Hamilton

Brothers haven't spoken to each other in 30 years. Now they'll fight to be mayor of Port Colborne

Bill and Charles Steele are brothers, and the only two candidates for mayor in Port Colborne. 

Bill and Charles Steele haven't spoken to each other in 30 years

Charles Steele (left) is the only candidate running to challenge his brother Bill, the incumbent mayor of Port Colborne, Ont. The brothers haven't spoken for 30 years. (Charles Steele/City of Port Colborne)

Bill and Charles Steele, from Port Colborne, Ont., are brothers who haven't spoken to each other in 30 years, and this fall they'll be fighting each other in the race for mayor.

Mayor Bill Steele won election in 2018 and he and brother Charles are the only two candidates in the running.

They will face each other in the upcoming municipal elections on Oct. 24. 

Charles said he's running against Bill because he believes in democracy and wants to see "regular people" run for office. 

"If I hadn't run, then my brother would have been acclaimed mayor because nobody else is running," he said. "A lot of politicians have silver spoons in their mouths. We could use some new thinking."

Bill, who is in his first term as mayor and served 17 years as city councillor, said he doesn't talk about his opponents — and this time, that includes brother Charles.

"I'm here to get Bill Steele elected. I've got a great campaign team, we've got more people on board this campaign than we've ever had," he said. "I'm here to talk about what we're going to do for the city when we're victorious."

Charles Steele says 'we need to have more humanity'

Charles said that his brother is not the only reason he's running.

"For years, I've seen neglect in the city and, you know, all politicians seem to be lacking in health for the average citizen," said Charles. 

He said one of his goals is to "set some directions" for Port Colborne and mentioned affordable housing as one of the major concerns he would address.

"[The municipal government] should have been doing this 10 years ago. Now it's becoming popular because there's a lot of homeless people," said Charles.

"I'm seeing more and more homeless people all the time … and that's sad. There are a lot of homeless people coming to town and Port Colborne doesn't have a shelter. We need to have more humanity."

Other things Charles says he wants to address include the rising cost of living, especially water. He also wants people to come out to vote and make their voices heard.

In the 2018 municipal elections, Port Colborne saw a 42.8 per cent turnout, according to the city.

Bill, who also runs the family business C. M. Steele Insurance Brokers, said Port Colborne's water and sewage system will be one of his top priorities if he wins.

"Although our water rates are competitive across Niagara, our wastewater rates are one of the highest. That's … a priority of this council."

He also wants to develop affordable housing with the help of local organizations, like Port Cares.

Another one of his goals is to set up shore excursions and develop a new waterfront centre.

It's an idea that brother Charles doesn't like. "So far, it's up to $10 million … and I can't imagine cost overruns and what it would cost."

"They want to build a pavilion and things like that, but [people from the cruises] really don't get off the ships and come into the business section of town."

Charles said although he has nothing against his brother Bill, he's not happy with the way he's running things. And he's not sure what their parents, who have passed on, would have thought about the two of them competing for mayor. He hasn't yet asked other family members. 

When asked about why they haven't spoken in so long, the brothers wouldn't exactly say. Charles said he moved to B.C. and spent several years there, away from his family in Port Colborne.

As for Bill, he said he's not worried and knows the community will vote for him because they know who he is. 

"I've raised my family here. My roots are here. I run a business here, so everybody knows who I am," he said. "I campaigned on open transparency, being honest with the public, and I've always done that in my 21 years of service."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aura Carreño Rosas

Freelance reporter, CBC Hamilton

Aura Carreño Rosas is a Hamilton-based freelance journalist from Venezuela, with a passion for pop culture and unique people with diverse journeys.

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