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Jason Farr: Moving on and looking forward to the future

The Bay Observer found former Ward Two Councillor Jason Farr in surprisingly high spirits when we caught up with him last week. 2022 had been a challenging year for the former broadcaster as he was unsuccessful in his foray into provincial politics in Hamilton East-stoney Creek for the Ontario Liberals, and then he lost to Cameron Kroetsch his bid for re-election in the downtown Ward Two that he had represented for 12 years. During the campaign he pointed to a number of projects he had championed, including hundreds of units of new condos, including a “deeply affordable” housing complex at Bay and Cannon Streets, the creation of community space at St Mark’s Church and the restoration of Central Park. On election night when  the results were in, he tweeted. “Thanks to all the volunteers who spent countless hours on our clean campaign and who last night celebrated our 12 successful years reviving downtown/ward 2. I am very grateful to all the amazing constituents and hugely respectful of their decision yesterday. Jay”

Following is some of our conversation:

Q: So unlike your federal and provincial counterparts, when a Hamilton councillor is defeated the pay stops immediately, what have you been up to?

A: Well, I’ve been busy setting up a municipal consulting business, and I’ve already picked up a few files and I expect some bigger ones this spring, so it looks good. With my old broadcast partner of 18 years, Mike Nabuurs, I am also starting a podcast that will be aired online and also on Cable 14. I’ve managed to line up some sponsors and we are really looking forward to it.

Q: Is it going to be a political talk show?

A: Not really, certainly we will discuss local issues, but were a looking at broadening the scope to include discussions of entertainment, sports—you name it. I don’t want to come off as some bitter old ex politician sniping from the sidelines—there’s has been too much of that already and everybody is sick of it. It’s not always going to be hyper-local either. If there is something interesting going on elsewhere, we want to be able to discuss it. The folks at Cable 14 have really been great—they’ve developed a nice studio set for us and they couldn’t have been more supportive.

Q: Well before your days on council recede too far into the rear view mirror, your successor says when he walked into the Ward Two office he was  greeted by bags of shredded paper lining the hallway. There wasn’t a single transitional email, electronic file, or piece of paper left behind.

A: Well I didn’t engage in any shredding party, I can tell you that. I tended to operate as paperless as possible, but some of the files would have been confidential, and many were personal, accumulated over 12 years. What I can tell you is that Mr. Kroetsch reached out to me to arrange a hand-off meeting, which I was more than prepared to do, but I was leaving on a short vacation after two tough elections. When I got back he said he was leaving on a vacation, and then nothing happened after that. But before the swearing in, I was still getting files and memos from staff and I forwarded them to the new councillor—at least a dozen. Not only that, any file or report is available as an electronic file. There was also a very capable Ward Two constituency assistant with 18 years of institutional memory who could have made the transition smoother, but he chose not to engage her. Also with regard to transition, unless things have changed, there were always briefing sessions after elections with the various division heads who would be able to speak to specific ward issues. But listen, I’m happy to assist the new councillor in any way I can, whether it’s background on files or who to call to get information, I’ll do my best to help.

Q: He said there was also a lot of money left unspent in the Ward Two account that could have been used for sidewalk and road repairs.

A: Early in my time on council we put a lot of emphasis on sidewalks—disabled curb cuts, urban braille and the like. Later I, along with other councillors, started saving up the ward funds so we could fund bigger, more impactful projects. Central Park for example. It was funded partly out of the capital budget, but bolstered with ward funds. Some of the Ward Two funds are earmarked for future projects that are on the list and ready to go. There is a major project scheduled in Corktown south. The councillor can cancel those projects and substitute others if he wishes, that’s his privilege.

Q: The councillor says he is having trouble getting access to documents, particularly the HUPEG Contract.

A: What I would say, is ‘You are in charge now. If you are not getting cooperation on access to documents or anything else– make a motion in council or committee. You have the entire staff of the city at your disposal.

Q: Any final thoughts going forward?

A: I’m just happy that in my new job, I am in a position to continue to help people with their issues. That was the part of my old job that I liked the best.

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