Rhino's Ramblings: Council’s Conscience To Announce Resignation


In what is liable to be a major shocker, long time Moose Jaw city councillor Don Mitchell is set to announce his resignation Monday night.

Mitchell, who I have known personally for well over 25 years is set to retire from active political life due to personal reasons.

And no, there is no scandal involved in any of this but rather a man of principle doing what he believes is the best thing for someone dear to him.  As he stands in front of the television cameras, what Don will do is show to all what true principles are all about. It’s about loyalty, remembering the true priorities and caring for the ones you love. You have to make the hard decisions.

In speaking to people who are close to Don, it has been a very hard decision to make in what was likely to be his last term on council. There was never any intent to quit midterm but rather finish it off in its entirety. But sudden illness changes things.

The best way I can describe him is a man of great principle who really took it to heart to stick up for those with little economic or political clout. Time and time again he would go against the grain of what were very much business oriented councils to speak up for the common people.
It’s where I would develop my nickname for him, "Council’s Conscience".

Over the decades, I would witness Don stand up on his principles. Despite seemingly knowing he would likely lose he do his best to enter the debate and attempt to convince Council to remember the little guy, the poor, the less privileged and those seniors on fixed incomes.

Politically, Don is what I would call a green NDPer who is to the left within the Party. He has no problem admitting he is a socialist in his political thinking. For him it’s a badge of honour.

But with that said, Don is a great believer in democracy. By far the most publicly accessible member of Council, he is easy to track down. I used to tell people he was reliable and basically “Don is Don.”

Don may not agree with your point of view but he respected your right to have it. He would listen to residents’ points of view and tell you if he supported it and give the reason why or why not.

But with that said, if someone he disagreed with wanted to address Council you could count on Don to always vote for an individual’s right to speak.

One of the principles in his political career was that Don never reverted to personal attacks or name calling throughout debate. His is a politics where there can be debate and discussion and if anyone reverts to personal attacks they really didn’t have much of an argument.

He is a great lover of debate and believes that by presenting the facts you can win politically.
For most people who are unfamiliar with his political career; as a young man he ran for the leadership of the provincial NDP. The winner of that contest was Roy Romanow, who would become Premier after the NDP swept out the scandal tainted government of Grant Devine.

Don would move on to become mayor of Moose Jaw. Ironically, at the very time Roy Romanow was Premier, and due to the Province’s fiscal position cuts were made which doomed Don’s re-election chances.

As a reporter at a now defunct Moose Jaw newspaper, I remember one Saturday during budget discussions; the issue was looming massive cuts to transit services. The Province had cut their subsidy and now Council would have to cut local services in return.

I remember Don arriving late to the debate, literally running into Committee, out of breath and sweating. He told the story of having to take the bus to City Hall but he had missed it. Seeing it was stopping at the next stop he ran and tried to wave the bus down with it leaving just as he almost made it. It happened stop after stop. The bus had stopped near City Hall and the driver went to the meeting.

I glanced over at the transit drivers who were snickering. It was obvious from their reactions it was intentional.

The Mitchell era would see provincial cuts and the need for the City to likewise cut back. It turned many who had supported Don against him and he failed in his re-election bid. He would come back as an alderman, in what were pre-gender neutral titles.

Love him or hate him, Don’s own personal values saw him always giving it 100 percent in whatever he did politically. He is not known for half measures.

During the last session of Council he could best be described as a work horse. When other council members were unable to sit on citizen advisory boards or other committees, due to a lack of time, Don inevitably ended up volunteering for the job. He believes in the importance of citizen interaction with Council. For him its what democracy is all about.

Over the years I was literally amazed at the number of grass root groups he was involved in and the acronyms that they had.

Now do I agree with Don politically? Personally, sometimes, but not always. With that said, I admire him for his principles, dedication, hard work and perseverance over literally decades.So, on Monday evening, when Don stands to announce his resignation and political retirement it will be an end of an era in Moose Jaw politics. But we will also be witnessing a love story.

Love him or hate him, Council will be much poorer once Don exits the end of June.