‘I’m ready to be the mayor’: Clement enters Cornwall race

Cornwall Coun. Bernadette Clement, seen here in a 2014 file photo, is running for mayor of the City of Cornwall. Clement has been on council 12 years and says the time is right to lead city government. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The bid for Cornwall mayor is now a three-way race with Coun. Bernadette Clement filing her nomination papers for the top position.

Clement is announcing her candidacy at the RCAF Association Wing 424 on Water Street at this hour.

“I love living here and I feel like I owe it back to Cornwall. I chose this place 27 years ago and I’ve been made to feel welcome here from the very beginning and I developed a sense of belonging here, I developed my legal career here…it’s time,” Clement said in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

Clement has been the favourite of the electorate when it comes to council, garnering the most votes for councillor in the 2014 and 2010 municipal elections. She’s been on council 12 years.

The executive director of the SDG Legal Clinic says it took her a while to make the decision because she had to weigh things out.

“The most important thing was for me to sit down with my employer. I had to sit down with the board of directors…and have a discussion about what this would look like, could look like, and I needed their permission. I became the executive director a year ago. But I needed to make sure that the board of directors was going to allow me to do it,” Clement said.

She said they are “very encouraging” of her going into the race for mayor, but she will remain as executive director. “What I will be allowed to do is reduce my workload here and put in place the succession plan that we already have. From day one, I’ve had a deputy director here and it will be up to him now to step up and take on some of the leadership role,” Clement said.

Clement is adamant she will be able to devote the time to be mayor. “I’ve worked two jobs for the last 12 years. I’ve been able to manage that quite well. I am ready to be the mayor and it’s not unheard of to have a mayor who’s maintained some contact with a workplace and has been mayor.” She used former Cornwall mayor Brian Sylvester as an example.

“I’m ready. I’ve spent 12 really good, solid years, challenging years. I’m ready to step into this role so, at this point, I feel like it’s time for me to run for mayor and if the electorate doesn’t see fit to elect me, that’s fine.”

If elected, Clement would also be the first woman mayor in the city government’s 134-year history.

“I feel a special responsibility to make sure that this campaign is professional, strong and credible. I think that, if I’m elected, I’m going to be a mayor for everyone. A mayor for young people and old people, seniors, LGBTQ, black and white and male and female and mayor for people who didn’t vote for me either.”

Clement said this election campaign will have a special meaning for young women in particular. “They’ll be watching this so I feel a special responsibility to make it as credible and professional as possible so that young women understand that running for office is just something that we do.”

As far as her platform, Clement says a “collaborative approach” needs to start with council right out of the gate. “I want us to start a term with team building…coming up with some common themes that we can work towards as council.”

She also wants to see a more regional approach, meeting with municipal neighbours on a regular basis and “not because an issue has cropped up.” She would also like to see yearly meetings of council with MP Guy Lauzon and MPP Jim McDonell.

She adds that waterfront issue needs some political leadership. “I don’t think that paying top dollar for those lands is going to be helpful for us or affordable. We need to be talking about special consideration given to the City of Cornwall in terms of waterfront lands.”

The councillor says Cornwall and Akwesasne have a “historic” agreement on the waterfront but she’s “disappointed about that project not moving more quickly.” She says it’s time to “move it forward in a big way.”

Asked about her commitment to the role of mayor should another political position become available, Clement said she had “no plans at this time at all.” Clement has run twice federally for the Liberals in SDSG and took a leave of absence from council. Another federal election is happening next year.

With a week to do before election nominations close, Clement is facing two challengers. Coun. Dave Murphy was the first out of the gate, announcing in early May that he was running for mayor. Nicole Spahich – a candidate for mayor in 2010 – is also running.

Current Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy had not said whether he will seek re-election.