisfil council, including 13 years as mayor, it must be pretty difficult to leave public life. It gets in your blood; becomes part of who you are.
Even though Jackson’s home is on Yonge Street just south of Mapleview Drive in Barrie, he was legally eligible to run here again because he still owns property in Innisfil.
He even toyed with the idea — and I believe that’s all it was — to run for mayor here again. Somewhat surprisingly for a veteran of so many elections, he was stung by comments from mayoral candidates Barb Baguley and Gord Wauchope who characterized his political style as being heavy handed at times.
If Jackson had thrown his hat back in the ring here, there’s no doubt he would have lost simply because many voters see a need for change in Innisfil. I’m sure, Jackson expected as much himself. But the biggest loser would have been Wauchope. With Jackson in the race, the two veterans would have split the so-called “Old Boys” vote and handed Baguley the election.
Even though Baguley told me this week she runs on her own merits essentially ignoring her opponents, I’m sure she would have relished seeing Jackson in the race.
Still, she is pleased Jackson hopes to use his talents in Barrie.
“It would be an advantage to have him in Barrie because we’ll have a congenial relationship already started before you leave the starting gate,” Baguley says. “He has great experience and knowledge, and he would serve them well.”
There are plenty of opinions out there about Jackson’s decision to pack his political bags and move to Barrie.
Here’s a few that are making the rounds, some that were clearly made in jest:
• He has an insatiable lust for power so he needs to stay in municipal politics and he has little chance of winning back his mayor’s seat here.
• He is so bitter about Barrie annexing Innisfil, including his St. Paul’s home on Yonge Street, that he hopes to sabotage the city from within.
• He hopes to win the ward seat and run for mayor of the city in four years becoming the first to be mayor of both municipalities.
Whatever the outcome, I think Jackson’s decision to run in Ward 9 is pure genius, not only from a political view, but from a personal view for Jackson. It’s clear he loves the role of elected official. And he will be able to serve his constituents without the pressure and stress of being the head of council.
“I don’t like the word politician,” he told me this week. “I’m an elected official. I like to make my decisions based on common sense and the facts, not on the politics of the situation.”
There’s no doubt Jackson is poised to win.
Of course, he goes into the Barrie race carrying some political baggage. Certainly, voters there will be reminded that he pleaded guilty to threatening to cause bodily harm after threatening to hit Coun. Bill Pring with a souvenir goalie stick hanging in his mayor’s office.
In an absolute low-point of his political career, he had a major meltdown and went into a tirade for all in the council chambers to hear on that June 2009 evening. The political pressures of the Barrie annexation among other issues had clearly taken their toll.
The judge in the case gave him an absolute discharge after recognizing him as a community leader who still had much to offer.
But here’s the rub for voters in Ward 9. While Jackson may have to explain his brush with the law to voters, his main opponent — incumbent Andrew Prince — arguably has even more explaining to do.
Prince has been charged with domestic assault as well as threatening police. Those charges are still before the courts.
The legal issues aside, I think Jackson is the natural choice for the Ward 9 seat. And if he wins he could certainly bring an Innisfil perspective to an area that, after all, was once Innisfil.