One of the best political campaigners in the city may go down to defeat on Thursday.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

June 4th, 2018



She was chosen as the candidate for Burlington by the Premier.

McMahon - First public as Minister

Eleanor McMahon at her first public event after being appointed to Cabinet

She was made a Cabinet member in June of 2016 and served on the Treasury Board and went on to serve as the President of the Treasury Board.

She is one of the best political campaigners in the city.

She is loquacious, tries hard to be open and accessible; doesn’t always succeed.

There are many that are unhappy with the way she served; parents with children at Lester B. Pearson and Bateman high school felt she could have done much more to help them keep their schools open.

The Tyandaga Environmental Coalition felt she never fully understand what was being done to them.

On the plus side McMahon delivered in spades to the arts community and she came through for the transformation of the Brant Museum.

McMahon had an ability to connect almost immediately with the seniors’ community.

McMahon GO bilevel announcement

As a Cabinet Minister McMahon spent a lot of time delivering announcements. Building a strong base within the community got a bit lost in the photo ops.

Early in her political career she was one of those who took the Burlington case for financial support for the August 2014 flood victims to Cabinet – she wasn’t a Cabinet member at the time. The province initially said no – funding was not going to be available. McMahon, with huge gobs of support from then Minister of Housing, Ted McMeekin, Burlington got a matching funds deal with the province.

The city needed access to a computer platform that could be used to collect donations – McMahon worked the phones and leaned on her United Way contacts to convince them to let the Burlington Foundation use the United Way computer platform to collect funds. The donations were vital if the provincial matching funds were going to be available.

That kind of back channel contact is priceless in the world of local politics. McMahon usually knew who to call and when she was confident – she would pick up the telephone.

She wasn’t always as confident as she could have been.

McMahon is fluently bilingual and had a command of indigenous languages. She was a quick study when it came to policy- but tended to get lost when it came to the mechanics of problems.


The city doesn’t have anyone near her equal as a campaigner. People took to her and believed she understood them.

When elections get tight those who have strong community support can overcome a sweep that overturns a government.  McMahon wasn’t able to get to that point during her first term – which may prove to be her only term. Politicians get returned to office when they deliver for their constituents.

Did McMahon fail to deliver? Did she have enough time to create a depth of support that was strong enough to withstand waves of discontent of a government she was part of ?

It doesn’t look as if her on the ground support is going to be there for her.

One seldom, if ever, heard McMahon take her party and the government she was part of to task. She may have done that inside Cabinet meetings – we will never know.

McMahon at BMO wondering when the provincial money is going to arrive

Few are fully aware of how big a role McMahon played in getting Burlington the funding it needed after the August 2014 flood. McMahon doing a photo op at a bank that came through with a big cheque.

To be a responsible critic one has to be both seen and heard

She was a very strong supporter of the women’s issues and inclusivity. She fully understood how the wheels of government and the arm’s length organizations worked.

She wasn’t seen as a risk taker and seldom spent the limited political capital she had fighting an unpopular issue.

She had one of those plus plus personalities but didn’t seem to be able to stretch it to cover those situations where she was in awkward or uncomfortable situations.

Single when she was elected – she lost her husband in a tragic road accident involving a driver who should never have been behind the wheel of a vehicle, McMahon had a large strong supportive family that got her through the harder days. She was the last of a seven children.  The loss of her husband marked McMahon for life and became a focal point for much of her community service.

McMahon had the capacity to meet with groups and almost instantly recognize what the need was and then pick up the phone and get something going.

Politics is often referred to as a blood sport – having ones hands on the levers of power has always been the objective. With those levers much could be achieved.

That opportunity going forward may be lost.

Salt with Pepper is the opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette.

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5 comments to One of the best political campaigners in the city may go down to defeat on Thursday.

  • Penny

    Eleanor never seemed to weigh into the issues that were really important to the residents – the school closures, the angst surrounding the adoption of the Official Plan. It seemed more important to be a “good and loyal” liberal rather than represent the residents of Burlington when they needed her input most.

  • Roger

    Was told often by her office she was very busy – after Thursday – she will be less busy – not effective in representing Burlington – took credit for many things – never accepted responsibility for items such as high school closure to over budget GO stations

  • D.Duck

    Excellent article. Gives both the Pros and Cons.

    But in the end, it has nothing to do with Ms. McMahon, it has to do with the Party’s elected leader and their platform.

  • George Ward

    I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Eleanor McMahon at the Liberal picnic at La Salle Park last summer and I found her to be a very congenial and pleasant lady. Our discussions concerned the proposed closing of two Burlington high schools namely Lester B. Pearson and Robert Bateman.

    Unfortunately Ms. Eleanor McMahon was ineffective even as a Cabinet Member of the Wynne Liberal excessive mismanagement scandals and particularly in the prevention of these high school closing swindles.

  • Beverley J. Jacobs

    A truly thoughtful, caring, and very intelligent woman. You really cares about the people of Burlington.