Brad Clark Shows Leadership On Hate File Stoney Creek Councillor More Statesmanlike Than He Used To Be.

Opinion Jul 15, 2019 by Andrew Dreschel

Opinion | Andrew Dreschel: Brad Clark shows leadership on hate file

While Mayor Fred Eisenberger has been criticized for lack of leadership during Hamilton’s summer of hate, Coun. Brad Clark’s get-up-and-go has been largely overlooked.

But after the Pride brawl at Gage Park, it was Clark who led the charge on a number of initiatives intended to address snowballing concerns about hate groups.

He pitched asking the courts to consider banning people from the city hall forecourt who’ve been charged or convicted of assault on city property.

He proposed seeking a court injunction against protesters accused of illegally inciting violence and hate on the forecourt.

Opinion | Andrew Dreschel: Brad Clark shows leadership on hate file |

And it was Clark who, against the city solicitor’s advice, pressed council to discuss legal options in open session rather than behind closed doors.

Whether or not his ideas bear legal fruit remains to be seen. But optics do matter.

The criticisms of Eisenberger are largely unfair. He’s spoken up for and reached out to the LGTBQ+ community before and after the Gage Park clash.

But by grasping the leadership reins at a critical moment, Clark gave council the opportunity to send the message it’s prepared to take a stand and use whatever tools it can against purveyors of hate and violence.

“I just felt, frankly, compelled to do everything we can now to make it clear — almost a line in the sand — that this is what you can get away with and nothing more,” he says.

Clark, 58, firmly believes intolerance and hate speech is on the rise. He’s heard the same from constituents, community groups, and through his work as council’s representative on the city’s committee against racism.

Opinion | Andrew Dreschel: Brad Clark shows leadership on hate file |

“I’m really afraid that if we don’t stand up and say enough is enough that people are going to get hurt and someone is going to get killed one day.”

But something else may also be informing Clark’s actions. Since his return to council in last year’s election, he’s frequently demonstrated a more statesmanlike approach than he has in the past.

The Stoney Creek (Ward 9) councillor’s political pedigree is well known. A former Conservative MPP and transportation and labour minister, he was first elected to council in 2006 but stepped aside in 2014 to run for mayor, a race he lost to Eisenberger.

During his first two council terms, Clark was generally seen as both an outspoken lone wolf and opportunist. Nobody ever doubted his smarts, hard work, range of knowledge and capacity for critical thinking. But he had a bullish quality and lecturing tendency about him.

This time around, he’s notably more conciliatory and judicious, often acting as an honest broker between the incipient factions that are shaping up among some council veterans and newbies.

Why the change?

“I think I’ve come to the realization that life is short and we really need to work together to get things done.”

“I’m not interested in the tribalisms, the factions. I’m certainly not interested in poor decorum and insults across the table … we really do get more done if we actually listen to each other.”

You have to wonder if his perspective changed when his son Brandon was badly wounded by a shotgun blast in 2015. After undergoing several surgeries, Brandon recovered but was lucky to have escaped paralysis.

“You can’t have an incident like that happen without it impacting your philosophy,” says Clark.

Seeing him in action these days, it’s not surprising some observers wonder if another mayoral run is in the cards. Obviously, it’s absurdly early days yet. Council is still in the first year of a four-year term.

But Eisenberger has already said he doesn’t intend to seek re-election and he’s jokingly noted a lot of councillors are eyeing his chair. Is Clark one of them?

“Been there, done that,” he chuckles, adding, no, he’s not considering running for mayor.

Fair enough. But, again, it’s early days. And once upon a time Clark said he wouldn’t run for council again either.