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HomeNationalPolitics trumps family ties in Port Colborne's mayoral raceTAZAA News

Politics trumps family ties in Port Colborne’s mayoral raceTAZAA News

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There’s a battle on the shores of Lake Erie, oh brother, it’s a doozy.

Port Colborne Mayor Bill Steele doesn’t know what to expect as the date to register for the Oct. 24 election approaches. After 17 years on the City Council and one term as mayor, he certainly thought he would have challengers.

“Nobody came forward,” he said. “So we saw the accolades, but at the last minute the candidate threw out his name. So here we are in election mode.

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But when he saw his opponent’s name listed as “Charles Steele,” he was initially confused. He had a brother named Charles David William Steele, but “his name wasn’t Charles. It was David. He was always called David. It was David Steele.

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Besides, the brothers hadn’t spoken in more than 30 years, and “David” had never run for public office before. But it wasn’t long before it was confirmed that Port Colborne would hold the seat to a decades-old family feud. And the name thing?

“I was told you should use your first name in business and important matters,” says Charles Steele. “So I use the name Charles. It is very simple. “

United Empire Loyalists arrive in Canada.

Library and Archives Canada

Port Colborne, a city of 20,000 people, is best known as one of the gateways to the famous Welland Canal, which connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, through which approximately 3,000 ships pass annually. The first iteration of the canal in the 1830s brought with it an increase in population, which eventually led to the incorporation of the village of Port Colborne in 1870.

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But the first non-native settlers were United Empire Loyalists who arrived after fleeing the US Civil War in the 1770s. And the head of the first two loyal families to put down roots was William Steele, ancestor of Bill and Charles.

Adding to the Steele legacy, their great-uncle DeWitt Carter was mayor in 1918 and their great-grandfather CS Steele served as mayor in 1927.

Port Colborne circa 1911.

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It’s unclear what led the brothers to lose touch all those years ago. While Bill remained in Port Colborne to manage the family insurance business, Charles moved to Toronto for several years before returning 15 years ago.

“The only thing I’ll say is he’s made some bad decisions in his life,” Bill said. “He alienated his family and that’s where we are today.”

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“We have different perspectives on politics and life and things like that,” adds Charles.

Charles Steele

Charles Steele.

Global News

They have yet to speak, and neither has plans to call the other during the campaign. The only means of communication between the two is under discussion. And while both are up for the opportunity, Charles admits he is the clear underdog with far less experience.

Yes, I will look into the discussion,” said Charles. “He’s got 20 years of experience. He knows what it’s like to run a council, so I’m going to be at a bit of a disadvantage there. But I think I have enough issues to get people to vote and hopefully I can change their lives for the better.

Charles said he plans to spend most of his time knocking on doors and organizing a grassroots campaign. He says he can’t afford expensive advertising campaigns. To be successful, he believes he needs to connect with voters who feel the city needs a new direction.

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Bill, meanwhile, is proud that the city’s downtown core is vibrant while other similar-sized cities suffer from high-vacancy rates. Priority will be given to affordable housing such as bringing sewage and water rates under control. While it is not the job of the mayor and council to bring new doctors to the area, he said he has made that a priority as well.

“We were lucky,” Bill said. “We have recruited three new doctors to Port Colburn in the last year and a half, which has created more services at our local hospital, which is an urgent care centre. It is no longer a full-fledged hospital as it was when it was built in 1959.

All those issues will be debated during the election campaign – but none will interest voters as much as Port Colburn’s battle of brotherly love.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Chorus Entertainment Inc.

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