The Standard sat down with St. Catharines mayoral candidates Mike Britton and Mat Siscoe to talk about how they would tackle pressing issues affecting the city. Today: Why should voters choose you?
One thing is certain about St. Catharines mayor’s race.
On Monday, voters will choose a new man to wear the chain of office after Walter Sendzik opted not to seek a third term.
The new mayor, who takes the job on Nov. 15, will set the city’s tone for the next four years and lead council as it tackles everything from potholes and bike lanes to major policy and societal issues like housing, affordability and homelessness.
While there are obvious challenges to deal with in the immediate future, a mayor also has to guide the city through unexpected curve balls, like the worldwide pandemic no one could have predicted in the last election.
The job pays a salary of $118,420, plus $39,290 for serving on regional council.
Mayoral candidates Mat Siscoe and Mike Britton were each asked in a one-on-one interview what experience they bring to the table that makes them the right fit to lead the city and why voters should choose them.
Mayoral candidate Nick Petrucci did not respond to a request for an interview.
Siscoe, a married high school physics teacher and regional councillor, said he brings a lot of “real world” experience to the role.
“I’m a father to a family of four. We bought a house that we turned into a home that we’ve lived in now for 12 years,” he said.
“I’ve been a teacher for 15 years. I’ve dealt with families. I’ve dealt with kids. I think I have a good grounding in the needs and the wants of members of our community by virtue of that, spending a lot of time in hockey arenas and on football fields and in community centres.”
Siscoe is a board chair of Niagara Children’s Centre and coaches Niagara Youth Flag Football and CYO St. Catharines hockey.
He was first elected to city council for St. Patrick’s ward in 2010 and served three terms until January when he joined regional council to fill a vacant seat left by the death of Sandie Bellows.
Over his time on council he served as the city’s budget chair for seven years and was the chair of the Linking Niagara transit committee which worked out the plan for amalgamating transit across Niagara Region that was taken to the 12 municipalities for a triple majority vote.
“I spent the last 12 years on council learning and understanding, first at the city level, now the regional level, what’s possible and what concrete steps we can actually take to build our community,” Siscoe said. “And I think that experience is important.”
Siscoe said he also has a lot of understanding of the city’s financial position.
“You know, seven years as the budget chair, you see a lot and you hear a lot. I have a unique perspective when it comes to where the city’s infrastructure deficit is at. I think I can bring that expertise to the table.”
Siscoe said with him, there won’t be much of a learning curve.
“Obviously, you’re always learning. And I should say the teacher in me demands that I say you are always learning. But getting up to speed for me at city hall is easy. I have relationships with the people that are there, and I understand the issues because until a year ago I was in the middle of them,” he said.
He said he also has a good understanding and grounding of the Niagara Region and how it interacts and dictates in certain areas to the city.
“I think that combination of real world experience and professional experience makes me uniquely situated to hit the ground running and be able to build quickly in the first year,” Siscoe said.
“You know, there’s a lot to accomplish. My platform has a lot of concrete things that we want to accomplish, but I made sure to put things in there that I knew were do-able, that the city has the capacity for. We’re going to have to push in some areas.
“But I think that understanding and building the platform from that knowledge means that we’re in the best possible situation to have really good results all the way through the next term of council.”
Britton said he too has the learning curve down.
He served as city councillor for St. George’s ward from 2014 to 2018 and was on the budget committee during that term. He was appointed to regional council this May to fill a vacancy when Coun. George Darte stepped down.
“I understand the issues, but I think something that differentiates me is my involvement in the community,” Britton said, adding he sits on almost a dozen not-for-profit or charitable boards and another dozen community groups.
“Whether it’s Rotary, whether it’s the Royal Canadian Legion, whether it’s Crime Stoppers, Links for Greener Learning, Habitat for Humanity — all these experiences that I’ve had being involved makes me not only know what the issues of the community are, but also what’s already being done to help solve them and where the needs are to solve them better.
“So for me, that’s probably what would give me the edge, my knowledge of the community.”
Britton is self-employed in property management, handling housing and commercial units for different owners downtown and elsewhere in the city. He said he was elected as a city councillor right out of university and wanted a job that was very flexible so he could put full-time hours into council.
“City council is a part-time job, but I think if you do it well, it takes full-time hours. So I needed something that could have an income that was also very flexible so I could have my days open. I can go to meetings, I can go to events. I spent a lot of time at city hall when I was first elected, learning the ins and outs of all the different departments and how they work and how they function and meeting with employees.”
He said in managing properties he’s had to deal with some areas that are quite disadvantaged and work with the Salvation Army in a couple of situations to get people into housing.
Britton said he was born and raised in St. Catharines and his family has been in the city for five generations.
He said that helps him understand the issues when people are looking for help.
“I usually have some connection. I’m either on the board of a group and volunteered for a group, attended the event of a charity that can help, and I know to point them in the right direction,” Britton said.
“Because as much as council deals with the big issues — homelessness, housing, tax rates — what most people want is someone to help them with their issue, whether it’s their curb or their sidewalk or their snow plowing. And it’s that ability to be accessible, it’s that ability to listen, it’s the ability to act on what they’re hearing.
“I think my record as a councillor has shown that. I think that my history in charitable work has shown that. It’s that ability to relate to people, respond and get things done.”
The mayor’s race
For more from the campaigns:
Mike Britton: mikebritton.ca
Nick Petrucci: nickforstcatharines.ca
Mat Siscoe: matsiscoe.com