A routine city council discussion this week devolved into a testy dust-up and exposed tensions among some council members.
The May 3 clash began when Coun. Bill Dennis looked for council support to investigate the cost of replacing the lifeguard building in Canatara Park.
Investment at Canatara Beach needs to be “taken up a notch” to help Sarnia’s post-pandemic economic recovery, Dennis said.
He cited “yesterday’s thinking” for a lack of growth but insisted his comments were not “a slam against anybody.”
Dennis noted Goderich and Port Stanley have capitalized on their waterfronts, and suggested Mayor Mike Bradley use one of his “mental break days” to visit them and see the potential Sarnia is missing.
“It’s time people stand up and speak up because we are dying a slow death unless we change,” Dennis said.
Bradley said he knows what other municipalities have done with their waterfronts, and he has hosted visitors interested in seeing how well Sarnia’s waterfront and parks are protected.
The mayor then chastised him for being negative.
“I don’t slam my own town,” he told Dennis. “…The fact is we’ve done some very good things in this city going back decades and that needs to be respected.”
Dennis replied: “Something’s not working right.”
Coun. Nathan Colquhoun then criticized Bradley for reprimanding Dennis.
“If there’s one thing that drives me crazy (it’s) having somebody who I think has been sitting on council and who I think has been holding our city back for a really long time from actually getting some stuff done, for you to call out Coun. Dennis in the middle of a meeting like this because he has great ideas he’s trying to push forward…I have such deep disrespect for that,” said Colquhoun.
After discord on the last council, Colquhoun said he hoped this one would be more productive and “see the future and work towards it.”
He commended Dennis for dreaming a bit. “Thanks Coun. Dennis and shame on you Mayor Bradley,” said Colquhoun.
The mayor responded with an emotional plea, asking council to excuse his terseness because he was in physical pain.
Bradley is recovering from extensive surgery on April 20 related to skin cancer.
“I lost my ear. Look at this,” he said, pointing to his left side. “I came in under great pain and duress today. If I’m edgy, I’m edgy.”
Bradley said he supported Dennis’ motion but took exception to criticism of Sarnia’s progress and his own record as head of council.
“If there’s anyone who moved the envelope on change, it’s been me over the years,” he said.
“I’m going to ignore the personal comments because I’m used to it from Coun. Colquhoun,” he said. “I’ve given my heart and soul to this city.”
Bradley said it’s his responsibility to defend the people who have worked hard in the past and “deserve to be respected.”
“My intentions,” Dennis responded, “are not to get anyone upset. I love this city but we can do so much better.”
Coun. Dave Boushy said Coun. Colquhoun should apologize to the mayor. That didn’t happen.
Council voted 7-2 in favour of a staff report on the lifeguard building prior to 2022 budget deliberations.
Coun. Margaret Bird and Coun. Terry Burrell cast the dissenting votes.