Nobody enjoyed being mayor more than Phil Poirier, nor did any mayor work harder at serving the people of Cornwall. It was a labour of love.
Perhaps that is why last summer he contemplated a mayoral run in the October 2014 election. Those plans were put on hold last fall when he suffered serious health problems. By early this year it was obvious that he faced a far bigger fight than a mayoral campaign that would not be.
Phil was elected mayor in 1988. Citing the need to spend more time with his busienss, he didn't seek re-election, but he returned to city hall in 2003 with a stunning victory over incumbent Brian Sylvester who was seeking a third straight term. Three years later, he finished a disappointing third, far behind winner Bob Kilger and former councillor Korey Kennedy.
As disappointed as he was on election night, he was a class act in conceding defeat to Kilger, unlike the cocky hot headed Kennedy who went on a wild rant, scolding voters for not electing him, said they would regret it and vowed never to return.
Over the years, Phil maintained a strong interest in what was happening at city hall. He never flaunted it, but the passage of time proved him to be a man with keen vision. Remember his support for a wave pool that was struck down by a tsunami of well orchestrated opposition and the vilification of the mayor? Now the refrain is that the city made a mistake with a dumbed down version. And it was Phil who wanted the city to jump at the opportunity to buy the federal harbour property for $1. That idea was shot down by council and administration. He was an advocate of sharing services with our neighbouring municipalities, especially in economic development but there was little will around the council table where too many wore blinders.
The City of Montreal recognized Phil's management skills. In the early 1990s he made the short list for the city manager's position, a remarkable feat for somebody from outside Quebec.
His return to city hall in 2003 got off to a bad start and grew worse as time went on. It was arguably the most dysfunctional council in recent memory. He found himself battling administration and a fractured council, some of whom were on a mission to chase him out of office. If Phil supported something, they were against it. If Phil was against, they were for it.
It was back to the Monday night gong show.
Just five months into his tenure, one member of the gang confided that "we thought he would have quit by now."
Suddenly, the mayor's expenses became a big issue. Council decided to review the expenses every month. It became a circus. Expenses were never an issue before and haven't since. It was a blatant beat-up-on-Phil exercise.
One of his credit card receipts found its way to Kennedy, the gang's pitbull. The young councillor questioned whether the signature on the receipt was really Phil's. Several other councillors pounced on the issue. One even suggested a police investigation. The receipt was for $27 from a local restaurant. The staff of the restaurant recalled the mayor being there for lunch on the date and time in question.
Overlooked was the fact that a credit card receipt with the credit card number was being waved about in public. The CAO promised a full investigation into who leaked the receipt. Despite the fact it didn't take a Sherlock Holmes to figure it out, the alleged probe hit a wall.
The harder Phil tried to work with council, the harder it became to work with council.
Somehow, he survived. But it cost him re-election.
Just as they do in sports, voters decided it was easier to get rid of the "coach" rather than the entire team (council).
He deserved better.
TRIVIA Name of the orphanage that stood at the corner of Pitt and Sydney streets?
TRIVIA ANSWER Judge P.C. Bergeron was instrumental in starting the Our Citizens of Tomorrow (OCOT) youth program in the 1930s. Disturbed by the rise in juvenile deliquency, the magistrate joined with truant officer Joe "Skip) St. Denis to kickstart the program.
SPORTS STUFF Dale Hawerchuk is a hockey dad who might have the best seat in the house to watch his son play in the Ontario Hockey League. Ben Hawerchuk was drafted in the sixth round (109th overall) by the Barrie Colts who are coached by his father, Hockey Hall of Famer and ex-Cornwall Royals star. The left winger is 5-8, 150 pounds. As for Ben having an inside track come training camp, dad joked, "He knows he isn't going to get any breaks with me." The Colts selected Jackson Thompson of Bainsville in the 12th round. ... Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Gerard Gallant was a key member of the 1979-80 Sherbrooke Beavers who lost to the Royals in the Quebec Junior Hockey League final round.
IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR Noting our mention of kids having paper routes, Bernie Levere recalls having the largest Standard-Freeholder route in the city during the 1950s - 285 customers. On delivery day he folded every newspaper and would heave them onto porches while riding his bike. Collection day took him almost three hours. ... The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on Augustus Street, just south of Second Street. It was owned by Charlie Lawn. A snack pack went for 95 cents.
HERE & THERE The Conservatives (Jim McDonell), New Democratic Party (Elaine MacDonald) and Liberals (John Earle) in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry are revving up their engines in anticipation of a spring provincial election. Now it is up to Deputy Preem Andrea to drop the flag and get the race started. And when it does start, don't count out the Libs who are busy buying votes, using our money, with giveaways aimed at voter rich Greater Toronto Area (GTA) where a Basset Hound can get elected if it is decked out in red.
SEEN & HEARD Kudos to Cornwall resident Ken MacLennan, an 85-year-old retired public school board superintendent, for taking it upon himself to challenge Ontario's mandatory testing for driver's aged 80 and over. He laid out his case before three judges in an Ottawa courtroom last week. He was up against two lawyers representing the Ontario government. The judicial panel reserved its decision. The odds are stacked against the feisty senior, but he isn't going down without a fight.