Tax announcement with photos of the mayor of Windsor causes a stir

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A city achievement flyer alongside photos of the mayor of Windsor fell in the letterbox with this month’s final tax return, prompting backlash from some homeowners who viewed the annex as campaign material.

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On the rectangular page are photos of Mayor Drew Dilkens, who has not yet announced his intentions for the October municipal elections.

On one side, under the heading “delivering results” and above a photo of EC Row Expressway, the insert reads: “$1.7 billion 10-year capital plan; new playgrounds and major park improvements;” and “investing in roads, bike lanes and local trails,” followed by “building our community.” On the other hand, it says, “caught a $5 billion investment in automobility,” “the largest investment in the automotive industry.” Canadian auto industry” and “more than 3,000 local jobs; pioneering production of electronic vehicle batteries;” and “supporting climate change adaptation.”

Residents have expressed their dismay at seeing the mayor’s image on the folder via social media. Several on Twitter called the inclusion in tax bills inappropriate and a bad use of tax dollars, with some taking it as an indication that Dilkens will seek re-election.

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Dilkens’ name is not on the leaflet and there is no mention of the City of Windsor or the City Council, who worked together to achieve the acclaimed achievement.

“It’s not a campaign advertisement,” Dilkens said on Monday. “It’s a similar insertion to the one we’ve been doing over the years.

“It’s a way of communicating with the public. I don’t apologize for it.”

When asked why his photo was on the package insert, Dilkens replied, “Why not?” He went on to say, “Obviously, people are going to read something if it’s more dynamic, if it has some photos associated with it.”

Both sides of a leaflet in the City of Windsor's final tax return for 2022 features photos of the mayor that some say represent political campaigns.
Both sides of a leaflet in the City of Windsor’s final tax return for 2022 features photos of the mayor that some say represent political campaigns. Photo by Dax MelmerWindsor Star

The municipality does not have its communications approved by the integrity commissioner, Dilkens says, “but if anyone thinks I’ve violated the code of conduct, they can file a complaint with the integrity commissioner.” He said he doesn’t know much about the inserts.

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“I don’t think there are any additional costs,” the mayor said. “You can put up to three inserts, or four inserts in the envelope where the tax returns come, so it’s not like this is an incremental cost for residents.”

In a written statement to the Star, Ward 4 Coun. Chris Holt, who also took part in the social media discussion about the insert, said several residents had contacted him to question the use of city materials.

“Resident tax bills are hardly the right place for a mayor to promote himself politically, anytime, but especially in an election year,” Holt said.

Ironically, he said, “using taxpayers’ money in what is an obvious part of the reelection campaign, while many residents have been affected by the pandemic and will struggle to pay those same tax bills.”

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It does give the appearance of a political advertisement

Lydia Miljan, a political science professor at the University of Windsor, said the leaflet looks like campaign literature to her because it has a picture of the mayor on it.

“The tricky part is that we are not currently in an election period, so rules about advertising don’t apply, but it does give the appearance of a political advertisement,” she said.

Miljan said there are “a few things wrong” with the package insert. First, it implies that “only the mayor” has made the said achievements, without acknowledging the work of the council. “Problematic,” she said, since it targets only the mayor, “there are questions about the appropriateness of using taxpayers’ money to promote him.”

When asked Monday whether he is seeking re-election in the fall, which he was asked earlier this year, Dilkens said: “At the right time, there will be an announcement about my future.”

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The latest notice of the 2022 tax bill sent to the taxpayers of Windsor states that the mayor touts municipal performance during a municipal election year.
The latest notice of the 2022 tax bill sent to the taxpayers of Windsor states that the mayor touts municipal performance during a municipal election year. Photo by Dax MelmerWindsor Star

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