Back in the olden days – well, the olden days of 1837 – one Ebeneezer Perry proudly accepted the chain of office as the very first Mayor of Cobourg, no doubt a splendid occasion. The very first, according to Cobourg 1797-1948 by Edwin Guillet which, interestingly, was produced by the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Cobourg under the direction of one Margaret Pewtriss. Perry came into office in 1834, slightly behind W. Lyon Mackenzie in Toronto, and ahead of John Scott in Ottawa in 1855 and Hamilton’s Colin Ferrie in 1847. Not bad for a small town. Going over the list of people who have held that office since its creation is like taking a journey through Cobourg’s history, a history populated with names such as William Weller, father and son Delanty, and retiring Mayor Gil Brocanier; a total of 48 mayors. But – wait a minute! Isn’t there something seriously wrong with Cobourg’s history – and not a very proud one that should jolt the consciousness of every voter in town? A shameful history in fact. We have elected only one – one! – female Mayor in the entire history of Cobourg’s Mayoralty.
Joan Chalovich, who served one term from 1995, was that one person and it begs the question, why? Why was it that, over the years, it simply became accepted that governing was a man’s job! What created the mindset in Cobourg that the town’s mayor should be a male? What does it say about the citizens of our town that built-in chauvinism is part of Cobourg’s DNA? Is it a throwback to the olden days of assumed male superiority? Perhaps, after 150 years, is it an attitude that is bred-in-the-bone? This all came to mind as our upcoming municipal election moves into a low, chugging, grinding gear. Is it not time to stop male domination of the Mayor’s chair? It’s 2018 for heaven’s sake! Cobourg needs a strong, vital female voice at the head of its council.
This is not to say previous mayors haven’t done a good job – but the mindset that the position of mayor can only be undertaken by elderly males is offensive and demeaning to the female population – which, over the years, has absorbed the notion that females need not apply. Joan Chalovich ignored that unwritten law and made history. In many ways, the position of Mayor of Cobourg has become a Good-ol’ boys club whereby, having been elected, members of Council gradually withdraw into Victoria Hall – well, until the next election is on the horizon when they emerge from their burrow to fight another day and suck-up to the electorate. What Cobourg and the next municipal election needs is a group of female candidates to run for office – at least two for the position of Mayor – to create a force that will send a message that things need to change.
For the people, by the people. Ahh, that feel-good cliché. Yes, most councils start their term of office in good faith but, almost without fail, as their term of office gets longer, they withdraw behind the ramparts of Victoria Hall, seemingly forgetting why they were elected in the first place. The present Cobourg Council became past-masters at putting off interaction with the citizens of Cobourg, Its attitude to citizen delegations has been, well, shameful, seeming to forget it was elected, yes, by the people for the people. So this upcoming election will be an opportunity for the electorate to, hopefully, send a message to the council-elect that it was voted into office to serve – serve – the people of Cobourg.
2018 could be a watershed year for Cobourg, the year where the town shakes off its built-in, old male-for-mayor-complex. It’s time for the town to breath, for the women of Cobourg to raise their hands and cry, ‘We’re fed up with this! Enough of Males for Mayor!’ And throw their hat in the ring. We’re mad as hell, and won’t take it any more! Women of Cobourg! Now’s the time!