The mayor of Windsor, Ont., is defending a promotional insert included with tax bills that critics say looks like a campaign advertisement.
“I do not apologize for communicating with the residents in my city and telling them about all the great things that are going on here,” Drew Dilkens said on Monday.
Dilkens has not registered as a candidate in the fall vote. The insert, he said, is similar to the ones included with tax bills over the last couple of years.
The double-sided slip of paper features pictures of the mayor at a podium. One side says “secured a $5-billion automobility investment” in reference to the upcoming Stellantis-LG Energy Solution electric vehicle battery plant and highlights the creation of an estimated 3,000 jobs in the sector.
The other side has the title “delivering results” and references the city’s $1.7-billion, 10-year capital plan, new playgrounds and improvements for parks and investments in roads, trails and bike lanes.
It was one of a few pieces of promotional material found in an envelope that was sent out last week with the year’s final tax bills.
Insert ‘raises questions about ethics’
Lydia Miljan, a political science professor at the University of Windsor, said she questions the ethics behind the move.
“I think it’s highly unusual for there to be campaign advertising in with your tax bill and it does raise questions about ethics, about you know, is this proper use of taxpayers’ funds to essentially give free advertising to the mayor.”
Don Merrifield, a co-host of the Rose City Politics podcast, called it “a blatant piece of campaign literature” and said its inclusion was inappropriate.
As a realtor, he’s familiar with the cost of mass mailings and said it would be a big expense for a candidate to send out something like this on their own.
“It gives the mayor an unfair advantage compared to other candidates, just from a financial aspect,” he said.
When asked about the cost, Dilkens said the city paid to send out the tax envelopes and their contents, but he doesn’t believe there’s any added expense.
“You can put up to three inserts or four inserts in the envelope where the tax bills come, so it’s not like this is an incremental cost to the residents.”
Dilkens said he hasn’t made a decision yet on whether he’ll be on the ballot on Oct. 24.
“Clearly, everyone has to be sensitive to what they’re doing when they’re a candidate in the election,” he said. “I’m not a candidate; I’m the mayor. I’m worried about governing and I’m going to continue to do that until the very last moment when I have to make a decision.”
The deadline to declare candidacy is Aug. 19.
So far, two people are in the running for mayor, Ernie Lamont and Benjamin Danyluk.