In a social media post by Midland’s Councillor Cody Oschefski, he announces “I’ve been asked to represent our MPP, Patrick Brown at Midland events. My first will be this Saturday at the Wye Marsh. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I look forward to making the town and our provincial government proud!”.
While this young Councillor is arguably the most vocal and socially active member of local government in our history, there are some concerns that some of our members and readers have expressed to this revelation.
Normally, they (Provincial Government) can get anyone from their riding association (friends, families etc) to speak on their behalf at events that they cannot attend (remembrance day, Canada day etc) and read prepared statements. After all, they cannot be everywhere all the time and yet want to appear connected to each community that they represent. The honour of reading the prepared statement is not meant to imply that the person has become a pipeline for information flow to the absent member of parliament. Now, with Cody’s publicly stated aspirations to quickly move up in local politics (he’s expressed interest in the deputy mayor’s seat and then soon after, mayor – bolstered by his “more than enthusiastic” Facebook supporters) and the fact that he likely will want to pursue politics beyond the local level, he is looking for any opportunities to form alliances. This should not come as a surprise.
If he were not the sole “stand-in” for Patrick and instead was “one of many” that would speak on Patrick Brown’s behalf, then I don’t see any real conflict as it is not uncommon to have a council member read statements at local events. If however, he is found to have been selected to the be the ONLY local voice to do all of Patrick’s speaking in his stead, then a local politician could easily be put into a conflict of interest where local needs/wants may not align with the Conservative party or their leader’s beliefs or policies du-jour. For that reason alone he should decline the honour and/or stop seeking further status with the Conservative party.
An arm’s length distance should be kept between these two levels of government with official and strategic communications as well as informal collaboration coming from our Mayor or a designate on a case-by-case, need-by-need basis.
So, while many of Cody’s supporters, and Cody himself, will see nothing but rainbows and unicorns, I agree with those who have expressed concern. Cody’s loyalties cannot be split, or perceived to be split. He is our councillor and should be focussed solely on the town (which he seemingly has been) and not on building his contact list with the Province by being their puppet at local events that he would normally attend but not have a voice. This voice and perceived status he will achieve by accepting / seeking this position is the crux of the issue. With our Mayor taking time away for his personal health needs, the next logical voice is our deputy mayor – if Patrick is really wanting a local politician to be his voice.
There can be no shortage of people in the Conservative party leader’s entourage or riding association that could perform these duties rather than bestowing this task onto a local politician with aspirations to elevate his standing and position. The spotlight that Cody will bask in can easily be seen as “deriving benefit from his position” and risks placing him in conflict of interest.
He likely won’t see it this way and will defend his position – like many other of his decisions, supported by his well-meaning online flock. Cody is young, lacks both life experience and professional experience, has lots to learn but, has a promising career ahead of him if he learns from other’s successes and failures as well as evaluates each decision with the timeless self assessment – “is this the right thing to do” and puts the needs of the community above his own self-promotion or self-interest in all matters – not an easy task but one that goes with his office none-the-less.
Many of these sentiments and more are echoed in the comments found on his Facebook post, even by those who are his “friends”. Perhaps he should re-consider his position on this matter. Where do you stand on this? Leave your comments below or share this story and discuss it online.
We’ve received clarity on this issue from Patrick Brown’s office. You can read that update here.