Ottawa

Some councillors who vowed to run for 2 terms rethinking promise

In 2010, four city councillors vowed to serve for only two terms of council. Half-way through the second term, only one of them is still promising to stand by that pledge.

4 councillors promised to run for only 2 terms in 2010, but only 1 is still committing to it

Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais promised to stand for only two terms when he was elected in 2010. He's now considering running for a third time in 2018. (CBC)

A decade ago, there was a sense among some voters that certain councillors had been in power too long, that it was time for new blood on city council, and that there should be more regular turnover at City Hall.

That year, then-candidates Bob Monette of Orléans and Steve Desroches of Gloucester-South Nepean pledged that, if elected, they'd only serve for two terms.

Only one would keep his promise. 

The strategy must have seemed like a good one at the time because in 2010, four successful first-time candidates promised the same thing: Stephen Blais, Tim Tierney, Mark Taylor and Allan Hubley.

Only 1 still vowing to step down

​But half-way through their second term, only Taylor of Bay ward is still on record as planning to keep his two-term promise.

Bay ward Coun. Mark Taylor vows to keep his pledge to serve only two terms on council. (CBC)

"I made that commitment to run for two terms as councillor, and I intend to keep that," Taylor said. "My perspective is, I have two years left and we have a lot of work to do in those two years … Two terms as councillor is what I said and it's what I intend to keep."

However, Blais is telling a different story. He said he'll be talking with his family and constituents in Cumberland ward about whether he should run again in 2018.

I'm not saying yes, I'm not saying no.- Coun. Stephen Blais

"I'm not saying yes, I'm not saying no," Blais told CBC News.

"Circumstances change and we have a lot of big projects that we've gotten to the start line, and maybe even to the first post. And I think that as a community, there needs to be conversation on how best to get those projects across the finish line."

He said he'll make a decision about whether to run again at the end of this year or in early 2017.

Coun. Tim Tierney said in 2010 he was in favour a two-term limit for councillors. But in 2014, he changed his mind and said that voters should decide how long a councillor serves. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

Tierney, councillor for Beacon Hill-Cyrville, appears to have changed tack after his first term.

I think I was naive back then.- Coun. Tim Tierney

During the 2010 campaign, he wrote in an online newspaper survey that he personally believed in a two-term limit. Asked again in 2014, he wrote, "Term limits should be decided by voters."

Now, he said he regrets making that 2010 promise.

"I think I was naive back then," Tierney said. "I haven't made a decision at this point" about running in 2018, he said.

As for Hubley, the Kanata South councillor, who's to say? ​His office said he did not have any time over three days to talk about this issue.

Few consequences on reneging

While it might seem incredulous that a politician could back on his word so easily,  there seems to be few consequences for a councillor to run again after vowing to step down.

Orléans' Monette, first elected in 2006, said he'd step down after two terms, but changed his mind in 2014. He had little trouble keeping his seat, winning 75 per cent of the votes cast.

Coun. Bob Monette was easily re-elected in 2014, despite reneging on his pledge to only serve for two terms. (CBC News)

Monette said he hasn't decided yet whether he'll run for a fourth term, but appears to have learned not make promises he's not prepared to keep.

"On election night, I said there was one thing I wanted to tell everyone and that was that I would not make any promises because four years is a long time and a lot of things can happen," the councillor wrote in an email.

'A calling, not a career'

Desroches, on the other hand, left city politics after his two terms were up in 2014, despite the likelihood he could have been easily re-elected. Although his name kept coming up as a possible Conservative candidate in the last federal election, Desroches has since returned to the federal public service, where he worked before joining council.

For me, it was a matter of integrity and keeping my promise to constituents.- Steve Desroches, former councillor

"It was a pledge to the community, as well as my family," Desroches told the CBC. "At the time, there was a real malaise in the community that politicians had been on council too long. I think a lot of people saw it as a calling and not a career."

His pledge to stand for only two terms was part of his platform during the 2006 campaign.
Steve Desroches, the former councillor for Gloucester–South Nepean, is one of the few councillors who kept his promise to step down after two terms on council. ((CBC))

"It was an easy decision for me at the end of my second term to honour that pledge," he said. "For me, it was a matter of integrity and keeping my promise to constituents."

He was also keeping a promise to his family to only stay in office eight years. When he was first elected, he and his wife had one child. By the time their twins came along part-way through Desroches' second term, they had four children under 10.

"In your second term, you're really starting to get things done because you have quite a bit of experience and you know your way around City Hall," Desroches said. "But at the end of the day, my intention was to keep my promise and go back to my family."

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