Clr A.Johnson says Sil Ed "Unfair" Asks Others to Speak Out

By Joey Coleman // @JoeyColeman
Published: Jan 13 2017 (5 months ago) // Last Updated: Jan 19 2017 (5 months ago)

Ward 1 City Councillor Aidan Johnson is disputing an editorial in this week's McMaster Silhouette.

He writes that it is "unfair", but has yet to explain how or why.

The editorial accurately reflects the sentiment I'm hearing on campus. In my frequent discussions with engaged students, faculty, staff, and others at McMaster, I hear much frustration about how Johnson is failing to properly manage his relationships with students and the university.

NOTICE: There is a transparency disclosure at the end of this piece.1

Here's the closing excerpt of the editorial from Thursday's print edition written by Editor-in-Chief Scott Hastie:

And Aidan Johnson, I challenge you to reevaluate the way you consult students. Asking the student union to support your motion for more bylaw officers is not consultation.

The Westdale Theatre lecture hall suggestion was an insult to students: it is unfeasible and if you talked to any of us, you would have known that. If you’re going to suggest our money be spent on something, talk to us about it.

As individuals, students come and go. But as a group, we are here to stay. Stop fighting our existence and embrace it.

Frustration with Johnson has bubbled under the surface for months, but was never brought out into the open.

Hastie is doing Johnson a favour by expressing these sentiments publicly, providing Johnson an opportunity to respond and address the concerns well in advance of the 2018 municipal election.

Instead of embracing this opportunity, and conducting a critical assessment of his own actions - as we should expect of a Fulbright Scholar, Johnson responded by asking others to respond for him.

This is one of the best Silhouette editorials in years, and calling attention to matters in need of public discussion is the exact purpose of an editorial.

Aidan Johnson's response is nothing short of disappointing.

Johnson's Email Call To Action

Thursday evening, Johnson emailed neighbourhood association leaders across his ward asking them to speak out on his behalf against an "unfair" editorial.

This is the message he sent to members of the Ainslie Wood Community Association:

I am attaching a link to an editorial that just appeared in the Silhouette, re our two new Mohawk College student bylaw enforcement officers for Ainslie Wood and Westdale. The student officers were just hired:

In my view, the editorial is unfair. I will leave it to the AWCA as to whether to respond as a board, and to individual board members as to whether to respond as individual neighbours. I would ask that the board consider discussing the editorial at its next regular meeting.

Thank you very much for your consideration!! See you soon.


Aidan Johnson, BCL, LLB, BA, MA
Councillor for Ward 1
Chair, Emergency and Community Services Committee
City of Hamilton

The email he sent to the Ainslie Wood Westdale Community Association:

I thought I might share the latest editorial in the Sil (McMaster’s student newspaper) on my work to hire two Mohawk College student bylaw officers to do extra bylaw enforcement in Westdale and Ainslie Wood. The student bylaw officers have just been hired.

The editorial also deals with local university-community relations generally.

In my opinion, the editorial is unfair (although that is just “my opinion”):

I will leave it to the board to decide whether or not to respond as a board, and to individual board members as to whether or not to respond in any way as individual neighbours.

Thank you very much for your support in this key next step in local bylaw enforcement! I appreciate your encouragement very much.

Thank you.


Aidan Johnson, BCL, LLB, BA, MA
Councillor for Ward 1
Chair, Emergency and Community Services Committee
City of Hamilton

Students Don't Vote, They Don't Matter

The following are selected excerpts from a column I wrote for The Globe and Mail's education site in December 2009 entitled "Students Vote or Face The Consequences".

The column remains true today.

The next two calendar years are important for students in Ontario with 2010 municipal elections and 2011 provincial election. If students vote, they could finally see their issues considered by government.

I'm not counting on this happening.

Take Hamilton's Ward 1 as an example. Only 10 students who lived on-campus at McMaster University during the 2006 municipal election voted at the on-campus polling station. There were a total of 151 votes cast at the nearest polling station to the University; a polling station in an area with a majority of student voters. These two polling stations had the lowest voter turnout in the city.

Every politician in Hamilton knows students don't vote and this is why student interests lose out when they're competing with other interest groups.

Because students don't vote, politicians are able to play to the anti-student vote without fear of consequences. Contrast this to the anti-student element that votes and, due to low voter turnout in municipal elections, they gain disproportionate influence over politicians.

Politics being politics, nothing motivates voters quite like a wedge issue. Making students the wedge issue is smart politics; students don't vote and the people who dislike students do.

If students turn out to vote for candidates who care about their issues and them, they could stem the tide of anti-student bylaws, masquerading as "housing standards", being considered by short-sighted municipal politicians across the province.

Will McMaster students finally show they care and vote in 2018? That's up to Johnson, if he chooses to start a conflict with them, nothing motivates like a wedge issue, and the days of anti-student sentiment being a motivator in West Hamilton are past.

It isn't 2009, today's neighbourhood leaders in West Hamilton want solutions to student housing, not the removal of students from housing.

Johnson has more to lose clashing with McMaster students than he has to gain appeal to the small anti-student faction that remains.

Post-script: In email correspondence today with The Public Record, Johnson says he is preparing a response to the editorial. When TPR receives it, we will publish in its entirety.

  1. I wrote for The Silhouette from 2006 to 2010. I often chat with the editor of The Silhouette. Hastie has - of his own initiative - read many of The Silhouette's archival issues. It is likely that my previous writing on Town and Gown relations - and my discussions with Hastie on this topic - were influences upon the editorial.

Update: On January 17, Councillor Johnson's response was published in The Silhouette, here's the opening:

In October 2014, I had the honour of being elected city councillor for Ward 1 (West Hamilton). Many students voted for me. I remember those votes every day. I’ve been able to build a relationship of trust with the student community. It is a bond that I value.

The primary concerns I hear from students relate to ecology and human rights. Both spheres of policy are constantly on my mind. To make a greener, bluer City, I have put wheels in motion to ban sale of bottled water at all municipal sites. I am also working constantly for deeper protection of Cootes Paradise – the fragile marsh-land that rings campus. To address climate change, I’ve worked successfully for a $1 billion investment to build light-rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton – a potent alternative to cars. Our new LRT line will begin at McMaster.

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