I’m supporting Ron Dupuis in Greater Sudbury’s mayoral race because he’s just what this city, with its broken, gridlocked Council needs right now—a leader who is, in the vernacular of my daughters’ generation, “chill.”
But if you’re looking for someone who can unerringly deliver that sexy, polished fifteen-second sound bite, or steal the headlines with grand, meaningless visionary promises he’ll never deliver because the rest of Council will not support him, then I suggest you shop elsewhere. My friend Ron is all steak, no sizzle.
And he’s just the leader who can dial back Council’s fractious, overheated impasse and get things done.
Ron is a consultative, inclusive, consensual team builder who, after fourteen years on Council—seven as Deputy Mayor, by the way—knows how to forge consensus and get the City moving once again.
He’s done it before: when he had to walk back his controversial move to name a newly-built municipal park in Val Caron after Steelworkers’ International President (and Sudbury native) Leo Gerard.
Following this rare political mis-step Dupuis quietly went into full damage-control mode, rolled up his sleeves, and began to lobby his Council colleagues, many of whom had made him the target of blistering rhetoric for his support of Gerard.
The matter came to a head at a subsequent Council meeting, and to my astonishment the Council voted unanimously in favour of the Leo Gerard Workers’ Memorial Park, as it remains to this day. The controversy also yielded something else: a detailed, clearly enunciated policy governing the naming of public, municipally-owned streets, buildings, and other properties—something the city never had before.
How Ron Dupuis engineered this amazing turnaround with the full Council—a feat akin to herding a flock of screeching, caterwauling felines—we may never know, but it almost certainly was not done by beating folks upside the head with a two by four.
No, Ron Dupuis knows how to practice the gentler, less grandstanding arts of politics—listening, knowing what each of the players, and, more importantly, their electors, wants and needs in a city he knows and loves so well, and how to deliver not all of it, certainly, but enough of it to keep the myriad parts of City Hall’s half-billion-dollar-a-year operation whizzing along and meshing smoothly.
Take a further example: in the early days of the Matichuk reign Ron sought to forge an important, face-saving consensus around the thorny issue of store hours, a major plank in the platform of the new Mayor-elect. He approached his fellow councilors to sound them out on the issue. The upshot: they were willing to relinquish civic control over day-to-day store opening hours. Boxing Day opening, however, was a non-starter.
Ron quietly approached the new Mayor with a face-saving compromise: Council would relinquish its control over day-to-day store opening hours but Boxing Day closure would remain. “Absolutely not,” came the reply. “But you’ll lose,” Dupuis remonstrated. “If this comes before Council you just don’t have the votes, and you’ll lose.”
But the Mayor-elect stuck stubbornly to her guns, and Dupuis’s prediction came to pass in a lopsided defeat for the mayor, an early bellwether public humiliation that would be repeated again and again and that would, ultimately, spell her political doom.
And how revealing it was that Matichuk, when asked by CTV News to name the single biggest regret of her brief tenure in the Mayor’s chair, responded “I could have handled the store hours question better.”
And this coming in a remarkable day in Sudbury municipal politics just hours before Matichuk’s own erstwhile political mentor Dan Melanson announced his own intention to become a mayoral candidate.
It was a series of events that set tongues wagging around City Hall and offered still more proof, if proof was needed, that Sudbury city politics is now, and always has been, a blood sport.
And so it is now, more than ever, that we need a leader who leaves the posturing on the sidelines, who has deep roots in the community he absolutely adores, who functions superbly in both official languages, and who is a businessman by way of Frood Mine.
Ron Dupuis is that rarity in Sudbury city politics: a good man in a broken city.
And now, more than ever, the city needs him.